Job Interviews—by Video

In the outbreak era, organizations are turning to technology more to interview job candidates. Can it work as well as face-to-face?

Forget about the big job expo at the city convention center. That campus recruiting day? Gone as well. And don’t even bother with plans to bring in a cadre of candidates for a day of mass interviews.

Among the many changes organizations are adopting in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak is how they are hiring for open positions. Not unlike how major business events such as Mobile World Congress or Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference have been canceled, so too have the big hiring events that are a staple of corporate recruiting. At the same time, experts say clients are reporting an increase in video interviewing and web-based meetings in lieu of face-to-face contact.

“Business has to go on and companies need to hire, but it has to be balanced with a focus on the general well-being of the communities they serve,” says Dan Kaplan, a senior client partner with Korn Ferry’s CHRO practice.

To date, face-to-face interviewing is still preferred in areas like the United States, where the coronavirus has so far remained manageable. But in Italy, Iran, and other countries where the virus is reaching a critical mass, Kaplan says companies should consider shifting to a short-term reliance on phone and video screening as a precaution. “Technology is already causing a shift away from face-to-face interviewing, and many candidate assessments can be done online,” he says. While far from precise, estimates suggest that between 30% and 70% of initial interviews are now conducted by video.

Kaplan draws a parallel to past epidemics in Asia, when companies tried to conduct face-to-face business meetings and interviews wearing masks and it largely proved difficult. “A video screen beats mask-to-mask interaction,” Kaplan says.

But video interviewing involves more than just turning on a camera, says Louis Montgomery Jr., head of Korn Ferry’s Human Resources and Diversity Officers practice. He says video interviews should be thoughtfully planned, with a formal structure and outline of areas to cover. “Will the candidate be interviewing with one person or multiple people?” says Montgomery. “If the process calls for interviews with multiple people, will they be rotating in for one-on-one meetings, or will it be a group discussion?” Such concerns often aren’t addressed or even realized until the interview is underway—and by then it’s too late.

The other challenge with virtual interviewing is judging a candidate’s fit with the culture of the team and wider organization, says Mark Hedley, Korn Ferry’s vice president of global talent acquisition. “Managers need to ensure that a potential candidate can build a physical connection with clients and teammates,” he says. So even though virtual interviewing is safer in times of crisis and more cost-effective in general, “you still need to eventually meet potential new hires in person to ensure the connection is there,” says Hedley.

To be sure, some large firms are imposing hiring freezes or postponing filling roles. But many companies are avoiding pauses to keep business moving forward. Montgomery says instead of shutting down the interview process or completely changing hiring practices, organizations and candidates should follow one basic tried-and-true rule. “If you are sick, reschedule,” he says.