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How graduate recruiters use video interviews

Find out about live and recorded video interviews, what's new in video interviewing and how to ace your interview when you're not face to face.

Whether you are completely at ease in front of a lens or are filled with dread at the thought of talking into a camera, you may have to embrace technology in your interviews at an early stage in your graduate job hunt. Video interviewing is no longer a niche tool used by a few employers; it is an increasingly common part of the recruitment process. The 2018 Institute of Student Employers annual survey of its members revealed that 49% use video interviews as part of its recruitment processes and just 39% use telephone interviews.

There are two main types of on-screen interview – live and recorded – and they each have their advantages for candidates and employers. Many companies use a live connection between interviewee and recruiter – FaceTime and Skype are the most common, but there are others in the mix too. This kind of interview is not dissimilar to being interviewed in person. As an alternative, employers can create a questionnaire and hire a third party video specialist to conduct early stage interviews.

Our partners Shortlist.Me offer resources to help you prepare for video interviews.

What happens in a recorded video interview?

The details may be different according to the platform used, but essentially, companies such as Sonru, SparkHire, LaunchPad and InterviewStream host an automated on-screen interview package on an employer’s behalf, ensuring all the candidates get the same experience. It’s important to understand the difference between this kind of interview and a live connection with a recruiter – once you’ve initiated a recorded video interview you cannot rewind or review your answers. From start to finish it is like a face-to-face interview, but with none of the feedback you would expect from a person-to-person experience. You may find yourself under some time pressure, for example, you might be given 15 seconds of thinking time and 60 seconds for your answer, with a timer on screen indicating how long you have left.

You may be invited to upload a self-recorded clip (via YouTube for example) to a password protected site to highlight specific skills or tell the company about yourself. Interviews of this kind lend themselves to roles in sales, media or marketing. If the job involves interacting with colleagues or clients across the globe, this kind of selection process gives a recruiter a sense of your proficiency in presentations, for example.

Employers say that candidates benefit from recorded video interviews by starting sessions at their own convenience without having to travel or take time off from an existing job. Most of the companies organising this type of interview offer candidates tips and encouragement through an online video of their own. It’s common to be allowed one or more practice attempts ahead of recording the final cut (but do check before you start – you won’t get a second chance if you’re wrong). There are also apps and websites offering candidates practice options independent of recruiters, something worth thinking about if you need to get comfortable with the process first and don’t have a friend or family member who can critique your performance.

What recruiters want from a screen interview

Video interviews give employers the chance to test your on-screen presence, but that's not the only reason for this growing trend. Organisations state that conducting initial interviews this way saves them time, money and scheduling headaches and allows them to see more candidates than they would be able to manage otherwise. Instead of having to arrange an interview with a maximum of eight prospective employees over one day they can assess 24, for example. Recruiters can replay or review anything that catches their eye and compare candidates to narrow down the field before inviting a selection for a face-to-face interview or to an assessment centre.

What’s new and up-and-coming in this field?

A recent Financial Times article highlighted the arrival of robot interviewers. Using sophisticated technology, these robots carry out assessments free from bias and prejudice. A robot may be new to the job, but she won’t get tired, bored or mix up candidate four with candidate fourteen. Though you may feel put off by the thought of an automaton asking you questions, trial interviewees found the standardised process refreshing and even described the Matlda robot they sat in front of as cute, the paper reported.

Another development is the interview avatar, who will pose set questions without becoming tired, hungry or distracted, and will get through a list of candidates without needing a break.

There are a growing number of apps for interviews via phone, tablet, laptop and desktop. Once you’ve downloaded the app you are invited to follow the instructions to make videos and improve your on-screen technique.

Take heart – it’s not just graduates in the hotseat

Companies are increasingly using video or Skype interviews both at early stages in recruitment and for jobs higher up the corporate ladder, so any experience you get of this type of interview at this stage may well stand you in good stead later in your career. For example, candidates for top jobs such as board appointments may have to undergo rigorous video conferencing interviews in the course of the recruitment process. Imagine talking into a laptop featuring small portraits comprising the executive team, knowing that at their end they are scrutinising your face and replies on a big screen in their boardroom.

Recruitment law must be followed

Chris Krabbé, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), points out that all interviews, however they are conducted, have to comply with recruitment law. Employers set criteria for recruitment and must adhere to these and take a consistent approach, or they could be accused of prejudice. What’s more, employers can only use the recorded material at a later date with your permission. So if you have a video disaster, with a dog howling or a cat washing itself while you’re speaking, it should never appear on YouTube or LolCatz in the future unless you’ve agreed to be part of a ‘how not to’ compilation of graduate interview gaffes.

Employers that have used video interviews include: