Video conferencing, including Skype and FaceTime, is taking over the job interview, but a study suggests in-person meetings still have a place
GEOFF ROBINS / Toronto Star
Video conferencing, including Skype and FaceTime, is taking over the job interview, but a study suggests in-person meetings still have a place.
The economy is going global, and so is the interview process. Hiring by video conference is becoming the norm for many job interviews.
Take Darryl Lashambe. He is a district recruiter for Holiday Retirement Homes, working from a home office in London, Ont. Because he is responsible for hiring management and sales staff for 60 properties in Canada and the U.S., all promising candidates are interviewed by video conference.
The company has embraced video-conference interviews to save time and money. “It would be really expensive for me to fly from one city to the next to conduct initial interviews in person,” he says.
Lashambe uses Skype or Apple’s FaceTime. Because he hires teams of two people to manage each property, he often interviews two applicants from different cities at the same time online to see how they interact. “Skype has been really successful for me. We rarely have problems,” he says.
Holiday Retirement Homes is one of many employers taking advantage of Skype and other inexpensive video-conferencing technology to cost effectively recruit in a global market. According to a 2011 survey conducted by Office Team in the U.S., only 14 per cent of survey respondents reported frequently conducting job interviews using video technology. By 2012, that number jumped to 63 per cent.
Deerhurst Resort in Muskoka uses remote video for interviews. Director of human resources Cora Ramirez uses Skype to recruit a large and ever-changing team of servers, room attendants and front desk agents. She also uses Skype to interview candidates from the Netherlands who apply to participate in a co-op program with the hotel.
Deerhurst is in Huntsville north of Toronto, so in-person interviews are simply not practical in many cases. “It may seem like it’s a quick two-hour drive from the city but an applicant may be in school or working and it’s difficult to schedule a suitable interview time,” she says.
But all is not perfect in the world of remote interviews. New research from the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University reveals that job applicants interviewed via video conferencing may be at a disadvantage to candidates who are interviewed in person.
DeGroote associate professor and co-author Willi Weisner says the study findings show that candidates interviewed in person tend to be rated more highly and are more likely to be offered a job.
And, on the other side of the screen, job applicants participating in video interviews are not as likely to form a positive relationship with the interviewer. So those with multiple job offers may be more likely to sign on with companies where they had face-to-face meetings.
The DeGroote research team recruited 104 full-time MBA students (half as applicants, half as interviewers). After completing standardized interviews, all participants completed a questionnaire evaluating their experience.
Study participants reported on barriers created by video-conferencing technology. For example, a slow Internet connection can result in a stilted conversation due to a time lag between questions and answers. There also may be lost opportunities to observe applicants’ non-verbal behaviours such as eye contact and body language.
Lashambe acknowledges that there have been occasions when the technology didn’t work properly, but he says, “I make a special effort to laugh about it so we both relax and get back on track.” Because the company rarely conducts in-person interviews at the preliminary stages, he believes there is a level playing field for all candidates.
Ramirez says often some candidates for the same position are interviewed by Skype, while others are interviewed in person at job fairs at local colleges. Until now, she always thought of video and-in person interviews as interchangeable.
“After looking at this study, it is intriguing for me to think about instructions I could give to my managers conducting future Skype interviews to improve outcomes for both Deerhurst and our applicants,” she says.
Weisner says the results of his research were not intended to discourage companies from using video-conferencing technology to interview job applicants. “We are simply saying, be cautious. If local candidates are being interviewed face-to-face, long-distance applicants may be at a disadvantage.”
How to ace a Skype job interview: Tips from the experts
Dress for success: Dress appropriately. Pay attention to your grooming. Be professional.
Pick your spot: Get out of the bedroom. Try and ensure the background is not cluttered. Close the door so pets and kids are on the other side.
Do a dry run: Practise with a friend so you know what you look like, how to position yourself and how the technology works.
Watch the camera: To facilitate eye contact, place the webcam as close to eye level as possible.
Check the sound: Use a lapel mic or a hand-held mic to make sure you can be clearly heard and avoid annoying feedback from the speakers. Rehearse how to modulate your voice.
Body language: On camera, emotions can be less apparent. Practise nodding more noticeably, smiling more broadly, making greater use of hand gestures, varying vocal pitch, tonality and emphasis.
Listen carefully: On a slow Internet connection, there may be a time lag. Listen carefully to questions you are asked and make sure the interviewer is finished before you jump in. Similarly, try to clearly convey when you have finished answering a question.
Close other applications: There is nothing more nerve wracking than if your computer goes bong in the middle of the interview because you have a Facebook message or if your landline or your cellphone rings during the interview. Turn them off.
Organize documentation: Make a list of notes and questions. Have a copy of your resumé and other supporting documents available. Tab these materials and put them in a binder or folder so if necessary you can easily refer to them during the interview.