By VIRGINIA BACKAITIS April 2, 2007
Raymond Swegger didn’t need to polish his shoes as he got dressed for his job interview with Thorpe Capital. For that matter, he didn’t even need to put on pants. Instead, he had to boot up his computer, set up a Web cam, do a sound and light check, and make sure he looked sharp in a head shot.
YouTube generation, meet the video interview.
While still in the nascent stage, video interviews are growing in popularity. HireVue.com, a market leader, has seen business skyrocket in recent months, and employer inquiries are snowballing, says Vice President of Operations Mark Newman.
It works like this: Job applicants sit in front of a computer monitor and a Web cam, log into a Web-based interview portal, and answer a set of pre-selected questions. They get about 30 seconds to read each question and about two minutes to provide an answer. The results are stored, TiVo-style, in a secure online system that hiring managers can access through the Internet.
To complete an interview, job seekers can visit video stations at employers’ satellite offices, college campuses or the offices of recruiters or companies like HireVue. Or those like Swegger, who live too far from any of these options, can do them at home, using a camera and instructions provided by the employer.
For employers, the greatest benefit of video interviews is their efficiency.
“I can get the same information I would get in a face-to-face interview in about one-third the time,” says David Thorpe, managing director of Thorpe Capital.
Employers can be spared from having to fly in out-of-town job candidates – and also, Thorpe notes, from spending precious time with the wrong people.
“If an idiot comes into the office for a live interview, good manners dictate that you give him at least 20 minutes. With a video interview, I can shut him down without feeling bad just by clicking my mouse.”
And if a manager wants to hear an applicant answer a question a second time, or compare different candidates’ responses, the source is right there.
“I can watch an interview then invite my team members to have a look,” says recruiter Shawn Upchurch. “We can eliminate prospects fairly quickly and spend quality time with those that make the short list.”
That convenience extends to the interviewee, who can be spared having to do repeat interviews, notes Summer Dawson, human resource manager for the Layton Companies.
For the job seeker, however, there’s an obvious downside: having to put your best foot forward while sitting alone in a room, answering questions off a teleprompter and speaking into the lens of a camera.
“As soon as I clicked ‘start,’ read the question on the screen and started to answer it, it hit me – this was really, really weird,” says Swegger. “In a face-to-face interview, you get a sense of how you’re doing, but here I didn’t know if I was hitting or missing. I went on and on like a blubbering idiot.”
And, of course, in video interviews there are no second takes, and no opportunities to ask the interviewer to clarify a question.
That pressure is exactly why Thorpe (who eventually hired Swegger) likes to use them.
“I love that it’s an intimidating process,” he says. “We rely on technology in our business, and we can’t afford to employ people who are frozen by it.”
As a bonus, Upchurch says he sometimes gets to see how job seekers react in unforeseen situations. He cites an interviewee who was interrupted with an emergency call.
“He took the call, triaged the situation, then jumped right back into the interview. We were extremely impressed.”
HireVue’s Newman acknowledges that video interviewing might take some getting used to, but “like other interview skills, it can be learned,” he says.
Clients such as Thorpe are already sold. This year, he selected his interns using video alone. “In 10 years, most hires will include a video interview stage,” he predicts.
NOTE: Yep I’m cheating. My last night in Prague and after God knows how many miles walking up steep alley walkways to and from Prague Castle, eating Wild Boar and many Pilsners, I came in to the business center to give attention to a worthy limelight article on a worthy premise and even worthier company, Hireview. Ryan Money may smack talk my foolish poker playing ways, but when you run a solid company you earn my respect.
Now to lay my feet somewhere. Ouch