Rewarding Futures

Does Video Interviewing pass the screen test?

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Video interviewing is now a well-established part of the recruitment process, with statistics suggesting its use in over half of all organisations. But as tastes, trends and technology have evolved rapidly, Vana HR Resourcing were keen to assess the application - and value - of video interviewing in today’s job market. We surveyed a cross-section of UK industry to get as complete a picture as possible.

(Our thanks to colleagues at BT, Dyson, John Lewis Partnership, Lebara, SuperGroup, Travelodge Hotels, and Wesleyan Assurance Society for their valuable perspective).


In what circumstances do you conduct video interviews? 

The three recurring factors were time, geography and the level of hire, and these vary in significance depending on the organisation (e.g. global operations rely heavily on this approach). Video interviewing also appears best suited to volume recruitment, specific roles, those early in their careers, or emerging talent. 

We found variable use of pre-recorded video tools. Pauline Berry, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at GE Talent Acquisition (UK), informed us that Hireview - a platform offering video interviews and other recruitment/development software - has been rolled out across GE, and was used for screening all applications to their internship programme. Cisco’s Telepresence system was highly rated by two of our contacts, whilst John Lewis Partnership use Sonru for their graduate recruitment. The latter offers a case in point for where there are doubts over the value of such tools. ‘It does serve as a good tool for driving down the large volume of applications we receive,’ says Stephen Chambers, Resourcing Delivery Manager at the John Lewis Partnership. ‘I still question whether we miss out on seeing some strong candidates. The version we use is against the clock. The levels of nervousness are very high, which I believe would be very different in a face-to-face environment.' 

The benefits of video interviewing – and disadvantages 

Time-to-hire and reduced cost were common benefits. This wasn’t just about travel to interview or processing large numbers of applications; the multiple (internal) stakeholders involved in the hiring process means that video interviews offer a convenient solution. Tom Moffatt, Resourcing Manager at Travelodge Hotels, picks up on increased productivity, identifying scenarios all too familiar to many of us. ‘Teleconferences tend to stick to the allotted time. In face-to-face situations you need to check interviewees in and out, people are more likely to run late, plus you’ll need to remove others from meeting rooms, get coffees etc. So the one hour interview is either compressed, or you have to add time at the beginning and end due to the hosting process.’

Body language and the ability to record interviews are two further advantages suggested by Maxine Davis, Head of Resourcing at Dyson. ‘You get most insight into a person, following strengths-based assessment principles of people’s facial expressions etc, supporting what they are saying. Interviews can also be recorded in case of any disputes afterwards, and shared with other decision-makers rather than asking the candidate to repeat themselves.’

The capacity to support company brand was another notable benefit. Helen Ling, Assessment and Selection Manager at EE, believed that video interviews were a good ‘fit’ with their culture as it allowed candidates to ‘embrace technology’ and demonstrate ‘personal impact’. Gareth Hayes, Director - RPO Operations - at Kelly Outsourcing & Consulting Group, also sees video interviews as a means to shape employee experience from the very beginning. ‘Done well it can drive a real connection between the candidate and the company, providing real insights into the culture and brand of the business. In today’s talent world where candidates are becoming more and more like consumers, this is an opportunity for businesses to have a real brand impact with external talent.’

Conversely, some felt that technology offered a limited ability for a company to properly engage with the candidate and vice versa. This is particularly significant when culture and environment are key criteria in the decision-making process - something identified by Stephen Chambers. ‘Understanding and getting a feel for the working environment still features highly in candidates’ questioning and this can be hard to portray over video’, Stephen told us. Whilst face-to-face interviewing has traditionally been a daunting experience, the video equivalent can be equally inhibiting, where candidates are either too nervous or rehearsed, denying the client the benefit of a face-to-face conversation that might better reveal skills and qualities.

So why don't more organisations utilise this technology for recruitment purposes?

Some organisations are still tentative about the benefits of recruitment by video. It’s still possible to experience high drop-out rates when using this approach to recruit for certain roles, as candidates may be put off. The human factor is another key consideration – a point made by Lisa Kelly, Head of Talent & Resourcing at Lebara. ‘Recruitment as we know it today is a human-to-human activity,’ they commented. ‘We don't just buy skills - we buy behaviours, motivations and values. Technology can also blunt other important indicators i.e. non-verbal communication.’

