Why are firms switching onto video interviews?
Time was, it was pretty hard to get on the telly. You had to do something spectacular – bowl over some Belgians on It’s A Knockout, say, or dance inoffensively in the background of the Top of the Pops studio. Now it seems that most of us are on the telly most of the time, whether we actually want to be or not.
Traditionally non-digital activities are getting televisual. The business of interviewing, for example, used to be thoroughly intimate. You’d turn up at a firm, wait nervously in reception, and then some partner and/or HR manager would swan in and drag you off to an interview room for a thorough oral examination.
In that room you’d have a full-on experience, staring into the whites of your interviewers’ eyes, feeling the texture of their chairs on your backside, smelling the heady cocktail of their cologne, perspiration and Cuban cigar smoke.
But now – forget about it. Firms such as DWF and Bird & Bird are joining other organisations such as Schroders and BT by introducing video interviewing. To the best of our knowledge, in law this is currently only for trainees and some business support vacancies. But you have to wonder how long it’ll take before laterals are also being dragged in front of the merciless, lidless eye of Skype and the like.
Automatic for the people
For the firm, the commercial argument is pretty compelling. They can save substantial amounts of time and money by not interviewing face-to-face – particularly when the interviews are automated, and the firm doesn’t even need to field an interviewer to run the show.
Firms say, with some justification, that the time they save by not conducting face-to-face interviews allows them to assess more people, often from a wider distribution of backgrounds. This can be seen as key to delivering their social mobility promise.
Video interviewing can also allow for a more technical approach to assessment. For some video assessment providers, a key benefit lies in the data that’s created. The General Manager of HireVue, Darren Jaffrey, recently told HRville: ‘When structured and unstructured data discovered during a digital interview is compiled and analysed it can be applied to improving hiring decisions, with special emphasis on building great teams.’
Firms also claim video interviewing is more candidate-centric, as it allows candidates to be assessed at a time and in a location that suits them. A potential trainee from, say, Goa University can get in front of London recruiters without even thinking about jet lag or coughing up for a plane ticket – just firing up their Smartphone.
There’s also an arguable benefit around consistency and objectivity. Everyone gets asked the same questions in the same ways, without the situation being confused by interviewers varying approach because they’re tired, annoyed or simply lusting after the individual on the other side of the table.
Small chance for small talk
There are downsides, of course. According to critics, video interviewing can play havoc with a firm’s ‘employer brand’ – the way it presents itself to the profession as a place to work. Naysayers reckon that a firm assessing remotely can appear superior, time-poor and simply not aware of the importance of cherishing talent.
Forbes’ Susan Adams said in a 2012 article:
But I also see a big downside for candidates… The job search process has become terribly impersonal and isolating, with communication done primarily by email. In-person interviews offer rare networking opportunities, where face-to-face contact can allow candidates to make a human bond that can lead to other things. A scripted video interview offers no space for small talk or discussion of current events, hobbies or a shared alma mater, the kinds of connections that can lead to unexpected opportunities.
Indeed. And there’s also the challenge of lawerly arrogance. Most lawyers of any standing expect – demand, even – to be wooed into new positions. Most are unlikely to put themselves into a potential embarrassing situation on the mere off chance of a shiny new role.
If video interviewing is going to break into the legal mainstream, it’ll need to find an answer to this particular quandary. After all, who wants to squint into a cold, anonymous PC screen when there’s always a charming recruitment consultant willing to take you to Duck & Waffle? AB