The problem with one-way Video Interviews
We were recently asked whether one-way video interviews are the future of recruitment. After all, the idea seems up to the minute, progressive and in tune with the way we communicate these days. However, when you stop and think about it, there isn’t just one problem with one-way video interviews, there are many.
We’ll start with what a one-way video interview system does and why it’s an attractive option for employers. Then we’ll explore the problems beneath the hype.
What is a one-way video interview?
Here are the basics for this type of product. A one-way video interview system allows an employer to create some questions. Applicants access the questions and shoot a video of themselves giving their answers. An applicant can do this at a time of their choosing. Employers use the videos to assist in the selection of candidates for face to face interviews.
Some products allow employers to video their questions whilst others support questions by text. The majority allow applicants to take a practice run and most support time-limited answers.
Providers of one-way video interview systems do show appetite for adding more value in the recruiting process. For instance, HireVue claims to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and question gamification to assess applicants. Artificial Intelligence is a real thing. It’s basically machine self-learning, but the AI banner is being misused in the recruitment industry. Most are replacing the word algorithm with AI, but algorithms are designed by people to do some clever, predictable analysis. Introducing genuine AI into the recruitment process is deeply concerning. Perhaps we’ll save this for another blog.
For the sake of clarity, this article doesn’t cover interactive video interviews. That’s where both parties take part in a skype video call, a google hangout or other video conference. These can be genuinely useful for interviewing at distance. However, this type of interview also comes with unforeseen problems.
To reinforce this point, a 2013 study from the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University, Ontario still makes interesting reading today. They conducted some simulated job interviews. Candidates interviewed by video conference were rated lower by interviewers and were less likely to be selected. Candidates also rated their interviewers as less attractive, less personable, less trustworthy and less competent. Food for thought.
What’s good about one-way video interviews?
When looking for enthusiastic support for one-way video interviews, we found that the solution providers are making most of the noise. It is harder to find equal support from employers who have used these systems. Worse, it’s all too easy to find negative feedback from applicants.
All this said, some employers are using these products, so we must conclude that HR Heads can be persuaded by their merits. We believe they bought into the following arguments:
- One-way video interviews save time in the recruitment process.
- Interviews can take place at the applicant’s convenience and outside of normal working hours.
- Using video reduces travel requirements, so applicants find them more convenient to ‘attend’.
- Candidates feel less pressure than in face to face interviews.
- Offering a one-way video interview feels modern, funky and brand-reinforcing.
- It’s a more inclusive process, because some people aren’t great with written applications.
That seems like a pretty compelling set of arguments. But wait, do these really stack up? It’s time to take a look at some of the pitfalls when using one-way video interviews.
The issues with one-way Video Interviews
Most responsible employers are working to eliminate any opportunity for discrimination in their selection process. Some are introducing options such as evidence-based scoring, name-blind recruiting and doubling up on staff throughout the shortlisting process.
Disguising personal information from shortlisting managers is a useful feature of some Applicant Tracking Systems. Details include age, gender, ethnicity and so on. A video exposes a person’s weight, posture, hair style and other physical attributes. That can introduce unintended bias, so using video during the early stages of selection seems counter-intuitive.
Brand and Trust
In recruitment, building relationships with applicants is vital in a competitive market. However, applicant feedback warns us that video interviews can be detrimental to this objective.
Many applicants feel that recording a video interview is impersonal. Some feel uneasy about who might access their video interview. Others say that employers are being lazy by skipping face to face interviews. Overall, employers just feel more distant when using one-way video interview systems.
We should all remember that people are more attracted to employers who value their skills and want them to join. Without interaction, we must ask ourselves whether one-way video interviews really help.
Contrary to popular belief, video interviews don’t save time. Watching 3 to 5 minutes of video is slower than scanning a CV for 7 seconds. Industry tests reveal that 7 seconds is the average time taken to reject weaker applicants by CV alone. Just ask a recruiter or HR officer and they’ll confirm this for you.
James Reed, Chairman of Reed, has written a book on this specific point. It’s called The 7 Second CV: How to Land the Interview
We must also observe that some Applicant Tracking Systems help employers to identify the most relevant applicants quickly. Algorithms (not AI) can scan CVs for words, phrases and other information to indicate levels of applicant suitability. That’s much harder to accomplish with one-way video interviews.
This is a genuine point of convenience for candidates. They can choose when to complete a one-way video interview, just like they can with an application form.
However, one of the more basic employability requirement is timekeeping. For employers seeking lower skilled workers, timeliness and timekeeping are among the most essential personal attributes. Checking out someone’s motivation to arrive on time is more obvious with a face to face interview.
Suppliers suggest that applicants feel less pressure when recording a video interview, yet the opposite can be equally true. Many people who are excellent in the workplace can be terribly camera shy. Others who are relaxed with video can feel greater pressure with scrutinising eye contact.
