When Stewart Wolfe was asked to schedule an on-demand
video interview after applying for a marketing strategist position with
Chipotle, he was caught off guard. “It was the first time I’d heard of
it,” he recalls.
It’s a growing trend, though, as technology makes inroads into a process that once relied on phone calls and in-person
conversations. A 2012 study by OfficeTeam showed 63 percent of human
resources managers in the United States often interview candidates by video, up
from just 14 percent one year earlier. That number includes casual, ad hoc
Skype usage. A more recent innovation, however, centers on online platforms purpose-built for
job interviews, with features that significantly alter the experience for both the employer and the potential employee.
For an on-demand, or one-way, video interview, a candidate logs onto an online platform on his or her own time. Using a computer’s camera, he or she records answers to questions shown on the screen. In most cases, a question is
displayed, giving the candidate 30 seconds to prepare. Then, he or she gets two or three minutes
to record an explanation about why his or her experience is a good fit for the job.
“Usually in an interview I listen to affirmation and the
voice of the interviewer to make sure I’m kind of saying the right things,” Wolfe says. “But that is a luxury you can’t have when you’re recording a
Instead, he made an effort to ensure the video looked great. He set up
three different lights in his dining room and practiced looking at himself
while talking. How did Wolfe know to do these things? He previously worked in
video production and was a media studies major in college. He got the job.
Major companies such as Samsung, UPS and the Discovery
Channel are using on-demand virtual interview technology provided by
GreenJobInterview, Take the Interview, Interview4 and other providers due to the
advantages for the employer. Wendy
Manganaro, talent acquisition and diversity manager for Ocean Spray,
cites the cost and time savings for her company, which uses HireVue’s platform to
screen first-round applicants for almost every position. According to
third-party research commissioned by Montage, another provider,
its clients save at least 50 percent of travel budgets and shave off at
least two weeks in the hiring time span. But Manganaro stresses, “The true benefit for [Ocean Spray] is the ability to get
multiple internal perspectives on each candidate.” That's because recorded videos
can be watched and rated by numerous managers.
But how does this technology affect the candidate’s
experience? And does it work in some people’s favor?
Manganaro sees one significant upside for the candidate: “You
can do it at your leisure. You don’t have to take time off of work.” She feels
every candidate is at “an equal disadvantage” regarding the lack of social
cues when recording their answers.
Inna Kraner endured several video interviews before being hired as managing editor of startup
referral service The Expert Institute. She calls the experience “nervewracking” but she’s “used to interfacing using FaceTime and
Skype,” so it was a familiar process. Plus, the fact that The Expert Institute relied
on video interviews “seemed modern. I was excited to join a company that was
using it,” Kraner says.
But when Elizabeth Drachman needed to create an on-demand
video for an editorial position with a news Web site, she found the experience
off-putting. “I engage with people when I interview as opposed to just speaking
about myself,” explains Drachman, communications manager for the
international development organization DAI. “I am a great conversationalist—and this was the opposite of a conversation.”
Drachman found it “incredibly distracting to see yourself
talking to yourself” and to watch the timer counting down the seconds as she
answered questions. In her estimation, it’s “a terrible way to get a sense of
someone. In fact, it gave me a pretty dismal opinion of the company overall.”
That judgment would make Kurt Heikkinen blanch. As president and CEO of Montage, he believes the experience of using his company’s
technology, when done right, is a chance for an employer to provide deeper insight into the available position and its corporate culture than possible within a traditional job
posting, through the use of features such as welcome videos.
Cynthia Fukami, professor of management at the University
of Denver’s Daniels Business College, says conducting job interviews via online technology with identical questions posed to everyone “offers companies some ability to control the bias, which is also beneficial to the applicant.” She points to the chitchat that happens in person: “How was your drive?” “Did
you watch the Broncos game?” The answers “can cause you to like or not like
someone,” which may or may not bias impressions.
But no process is neutral. While
Wolfe’s knowledge of video lighting might not be why Chipotle hired him, it
certainly was a way for him to display his attention to detail and level of
Right now, most video interviews are part of the early screening process among organizations that use them. “This is really made for the first-round interview,” says
Michael Morgenstern, The Expert Institute’s vice president of marketing. By using
recorded interviews, his small, 20-person company can assess and consider a
larger pool of nonlocal applicants for openings.
major disadvantage to a candidate is his or her inability to interview the potential employer. “Not
having the chance to ask questions is a real loss,” Fukami says. The candidate
can’t learn anything from the process except what the employer chooses to
“The power differential is so much greater,” observes Matthew
Lombard, a professor of media studies and production at Temple University who
studies telepresence technologies. The companies “are going to watch what you created
while answering their questions,” he says.
Lombard agrees that video interviews improve efficiency, and even
muses whether they would be useful when considering Temple’s graduate school
applicants. But in the end, “You’re putting on a presentation. You’re playing a
role. It’s asking for a skill that not everybody has.”
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Creative Commons
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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com