Assessing candidates by video.
By Russ Banham
When Dow Jones & Company went looking for ways to improve the quality of its hires and reduce recruitment costs, it tapped a novel, but fast-growing, concept—video interviewing.
Just seven years ago, the idea of live or virtual video interviews of job candidates resided in the future. YouTube, Facebook, web cams, and Twitter were in utero. Then, in 2006, Mark Newman, only a few months out of Westminster College, had a radical, entrepreneurial idea—why not form a service company that has employers create a series of interview questions, pose the questions to job candidates, and then videotape their responses? The following year HireVue was born to make good on its founder’s concept.
From such humble beginnings, Salt Lake City-based HireVue Inc. has quadrupled its customer base in four years and doubled sales in the last year. (Privately held, HireVue declined to provide the absolute numbers.) The company now provides interviewing services in 100 countries to a broad range of clients. Buyers run the gamut from recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) service providers to executive recruitment firms and, well, companies such as Dow Jones, a leading provider of financial information and publisher of the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s.
Always on the hunt for ways to expand the scope of its publishing operations or reduce costs by adopting new technologies, Dow Jones turned to HireVue in early 2010 to assist with its sales internship program. As Jim Molloy, recruiting director in the Princeton, N.J. office of Dow Jones, explains, “We were looking for help with our entry-level sales recruitment effort. Previously, we would pre-screen candidates the traditional way, which was costly due to the travel expenses. Video interviewing was far less expensive, more productive, and just a better way to judge and compare candidates.”
Satisfied with the results of the unique video interviewing process at campuses, Dow Jones in the spring of 2010 abandoned its longstanding practice of recruiting in-person at colleges and universities. It now has HireVue ship web cams to the campuses, where interviews are conducted both live and remotely, and the results are archived for comparative analyses. The company estimates the return on investment from video interviewing at 116 percent, an eye-popping payback within nine months.
HireVue is credited as the pioneer in the internet-based employer-driven video interviewing business, a market that has exploded in recent years. From a single provider in 2007, 17 providers now occupy the space, most of them startups in the last couple years, according to Chip Luman, HireVue chief operating officer. “That’s great for us, because there is now a category to compete in,” he adds. “And it’s also great, since we maintain leading market share.”
Experiencing the HireVue process in the flesh is sleek, fast, and, well, fascinating. The company has created several ways in which employers can interview candidates. One way is the live version, in which the candidate, in front of a computer with a web cam (HireVue will provide a web cam free of charge to candidates if they don’t have one—and they get to keep it) is interviewed by one to three hiring managers, each of them in front of their own web cams, wherever they are located. The interviewee can see on his or her screen the faces of the three interviewers.
The questions posed by the hiring managers are preselected by the employer. Those questions provide the ability to compare and contrast each candidate’s responses. Imagine that 12 questions are posed to the candidates, and that the key question is “Question Number 4.” Hiring managers can examine each candidate’s response to this single question, replaying the archival footage again and again to determine whose answer best fits with the job at hand.
In addition to interviewing candidates live, HireVue offers a virtual video interview, whereby the candidate receives written questions on the computer monitor, has 30 seconds to reply, and can respond to the question for up to three minutes. The content is recorded for subsequent analysis and comparison, and stored in a database. This way, multiple hiring managers within an organization can review the content—a much simpler and more effective process than sending a candidate to eight different interviewers, each asking the same questions over and over again.
A key attraction to the process, aside from the obvious time efficiency gains and shortened cycle times, is the ability to standardize interviews. As anyone who has ever conducted a pre-screening interview can attest, not every question is provided to each candidate, nor are the questions identically worded. “We allow for real apples-to-apples comparisons, where everyone actually participates in the same interview process,” Luman says. “This provides for much better assessments. If you’re not sure about a candidate, you can watch the video again.”
Although employers decide on the questions they want to pose, HireVue recently formed a strategic partnership with PreVisor, an employment assessment and talent measurement solutions provider, to offer clients PreVisor’s interview question and assessment content. This content is oriented toward common job roles and derives from the provider’s database—a treasure trove of information on more than 50 million job applicants. “It allows us to draw upon scientifically proven competency content to help employers ask questions of candidates that will produce better responses from an assessment standpoint,” Luman says.
Yet another attraction is the ability for interviewers to rate candidates online. Hiring managers can post remarks about each candidate, as well as rate them on a one-to-five scale. If the client wants to further screen only those candidates who scored three and above for assessment purposes, the results are immediate.
HireVue’s fast growth is a testament to compelling metrics such as 90 percent of new hires meeting or exceeding their first performance reviews, and an overall average of 42 percent reduction in its clients’ travel time within a year after implementing video collaboration. It cites one unnamed user that alone saved $50,000 in annual travel expenses. For RPO providers such as The Right Thing, leveraging HireVue to staff a sales force for a pharmaceutical client likewise saved the company on cost per hire.
No Turning Back
Video interviewing seems to have few downsides, other than for those who experience discomfiture in front of a camera (web-style or otherwise.) Some might feel added pressures, knowing that their responses are being recorded for posterity. A glimpse at some archived interviews on the HireVue platform indicates a level of discomfort among a few candidates—not to mention the folly in not dressing appropriately and having poor posture—but such criticisms also can be levied against traditional in-person interviewing techniques.
HireVue and its competitors don’t replace actual person-to-person hiring processes—just the early pre-screening stuff, culling hundreds if not thousands of job candidates down to more manageable levels. Dow Jones used HireVue’s virtual interview service to funnel hundreds of students interested in becoming sales interns. Satisfied with the experience, it has since leveraged video interviewing to fill product manager positions. “This is a double win for us, since our product manager people work with our software products, and here we are interviewing them using the latest technology, which sends a strong message about the kind of organization we are,” Molloy says.
HireVue makes the interview experience a branding opportunity for the client. In other words, the screens candidates read all say “Dow Jones” at top, and HireVue’s logo is nowhere to be seen. As Brianna Lamb, Dow Jones account executive at HireVue, puts it, “It’s a very high touch process for candidates.”
Selecting the questions to ask of candidates is part art and part science. For example, hiring managers can pose questions of candidates that require them to respond in writing, as a means to gauge their ability to communicate in this fashion. Questions also can be broad enough to discern a person’s aptitude, which can be useful even if it doesn’t fit the job at hand. Molloy explains that a candidate with a liberal arts degree might not suit the technology-oriented position a company is seeking to fill, but down the line might be suitable for a job in HR. Since the interview is recorded and saved, it can guide the hiring of the person at a later date.
Dow Jones recently made the decision to use video interviewing to fill mid-level positions with experienced people—not just student interns. “We’re starting to roll it out now to fill mid-level slots, really looking at any positions where it will make sense,” Molloy explains. “We feel we can reach a much broader base of candidates this way, as well as provide a better experience for both our hiring managers and candidates.”
So far it has tapped HireVue to fill community/social media positions. “These professionals are sought-after individuals who manage our online community using social media techniques, and we found this a great tool for assessing their strengths,” he adds. Down the line, Molloy anticipates that Dow Jones’ overseas businesses will similarly leverage video interviewing in their recruitment processes. He also plans to measure the effectiveness of the HireVue approach to hiring, creating metrics to evaluate retention, job promotions, and other factors.