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Interviewing Goes Digital

|Mar 12|magazine12 min read

This story originally appeared here in the March issue of Business Review Australia magazine.

Written by Allie Schratz

The way of the future may involve interviewing for a new job in your pyjama bottoms and slippers.

Digital interviewing, where a candidate is screened for a position over Skype or a similar web-based program, has been growing more popular worldwide as companies look to fill available positions with out-of-state or overseas talent. Australia, being such a widespread nation, is no exception.

“You’ll find that a lot of companies will do interviews with candidates within domestic Australia before they expense flying them interstate,” said Peter Acheson, CEO of IT recruiting firm Peoplebank. “With the rise of things like the iPad and iPhone with FaceTime, I think this is going to become pretty standard.”

Digital Professionalism

Indeed, technological advances have contributed to the ease of conducting interviews from just about anywhere, but does the convenience impact the professionalism of the interview – and more importantly, the interviewee?

According to Paul Bailo, founder and CEO of US-based Phone Interview Pro who is also working on a book about digital interviewing, the behavioural standards required during a web-based interview are widely unknown.

“What we’re seeing is that a lot of great candidates are losing the jobs because they’re ill-prepared and ill-trained for the digital interview,” said Bailo. “They treat it as a phone call [when] they should treat it like it’s a 60 minute newscast.”

The biggest problem, Bailo has found, is eye contact: “When you’re conducting the digital interview, most people look at themselves, not the camera,” he said. “We recommend centreing the camera in the middle of your monitor so you’re looking straight at it.” Regarding the background, keep it simple. Similar to a newsroom, sit in front of a piece of cloth or a painted wall, but one without photographs or artwork. A non-high definition web camera is also advantageous.

Clothing is another factor of which the candidate must be mindful: the same professional appearance and grooming standards apply in a digital interview, but like a television anchor, the audience – in this case, the interviewer – can only see part of the interviewee’s outfit.

“It’s not the same onus on being immaculately dressed and wearing the right coloured suit,” noted Acheson, whose company has utilised Skype-based web interviewing since 2006.

Global Companies Step Up

Harnessing the growing digital trend are companies like Hirevue, whose online interviewing platform is used in more than 100 countries. Founded in 2004, the US-based business has helped clients such as Starbucks, Red Bull and Rio Tinto streamline and simplify the interviewing process by offering a program that allows hiring managers to record interviews.

“With the old style of interviewing, there is no consistency,” said Hirevue’s Director of Marketing Scot Sessions, noting that side conversations during an in-person interview can distract from the specifics of the job and therefore hinder a candidate’s chances of moving forward in the interview process. With Hirevue’s platform, “all candidates are asked the same questions and given the same amount of time to answer them.”

The client has the option of recording the digital interviews to allow several managers to screen the applicants, giving each of them opportunity to rate the candidate against the job description and provide input to help narrow down the very best prospects. In Hirevue’s case study featuring Rio Tinto, the mining company reported that their time-to-hire was cut in half, saving the company 77 per cent in scheduling and travelling costs. According to the case study, “They reported more success in the first face-to-face interview, since hiring managers already had a feel for the candidates’ personality and both candidates and managers were more invested in the hiring process.”

Of course, it’s impossible to know everything about a candidate until they step into the office – a grim reality Acheson experienced when a new hire turned out to have severe body odour issues. Despite that unfortunate scenario, Acheson is confident that digital interviewing has a rich global future ahead.

“[Digitally,] you can still get an assessment of a candidate’s interpersonal skills,” said Acheson. “I think there’s going to be an explosion of the use of video conferencing and digital interviewing going forward. Technology is enabling that.”