According to a 2012 survey by OfficeTeam, in 2011 only 1% of respondents said they used video “very often,” but a year later that figure jumped to 53% and 13% expect to increase their usage in the next three years.

“Many companies are embracing video interviews, which are often conducted online via webcam, as a way to quickly and cost-effectively evaluate applicants,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam.

Given the obvious benefits in terms of cost and efficiency both for the candidate and the hiring manager, I'm not surprised by the uptick in video interviews over the last few years. At ATR International, we use Skype to conduct video interviews as part of our recruiting process (with good results) and we are one of those likely to use it more in the coming years. That said, I want to be cautious and judicious in our usage – I never want technology to dazzle me into replacing vital human interaction.

A recent New York Post article covers some of the more prevalent uses of video in the modern hiring process including: creating digital profiles and short “elevator pitch” (30-second to two-minute) speeches to supplement the traditional résumé; testing candidates' skills by having them perform a job-related task such as composing Twitter content or coding programs; and recording their answers to interview questions posed as text on a screen, with no actual person standing by.

It is the last example that troubles me: the idea of recording answers in a one-sided “interview.”

First, it may be a small matter of semantics, but to me,
unless there are two (or more) people participating, it isn’t an interview. Second, I question the value of this type of interview. A recorded elevator pitch viewed alongside a resume can be useful in giving an initial idea of personality and professionalism, but this type of video interview seems likely to produce unnatural and unreliable results. The New York Post relays stories of people who were startled to find themselves in this type of interview and found it to be a strange and unsettling experience.

Obviously the first problem is that neither of the interviewing companies set the proper expectations with these candidates, and shame on them for that. But if you read more of the Post article, you’ll see that there seem to be two types of online interviews: one in which you can re-record an answer until you are happy, and the other in which you have a few minutes per question and no do-overs. In both instances I think you’ll end up with results that may not be indicative of the candidate’s true talent and personality. The first will produce a canned, practiced response. The second, because of the limited timing and pressure of the format, will discourage thoughtful answers and make innocent flubs more likely.

To me, an interview is an opportunity to see how a candidate responds to and interacts with me. Where is the ability to pose follow-up questions in a recorded process? The give and take of conversation is a natural way to get to know someone’s personality and demeanor. Assessing how well someone is able to speak into a camera and appear composed isn’t going to really tell you much about their ability to fit in with your culture or what kind of team member they will make.

In the IT, technical, and engineering fields, talented people are in high demand, unemployment is actually quite low, and competition borders on fierce. My clients often ask for advice on how to hire and retain more of the most talented individuals. I can certainly tell you that putting someone through one of these computerized interviews is a great way to turn them off. What kind of message are you sending to this potential employee about how you feel about and treat your employees? Does it seem like the kind of experience that will make them feel welcome, appreciated, and recognized as an individual and valued team member? It isn't just about the company assessing the candidate – they are evaluating you throughout the process too.  It’s a two-way street and smart companies will take this into consideration.

To be clear, I am not knocking video interviews wholesale. I think they will become more frequently used but I hope they don’t become the norm. Bridging long distances or accommodating for interviews at unusual times are great uses of video technology; using them to interview someone who resides in the same city is not. Calling a series of questions on a screen an interview isn’t, either. There are benefits to be had but pitfalls to be aware of when it comes to video interviews. I’m sure that’s one reason why the OfficeTeam survey showed that 25% of those asked don’t use them at all.

The best technology enhances and supports my recruiters and account managers as they match the right candidate with the best opportunity, but it can’t replace them. People are not a commodity and treating them as such will not get you the results you need. Human interaction should always be the norm!

Tags: Jerry Brenholz, Industry, Skype, ATR International, New York Post, OfficeTeam, Robert Hosking, Vdieo interview