Any sports nut can tell you that what looks good on paper can be disappointing in real life. Sometimes the most promising draft picks are plagued by injuries, or simply aren’t able to perform at the highest level. Sometimes a group of athletes just don’t have great chemistry on the pitch. The statistics were all there – everything looked right in the simulator – but for whatever reason, the reality didn’t measure up.
This is probably even more common in the corporate world, although people don’t call radio stations to talk about it. A candidate stands out from the pack, has the requisite skills, and seems like a good fit – but it isn’t long before the hiring manager starts to wonder what they missed during the hiring process. Within a year or two, that manager is working to fill the same role, hoping to learn from past experience and find a candidate with the elusive X-factor.
Interviewing in the age of information
The question of how to locate this X-factor (also known as fit, feel, chemistry, etc.) is a good entry-point to a discussion of how interviews are conducted in the age of information.
We can certainly do things strictly the old-fashioned way, collecting resumés and inviting a select number of those to meet in person. If we want to cast a wider net, there are innumerable videoconferencing tools that can facilitate live interviews regardless of location. Aside from the standard commercial tools such as Skype and Google Hangouts, there are specialised interviewing platforms galore. Many of these put the video interviewing function into the context of more expansive programming that automates various aspects of the job posting and hiring process.
We can also take a hybrid approach, using video interviews as an intermediary step, and then bringing our final candidates for a good old-fashioned sit-down. To whatever extent we make use of video interviewing, it does provide access to a larger swath of the talent pool. But is something lost in translation?
What you gain from video interviewing
The most tangible gains from video interviewing come in the form of time and money. As HR people are well aware, the cost of hosting in-person interviews adds up. Most of that cost is in work hours. It takes time, for example, to schedule and administer each live interview, especially if a panel of interviewers are involved. The systematic use of video can cut these internal costs significantly.
This idea is taken to the extreme with “asynchronous” video interviews, wherein managers set up specific questions and invite any number of applicants to record their responses. Even in the case of live video interviews, sessions can be recorded and reviewed later by other members of a hiring panel.
There is also that ever-important question of reach.
Video interviewing allows an unprecedented level of personal interaction with the global talent pool.
This is especially useful for management-level or executive-level positions, for which employers are more willing to bring in candidates from farther afield.
What you lose
There can be technical issues (faulty connection, poor video quality, complicated log in processes) with video interviewing. There can be instances of fraud or misrepresentation.
But the real drawback is a lack of personal connection. We all know the difference between seeing a friend in person, for example, and interacting with that same individual through a smartphone or laptop screen. We don’t have the intimacy of shared surroundings. We can’t access the same conversational cues. It’s more personal than an ordinary telephone call, sure – but there is a whole lot of subtle information we aren’t getting.
It can also be true that interviewers and/or candidates present themselves differently via videoconferencing than they would in person. Some people find it more comfortable to be behind a screen. Others find it less natural and more nerve-racking. Either way, your chances of giving or receiving a false impression are higher than they would be in person.
Personality is vitally important to the corporate world, and for all the marvels of modern technology, sitting in the same room with someone is far and away the best way to measure it.
The long way around
For all the reasons listed above, video interviewing has an important role to play in modern hiring and recruitment. But leaning too heavily on it, and using it as more than a preliminary step toward in-person interviews, is reminiscent of putting together a professional sports team based on nothing but statistics. It might work out – but there is also a chance you will not have the chemistry you think you have. Hiring is expensive and the stakes are high. At the very least, when it comes down to your final group of candidates, it’s worth taking the long way around in order to get it right.
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