Have you ever exceeded the maximum message length when leaving a voicemail? Have you ever had one of those sneezes that never arrives? On a video interview, such things can have a detrimental effect on the outcome.
During our research we found a number of unhappy applicants. One fluffed an answer during a video interview and believes it could stay there forever as a perpetual flaw. He can’t delete it.
Have you ever heard an applicant ask whether it’s always as busy at rush hour or whether it always takes as long to get to the 35th floor? Travel times can influence applicant interest in your vacancy.
Interviewing at your premises is a great way to find out whether an applicant’s journey is manageable. Knowing sooner rather than later seems sensible, but the opportunity is lost with a one-way video interview.
We have heard the argument that low-skilled vacancies attract people who can find it challenging to write a CV. In answer to this, one-way video interviews suddenly feel more inclusive. However, in discussion with employers they tell us that almost all roles require:
- written communication skills and / or
- basic IT competence.
We wonder which is easier; completing an online application form or recording a video interview. Feedback suggests that cameras and microphones don’t always work as intended across all devices. Setting up video interviews can be just as frustrating as completing an electronic form.
Of greater importance for low skilled work is that some applicants still don’t have easy access to a PC, modern smart phone or WiFi. That’s why some people still use public libraries to make job applications. Applicants can’t easily shoot a video in a library. Elsewhere, some people struggle to manage their data allowances. Even compressed video consumes data allowances quickly. Overall, a lack of access to the right equipment is a barrier to inclusion.
During our investigation, we discovered some kickback from applicants on the topic of environment. One interviewee laid out a scenario to illustrate this point:
Two people are equally qualified for a role and both are suitably dressed for their one-way video interview. Which of the following would you most likely choose to proceed in the recruitment process?
- Somebody sitting on a sofa, laptop on knee, an awkward camera angle, poor lighting and occasional background noise.
- Somebody sat upright, laptop on desk, perfect camera angle, great lighting and no background noise.
The applicant made a very reasonable objection; some people can’t access the perfect interview environment and this alone could tip the balance in favour of one applicant over another. Some people live in busy homes. Others find their WiFi signal is weak in quieter spaces or that their mobile signal only works in the garden.
Our own experience
We have our own experience of integrating an Applicant Tracking System with a one-way video interview solution. We completed the work at the request of a hospitality customer. It was trying to make things more open for lower skilled workers. The integration worked seamlessly, but the customer quickly dropped the interview technology. The reasons were as follows:
- A high percentage of invitees dropped out of the process without comment and without taking the video interview.
- Applicants reported technical issues.
- Watching videos increased the time taken to recruit and that had a negative impact on shortlisting speed. They lost applicants to competitors.
Clever technology companies shape consumer demand by making you feel new things are essential things. Take Apple and the iPad. Apple’s marketing department made tablets look like a PC replacement. They were light, sexy and functional, so the world went mad for Tablets. Even Tesco hopped on the bandwagon with their Huddle. Consumer demand skyrocketed, but how many people use a Tablet now? In 2019 NetMaretShare says just 4.61% of the market and market share is declining. Google pulled out and Tesco dropped the Huddle years ago.
Beneath the hype, one-way video interviews introduce as many problems as they solve. The opportunity for discrimination or bias is just one. Of key concern is that applicants might not appreciate the hands off approach and this is not beneficial in a competitive market.
Recruitment is simple at heart. Employers must attract high quality applicants and court them into position. It’s a ‘people’ business, but employers sometimes buy technology to improve their own efficiency at the expense of the candidate relationship. If you want somebody to work for you, they need to feel some love soon into the process. We conclude that one-way video interviews are getting in the way of that objective.
Interviews are supposed to offer candidates the opportunity to qualify you too. Some people feel aggrieved that a one-way approach is asking too much of them too early. It can feel like an invasion of privacy; you’re seeing me before I can see you. Plenty of comments support this view.
The day may come when one-way video interviews feel personal, warm and natural to applicants. Videos might also cleverly disguise identity, regional accents and hair styles, but I’m not sure this helps with a sense of connection.
Your best employees came through a process. Try asking them how they would feel about completing a one-way video interview. Their thoughts could be very valuable if you are assessing the benefits and pitfalls for yourself.
Find out more
We are the authors of CVMinder ATS, an Applicant Tracking System to make recruiting easy. One of our ATS customers, a Care provider, asked for our thoughts on one-way video interviewing. Before answering, we took a fresh look around. It didn’t take long to find some concerns with this type of technology.
We would dearly like to hear from employers and applicants who have first-hand experience of one-way video interviewing. Leave us a comment or drop us a line to tell us what you think. Many thanks in advance.