To See or not to See?  That is the Question!

With apologies to William Shakespeare. 

Video interviewing as an accepted method of conducting applicant screening continues to gain significant momentum, but is it the best medium for all job roles and is it a viable technology as it relates to EEOC non-discrimination and OFCCP compliance?

In a recent survey conducted by specialized administrative staffing firm OfficeTeam, over 60% of those responding said that they conduct employment interviews via video.  Furthermore, 13% of respondents maintain that they will conduct more video interviews over the next three years.  Clearly video is here to stay and has become a valuable tool in the talent acquisition toolbox.  It is generally convenient, cost-effective, and can render very good results.

Let’s first examine the appropriateness of video interviewing across a wide spectrum of job roles.  Video is particularly well suited for mid-level and executive-level positions where applicants may be geographically dispersed from the hiring company and the cost of face-to-face interviewing – especially in the early stages – can be prohibitively expensive.  For other positions, especially entry-level employees and customer service professionals where a telephone interview is a common early-stage process step, an audio virtual interview is probably preferable.  For example, customer service professionals are rarely seen and have to rely on their verbal communication skills to perform their jobs well, which make an audio interview particularly well-suited for these positions.

Second, with respect to the question about non-discrimination and compliance, the EEO has provided several informal discussion letters in response to the public’s concern about non-discrimination and the use of video.  In a September 21, 2010 letter, the EEO writes (emphasis added):

“The EEO laws prohibit these covered entities from recruiting and selecting new employees in a discriminatory way. The EEO laws do not expressly prohibit the use of specific technologies or methods for selecting employees, and therefore do not prohibit the use of video resumes. The key question under the EEO laws is how the selection tools are used.”

So, it’s clear that the medium (video in this case, but could apply to audio interviews as well), is not necessarily at issue, but how it’s used.  Discrimination and non-compliance is not the fault of the technology, but how a person uses it to make a hiring decision.  Ultimately, it is the HR professional who makes the hire/no-hire decision, irrespective of the technology used.  It is therefore essential to ensure that discrimination and bias is removed at this level.  Here are four best practices to consider when conducting interviews, virtually or in-person.

Document your hiring criteria.  Carefully and clearly identify the critical success factors for the job and be sure that the interview measures those.  For example, critical success factors for customer service professionals might include exceptional verbal communication skills, the ability to demonstrate empathy, and persuasion.  Be sure the recruiting team, and its stakeholders, are clear and agree on these factors before conducting the first interview.

Standardize the interview.  Be sure that each candidate is asked the same set of questions, preferably in the same order, to ensure that each applicant is evaluated fairly.  Asynchronous (one-way, recorded) interviews are particularly effective in that there is no opportunity for an interviewer to “go off the reservation” and ask one candidate questions that the others haven’t answered.

Calibrate the team.  Take the time to ensure that everyone on the recruiting team knows what to look for and what constitutes a well-qualified candidate.   The benefit of asynchronous, recorded interviews is that everyone involved in the interview process can review and evaluate a common applicant, compare their results, and identify areas of disconnect.

Involve the stakeholders.  More often that not, the hiring team is evaluating applicants on behalf of others in the organization.  Getting these stakeholders involved early in the process helps to ensure proper alignment with the recruiting team will result increased performance, lower hiring costs and reduced attrition.

Virtual interviewing – whether it’s video or audio-based – is here to stay.  Like any tool, it must be used properly, under a well-documented set of rules, to achieve the desired results and to remain compliant with the appropriate non-discrimination and consistency requirements.   The result is better-quality hires and reduced exposure to discrimination claims.