With Virtual Interviews Here to Stay, Best Practices Are Needed

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer November 15, 2021
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​The use of videoconferencing technology for virtual job interviews exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic, and surveys show that the practice has become a part of the hiring process for good.

A recent poll of 1,100 U.S. employers conducted by Indeed found that 82 percent of respondents said they adopted virtual interviews for candidates because of the pandemic, and nearly all—93 percent—expect to continue to use virtual interviews in the future.

Another survey from recruiting software provider Jobvite found that 61 percent of surveyed recruiters said the hiring process will be a combination of virtual and in person going forward, while 22 percent said they plan to conduct all-virtual hiring.

"You have employers who are going to continue doing video interviews because they've adopted a remote/hybrid work environment and need the solution to interview candidates remotely, as well as to expand their talent pool," said Josh Tolan, CEO of video interviewing platform Spark Hire, based in the Chicago area.

Employers have noted multiple benefits to virtual interviews, including a shorter time-to-hire, a more streamlined hiring process and a better candidate experience for some because applicants have more control over when and where they interview.

Tolan noted the distinction between the two most prevalent types of virtual interviews: live video interviews, which are being used as a replacement for in-person interviews in a remote environment, and one-way video interviews typically used earlier in the hiring process as a preliminary screening interview, not meant to replace face-to-face, live interactions. He said the last 20 months have accelerated the adoption of this latter type of prerecorded video interviews, in which candidates respond to questions on their own time and then submit their recorded answers.

"Not only does this standardize the preliminary interview process with all candidates answering the same questions, but it also boosts hiring collaboration, as hiring managers are able to provide input earlier on, resulting in better downstream hiring outcomes," he said. "The candidate also benefits, since the employer can interview more people, giving candidates more opportunities." He emphasized that with all candidates answering the same questions, they're on an even playing field. "And, with multiple team members evaluating their video interview, the decision on whether they are advanced isn't solely dependent on one person, reducing bias."

There's also a health and safety component to virtual interviews—84 percent of employers surveyed by Indeed say they are still using video interviews to mitigate risk amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In-Person Experience Is Tough to Beat

Even with all of the benefits of virtual interviews, a majority of the recruiters surveyed by Jobvite still consider an in-person meeting to be a better interview experience, even though that balance of preference is shifting. Over three-fourths (77 percent) of respondents said an in-person interview was preferable in 2020, compared with just 62 percent this year. And 21 percent chose video as the most effective way to conduct interviews this year, compared with 11 percent in 2020.

"I would agree that an in-person experience is better for the candidate and hiring manager," said Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP, a talent acquisition expert and president of HRU Technical Resources, an engineering and design staffing firm based in Lansing, Mich. "When [I conduct interviews] in person, I can see body language better and am more likely to have a better experience with someone. Over video, it may not be bad, but I don't think it will ever be superior."

Tolan agreed that when comparing live video interviews to an in-person experience, "most would agree that in-person is desirable, but it also has its limitations."

Those limitations include not being feasible or economical for employers shifting to a remote environment, and the difficulty of aligning the schedules of interviewers and candidates, who have to block off time to travel to the interview.

"So, while the actual in-person interaction might be more desirable … there's still a case that, overall, the flexibility, cost savings and collaboration of live video interviews present benefits to all parties," Tolan said. "You also need to consider the shifting candidate market and what their preferences are for interviews."

Kerry Gilliam, vice president of marketing at Jobvite, said, "The more you know about the likes and dislikes of the person you are trying to recruit, the better job you can do outlining the ideal candidate journey and knowing their communication and interview preferences."

Amber Ferrari, marketing manager at Jobvite, agreed, saying it's important for recruiters to use their discretion for when to offer virtual versus in-person interviews, because these recruiters "should know what is going to make the interviewee most comfortable and most likely to connect with the organization."

Gilliam suggested that virtual interviews could be best conducted earlier in the hiring process as screening interviews, saving time and costs. "Another opportunity for video is when having to interview with multiple people at the same time," she said.

"There are a lot of moving pieces to consider, including equity issues," Sackett said. "I think if you are going to have virtual interviews, you have to put everyone through the same interview experience. If the first interview is virtual, all first interviews should be virtual. If you bring people in for an interview, all candidates should have the opportunity to have that in-person experience."

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