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Skype is a popular technology for personal use -- video chats make it easier for people scattered around the world to stay in touch. But now, enterprise technology vendors are awakening to the potential of video in a business setting.
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Increasingly, companies are turning to video interviewing technology to screen and interview potential employees. And with good reason: According to experts, video interviews can save money and time.
But what are the other implications of video interviewing technology? While there are some less evident pros -- such as reduced stress for job candidates -- there are also cons, such as the potential for discrimination.
Video interviewing slashes travel costs and scheduling time
Cutting costs was precisely the reason the General Electric Co., headquartered in Fairfield, Conn., decided to implement a video interviewing pilot program with vendor HireVue in late 2012. Shahbaz Alibaig, global recruitment technology leader, said he looked at a report detailing candidate travel costs for the Milwaukee location -- GE Healthcare's headquarters -- and was shocked at what he discovered.
I wouldn't say video is mainstream, [but] as more companies look to attract the best talent, they are casting a wide net and video becomes a very pragmatic option.
president, ITM Group
"I don't want to say how much, but we're looking at hiring the best of the best ... talent from all over the country and sometimes the world, so most of the candidates have to travel," he said.
Also, because GE is a global, matrix organization, hiring managers are often flung far and wide, which adds another dimension of difficulty. "Getting the candidates and the hiring managers in one location can take weeks and months to schedule. So it [wasn't] just the cost but [also] the cycle time of interviews which [was] a challenge," Alibaig said.
The pilot was intended to be just for GE Healthcare, but it soon went company-wide due to demand for the technology, he said.
Frank Abate, a talent consultant in IT Consulting Services at Philadelphia-based health services organization Cigna, also testified to the cost-saving benefits of video interviewing technology due to reduced travel. In addition, Cigna, which uses InterviewStream's video interviewing system, has been able to provide faster turnaround times in the interview process, Abate said.
To Kyle Lagunas, talent acquisition analyst at Austin, Texas-based market research firm Brandon Hall Group, the most important value proposition for employers is the time saved.
"The amount of time recruiters spend scheduling and executing screening calls is exorbitant -- it is one of the biggest time spends in their day," he said. "So when you automate that -- especially with on-demand, so videos can be recorded and viewed at their leisure -- it frees them up from spending time on the phone trying to chase candidates ... [and] hiring managers [down] and get everybody's calendar synced up just for that first call."
Two forms of video interviewing
There are in general two types of video interviews: live and asynchronous.
With live interviews, hiring managers and their colleagues talk to candidates in real time. It's much like a traditional job interview, only it takes place online instead of in person. Typically, these can be recorded so employers can review them at a later date.
On the other hand, asynchronous, or pre-recorded, video interviewing enables candidates to record responses to predetermined questions posed by hiring managers on their own time. The HR team then reviews and evaluates submissions at their convenience.
Which type of video interviewing companies use -- and when use they it -- depends on their needs, experts say.
According to Sharlyn Lauby, president of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based consulting firm ITM Group, some organizations allow video submissions at the applicant screening stage, and almost anyone who wants to can submit an interview. Others only use the technology after they've screened initial applicants and identified interview candidates.
"I've seen companies do both," Lauby said. "Most of the time it's in situations where geography doesn't allow for in-person interviews and when the job responsibilities include presentations and public interaction. I wouldn't say video is mainstream, [but] as more companies look to attract the best talent, they are casting a wide net and video becomes a very pragmatic option."
Cigna uses both real-time and pre-recorded video interviews, according to Abate.
"Live interviews usually happen after a candidate gets through a couple rounds and is in the final stages of an interview cycle," Abate said. "The asynchronous tends to be in an earlier stage, but it's not a first-touch tool."
Initially, GE only used live video interviewing, Alibaig said. But the company is also beginning to pilot the pre-recorded option to cut back on the amount of phone screenings.
Instead of calling each candidate individually, Alibaig explained that recruiters can now upload questions into HireVue and send out an interview link to all appropriate candidates with a response deadline. From there, recruiters can review submissions and choose who will proceed to the next stage -- a real-time video interview. In Alibaig's example, 40 candidates are narrowed to five with this step, and then one or two finalists are ultimately invited to interview on-site.
Does video interviewing increase discrimination potential?
In a time where candidates are expected to put more time and effort into getting hired than ever before, Lagunas said video interviewing makes the process easier on job applicants, which can reflect positively on the employer.
"Making that first step a little more convenient for candidates is definitely valuable," Lagunas said. "They appreciate it, and it turns them on to the organization."
Today, video interviewing capabilities are available in some recruiting applications. Katherine Jones, human capital management lead analyst at Bersin by Deloitte, located in Oakland Calif., said this trend is likely to continue as it allows for an integrated approach to managing candidates' applications without having to jump between product sets, in addition to giving the employer virtually permanent access to archived interviews.
So should companies wait and see if their recruitment system of choice adds video interviewing capabilities, or adopt a separate system from a specialty vendor? It depends.
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"The decision to hold off on adopting a standalone video interviewing system can be determined by the comparative costs to the organization for its immediate hiring needs and practices versus waiting," Jones said.
And for all its good points, there may be a downside to video interviewing: the potential for discrimination. Lagunas, for one, thinks there are diversity and discrimination implications inherent in video interviewing technology.
"You want to ... assume it wouldn't be a problem, but when you're in a leadership role in human resources, it's [often] your job to protect the company from any risk," he said. "The challenge is ensuring consistency in the process -- that's what protects the organization. If you have a video screening with one candidate at one stage, you have to have that same video screening with every candidate at that stage."
However, Jones disagreed. She said there isn't any research indicating the chances for negative discrimination are any different in a video than in a live interview. In fact, candidates might be able to present themselves better in a recording because they know they can rerecord it prior to submission, she said. In this way, asynchronous video interviewing can ease nerves and make the process less stressful for candidates.
In addition, video interviews can help hiring managers spot things they might've missed in a face-to-face meeting. "Because the video can be reviewed more than once by the hiring manager or recruiter, they may be able to pay more attention to details missed in an interview," Jones said. "Let's say you are interviewing someone for a call center or telemarketing position where tone of voice and clear articulation are important. One can listen and re-listen for critical traits more easily with the video interview."
To the discrimination argument, Jones pointed out that physical appearance is something easily found in today's proliferation of social media. "Many recruiters already have an idea of what a candidate looks like from LinkedIn or Facebook pages anyway."
And at some point in the recruitment process, the candidate and the recruiter will inevitably see each other, Lauby said. "So instead of focusing on the potential for discrimination, I think candidates should focus on making an excellent impression."
About the author:
Linda Rosencrance has written about technology for more than 10 years and has been a reporter for more than 20 years. A former Computerworldreporter, she is a freelance writer in Massachusetts and also an author of several true-crime books.