Video recorded interviews – caveats and benefits
Circa 1998: a tall, well dressed man came for an interview at a systems integrator where I was employed and one of three interviewing candidates for a programmer position.
First impression given was one that would present well to a customer – in this case it wasn’t a customer-facing role.
After settling into the interview, the candidate began answering a trivial non-technical question before his facial muscles contracted, his head tipped back, he was “somewhere else”.
The seizure lasted long enough for us to unconsciously seek non-verbal cues from our fellow interviewers before the candidate snapped back completing his answer and seemingly oblivious to what had happened. As the interview progressed both candidate and interviewers relaxed and the session concluded with a written technical test in which he scored 99% and little repetition of the same incident.
We didn’t hire him – it was unanimous but a difficult decision which we three gave more consideration to than all other candidates. My own score in that technical test was 84%. The previous best was 86%, in our hearts we wanted to give him a chance but felt he was just too intelligent and soon tire of the “trivia” lined up for this programming role. While not suitable for a real-time “air traffic controller” type role, the question-mark hanging over our heads prior to the face-to-face was why someone (who would be a good candidate for a NASA-grade programme) would want to work as a programmer doing (what would likely be to him) such trivial stuff.
We concluded another company requiring his level of skill would snap him up – they would also be smart enough to see past a speech impediment but we later learned from the agency that he’d really struggled for months and months to get employed and urged us to reconsider. While it may be appeasing personally and fill an emotional need to be a good person, as an older, wiser person I reflect on our final decision because this candidate was actually an opportunity to help develop our business: He may not be hired as an “air traffic controller” but the sort of person you would want writing the code in the flight management system of a new aircraft you were boarding on a stormy day.
Anyway, because of this:
I ended up in a long dialogue with a specialist recruiter and did this:
In the New York Times article, a Hire-Intelligence HR manager, Ryder Cullison, is cited as stating “Video interviews will be the norm in three years.”
I think so too! But I would hope employers tread equally as carefully in their decision making using this form of media as it could rule out some good candidates.
My belief is video interviews should not be relied on entirely. Telephone interviews are the same but we have to work with what is achievable.
The perspective I put on my own YouTube in this post is detailed below – and highlight what I see as details coming under two headings – “value” and “lack of value”.
It should also be obvious that no candidate or interviewer is perfect. Of course some are better than others but putting the most effort into something should yield a better result. The video interview could be an extra step towards a possible hire or seal the fate of a good candidate.
- Presentation of a candidate in a formal situation is revealed both audibly and visually. Presentation may be relevant in certain roles – such as pre-sales customer facing.
- A live video interview is of great value if recorded for detailed review later. 60% of communication is non-verbal. If those reviewing are “tuned in” and the candidate is one of the 95% of us unable to prevent revealing truthfulness through body language, a review will help determine if the candidate is out of their comfort zone on the topic in question.
- To physically attend an interview takes a great deal of preparation and has cost associated with expensive travel and time out of the current role. Someone has to pick that bill up. A Skype interview costs nothing and an effective way of lending itself to a “yay or nay” to take it to the next level.
- An opportunity for other key decision-makers to provide their input based on questions presented for them at a live interview which they could not attend.
Orchestrating an interview which has to involve a project manager, technical architect and 2 people from different continent is costly to a business. Some are going to phone-in anyway – if they can actually make it – as per what was the plan.
- Pre-recorded “generic” interviews can be edited to remove a lot of waffle. I don’t generally waffle but you can see the interview of me was edited to get to key points. It’s because it needed to be kept short – anyone viewing it the capacity to hire is probably very busy.
Although I knew what questions were going to be asked two weeks ahead of time, I didn’t rehearse the answers and didn’t include all the information that I would have liked (some I wanted to keep was removed) and could have done a better job of some of the answers. Nothing was asked of me that would put me out of my comfort zone so it doesn’t give the viewer the opportunity to see how I operate under pressure.
Lack of value
- Presentation is revealed – this can also be a negative if, in the unconscious mind of the interviewer, they don’t like what they see its going to be hard to get past this stage. A candidate that would otherwise be successful at a telephone interview may actually have the chance to work on their relationship – but it’s a bit more complicated than that in reality.
- Stock questions and answers: Years and years of being asked the same questions is a chance to rehearse answers. You are not telling the potential hirer stuff they don’t want to hear – hopefully. In this particular interview, nothing was asked of me that would put me out of my comfort zone so it doesn’t give the viewer the opportunity to see how I operate under pressure.
- It could make a candidate overly nervous. It seems not many want to be scrutinised in this way – post interview – and know there is a recording of them in some company archives – especially if they make a hash job of the interview.
- Some just can’t face a camera but are otherwise excellent hires – that’s the way it is! In fact, I didn’t feel comfortable at all uploading the video to YouTube and circulated it to a few close friends before writing this. Being camera-shy could realistically cause a company to reject a candidate – missing on an opportunity for both.
My position on the “interview thing” has always been the same, if an interviewer has a requirement and properly read my CV then there is not going to be an issue because my “resume” is an accurate document. I don’t know how unique I am in this but on several occasions I’ve asked “to leave the door open but wish to terminate the interview” mid-execution.
In the last 2 years I was telephone-interviewed and a parameter revealed causing me decide there and then I wanted to pursue another opportunity. The guy interviewing thanked me saying, “I really admire your cander”. Perhaps I will work for that company again in the future. I hope so.
I worked with a business professional who had Cerebral Palsy – of course you couldn’t tell that from his well-written emails any more than determine his skin colour. He is an amazing, well-liked and talented individual who is also well-read and an interesting person doing a great job for his employer. But (for me) the jury is out on whether a trend in video interviews gives those with a physically impairing condition ‘disadvantage’ I hope those on a selection board are themselves selected to make viable choices and realise the potential in any potential hire without seeing blockers which aren’t really there.
I have also worked in teams where one may present themselves (how do I say this? erm..) their eccentricity may not be what is accepted as a social norm. To me, these people are not having something to hide, have great minds and ones I have ended up “taking notes” to “better myself”.
I don’t believe any form of interview is the cure-all for getting a good hire and believe both live and recorded video interviews are useful but come with baggage and fear prejudice could rule out some good hires. Some of the faults are not the candidates: nowhere on my CV does it state that I have experience of developing complex workflows in Documentum xCP 2 but I still get asked.