Will Video Interviewing Live Up to Its Promise?

February 9, 2016
Will Video Interviewing Live Up to Its Promise?

Employers and hiring managers are often pursuing technology and strategies about how to interview better. One such approach that technology founders and HR experts alike are excited about is video interviewing.

In some ways, video recruiting is a lot like the Segway or Google Glass. It sounds amazing, it solves a real problem, it came to the market with a lot of hype…but where is the adoption?

The idea of video interviews is not new. The original video “interview” showcasing someone’s skills in an asynchronous way was the highlight reel that actors sent to producers who wanted to see their acting chops.

It was only a matter of time (and technology catching up) until video interviews hit the mass market. The first players in this market came out in the mid-2000’s, as video telecommunications became more fluid and seamless.

Video interviewing is great! You can get a sense for someone, and narrow the interviewing funnel in a much more efficient way than in-person meetings. What’s not to like? Unfortunately, so far video interviewing has failed to deliver on its promise and potential.

Many companies offer or have offered some form of video interviews, including us at Proven. We tried video cover letters, a form of asynchronous video interviewing. We did not see the engagement we were expecting and removed the feature. Our assessment based on customer feedback is that it’s hard to get people to look good on video. People are used to high production values on YouTube, Vimeo, and other platforms. Self-recorded mobile videos are not really up to par. It was also hard to get people to record them, and more surprisingly, employers did not always actually watch them.

We went further and sought answers from executives in companies exclusively dedicated to video interviews. We interviewed Imo Udom, CEO and Founder of WePow, a provider of video-enabled talent solutions. In contrast, we also spoke with the former CEO and Founder of a now-defunct company where video interviewing was at the core of the product. The second executive wished to remain anonymous; for purposes of this piece we will call him “Tom.”

Q: What are the limitations of video interviewing?

Imo: You can’t quite ask the exact same questions that you would ask in a phone interview. In a pre-recorded format, there is no follow-up based on candidate responses.

You have to reframe questions and think about what you want to get out of the interview and what you want to evaluate. This takes time and effort. Account management and customer success is key.

Tom: It’s hard to get the personal touch over video. The idea sounds good, but it does not work well in positions where you have to sell, or in positions where supply of talent is low relative to demand, such as engineers.

Q: Why has video interviewing never lived up to the hype?

Imo: One of the challenges is that a lot of vendors over-promised and under-delivered. Expectations were set too high. Vendors were pushing the technology for all roles, saying it would revolutionize the way businesses operate. When the reality did not match the marketing, it left a bad taste in people’s mouths. It also did not help that the applicant’s experience was not prioritized early on.

HR tech vendors in the space also focused on growth and on outdoing each other with more and more features. This led to feature creep instead of a focus on implementation and customer success.

Tom: For the same reason people still jump on planes instead of using video conferencing all day. Recruiting is fundamentally a people business, and you need to be present with candidates to really get a sense for them. Depending on who you talk to, between 55% and 95% of human communication is nonverbal. This is very hard to get across over video.

Q: Will video interviewing ever live up to the hype?

Imo: Absolutely. It’s going to come down to a few factors. Companies have to invest in implementation, and vendors have to help their customers succeed. As time goes on, more candidates will be educated on how the technology works, and that will help propel its spread as an accepted method of interviewing. But remember, it’s not a silver bullet, it takes a concerted effort to make it work.

One thing is certain, solutions need to have capabilities for live and asynchronous interviews. Also, they need to work with lots of different existing HR systems. The better companies can play with others, the better they will do.

Tom: I think that if virtual reality and/or augmented reality get to be lifelike, there is a chance. In that case, you will get all (or at least more) of the nuances in communication. When and if technology gets to that point, remote interviewing could be a significant percentage of overall interviews.

It has been almost three years since ERE proclaimed that video interviewing would soon be mainstream. We are not there yet. According to Korn Ferry’s 2015 Futurestep Executive Survey in 2015, only 25% of employers use video applications as a part of the recruiting process. In contrast, 71% of companies surveyed said they used real-time video (e.g. Skype) somewhere in the process. This may be a sign that things are changing and more employers will make video a more integral part of their process.

Time will tell if the problem was a slower-than-expected adoption curve, or if the technology needs to evolve to a new level before it becomes a mainstream employment screening method.

Have a different point of view? Do you have insights that we missed? We would love to hear from you in the comments.

About The Author: Pablo Fuentes is the CEO of Proven, the leading hiring solution for small businesses. He is also a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and guest lecturer at University of Colorado Boulder.

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