Use Video Interviews to Reveal Soft Skills

In my career as a CEO and serial entrepreneur, I’ve found that one of the biggest challenges in hiring the right employee is to assess their mastery of what are called “soft skills.” These skills aren’t specific bullets, like the ability to write cross-platform mobile apps or create enticing SharePoint pages. Soft skills are the ability to communicate, work in a team, keep a positive attitude, and act like a professional. My guess is that there’s not a hiring manager out there that doesn’t have stories about candidates that looked great on paper but would never fit into the corporate culture. I know I have a few.

Soft skills are a hot topic in HR nowadays; even the U.S. Department of Labor has thoughts on the subject. Candidates can’t just master the hard skills – they need to fit in and play well with others. One way to help screen seemingly equal candidates is to conduct video interviews, which often reveal soft skills right away.

HireArt recently surveyed 100 job seekers, and their top complaint was that the hiring process lacked empathy – a key soft skill. Those surveyed said they didn’t feel like they were treated as much more than a number, and it caused them to wonder what other soft skills might be lacking at that workplace. In a hot economy with lots of options, those applicants will probably cross that company off their list.

On the other side of that equation, employers face a big challenge in determining the soft skills present in an applicant’s resume and cover letter. All the standard templates contain boilerplate text trying to assure anyone reading that the individual is a team player or top-notch collaborator. I’ve probably used a few of those buzzwords myself a time or two. Who hasn’t? We all just want to get to that interview stage, where we can look people in the eye and show our passion and enthusiasm.

By inserting a video application step in the process, some companies now excel in evaluating candidates for the desired soft skills. Here is a successful paradigm from a web-tech organization that has initiated video interviews, and enjoys not only rapid growth but also high retention rates:

“We interview a large number of people,” our expert reported. “It’s critical to evaluate them on both their soft and hard skills, especially for our customer service positions. The hard skills are easy to pick up from a resume or CV, but for the soft skills, we used to have a lot of face-to-face interviews. That process was taking an inordinate amount of time, because we were interviewing huge groups of people during the beginning of the screening process. Sometimes it would take us 30 minutes just to find out that a great-looking candidate was not qualified based on their soft skills.”

“Now we use a more rigorous application process, which requires the candidate to share a wider range of initial information. That is supplemented with a video interview, which helps us further screen the candidate. Just by reviewing the video, we have reduced our screening time from 30 minutes to 5 minutes, per candidate. Of course, the video is still not a true personal touch. So if we qualify a candidate with a video interview, we supplement that with a phone or in-person interview to help us make the right hiring decision. Yes, this still means our recruiters are spending more time interviewing, but at least we know the candidates have passed one round of reviews. When a candidate is not appropriate, we now tailor our rejection emails to be more human. The process helps us maintain our people and customer-centric culture and it shores up our retention rates, which are as high as 97% in some of our offices.”

Adding video capabilities can be a huge advantage, because it allows you to assess the complete package of skills, hard and soft. With a more balanced hiring process, you can get a better idea for how a candidate might fit in. We all know how crucial each and every hire can be, so anything you can do to improve your odds is a good thing.

11 Comments

  1. Video imaging communication will explode very soon. I believe as soon as the next ten years. HireArt offers the option to re-record our interview. That feature has saved me. Had to comment. Have a great day and thank you. Keep those jobs coming 🙂

    December 16, 2014
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  2. craig kensek said:

    Interviewing live with someone – yes. Video interviewing. No. You have no opportunity to read the person, to interact on any level.

    Let’s be extreme for a second. Video interviewing presents the opportunity to screen someone out on the basis of age, race, sex, not being “pretty enough”, being “more attractive” than the hiring manager, “I don’t like this person’s accent”.

    Does the video interviewing SW count the “number of takes” the candidate did?

    Unlike 😉

    December 18, 2014
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  3. Jennufer said:

    Can you not add a section to a resume for these skills?Or as part of a cover letter? Speaking of resumes-question that you may be able to help me with. I’m going to be looking for a new job soon and want to hire out for my resume polish and LinkedIn updates. How does one find resources for this other than word of mouth? I’ve asked around and gotten nada. Help!!!

    December 18, 2014
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  4. said:

    I know you are working on it, but providing candidates the means to choose among several types of videos is anxiously awaited.

    HireArt could distinguish itself further by providing a written checklist of do’s and don’ts for video presentations.

    December 18, 2014
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  5. said:

    Another thing that job hunters will be preyed upon as with resumes and cover letters. Soon companies will form to tell candidates that their interview video skills are not the best and when they pay a company to help improve them, only then will they get a job. I am not for this “new” method of job hunting. If a company wants this, why not schedule a strict 5-minute Skype interview?