This point is echoed by others regarding how far video interviews reveal the candidate to be the right fit, in particular by Simon Amesbury, Resourcing Manager at fashion retailer, SuperGroup. ‘We often think someone will be a good fit based on a Skype interview - then when we meet them they turn out to be a poor fit. It’s just a very different kind of interaction so people behave differently.’ Using both to reach a decision enabled SuperGroup to avoid hires that wouldn’t have worked had they been based solely on video evidence. The best analogy for this situation was offered by Lebara who compared video interviewing to buying shoes online; ‘they may be the right size, style and price, but you need to try them on to know they are the right fit.’

Has technology reached a stage where face-to-face interviews have become the exception? 

Widespread as video-interviewing is, the consensus was that face-to-face contact remains critical to the recruitment process – whether now or in the future. Likewise the preferences of candidates for in-person interviews justifies companies investing the time to conduct them. According to Neil Cox, Head of Resourcing, Talent and Development at Wesleyan Assurance Society, personal contact could offer a source of competitive advantage. ‘I think there will always be the need for that personal touch - that is what separates good recruiters from great recruiters’. However there was acknowledgement that companies are now recruiting from a generation who are familiar/comfortable with communicating via screens, and that video interviewing might be more prevalent once people and organisations catch up with the technology that’s available.

And from our experience…

I still prefer the old-fashioned way, and interview face-to-face,’ says Vana co-Director, Debbie Flowers. ‘I like to familiarise myself with an individual’s natural style and personality, as in-person interviewing opens them up more and these types shine through in the way they sit, talk, gesticulate etc. Human interaction generally makes for a better conversation, but there have been occasions when I’ve reverted to technology, whether due to distance (first stage screening for candidates in Canada before flying out to assess the final shortlist) or time (pressure to keep to an interview timetable). I’ve used Skype, Google Hangout and Facetime at a push but, however convenient, I’m never left feeling convinced that I know them as well, or that I can truly ascertain their cultural or team fit – even for very first stage screening purposes. It’s useful - but I’d never hire on it!

In summary

It’s clear through our connections that video interviewing remains an integral part of the recruitment process. It offers a valuable solution to complex, time-poor and geographically dispersed companies, can save costs, and is in step with a generation used to on-screen communication. However, even in a digital era, face-to-face contact is key with critical decisions still human ones for which technology has yet to offer a better alternative. The desire for candidates to also have that person-to-person contact reflects the importance of place and culture - something we’ve noted in recent Vana blogs. Video interviewing technology will of course evolve and become better-designed in time. And for some organisations, such as those in the digital and tech sector, it will be the preferred selection tool. However, for now at least, the face-to-face interview remains the most trusted way for businesses to match talent to opportunity.

I’ve worked with the team at Vana on many occasions over the years, engaging them to hire senior talent in a number of businesses. Both Debbie and Jo offer great insight and expertise, but above all they deliver results. I would happily recommend their services.

Scott Fishburn, HR Director, DFS

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John Burgess, Head of Talent & Leadership Development, AXA Group

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Kate Banks, ‎Group Director of HR & Legal Services at DAS UK Group

'Debbie and Jo are first class headhunters of HR talent. They take the time to fully understand the brief and culture of the organisation before suggesting any candidates for opportunities. Thank you Vana for sourcing quality hires for my team.'

Helen Norris, Head of HR - Nationwide Building Society

I have worked with Debbie both in the search for talent and also as a candidate, in both situations Debbie has been faultlessly professional. Debbie builds strong relationships exploring briefs to ensure she has a deep understanding of what the business and candidate need, allowing her to deliver a real match.

Ian Marchant, Retail HRD, Greene King plc

Candidate experience is really important to me in recruitment, because that is someone's first experience of an organisation - your organisation. As I see it, the recruiter is part of YOUR brand and their actions impact on YOUR reputation when they act for you. The candidate remembers the experience of applying for a job and not always the recruiter involved.

My experience as a candidate of Jo's was exceptional. Jo kept me informed at every stage, questions were anticipated and I always knew where the process was. Also, Jo was present as a person and not as a remote handler. This shows me that any candidate that Jo places would be treated in exactly the way I'd want them to be. I recommend her without hesitation.

Geraldine Buckland, Director of People, Bristol Water

Debbie and Jo are great recruiters of HR talent; they have successfully worked on a number of key senior hires for us both in the UK and internationally.

