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Does Video Interviewing pass the screen test


Video interviewing is now a well-established part of the recruitment process, with statistics suggesting its use in over half of all organisations. But as tastes, trends and technology have evolved rapidly, Vana HR Resourcing were keen to assess the application – and value – of video interviewing in today’s job market. We surveyed a cross-section of UK industry to get as complete a picture as possible.

(Our thanks to colleagues at BT, Dyson, John Lewis Partnership, Lebara, SuperGroup, Travelodge Hotels, and Wesleyan Assurance Society for their valuable perspective).


In what circumstances do you conduct video interviews? 

The three recurring factors were time, geography and the level of hire, and these vary in significance depending on the organisation (e.g. global operations rely heavily on this approach). Video interviewing also appears best suited to volume recruitment, specific roles, those early in their careers, or emerging talent.

We found variable use of pre-recorded video tools. Pauline Berry, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at GE Talent Acquisition (UK), informed us that Hireview – a platform offering video interviews and other recruitment/development software – has been rolled out across GE, and was used for screening all applications to their internship programme. Cisco’s Telepresence system was highly rated by two of our contacts, whilst John Lewis Partnership use Sonru for their graduate recruitment. The latter offers a case in point for where there are doubts over the value of such tools. ‘It does serve as a good tool for driving down the large volume of applications we receive,’ says Stephen Chambers, Resourcing Delivery Manager at the John Lewis Partnership. ‘I still question whether we miss out on seeing some strong candidates. The version we use is against the clock. The levels of nervousness are very high, which I believe would be very different in a face-to-face environment.’ 

The benefits of video interviewing – and disadvantages 

Time-to-hire and reduced cost were common benefits. This wasn’t just about travel to interview or processing large numbers of applications; the multiple (internal) stakeholders involved in the hiring process means that video interviews offer a convenient solution. Tom Moffatt, Resourcing Manager at Travelodge Hotels, picks up on increased productivity, identifying scenarios all too familiar to many of us. ‘Teleconferences tend to stick to the allotted time. In face-to-face situations you need to check interviewees in and out, people are more likely to run late, plus you’ll need to remove others from meeting rooms, get coffees etc. So the one hour interview is either compressed, or you have to add time at the beginning and end due to the hosting process.’

Body language and the ability to record interviews are two further advantages suggested by Maxine Davis, Head of Resourcing at Dyson. ‘You get most insight into a person, following strengths-based assessment principles of people’s facial expressions etc, supporting what they are saying. Interviews can also be recorded in case of any disputes afterwards, and shared with other decision-makers rather than asking the candidate to repeat themselves.’

The capacity to support company brand was another notable benefit. Helen Ling, Assessment and Selection Manager at EE, believed that video interviews were a good ‘fit’ with their culture as it allowed candidates to ‘embrace technology’ and demonstrate ‘personal impact’. Gareth Hayes, Director – RPO Operations – at Kelly Outsourcing & Consulting Group, also sees video interviews as a means to shape employee experience from the very beginning. ‘Done well it can drive a real connection between the candidate and the company, providing real insights into the culture and brand of the business. In today’s talent world where candidates are becoming more and more like consumers, this is an opportunity for businesses to have a real brand impact with external talent.’

Conversely, some felt that technology offered a limited ability for a company to properly engage with the candidate and vice versa. This is particularly significant when culture and environment are key criteria in the decision-making process – something identified by Stephen Chambers. ‘Understanding and getting a feel for the working environment still features highly in candidates’ questioning and this can be hard to portray over video’, Stephen told us. Whilst face-to-face interviewing has traditionally been a daunting experience, the video equivalent can be equally inhibiting, where candidates are either too nervous or rehearsed, denying the client the benefit of a face-to-face conversation that might better reveal skills and qualities.

So why don’t more organisations utilise this technology for recruitment purposes?

Some organisations are still tentative about the benefits of recruitment by video. It’s still possible to experience high drop-out rates when using this approach to recruit for certain roles, as candidates may be put off. The human factor is another key consideration – a point made by Lisa Kelly, Head of Talent & Resourcing at Lebara. ‘Recruitment as we know it today is a human-to-human activity,’ they commented. ‘We don’t just buy skills – we buy behaviours, motivations and values. Technology can also blunt other important indicators i.e. non-verbal communication.’

This point is echoed by others regarding how far video interviews reveal the candidate to be the right fit, in particular by Simon Amesbury, Resourcing Manager at fashion retailer, SuperGroup. ‘We often think someone will be a good fit based on a Skype interview – then when we meet them they turn out to be a poor fit. It’s just a very different kind of interaction so people behave differently.’ Using both to reach a decision enabled SuperGroup to avoid hires that wouldn’t have worked had they been based solely on video evidence. The best analogy for this situation was offered by Lebara who compared video interviewing to buying shoes online; ‘they may be the right size, style and price, but you need to try them on to know they are the right fit.’

Has technology reached a stage where face-to-face interviews have become the exception? 

Widespread as video-interviewing is, the consensus was that face-to-face contact remains critical to the recruitment process – whether now or in the future. Likewise the preferences of candidates for in-person interviews justifies companies investing the time to conduct them. According to Neil Cox, Head of Resourcing, Talent and Development at Wesleyan Assurance Society, personal contact could offer a source of competitive advantage. ‘I think there will always be the need for that personal touch – that is what separates good recruiters from great recruiters’. However there was acknowledgement that companies are now recruiting from a generation who are familiar/comfortable with communicating via screens, and that video interviewing might be more prevalent once people and organisations catch up with the technology that’s available.

And from our experience…

I still prefer the old-fashioned way, and interview face-to-face,’ says Vana co-Director, Debbie Flowers. ‘I like to familiarise myself with an individual’s natural style and personality, as in-person interviewing opens them up more and these types shine through in the way they sit, talk, gesticulate etc. Human interaction generally makes for a better conversation, but there have been occasions when I’ve reverted to technology, whether due to distance (first stage screening for candidates in Canada before flying out to assess the final shortlist) or time (pressure to keep to an interview timetable). I’ve used Skype, Google Hangout and Facetime at a push but, however convenient, I’m never left feeling convinced that I know them as well, or that I can truly ascertain their cultural or team fit – even for very first stage screening purposes. It’s useful – but I’d never hire on it!

In summary

It’s clear through our connections that video interviewing remains an integral part of the recruitment process. It offers a valuable solution to complex, time-poor and geographically dispersed companies, can save costs, and is in step with a generation used to on-screen communication. However, even in a digital era, face-to-face contact is key with critical decisions still human ones for which technology has yet to offer a better alternative. The desire for candidates to also have that person-to-person contact reflects the importance of place and culture – something we’ve noted in recent Vana blogs. Video interviewing technology will of course evolve and become better-designed in time. And for some organisations, such as those in the digital and tech sector, it will be the preferred selection tool. However, for now at least, the face-to-face interview remains the most trusted way for businesses to match talent to opportunity.