The Pros and Cons of Recorded Video Screening

woman recording a video interview

After thousands of traditional phone and in-person interviews, I thought there was nothing left to learn about interviewing. I was wrong.

Recorded video screening can add a lot of value to your interview process and it’s gaining acceptance in the marketplace. Here we share our lessons learned three years after using it internally and with Fitzii clients.


Wait… What is Recorded Video Screening?

Recorded video screening is different than a video interview over Skype, Google Hangouts, or GoToMeeting.

In recorded screening, candidates record answers to your questions on their own computers, on their own time. [That’s why some people call these time-shifted or asynchronous interviews.]

A candidate logs into her own computer and sees a video of me asking a question like – “why are you a great candidate for this job?” – and then has a set number of seconds to think about her answer. Then the camera rolls (also on a timer), and she records her answer. A few more questions follow, and then the “interview” is done, ready to be reviewed when the hiring manager is ready.

Typically, recorded video screening replace phone screening, not in-person interviews. Candidates who show promise from a short, preliminary video screen are called in for face-to-face interviews.


3 Reasons to Try It

1) You’ll “meet” more people.

You can see many more people than you could handle over the phone or in-person. Rather than eliminating someone because you’re not 100% sure about his résumé, offer him a pre-recorded video interview and decide after you’ve heard his responses.

In many cases, you’ll pick different candidates to advance to the in-person interview than you would have from resumes alone, and since resumes are notoriously bad at predicting performance, this is a good thing indeed.

One of our customers recently hired someone that never would have made it to the interview stage if it hadn’t been for outstanding answers in the video screen.

2) You’ll get your time back.

You set the video up once for all candidates and there is zero scheduling back-and-forth. Candidates can record their answers any time and any place, and you can watch them any time and any place. For a candidate who is already working, recording a video in the evening or on a weekend is more feasible than taking time off to meet or taking a call at the office.

You can also watch and share the videos wherever and whenever. You need to hire an accounting manager right away but your CFO is at a conference? No problem. Send her the links to the video and she can send you her feedback.

3) You’ll be objective.

The questions are the same for all candidates. You can’t lead candidates you like to the right answers. Every candidate gets the same experience.

This makes the hiring process more objective and reduces the risk of legal challenges (since you now have objective evidence for your decision).


Wait, but… 3 Common Objections

Here’s what three years of experience has taught us about video screening limitations – perceived and real.

1) It’s not fair!

It’s the most frequent objection we hear from people who haven’t yet used video screening. The idea that we can see an applicant makes us nervous that we might let our biases run mad or at least be accused of that.

Yet studies have shown that when a profile is connected with an image of that person’s face, positive human connection increases. In hiring, a manager who sees an image of a candidate will actually view that candidate more positively (regardless of what they look like) because they feel a human connection. The candidate ceases to be a name on a page; instead he’s a real person.

Inferences about gender, culture, race, religion, etc. can be made at any stage in the recruitment process – like in résumé screening and in-person interviewing. It can happen during video interviewing too but no more so than in person. The EEOC gave it a pass in their 2004 discussion letter on video and equal employment. What really matters is that the hiring manager evaluates every candidate at every stage in a way that is consistent and defensible.

2) It’s too new!

A more serious objection, in my experience, is unease with new technology. We often get objections from candidates who are uneasy about recording themselves or aren’t sure if their technology will work.

Encouraging candidates to borrow a web cam has made a big difference. Most laptops now come equipped with one so there’s a good chance your candidates can borrow a laptop for the short time they will need it.

Technology doesn’t always work perfectly either so it’s important to have a video screening vendor with responsive tech support. This is particularly important if the role you’re filling is not tech-heavy, because you’ll have some candidates with lower tech comfort.

A positive for candidates, even the technophobes, is that more of them will go further in the selection process because video allows employers to consider more candidates. Recently, one of our customers hired a candidate who wouldn’t have made the top three, but because he made the top 15, he got to submit a video. In the video it was obvious this guy knew his stuff, was passionate about the work, and would thrive as a member of the team (and he did).

3) It makes me look bad!

A third objection that candidates don’t often raise but I think must affect them is what I call the ‘Hair Commercial Effect’. We are used to seeing television and movies where everyone looks flawless. When we see ourselves on self-recorded video we can feel tremendously inferior to the models we see in our daily lives.

I like to begin every video interview introduction by telling candidates that I’m not casting a hair commercial – I don’t care if they look great, if their shirt complements their eyes, or if they sound like Morgan Freeman. As long as I can hear what they have to say, I can and will consider their candidacy. [It might also help that they see a video of me looking exactly how I look in real life.]

Make every effort to put candidates at ease about their image and also to check yourself for any bias in favour of attractive, charismatic people with good hair. Chances are those traits don’t lead to high performance in your job (unless you’re casting a hair commercial). The nervous lady in the ugly shirt with the inspiring answers… that’s who you want to meet again!

With insights from our experience, you too can replace or augment your current interviewing process with video – get your time back, meet more candidates, consider them objectively – and in the end, make better hires.

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