Jonathan Wright, Group HRD, Murphy Group

Debbie has recently supported me in securing my first HRD role. Her observations and feedback were very insightful and assisted me greatly in navigating the recruitment process and learning about the company and environment I'll be stepping into. Totally dependable, unbiased and a good judge of character, I would highly recommend her to act on your behalf with prospective employers. I haven't worked with Debbie yet as the employer but wouldn't hesitate to do this if the need arises.

Anita Calverley, HR Director, Yeo Valley Farms

The thing about Vana Resourcing is that Debbie and Jo actually care – about you as a person, your career and your business. Yes they deliver great candidates and opportunities but they make sure that the fit / opportunity is right, challenging both sides in a positive way when needed. They’ve supported my career for the last 10 years, including introducing me to my current HRD role, and I have no hesitation that they will be my first point of call for future candidates and opportunities.

Suzie Noble, Chief People Officer, Brightside

“I have worked with Debbie and Jo several times, they stand out from the crowd as a sourcer of talent and when managing you as a candidate, I simply haven't worked with anyone better. Commercial, thorough, expert and with a sense of integrity that means you are only ever recommended to organisations that suit you - and as a hirer you only get talent that works for your organisation. As a hiring organisation, working with a partner like Vana is simply irreplaceable.”

Head of OD, Vodafone

Debbie brings accurate and current insight on HR Talent. Her ability to recognise top people in their field and actively nurture relationships over a long period of time sets her apart from her peers. Debbie is refreshingly honest , she keeps confidences and is not afraid to challenge both candidates and hiring Executives to ensure the right outcome for all parties. I would have no hesitation in recommending Debbie or Vana Resourcing for a critical HR hire.

Barbara Duffy, International HR Director leading on Talent, L&D, Resourcing,OD

“Debbie introduced me to OVO Energy, and she not only found me the right role, but an organisation whose ethos matched my values.  I have since worked with Vana to recruit almost my entire senior HR team! From HRBP's to a Reward Lead and most recently a HR Director. Vana really understand the importance of culture fit."

Kim Atherton, Chief People Officer, OVO Energy

I have worked with Vana Resourcing for a number of years representing me in my own search and as a client. Debbie and Jo are professional and efficient but unusually for this sector, genuinely caring about both client and candidate experience in equal measure.

Jonathan Edge, HR Director UK & Ireland at Ideal Standard International BVBA

“Jo is highly professional, knowledgeable and proactive. It’s not often that a recruitment consultant really interviews you in the same way a prospective employer would.”

Simon Amesbury, SuperGroup plc

What a refreshing delight to work with a commercial partner who understood my business, had national and regional awareness, a handle on the market, an effortless connection with candidates and could tolerate my Everest-like expectations.

I will continue to work with Debbie and Jo again on my incessant drive to solve the talent conundrum of the coming years.

Keep up the great work, you are a credit to the industry.


Stephen Robson, HR Director, Global O&Supply Chain at Kingfisher plc

"The team and I have worked with Jo now on a number of occasions for various recruitment assignments. I have always found Jo to be consultative and considered in her approach but above all honest and straight forward! She has a great understanding of her market place and is always at the end of the line to offer insight and market knowledge. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Vana and look forward to our continued relationship."

Resourcing Partner, Nationwide Building Society, Resourcing Partner, Nationwide Building Society

I've known Jo for a number of years and worked with her as a client and candidate. What's great about working with Jo is that you're guaranteed an honest perspective and terrific insight to the market. She nurtures her relationships in a natural and engaging way: put simply - she knows her stuff!

Marie Aitken, Chief People Officer

I initially engaged Debbie to undertake a search for a Head of OD. She is consultative in style, and took time to gain a comprehensive insight into our organisational culture and HR journey, delivering an excellent shortlist of candidates and a super hire. The feedback from our candidates on their engagement with VANA has been equally positive. Jo and Debbie has since supported me with several other senior hires within the People organisation at RLG, and we enjoy an effective working partnership.

People & Corporate Affairs Director, Royal London Group

“I have worked with Debbie as both candidate and client. In both contexts I have found her to be super-efficient, thorough and a pleasure to do business with. She listens really well, responds quickly and is flexible to evolving demands. Debbie is up there in my top 3 recruiters.”

Sue Round, Head of Talent and Organisational Effectiveness, BP

I have worked with Debbie and Jo for many years as a candidate looking for opportunities and a manager looking for talent.  I have always been impressed by how Vana strive to ensure that there is the best fit in terms of candidate values and company culture.

Sarah King, Head of HR, Triodos Bank