A Video interview is not an exam

July 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

Stressed-Business-WomanAfter all the stress of exams, students can breathe a sigh of relief now that the season is over.

It’s perhaps a good time to reflect on examination conditions and how appropriate they are within an interview process.

Interviewers are usually eager to find out how a candidate handles stress and are likely to ask a question that tests an applicant’s behaviour in a busy environment. But actually most candidates feel far more stressed in an interview environment than they ever do in their busy work environment.

In a face-to-face interview, a good hiring manager will understand that a person’s stress in an interview does not necessarily mean that they will get stressed in a work environment. They can provide reassurance through tone of voice, smiling and nodding to steer the interview so that the candidate is given a fair chance.

With the growing popularity of video interviewing used in the candidate screening process, I have heard different views about whether or not a video interview should be treated in the same way as a face-to-face interview.

I’m talking about asynchronous or ‘one-way’ video interviewing here, where candidates record their interview remotely and employers then review the video at a later time.

Some employers feel that candidates should only be given one chance in a video interview to provide spontaneous answers to each question. That’s how it is in a face-to-face interview, isn’t it?

Well no, not really. If you want to provide a good ‘candidate experience’, it’s important to recognise the different interview environments.

Talking to camera for 2 or 3 minutes with no interaction from an interviewer does not come naturally for many, particularly if candidates are experiencing the asynchronous video interview process for the first time.

By contrast, in a live meeting, candidates have the opportunity to engage with the interviewer. If they’re not getting a good vibe whilst talking it’s often possible to get back on track by adjusting the answer, perhaps adding further explanation to what they are trying to get across.

Then, why bother with video interviews, you ask.

There are many benefits to video interviews. They save hours in the recruitment process and are convenient for employers and candidates. But to make this innovative process work successfully, there needs to be a great user experience.

Here are just a few reasons why video interviews should be treated differently to face-to-face interviews:

  • Body language – In a live meeting interaction, non-verbal behaviour is two-way. The interviewer assesses non-verbal behaviour, but so does the interviewee. Whilst answering a question, the interviewee is usually able to gauge if the interviewer is interested or bored, and can up the tempo if necessary.
  • Understanding the question – Candidates in a live interview sometimes start their answer with a question: ‘Do you mean…’ Most of the time, it’s not due to a language barrier, but a tactical way to find out more from the interviewer what answer they are looking for. It’s also a delay tactic so that the candidate has more time to think about how he will answer the question.
  • Technophobia – As intuitive as the video interview process may be, some people will always feel uncomfortable with computers and gadgets, and their unease will show on the video.
  • Camera shy – Some people just are!
  • Disruptions – You are at home and in the middle of recording your video interview. The dog starts barking, someone walks into the room and interrupts – It happens!

So, should a video interview be rigid like an examination? Or should there be some flexibility so that if something does go wrong during a recording, the candidate has the opportunity to re-record an answer in their video interview (rather like modifying an answer in a face-to-face interview)?

Having researched and developed our video interviewing model over the last 4 years, we feel video interviews are most useful for providing quick insight on candidates and showcasing soft skills. Offering flexibility has been important and client setting options, such as the number of attempts permitted to record an answer, have been an attractive feature.

It’s these small details which help to engage candidates and prevent them from ‘dropping-off’ from the interview process.

Does that mean candidates can cheat? I wouldn’t call it cheating. It depends what you want to achieve from the video interview process. If you make it too rigid with exam-like conditions, you may find that candidates will not complete the interview. This could result in good candidates being eliminated for the wrong reasons.

Candidates should breathe a sigh of relief – Video interviews are not an examination.

Rupert Sellers

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I spent most of my career in luxury hotel management which included senior roles with Ritz-Carlton and Four seasons, before specialising in recruitment 12 years ago. In 2012, I launched Compact Interview which enables employers to screen candidates directly with customised video interviews. Our privately held company is based in Shoreditch, London.

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