10 Reasons a Video Interview Could Replace a Phone Screen

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.20.01 AMAfter watching over a hundred video interviews, I’ve come to believe they can replace the traditional phone screen, especially for positions with a high volume of applicants.

Recently, I reluctantly tried video interviewing for campus recruiting and found it to be a fabulous success that exceeded expectations. However, when the concept was initially presented there was a healthy dose of skepticism. It was one of those rare occasions when you communicate to your team that the trial is not really optional. Since then we’ve also been using it outside campus recruiting, primarily when the demographic is millennials or Gen Y and the applicant volume is high. Like most people, I initially stuck my nose up at the idea of losing the personal touch of a two-way conversation, but these brief interviews reveal so much about candidates.

Our skeptics have quickly become converts. This fall alone, we’ve screened three times as many people in about 80 percent of the previous time commitment. I would never have believed it if I had not tried it. The technology still has its faults, but I certainly think it’s headed in the right direction (I’m pushing our vendor to develop more functionality).

Typically the format for one-way (asynchronous) video interviews goes something like this: after screening a resume, you send out an email invitation to a candidate to participate in a video interview. The email contains a hyperlink which takes them to a website where they view pre-recorded short video clips of people asking interview questions. After each clip, candidates have a pre-determined (and brief) amount of time to think about the question, after which their webcam automatically begins recording their answers which are then saved for your viewing. Typically there are no re-takes.

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Here are 10 positives:

  1. Increase your screening pool. If one of your challenges is getting through the volume of candidates who have applied for your opening (think campus recruiting), one advantage of asynchronous video over the traditional phone screen is that it allows you to screen more people and in less time. You can easily review 75 or more videos interviews in one day. But have you ever tried scheduling, yet alone completing, that many phone screens in a day?
  2. Compare apples to apples. By pre-recording your interview questions, you can ensure that all candidates are being asked exactly the same thing and that they have the same amount of time to both prepare and deliver their answers. Sure, you can give your recruiters an identical list of questions, but on the phone it’s more difficult to control the amount of time someone takes to answer a question. Video levels the interview playing field.
  3. Weed out interview bias. Since video interviews can give you more data points, employers can look for trends (good and bad) from recruiters and/or hiring managers on which candidates they either advance or reject.
  4. Candidate convenience. Candidates can do the interview at any time or place that is convenient for them. Does it really matter to you if it’s completed early in the morning or in the middle of the night, or whether it’s done on a weekday or weekend? But it definitely matters to candidates. They can sit in front of their computer at home, or use their smartphone or tablet from almost anywhere. Something as simple as handing over the interview scheduling can empower a candidate. The benefit for the employer is viewing applicants that are more relaxed and authentic in their presentation.
  5. Efficiency. Remember those phone screens when, after only a few minutes, you know the candidate is not a fit? Yet you’re committed to the next 20 or 30 minutes of what feels like hours. Try cutting a candidate off mid-stream in a phone screen and see how well that goes. The opposite can also hold true. Sometimes you can tell very quickly that a candidate should be advanced to the next step. With recorded answers you’re not committed to watch every single minute of each interview. Video interviews give you the ability to control which candidates you spend your time on.
  6. Recruiter convenience. Employers have the convenience of reviewing all the interviews in one siting, or spacing them out over time. A web-based platform also allows you to view them from almost anywhere and, if necessary, to share the interviews with others.
  7. Clarity. Have you ever been on a phone screen when someone (or something) interrupts the call and you become distracted? How about the bad cell phone connection that makes it difficult to understand the candidate? With video, Internet connections can be tested before candidates record their answers, ensuring a greater degree of clarity. And, if there’s still an issue when you’re viewing the interview, you can simply replay the answer as many times as needed, to be certain that no important information is missed.
  8. Empower your people. An easy way to empower your own people is by including more of them in the interview process. In this area video absolutely trumps the phone. Having several people do a phone screen would likely result in a poor candidate experience. But with video you can involve your people in several ways, from asking an interview question to rating candidate responses. You’ll be surprised at how many people are eager to be filmed asking an interview question.
  9. Showcase your culture. Depending on who you video asking your questions (could be the newest co-op student or the CEO), as well as where you do it, you have a unique opportunity to make a statement about your company’s culture. You also have the chance to include a brief clip showing your office, where the candidate will work, the team they might work with or more. Your employer brand messaging will be more effective when candidates can hear and see the theme you’re trying to convey.
  10. Stand out from your competitors. Today, video interviews are not the traditional first point of contact with your people. But when they’re done properly they can be a differentiator that signals your organization is tech savvy, innovative, and cutting edge with your recruitment, at least until everyone else is doing it!

Don’t make a final hiring decision based solely on a one-way video interview. However, given the limitations of the traditional phone screen, asynchronous video interviews that are well done can help recruiters make better decisions on which candidates should be advanced to the next stage in your selection process.

Paul Peterson is responsible for the development and execution of both talent attraction and employer branding strategy for Grant Thornton LLP in Canada. Prior to his work at Grant Thornton, he co-founded and ran an award-winning search firm with offices throughout Canada and the U.S. Paul has a BA and an MA from York University as well as an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are his only and not necessarily those of his employer.


19 Comments on “10 Reasons a Video Interview Could Replace a Phone Screen

  1. Video interviews are a great resource to verify the identity of a candidate. It is very easy for candidates to have someone else interview for them on a phone screen, but impossible on a video screen. This is a great way to combat fraud, especially in filling technical positions.

