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Huge potential of video interview software comes with risks

Tech-savvy millennials' advantage over older workers risks ageism, and AI needs work handling emotions and ethnicity. But few doubt video's convenience as a data-rich vetting tool.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that video has taken over our lives. We carry it with us on laptops, tablets, smartphones, smartwatches and even eyeglasses. We hand screens to our kids to keep them placated. Now, video interview software is becoming a standard tool for vetting job candidates.

The use of purpose-built systems for capturing, sharing and gleaning insight from video interviews is on the rise. Millions of interviews in countries the world over are being completed each year using video interview platforms from vendors like HireVue, Montage and Sonru.

These systems promise hiring managers an unprecedented trove of data on candidates, enabling them to interview more people, learn more about them, and share those interviews with anyone in an organization who wants to know about a candidate. They also allow candidates to take more control over their interview experiences, completing them on their own schedule, and even rerecording them if they don't like their answers.

As wonderful as it all sounds, though, video interview software brings with it a raft of potential potholes and risks.

Just ask Tim Johnson. An independent IT consultant in his early 40s, Johnson has done between eight and 12 video interviews for potential gigs, and the experiences have left something to be desired. In fact, Johnson said he greets the news that a potential client or temporary employer wants to interview him via video with something less than excitement.

All things being equal, he said he's started to develop a bias against potential employers who ask him to do a video interview. "Bluntly, I would probably be less interested in the position," he said.

To be fair, Johnson admits that his main issue with video interviewing will eventually become a non-issue: Namely, the numerous technical glitches that still prevent most video interview experiences from being anything close to seamless. He said that most of his video interviews have suffered from some technical glitch, such as latency in the video tools, problems with audio or a faulty Wi-Fi connection. It all amounts to him spending as much time trying to resolve little technical issues as he does doing the interview.

Millions of interviews in countries the world over are being completed each year using video interview platforms from vendors like HireVue, Montage and Sonru.

"The technology hasn't come into its own to be able to do it consistently," Johnson said.

It's worth noting that Johnson has only done video interviews on ad hoc video-calling platforms such as Skype or FaceTime. He said he considers the thought of using more sophisticated video interview software a turnoff that "negates a critical kind of human interaction," allowing employers to jump to conclusions that might be offset if they met a candidate in person.

Which gets at other, nontechnical considerations. Chief among these is the possibility of biases arising from video interviewing. And while it's easy to imagine hiring managers letting their racial, cultural and gender biases guide them when the candidate isn't sitting right in front of them, the more pressing potential bias is ageism.

Video acts as a filter for tech savviness

Younger job candidates are more comfortable with emerging technology tools such as video interview software than their older counterparts. In particular, they're more comfortable being recorded on video. Along those lines, John Sumser, editor in chief and principal analyst at HR Examiner, expects the use of video interviewing to grow as younger, video-embracing candidates increasingly dominate the workforce.

"The use of this tool for the purposes of job transitions and job-related transactions will increase both in volume and sophistication because younger people are better at their on-camera appearance than older people are," Sumser said.

But Kyle Lagunas, a research manager at IDC, said that this generational divergence points to one of the reasons it's important for employers to use video interviewing technology: It helps them market themselves to those younger candidates. Companies need to demonstrate to college grads that they're embracing the kinds of cutting-edge workplace tools young workers want to use.

It also underlines one of the most important hiring criteria, as technology is "definitely something [employers] should evaluate you on," Lagunas said.

Kurt Heikkinen, CEO of video interview software vendor Montage, agreed, noting that in this tech-first world, experience with the technologies employees will be expected to use in the workplace is a critical consideration for hiring managers, whether or not they're using video to conduct interviews.

"We're living in the age of the modern candidate, whether it's someone who's just leaving college, or an older worker taking the next step in their career," Heikkinen said. "There's an expectation in today's work environment that you'll have a certain comfort with technology."

AI comes to video interview software

What's more, video interviewing tools will only get more sophisticated as vendors tap artificial intelligence for natural language processing or to analyze emotions and sentiments. Heikkinen said Montage is treading lightly as it adds AI for things like chatbots, virtual assistants and predictive analytics. He said it will be some time before Montage is comfortable using AI to gauge candidates' emotions.

"Our view is that facial recognition is not ready to be adopted," Heikkinen said. "It's not yet validated in the application of recruiting, and it introduces bias because of the inability to recognize different ethnic backgrounds effectively."

Issues aside, Johnson, the IT consultant, sees the silver linings in being willing to do video interviews. For one thing, they enable him to greatly expand his base of work beyond the Boston area that he calls home.

"I can interact on projects anywhere in the country," he said. "That's pretty important to me."

And there's another element of video interviews that Johnson said provides a significant advantage over phone calls: the ability to, as he put it, "leverage any emotional intelligence that you have."

For instance, Johnson said that it's common for video interviewers (and remember, he's only had live video interviews using ad hoc tools) to show that they're distracted by letting their eyes wander to parts of their screen. Normally, he said, he wouldn't be aware that he was losing an interviewer's interest and thus might be blowing the interview. Instead, he can use his awareness to his advantage.

"It helps to give you an idea of how engaged they are," Johnson said. "Asking a question can get someone back engaged again."

In other words, the savvy interviewee can exert some level of influence over the interview, and that's something that candidates who might otherwise be hesitant to do video interviews can hang their hats on.

This was last published in May 2018

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