    As with companies telling candidates that their resumes need to be re-written, that their cover letters need to be re-written, now will come with the video interview will need to be re-recorded; but only in the company’s studio(s) because they will have the better equipment then you. Think I’m joking? Give it about 6-8 months to see this happen.

    December 18, 2014
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  6. David Fisher said:

    It’s interesting that employers think that doing a video interview is a way to show the organization’s empathy. Unless it is a two-way video interview, such as on Skype or something similar, forcing a candidate to ad lib in front of their webcam does not bring a warm fuzzy feeling to most people. Personally, I find phone interviews and one sided video interviews off-putting for several reasons:

    1) 80% of all communication is in non-verbal cues. Putting yourself on camera without the benefit of seeing the other person in synchronous communication does not alleviate the problem, it usually exacerbates it. Most of us are not born actors for the camera.

    2) Just because someone can perform well solo in front of a camera does not mean they have good teamwork skills. It simply means they perform well in front of a camera. I think it is a risky assumption to believe that watching someone on camera for 3-5 minutes gives you an accurate assessment of that person’s soft skills.

    3) Finally, I would like to point out the not so subtle power play at work here. It speaks volumes to a potential employee if the company doesn’t want to invest the time face-to-face to assess a candidate. Yes, we will have in-person interviews where the person doesn’t fit for some reason, but that is the reason to invest in interviews in the first place. Telling a candidate through your hiring process, as the hiring manager does in your example, that “you’re not worth the time to speak to until I’ve made you jump through all of our hoops” speaks volumes. Honestly, not a place I would even consider working. A good recruiter should be able assess a candidate’s soft skills in about 5-10 minutes on the phone, at least to the point of gatekeeping to a longer interview.

    4) Frankly, and I’ve had this argument with many a boss, sometimes you don’t want someone with great soft skills, or ambition, etc. Example: when I hire a 3rd shift computer operator, I don’t want someone who is social. A “painful” introvert who likes to be alone fits the job requirements. I would never get an application from a good personality fit for this job if I was forcing them to make videos.

    Bottom line. I think hiring managers need to really take a look at their hiring processes. Does the process really align with the purported value you place on candidates? Does it really align with your corporate/group culture’s values or are you just giving lip service to the process?

    December 18, 2014
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    • ChandraMohan said:

      I endorse fully the views expressed by Mr. David Fisher in that a presentation before a web cam does not bring out the right kind of skills or talents the candidate has in areas of team work, performance out put social behaviour, work culture etc. Perhaps, as mentioned earlier a dialogue through Skype or video conference could be more helpful. Hope such a change in the screening strategy of selection would be thought of by employers and recruiting agents. This could also help to resolve the psychological handicaps of camera and microphone anxieties on the part of the candidates to a great extent.

      December 18, 2014
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  7. Cris said:

    Video recorded interviews make no sense at all to me by experience.

    Sadly I have seen very talented employees being rejected by one of the new cool technology companies.
    They had the unfortunate luck to hire the worst working employees in my company (always arriving late, making sick days..) with the obvious result of having to fire those employees after a couple of months.

    I think in video recorded interviews you get desperate people. Desperate enough to make a video, look cool and that the true minds which doesn’t want to waste their time on that stuff or just make a normal video, don’t make it through.

    December 18, 2014
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  8. Joe said:

    I find video interviews to be impersonal . I believe the best way to select a candidate is to have a face to face conversation with that individual(the good old fashion way). Talking to a camera and not having any feed back is not the best way to conduct an interview.
    Companies need not to dehumanize the interview process, some things are best to be left as it was. What’s next? maybe some companies will outsource the hiring managers to do the interview via Skype.

    December 18, 2014
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  9. Neil said:

    Fully support what David Fisher wrote. Video interviews that are just one-way are no more than a hard core screening technique that will be used by companies to vet out good candidates that don’t “look” a certain way.

    December 19, 2014
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  10. Suzanne said:

    I, too, endorse what David Fisher and others have to say about video interviewing. I find them uninspiring, impersonal and speaks to the company valuing the time, effort, and potential talent of the individual. Face to Face is the best communication technique per many studies. Why use technology for the sake of it when it is not the most effective? I found that there was no eye contact with panel interview members. Video interviews are a tremendous waste of time for career seekers – just another ego trip of self-involved recruiters/teams that would rather be working toward their dream rather than respecting a potential new hire and the contribution they might make to the team.

    December 29, 2014
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