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Do video interviews work?

08.06.2013
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Video interviews are undoubtedly on the rise.  What started as something largely done by tech companies is now spreading across industry.

New research from McMaster University suggests however that whilst video interviews may save time for both parties, they fail to deliver for either candidates or employers.

The researchers simulated a range of interviews, both in person and via video conferencing.  They found that candidates using video technology were rated significantly lower by interviewers, and were therefore less likely to be hired.

What’s more, candidates also rated those doing the interviews less well, saying they were less attractive, personable, trustworthy and competent.

“Increasingly, video technology is being used in employment interviewing because companies feel it provides convenience and cost savings,” said Greg Sears, one of the study’s authors. “Despite their growing use, our study shows that video-conference interviews are not equivalent to face-to-face interviews.”

“Video conferencing places technological barriers between applicants and interviewers,” co-author Willi Wiesner continued. “Employers and applicants should work to reduce the barriers that arise through video conferencing and improve the interpersonal aspects of the interview process.”

To try and overcome these issues, the researchers offered a few tips for both employers and candidates:

  • Use the same interview approach on all candidates who are competing for the same job. Don’t interview some by video and some in person. Candidates might first be interviewed using video technology, with successful candidates invited for on-site face-to-face interviews.
  • Both interviewers and applicants should use the best equipment and Internet connections possible to lessen delays or technical limitations that can lead to conversations becoming less fluid or interactive.
  • Body language is important, but facial expressions are most important. Ensure that cameras are positioned close enough to catch facial expressions of both the interviewer and the candidate.
  • Since people are looking at the image of the other individual on the screen and not the webcams mounted at the top of their screens, participants report a lack of eye contact in video-conferencing interviews. Place the webcam as close to eye level as possible.
  • The lack of physical proximity, signal and participants’ nervousness in communicating via technology tend to make for stilted, flat communication. Just as screen actors need to be particularly expressive with their faces and voices in order to convey feelings or emotions on camera, interviewers and applicants should be more expressive than usual. Practice nodding more noticeably, smiling more broadly, making greater use of hand gestures and varying vocal pitch, tonality and emphasis.
  • Conduct mock interviews with friends and family using readily available technology, such as Skype or FaceTime.
  • To make a good impression on a candidate, interviewers should take extra time at the start of the interview to outline the process and engage in small talk to allow the applicant to get comfortable with the technology.
  • Add a more personal touch to the selection process. Provide job candidates with an informational video that shows existing employees and their work/nonwork activities. Allow candidates to speak directly with employees about their experience at the company.
  • In order to avoid looking down and create an additional gap in communication, interviewers should have someone else take notes during the interview.
  • Reserve video conferencing for preliminary screening interviews. Final selection is still a job for face-to-face interviews.

Have you ever done a video interview?  How did you find the experience?

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