Screen screening

April 9, 2015

Why are firms switching onto video interviews?

Nice to not meet you. Image: Shutterstock


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

Share Our Posts

Share this post through social bookmarks.

Related Posts

Screen block

Forget what your IT manager says – here are the real dos and don’ts of tech

Image: Shutterstock


There are times when it feels like the world and her husband are lining up to take a pot-shot at the legal profession. If it’s not ‘edgy’ TV dramas portraying solicitors as having roughly the charm and moral rectitude of Beelzebub at his Friday night poker match, it’s the Government taking a scythe to Legal Aid.

And just when you thought it was safe to come out, dust off your Austin Reed, sink a triple-shot from Café Nero and get on with the job you (mostly) love, here comes another shot across the bows: Casey Flaherty, general counsel to KIA Motors, has declared that the legal profession’s IT skills leave much to be desired. Whilst he didn’t actually say “a moderately trained chimp with a first-generation iPad could do a better job of managing their IT than you lot”, one can’t help but feel chastened.

His concerns weren’t, sadly, pulled out of thin air, but came from a series of tests KIA administered to the firms they instruct. With this in mind, here are our top Dos and Don’ts for the today’s solicitor looking to impress with their IT skills*.

  • DON’T bother with any of that ‘out of office’ auto-reply nonsense on your email. At all costs, preserve your air of mystique. If you really must let clients and colleagues know you will be away until next Wednesday, set up an out of office response which either makes profligate reference to your second home in the Algarve, or is written entirely in Binary Code.
  • DO bring as many of your personal phones, tablet computers, laptops and other devices into the office as possible. If you’ve got the iPhone 5, mention it throughout the day: people love to hear about that stuff. Practice holding two simultaneous conversations – one to a client, the other to the friend whose stag night you’re arranging. For extra kudos, do it on speakerphone. No-one ever joined the legal profession for a quiet life!
  • DON’T make any efforts to negotiate the shared filing system. Have fun with setting up folders embedded within folders with names no-one could possibly decipher without one of those funny little boxes off of The Da Vinci Code. Keep colleagues and admin staff on their toes with hard-drive treasure hunts to really put the ‘dead’ into ‘deadline’.
  • DON’T bother with any of these new-fangled legal tech innovations they’re always telling you to use. eDisclosure? eDiscovery? Digital bundles? Each and every single one is destroying the romance and mystery of the law, not to mention contributing to the poverty of all employed in hand-weaving that iconic pink tape. Besides, every decent lawyer is a secret stationery fetishist – could you really face a world without colour-coded tabs and Post-Its?
  • DO insist on using the same software packages for the next decade or so, and strenuously resist any attempt at an upgrade. This modern fad for continual modernisation must be challenged: just as you come to terms with where you’ve put the icons on your desktop and how to use that Windows Explorer thingy along they come with another bit of software that takes a good couple of years to get used to. They might very well quote some nonsense about ‘firewalls’ and ‘viruses’ and ‘hackers’ and so on, as if they’re talking about a football match between firemen who all have the flu, but stick to your guns. Your clients will thank you.
  • DO try using different fonts. Comic Sans is a particularly popular option, lending a light-hearted and amenable air to the most formidable of documents. Worried about saving paper? A 9-point font is perfectly sufficient for all but the elderly and infirm.
  • DON’T accept any attempt to facilitate remote working. All this talk of Cloud data storage and virtual working and telephone conference facilities is designed to confuse. Do you really want to spend a Tuesday afternoon away from the delights of your desk, the shared kettle, and the lack of window, and that colleague who always eats his apple noisily at 11am precisely?

Is there really anything to be said for doing your day’s work in the comfort of your own home, or possibly in a quiet café with a good coffee and a slice of c….oh. Wait. Hang on… SP

* We accept no responsibility for the consequences.

What kind of dinosaur are you?

Will ‘extreme interview’ techniques be adopted by law firms?


PiL: The Movie

A sneak preview of the new Professionals in Law viral