HR Discovers Web-Based Video Interviews Save Time, Money

By Dave Zielinski Jan 15, 2010
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Melissa McM​ahon, senior director of talent acquisition for CDW, a technology services firm in Vernon Hills, Ill., knew something had to be done to reduce the time managers were committing to first-round evaluations of candidates.

That growing responsibility was eating into their bread and butter, which was developing strategy, selling product and coaching their sales teams.

“We were flying our top four or five candidates in for interviews, and it was literally taking a full day or more of our sales managers’ time,” McMahon says. Not only that, but each interview for new sales associates was ringing up close to $1,000 in candidate travel costs.

So McMahon turned to a solution that’s gained increased favor among human resource leaders—the one-way recorded video interview. Working with vendor HireVue, McMahon created a system where job candidates can log onto a web site and answer a series of prerecorded interview questions while speaking into a webcam. CDW sales managers later log on to the site, review the video interviews and determine which of the candidates to bring in for face-to-face interviews.

Time Is Money

Use of web-based interviewing has resulted in considerable soft and hard cost savings for CDW, says McMahon, with little perceived drop-off in interviewing quality. CDW pays HireVue $150 per interview, compared to the previous $1,000 it spent on travel-related costs. Per-interview fees are based on interview volume, and CDW pays additional start-up costs for features like creating a branded landing page for candidates. Companies can purchase webcams through HireVue or buy them elsewhere.

Of equal benefit to the dollar savings, says McMahon, is the reduction in time sales managers are spending on early-stage evaluation of candidates, freeing them up for increasing selling and staff coaching. The managers have embraced the new screening process.

“The video component enables hiring managers to assess candidates’ energy and nonverbal skills, which takes the evaluation a step beyond a standard phone screen,” McMahon says. “The prerecorded questions create consistency and fairness in ensuring each candidate gets the same question, asked the same way.”

If there’s a drawback to the one-way recorded interview, it’s the inability to ask follow-up questions and probe for greater detail in candidate responses. But most users see that as a small sacrifice given the technology’s benefits.

Global Hiring Benefits

Vendors like HireVue have been growing steadily as organizations seek not only ways to reduce travel-related interviewing expense but also to limit the time that harried hiring managers spend on initial selection stages. Human Capital Analyst Dr. John Sullivan recently stated on a radio show that “literally hundreds of firms have already begun using video interviews, and usage patterns are climbing at a significant pace.”

What’s more, information technology research and advisory company Gartner, Inc., reports that by 2013 more than 25 percent of the content that workers view daily will be dominated by audio, pictures or video. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that video watching outranks many online activities (62 percent). The HR landscape is changing, experts like Sullivan say, and the ability to be able to “interview from anywhere” is already here.

Another such firm operating in this space is iViioo, whose iViewXpress web-based video interviewing system enables managers and recruiters to view candidates’ unrehearsed video answers to questions online.

Jeb Blount, CEO of, a sales recruiting web site, implemented iViewXpress as a way to help recruiters and sales managers who use the site create hiring efficiencies in a field known for high job turnover. “Because sales is a customer-facing business, it’s important to get a visual, and as a recruiter you can quickly assess recorded videos and see if you want to take candidates to the next step,” Blount says.

iViewXpress isn’t only a stand-alone web site—it’s an “enabler” of video interviews that can be integrated into a applicant tracking system or corporate career web site, says Vanessa Wu, one of iViioo’s founders.

For example, a hiring manager could post a job opening on LinkedIn and embed a “video interview now” button on the post, so a candidate interested in applying could start the video interview process immediately by clicking on the button. That feature, Wu says, “removes the step of having to make a lot of prescreening phone calls, which can take considerable time of key employees in your organization.”

Web-based video interviews prove valuable when members of hiring teams are located in different countries. IST, an educational software company based in Santa Maria, Calif.,needed to hire four software developers, but members of the hiring team were on three continents. Using iViewXpress, the team worked together to create 14 technical questions and invited candidates to answer them via webcam. Team members were able to view the video interviews online from their respective locations.

High-Volume Interviewing

Conducting interviews virtually can be valuable for organizations that need to hire a large volume of candidates quickly or to get more bang from their campus recruiting dollar. When Stephanie Owens, director of talent acquisition for Mosaic, an Irving, Texas-based company specializing in sales demonstrations and retail promotions, needed to hire 300 weekend sales reps to demonstrate products at client Kodak, she contracted with HireVue for help.

“We had about six weeks to do the hiring, and it would have been extremely difficult and costly to do face-to-face interviews with every candidate, some of whom were in remote locations,” Owens says.

She paid HireVue $125 per interview for 100 two-way video interviews, along with $3,000 in system set-up fees to enable future use. Owens was able to embed candidate interviews in Taleo Recruiting, the company’s applicant tracking software, which allows hiring managers to access, share and provide collaborative feedback on interviews.

With many companies cutting back on campus recruiting, web-based interviewing allows organizations to continue to recruit in person at top or core schools but hold “virtual career days” at secondary schools by setting up webcams at interviewing stations on campus.

Candidates Adapt to Webcams

So how do job candidates react to having to interview with an inertcamera, rather than a carbon-based life form?

“When you first mention this type of interviewing to candidates, they usually say ‘there is no way I could sit and do an interview with a webcam,’ ” Blount says. “But when they see how the system works, they usually adapt quickly to it and even see it as a cool use of technology.”

McMahon believes the growing use of webinars, which require people to speak into cameras or headsets without seeing an audience, as well as the prevalence of video-based communication tools like Skype and TokBox, is making workers more comfortable with the use of technology in the hiring processes.

“We do a lot of Gen Y recruiting, and the one-way video interviews are almost a no-brainer for them, given how technology is built into their DNA,” she says.

Dave Zielinski is a freelance writer and editor based in Minneapolis.

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