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From a distance

James Goulding finds out why recruitment is the ideal candidate for virtualisation

When HireVue Founder Mark Newman was at college in Salt Lake City, he could see the offices of Goldman Sachs from his dormitory window. He longed to work for the bank but couldn’t get his foot in the door because Goldman Sachs didn’t recruit from his college. Instead, he founded virtual interviewing company HireVue with a mission to democratise the recruitment process.

In the 15 years since, HireVue has grown to become a leading provider of virtual interviewing technology. It has interviewed nearly 15 million people in 180 countries and 37 languages and, before the COVID pandemic, was interviewing around 1 million people every 90 days. Best of all, Goldman Sachs now uses HireVue for all its campus recruiting.

Video interview
Video interview

HireVue provides two types of video interview: on-demand interviews, where candidates record answers to pre-recorded questions in their own time and with as many takes as they need (or the recruiter allows); and live video interviews, which replicate the traditional job interview but over video, with everything recorded and integrated into a company’s HR system.

On-demand video is generally the first stage of the interview process, after which shortlisted candidates are invited to take a live video interview.

“In the recruiting lexicon, we refer to on-demand video as the ‘top of the funnel’,” explained HireVue CEO Kevin Parker. “It’s the very first part of the selection process; we enable people to interview very broadly and then select the very strongest candidates to move forward. The advantage is that you can interview a lot of people in a very short space of time and accelerate the process.”

Parker adds that for recruiters and candidates alike, on-demand video removes a lot of the barriers inherent in traditional face-to-face recruitment, especially for organisations that are recruiting at scale or across a wide geographic area.

“It has had a great impact in democratising the process and giving more people access to jobs. Today, about 80% of interviews take place outside normal work hours. As a recruiter, I don’t have to fuss with all the challenges of scheduling and logistics. I just send you a link and you can take an interview tonight, tomorrow, over the weekend.”

Parker says that as well as opening up the field to more candidates, virtual interviews are fairer as they remove much of the bias inherent in the interviewing process.

“In recruitment, we all believe the best way to hire people is through structured interviewing, asking everyone the same questions about work related skills – tell me about the time you worked as a team and what your contribution was – things like that. But as human beings we are terrible at it. We bring so much unconscious bias into the process that we don’t ask every candidate exactly the same question in exactly the same way. I might find out we grew up in the same place and we will start having a conversation about that or I might like the colour of your shirt. The value of on demand structured interviewing is that every candidate gets the same experience, the same questions,” he said.

Rapid growth
Virtual interviewing has become an increasingly popular option for businesses in recent years, partly due to technological developments that have made it viable for more people.

“Years ago, we used to ship webcams to people; if you didn’t have a webcam it was hard to take an interview. We haven’t shipped a webcam in years. Now, your Google phone, your iPhone, your tablet, your PC all have frontfacing cameras,” said Parker. Today. About 40% of HireVue interviews are conducted via a smartphone, rising to 85% in parts of Asia.

At the same time, a protracted period of low unemployment (preCOVID) forced businesses to work harder to find suitable candidates and, as Parker put it, ‘open the aperture’ in new ways.

“If my candidates can’t take time off work and I am only available 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, I immediately reduce the number of people who are eligible for the job. So, businesses are using on demand technology to get access to the broadest talent pool they possibly can, and that has driven uptake in recent years,” he said.

Parker adds that virtual interviews can also dramatically speed up the recruitment process through technological and process improvements, such as the use of artificial intelligence to analyse people’s answers.

“If I ask you a question about team-working skills and you never use the pronoun ‘we’ and always use the pronoun ‘I’, it would indicate that your team-working skills aren’t that great. That’s a very rudimentary example, but we’ve trained our models to look at word usage, frequency, tonality, all those kinds of things, just as an in-person interviewer would.”

HireVue can also streamline and schedule the different components of the recruitment process.

“We have the video component of an interview; we have game-based assessments and skills assessments around learning abilities, cognitive abilities, spatial relations; we have coding challenges; and we have the ability to auto-schedule the next step in the process. You could take an interview over the weekend, do a coding challenge, then on Monday morning get an email or a text to schedule the next step in the process, which might be an in-person interview. We can take what would normally take weeks to assess and manage and do that effectively in days.”

Parker says that some HireVue customers have been able to cut their recruitment process from six weeks to just six days.

The COVID effect
Despite these benefits, virtual interviewing is still a minority activity. Parker estimates that less than 5% of all jobs are filled using some form of virtual interviewing. That could all change with COVID-19.

“Its impact has been remarkable,” he said. “We have gone from being a great tool for reaching talent to an important part of business continuity. With social distancing, candidates don’t want to come to you, and you don’t want hundreds of candidates coming to your office. Logistics companies and supermarkets are interviewing thousands of people a day online and their recruiters don’t even have to come to the office; they can watch the videos on demand at home.”

Parker estimates that volumes have grown by 300% or 400% in some regions, with very strong demand for the live solution – up 121% in the UK in the first week of April.

“We are in this odd circumstance where people are getting recruited for jobs and starting jobs, with everything done virtually. We ourselves have had a couple of team members start who have never physically met anyone at the company,” he said.

COVID-19 is forcing many businesses to accelerate their digital transformation and virtualise existing business processes. Recruitment is the perfect candidate.

2018