        1. You really need to define precisely what your objectives are and find a vendor that aligns with your objectives. I know it doesn’t sound like a very clear answer, but there are so many options and new features that are becoming available that you have to decide what you really need. We initially kept things as simple as possible on the back end, but quickly discovered that we were hungry for additional functionality.

  2. Paul, thanks for sharing your insights on digital interviews! We are so excited about being on the cusp of such a huge transition from phone to video interviews and providing recruiters a more efficient way to recruit. Thanks again for the great read.

  3. Very well said Paul! My favorite part of this journey has been working with those people brave enough to change the status quo and always ask how can we do it better!

  4. Wonderful article, Paul. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience, I think you’ve done a great job really capturing all of the benefits here. Two thumbs up!

    For anybody else looking to add a video component to their hiring process, head over to http://www.kiratalent.com and request a demo or start a free trial.

  5. Being in the video interviewing space ourselves, here at Spark Hire we are definitely seeing the popularity of video interviewing technology growing by the day. It’s a very exciting time and we’re happy to be a part of it! We’re seeing first-hand how much our customers enjoy the ease and affordability of our video interviewing solutions and how this technology is helping to make their hiring processes more efficient. They are able to connect with candidates earlier on to gain greater insight so they can make smarter hiring decisions. Furthermore, the ability to brand their video interviews (something Skype cannot offer) helps to ensure a positive candidate experience.

    We recently launched a free e-Course that will be very beneficial to recruiters and will help them become video interviewing experts in just a few days. The “5-Day Crash Course to Video Interviewing” will go over basic information about video interviews, best practices, and strategies for ensuring a great candidate experience: http://resources.sparkhire.com/5-day-crash-course-to-video-interviewing/.

  6. Every candidate I’ve talked to has HATED the experience. Any comment there, Paul (or anyone else using this technology)


    1. Hi Steph, it all comes down to execution and where in the funnel you use video interviewing. If a company does a poor job of explaining to candidates the process they may arrive at the video interview and not understand what is going on, what are they supposed to do etc. From an execution stand point it’s essential to have a great opening video (as Paul points out, a branding opportunity). In this opening video you get to introduce the company, what is about to happen and coach the applicant a little, not to be nervous etc.). Hope that helps.

    2. The short answer is I’m already writing my next article on this very topic. But I agree that it’s easy to produce a poor candidate experience, if your execution is not very well thought out. I made a lot of changes before we went live. I think the single most important factor is really thinking through how you message it to candidates. You have to have a clear value proposition for them so that they can see why this particular format is to their advantage. They need to conclude the interview feeling that they had a better opportunity to showcase their skills & attributes than a phone screen would have allowed. If you can clearly articulate “Here’s exactly what’s going to happen”, it also helps to alleviate the fear of the unknown. We tried to list all the reasons why a candidate would not like a video interview. Then, we didn’t go live until we felt that they were all answered. Hope this helps for a start. More to come at a later date…

  7. Great post, Paul. I think you’ve really captured the benefits of video interviews here, including how it not only benefits the recruiters, but also the candidates as well. The latter is often overlooked and I think it’s one of the most important parts.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. We’re proud to count Grant Thornton as a client and look forward to working with you as we develop great new features.

  8. Really well articulated Paul. I like how you point out more than the obvious. Video interviewing does help save time but, as you point out it’s a huge opportunity to showcase your culture. Businesses are competing for the applicants just as much as the applicants are competing for the job. Companies have a great opportunity to put their best foot forward and really communicate what it would be like to work for them. Thanks again for taking the time to lay this out so well.

  9. Great article and great list of positive reasons to try. If for no other reason, choose reason number 1. We were dealing with an impossible to manage quantity of applicants coming down the pipe and I just knew, with traditional screening methods, good candidates were slipping through the cracks. We tested Kira Talent (who happens to have commented below) and it made all the difference. The huge pipline of applicants were easily whittled down to a manageable pool of talent.

  10. I have not used these pre-recorded video interviewing techniques yet but I am confident that video will not completely replace the phone in the hiring process.

    I have learned that candidates want real time conversations or “live contact” in any shape or form, particularly candidates in high demand.

    I am seeing an increasing amount of disgruntled job seekers who are voicing their discontent towards the automation of the hiring process.

    Video has its place and so does the phone. Both can compliment each other and both can supplement the hiring process, depending on the role and business.

    If I were a job seeker, I would not appreciate any interview for any job where the questions are pre-recorded and I have to respond to a computer screen.


    If a candidate who has the goods for the job decides to skip the waiting line for video interviews and get direct contact with you, your recruiter or hiring manager directly on the phone for a conversation about the job, would your team still ask them to go through the pre-recorded set up?

    1. If that’s the format for a specific position, yes. That said, I don’t use video yet for senior positions where there are very few applicants. I will always have a conversation with anyone who manages to track me down. However, in the same way that everyone eventually has to have a resume in the ATS, we want everyone to be assessed in the same way, to level the playing field. When dealing with hundreds or even thousands of candidates, as is common with campus recruiting, there is no shortage of qualified candidates. The challenge is getting the best ones. The best way you can determine this is if the assessment methodology is as close to identical as possible for every candidate. Hope this clarifies it a bit.

  11. Videos of any kind are NOT fair. Unless and until law catches up with technology you are opening your company to all kinds of lawsuits re: discrimination. No Thank You

  12. Have you even considered the negative effects these types of interviews have on the candidates???? Who is going to be themselves when sitting in front of an impersonal video camera? You are going to hire the best actors.

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