Recruiting via video interviews: is there an impact on candidate quality?

Face to face interviews. So 2019.

Seems an absolute age ago that you’d turn up to a real-life office, without a mask, meet real people, AND even shake hands with them in order to have an interview. The thought of this being able to happen now seems fairly surreal, and we’re all well-conditioned enough to keep our distance, keep safe and thankfully, carry on. After a period of indecision and anxious anticipation, many firms put recruitment on hold, took stock, re-strategised and, when the world couldn’t imagine how the pandemic was going to play out, tried to forge a way out of a horrible situation and work out a method that meant business as usual. We’ve all evolved and adapted admirably.

So now, fast forward a year and the shift to telephone and video interviews has meant that face-to-face interviewing is a thing of the dim and distant pre-Covid past. Firms who didn’t incorporate any remote working before Covid hit, had to think fast and adapt quickly, whereas the ones who already were set up for working flexibly/virtually already had working systems in place to support their business processes, with minimal disruption. And obviously, once the dust had settled and this became our new way of working, firms could still once again, recruit, just using different methods to interview.

Did video interviewing make it harder to distinguish the quality of candidates coming through? Our key clients span the entire professional services sector, so we asked them about the change in interviewing, and wanted to know if they felt it had any impact upon candidate quality. So what were the issues, if any regarding quality?

Body language is always used by interviewers in the face to face interview process as a key determiner of truth, giving the interviewer valuable insight into a great deal of information that isn’t indicted by word alone. Does not having access to this make a difference to being able to determine candidate quality? As one Magic Circle client put it, “You can still have effective interviews, despite not always being able to read body language”. However, our clients agreed body language still plays a part in the video interview of course, and they’d expect candidates to instead focus on things like great eye contact, but overall felt the experience wasn’t as personable but that it didn’t impact massively upon quality.

The general consensus from across the board was that the majority of interviewers were experienced and that this didn’t have an impact on the quality of candidates. Unsurprisingly some staff adapted better than others to the change in interview format, with some saying, “I think that interviewers have been able to become more experienced at selecting”, but others making the point that other interviewers needed to update their skills and that identifying those senior members of staff was a key factor and needed to be tackled quickly before it impacted upon the quality of selection. If firms don’t interview well, it will always have an impact upon attracting quality people and obviously this will apply to both sides of the interview coin – face to face and also video.

There was a marked difference for a requirement for training between firms who already conducted interviews via phone pre-Covid, and those who did not. “I think for us, pre-Covid, we would have had several people on the interview panel who would be located in different locations anyway”, said one law firm. They continued, “So the majority of line managers/partners we use to this practice. We haven’t noticed any difference in the quality of candidates”. Another firm agreed, “Think it has always been the same compared to interviewing face to face”.
Interestingly, firms that had set questions and assessments found it easier to select candidates via video. One firm commented, “The introduction of testing for roles has been key (where appropriate and adds value to do so) and has allowed us to make sensible, informed choices based on tangible benchmarks”. And another said, “We have fairly set questions and assessments so that helps”.
Half of the recipients preferred interviewing face to face to begin with, but though they’d adapted well to the change of format, some said it had now even become comparable and that, “overall it has worked really well, on-boarded some really good people”. Others said it was, “on par” and that the only issue they’d had that was really impactful were connection or IT-related issues.

So it looks as if the sector has responded really well to the change in interviewing format, and reassuringly, not one of our key clients who responded (across the professional services sector) said it resulted in lower quality of marketing or BD candidates. Good news all round.


Written by Leightontaylor
25th March, 2021