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Video interview platforms make headway against consumer tech

Some recruiters prefer the familiarity of popular video tools, like FaceTime and Skype, but they may be missing out on the rich candidate profiles and analytics of dedicated systems.

Ryan Sutton knows that he needs to act fast when a qualified candidate for a job pops up. And if that person happens to live in another city or region, letting geographic distance slow down the interview process is high-risk.

"I'm giving days or a week for another company to steal the employee," said Sutton, a district president at staffing firm Robert Half International. "In this economy, you can't wait. You have to be nimble in your hiring process."

To gain that nimbleness, Sutton has become an avid user of video to conduct interviews. But he has taken a rogue approach: Rather than use one of the full-blown video interview platforms from a vendor such as HireVue or Montage, he relies on popular end-user applications, like FaceTime, Skype or Hangouts.

The reason? He wants to make things easier on the candidates by meeting them where they're most comfortable. And the fact that he's been more than 95% successful in making interviews happen on those platforms keeps him doing what works, especially given the sheer number of candidates that Robert Half vets.

"Our volume of interviews on a day-to-day basis mandates us using whatever is most generally used rather than what is best," Sutton said.

In fact, Sutton, who manages a region of England from Robert Half's York City office, said he conducts more than half of his interviews -- as many as 20 in a given week -- via video. Doing so has enabled him to interview candidates in all the offices he manages without leaving York, and it's also enabled the company to reduce the number of offices it runs specifically as satellite interviewing spaces.

Growing market in video interview platforms

Robert Half's strategy aside, a growing number of companies are turning to tools that bring a lot more than a video connection to the table. HireVue, Montage, Spark Hire and Sonru are among more than a dozen companies offering cloud-based video interview platforms that deliver a variety of capabilities, such as data capture, shareability and time independence (so candidates can record video interviews when it is convenient).

In this economy, you can't wait. You have to be nimble in your hiring process.
Ryan SuttonDistrict president, Robert Half Technology

These applications also enable employers to standardize their interviews, thereby benefiting from apples-to-apples comparisons of large pools of candidates who answer identical sets of questions. Some video interview platform vendors also have started introducing AI tools to better parse through large pools of candidates and even gauge emotion and sentiment.

And while video interviewing certainly wouldn't make a short list of the hottest technologies in business today -- "I can't recall a call in which somebody told me about gangbuster sales," said John Sumser, editor in chief and principal analyst at HR Examiner -- it's hard to see a scenario in which use of the technology doesn't continue to accelerate.

For instance, Sumser noted that, in 2017, 20% of all mobile calls included a video feed, and so far in 2018, that's up to 35%. He expects 70% of calls to include video in 2019.

Vendors of video interview platforms are benefiting from that trend. HireVue CEO Kevin Parker said the company took 13 years to reach 4 million interviews conducted on its technology, a threshold it hit in March 2017. It then reached 5 million in October 2017, 6 million in January of this year and is on pace to hit 7 million this spring.

Today, more than 600 customers are conducting nearly 10,000 interviews each day using HireVue, which supports 32 languages and has been used in more than 180 countries. Parker is clear, however, that customers are turning to the company for much more than simple video capabilities.

"We've moved so far beyond the time savings and expense of travel and into a better interview experience," he said.

In addition to the structure HireVue's software brings to talent acquisition, it also enables companies to measure the experience they're providing for candidates. Employers can analyze broad sets of data to do benchmarking and peer comparison analysis that lets them know how healthy their hiring process is from the candidate's point of view.

For its part, HireVue uses Net Promoter to measure the experience of candidates across its customer base, and Parker said the average score is 72 on a scale of -100 to 100, indicating that candidates enjoy conducting interviews on the platform.

HireVue also uses AI not only to analyze communication styles, but also to gauge the emotions candidates are expressing. Doing so, Parker said, enables employers to build models that can match candidates with the best current employees. The software, he said, will literally tell an employer, "These 200 of the 1,000 candidates you interviewed are most likely to meet your expectations."

Consumer tech less capable for data gathering, candidate profiles

Despite the capabilities video interview platforms offer, many organizations are no doubt choosing to go the Robert Half route and rely on consumer video calling tools, and Sumser is convinced that somewhere there's a team trying to build a system that can piggyback on the FaceTimes and Skypes of the world.

In the meantime, however, companies that want to get sophisticated about hiring shouldn't wait for that kind of innovation to happen, said Kyle Lagunas, a research manager at IDC who monitors talent acquisition technologies. Lagunas believes that a company like Robert Half has a compelling business case for conducting video interviews, and he believes it's missing out on valuable data gathering and sharing capabilities.

Formal video interview platforms "create a richer candidate profile for people trying to make choices beyond the resume," he said.

And as for the sense that it's better to meet candidates where they're comfortable, HireVue's Parker said the proof is in the pudding.

"If I gave you access to our database of more than 6 million interviews, what you'd see most often is people smiling," he said. "They're having a good experience."

Given the success Robert Half has had with its informal approach, it'll probably take more than that to sway Sutton, but the combination of a positive user experience and a wide-ranging set of data capture and sharing capabilities will attract plenty of employers to this fast-maturing technology.

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