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Companies turning to video interviews instead of phone screens

Sep. 3, 2012 at 11:03 AM ET

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Experts say there are good reasons for doing the video interview: They're easy, cheaper than flying someone in and may give the recruiter a better sense of the potential employee than a phone call.

  It’s no secret that searching for a job has changed a lot in recent years, from the influx of online application systems to the fact that there just aren’t a lot of jobs out there.

Now, there’s another new twist: More companies than ever are shunning the old-fashioned phone screening in favor of video job interviews, a new survey finds.

The OfficeTeam survey of more than 500 human resources managers at companies with 20 or more employees found that more than six in 10 are now doing video interviews at least somewhat often, up from fewer than two in 10 just a year ago.

Experts say there are good reasons for doing the video interview: They’re easy, cheaper than flying someone in and may give the recruiter a better sense of the potential employee than a regular phone call.

“It helps companies narrow the candidate pool down quicker,” said Kelsey Fast, a division director for Office Team in Seattle.

Still, she said video meetings are not replacing the live interview, yet. Anyone who's ever seen the movie "Up in the Air" - in which an employee is fired by videoconference - knows the potential pitfalls of having a difficult conversation remotely.

Many employers are using the videoconference as a screening tool and then bringing the finalists in for in-person discussions, Fast said.

Fast, said she finds video interview give a potential employer a better sense of the applicant than a phone call would, from their facial expressions to how they exude confidence.

“You obviously get to see how they present themselves,” she said.

Still, she conceded that for people who are camera-shy, it can add more pressure to an already nerve-racking experience. 

That could be exacerbated for people who fear they might be judged by employers based on their age, weight, gender or race.

That, of course, would be illegal.

Justine Lisser, senior attorney adviser in the office of communications for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said video resumes and video interviews are not illegal. But a company can get into hot water if it looks like they are using video tools in a discriminatory way.

For example, if a company were only requesting video resumes or interviews from people with Hispanic-sounding names, that could be a sign of discrimination.

“(It’s) not technically illegal but could be evidence of a discriminatory intent,” she said.

The EEOC posted informal guidance about  tools such as video resumes in response to a query, but such posts do not carry the weight of law.

If you do land a video interview, Fast said a key first step is to choose an appropriate location for the interview. It should be quiet and free of distractions like bright lights or barking dogs.

In other words, don’t do a video interview in your kid’s room or at a coffee shop.

Also, dress for success. Fast recommends wearing a suit, avoiding bold patterns or colors and not assuming you will only be seen from the waist up. That means no PJs or fuzzy slippers under the jacket and tie.

“Dress and groom (as) you would for any face-to-face interview,” she said. “(The) first impression is key, so I would always be overrepared and suit up.”

 

 

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