Companies turning to Web conferencing for employment interviews

| Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center recently conducted upper-level job interviews, it turned to webcams rather than phone calls.

The health care giant joined a growing list of companies using programs that allow users to make telephone and video calls online to conduct interviews.

UPMC opted for the free online service Skype, which has been available since 2003.

"We see a ton of value in it," said Matt Rimer, director of talent acquisition for UPMC. "I, personally, have done a few Skype interviews here recently. I've found them to be very productive interactions with the candidates."

While some businesses might experiment first with Skype because it's free, companies that specialize in video call programs such as HireVue and are "growing exponentially," said Elaine Orler, president of Talent Function Group, a San Diego-based management consulting firm.

"Each of them are probably adding anywhere from 10 to 50 new customers a month on trials," she said.

Rimer said the savings of using Skype could be "substantial."

"If we needed to bring somebody in to interview face to face, which obviously is the richest type of interaction we can have with an individual, you have to think about what it takes logistically to get a person here," he said. "If we're flying someone in from West Coast or the Midwest, you're looking at a round-trip airfare, you're looking at potentially some lodging, then you're also investing a substantial amount of our managers' and supervisors' and leaders' time in interviewing someone."

David Baker, CEO of Human Capital Advisers in Sewickley, said he has conducted hundreds of interviews on Skype since the human resources outsourcing company started in business last summer.

"The technology isn't high definition by any stretch of the imagination, but you do get a chance to see who the individual is on the other side of the phone, and you can start to tell whether or not they present themselves professionally," Baker said. "If they're in there and they've got a sweatshirt on, you have to wonder about the individual's professionalism."

Baker said three of his Pittsburgh clients use Skype to conduct interviews, but he's recommended the program to all of his clients.

"It's something new," Baker said. "I don't think there's a lot of companies doing it yet, but I can tell you it's an invaluable tool."

UPMC is "very fresh into it," but Skype could replace the first screening phone call of the interview process, Rimer said.

"I think we would much prefer to be able to just jump on and Skype with someone more so than a phone screen," he said. "You're really covering the same material. You're just able to interact with the person in a more interesting manner."

Still, Rimer doubts video screenings would ever replace a final in-office interview.

"I think what it offers is the ability to get more-qualified and probably better-screened applicants into the organization for those final interviews," he said. "I think that's really what it offers. That's the true opportunity."

Additional Information:

Video interview advice

Video interviews are an opportunity to get a better look at long-distance job applicants before bringing them in for face-to-face interviews, said David Baker, CEO of Human Capital Advisers, a human resources outsourcing firm.

Baker offered advice on how applicants can best present themselves in the virtual world: 'You shouldn't be eating anything or drinking anything other than a glass of water,' he said.

'I had an interview back in January, and the individual was actually eating a bagel while I was in the interview. I thought, 'Well, they are at home, I guess they're comfortable,' But I thought, 'Wow, that would never happen in someone's office.'

'You should think you are entering that individual's office, and you should think of it as if you are physically going to that office.'

Baker warned against outside distractions • such as noise • during the interview. 'I did interview an individual once who must have had dogs in their home,' he said.

'They were in another room, and the Skype interview was behind close doors, but you could literally hear the dogs yelping outside the door, and the candidate got up twice to calm the dogs.

'I felt bad for him, quite honestly, because it was so distracting for him, and he felt awkward, but I said, 'I've had pets. I get it. I understand.' '

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