Video Interviewing

The definitive guide to video interviewing

Tom Stroud Tom Stroud on 15.03.2016
Man presenting the at a white board


Video interviewing has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years with recruiters and employers as a cost effective way to screen candidates. But video interviewing can trace its origins back over 20 years to the early days of corporate video conferencing. Back then, employers with the necessary equipment and budget, would use video conferencing to interview candidates remotely.

The benefits of being able to see and hear candidates, without the need for time consuming and often expensive international travel, were obvious. However, this still required the candidate to go into the employer's local office, or use a video conferencing suite, to attend the interview. Equally, in the early days of video conferencing, quality was not always, shall we say, great. Dropped or lagging connections, poor video or audio quality were all to common.

Around 10 years ago, the speed and availability of affordable internet connections, combined with advances in the speed and computing power of normal PCs, had moved on sufficiently to allow video conferences and therefore video interviews, to be done using a computer with a plugin webcam. At around this time, early pioneers in the US, started to offer dedicated video interviewing services to employers. Back then they would charge circa $250 per candidate interview and would send the candidate a webcam and walk them through the whole process.

Here in the UK, Tazio was one of the first companies to offer video interviewing in 2010. In the last 5 years, we have seen dozens of companies enter the market with products and services looking to provide video interviewing. some good, some not so.

Now with almost universal access to high speed internet connections, either through home broadband, or increasingly via 3G and 4G mobile internet and the amazing computing power of modern laptops, tablets and smartphones, it is possible for candidates to complete a video interview from almost anywhere.

Why video interviewing improves recruitment

Graph showing how communication is conveyed

The majority of employers are using video interviewing to replace telephone interviews, or improve their initial assessment of a candidate, instead of relying on a CV only.

As this graph shows, the majority of communication is conveyed by body language, which of course cannot be seen during a telephone interview.

Being able to see the candidate as they answer your questions tell you far more about them. Are they smiling or are they frowning? Do they maintain eye contact with the camera, or are they looking around? These and many more subtle facial expressions will automatically help you gain a far better insight into a candidate's motivation, their engagement and how convincing they are.

Automated vs live

Live video interviews have been popular with employers and recruitment agencies for a number of years. With the introduction of web based video conferencing services such as Skype, Facetime and more recently Google Hangouts, it became easy to arrange a video interview with a remote candidate. Live video interviews offer the advantages of being easy to set up, allow the recruiter to see and hear the candidate, no matter where in the world they are, as long as they have an internet connection and a compatible device.

In addition to being easy to set up and low cost, they also allow the recruiter / hiring manager to conduct the interview in much the same way as they would a face to face interview. In particular, they can ask follow up questions and probe for more details depending on how the candidate answers a question. They do have some disadvantages however. Firstly, although the video and sound quality of today's services are much better, it is not always guaranteed that a video call will be completely clear and uninterrupted. Also because they are live, both the candidate and recruiter need to be available at the same time, which can create issues with scheduling, particularly with overseas candidates.

With automated, or asynchronous video interviews, the candidate records their answers to a series of questions set by the recruiter. With some of the more advanced services, such as Tazio, questions can be asked either with a recorded video, as text on the screen, or a combination of both. They also let the recruiter to alter both the thinking and answer time for each question.

There are a number of important advantages with automated video interviews. Firstly, the candidate can complete the interview at a time that suits them, there is no need scheduling issues to worry about. Once the recruiter has set up the interview, all candidates will be asked exactly the same questions, in the same order, ensuring a consistent process. Also, there is no limit to the number of candidates that can complete the interview, making it easy to interview large numbers of candidates over a short period of time.

Creating a video interview

Here I'm going to focus on automated video interviews and explain the different ways you can create a video interview and share some insights into what works and what doesn't.

Firstly, it is important to understand that an automated video interview is very different from a face to face or a telephone interview. As mentioned above, because you are unable to ask follow up questions with an automated video interview, it means you need to make your questions that bit more specific and detailed to ensure the candidate understands exactly what you are asking. With a face to face interview, if a candidate starts to go off on a tangent you can steer them back on track. With an automated video interview you can't, so make sure your questions are specific.

A really good way to do this is to record yourself asking the question. This gives you a chance to explain in detail exactly what you are asking. It is also easier to understand the meaning of the question, as you can place more emphasise on certain words. The questions will also appear on screen so the candidate has a reminder of the question while they are answering.

As mentioned above, with services such as Tazio you can alter the thinking and answer time for each question. This allows you to ask different types of questions. For example, you can put a candidate under more pressure by giving them a short thinking time, 5 seconds say, before they have to answer. Equally, you might ask them to provide a concise answer to a wide ranging question, so assess how well they can prioritise what is important and then articulate that in a few sentences. Alternatively, you may want to assess their ability to present a concept or idea over 5 or 10 minutes.

One concern many employers increasingly have with automated interviews is that the candidates will find out in advance what questions they are going to be asked and will have time to prepare. With sites like Glassdoor sharing this information online, its a justifiable concern. There is however a solution. You can with Tazio at least, randomise the questions that the candidate is asked. This way you can reduce the chances of candidates knowing in advance what the next question is going to be.

When to use video interviewing

To date video interviewing has been used most frequently for entry level and graduate roles. Other types of roles that are increasingly using video interviewing as part of the recruitment process include sales, customer service and hospitality roles. Here at Tazio we also have a number of customers using video interviews for roles where there is a shortage of skilled or qualified candidates available locally. Engineering and IT roles are good examples of where customers are using video interviews to interview candidates from around the world.

In addition to these common uses, we are also seeing customers using automated video interviews as part of the recruitment process for more senior roles. Because the best candidates for these types of roles are more likely to be in post and as such less actively looking for a new role, the key advantage is there's no need for them to take time off work or travel for an interview. If you include a video introduction and video questions, it gives you a great opportunity to explain in more detail what the new role involves and improve engagement earlier in the recruitment process.

The best stage to include a video interview into your recruitment process will vary from employer to employer and role to role. Many employers like to follow a traditional recruitment process and have candidates apply online, submit their CV from which they produce a long list of screened candidates and then invite these to do a video interview. This will often replace the telephone or first round interview stage. This approach is simple to implement and requires minimal changes to the current recruitment process.

An alternative approach is to make the video interview the first stage of the recruitment process. Now this approach has a number of advantages which some, but not all employers will prefer. By making all candidates complete a video interview as the first stage of your recruitment process, you will reduce the number of candidate applications. However, candidates are far less likely to go the effort of completing a video interview if they are only speculatively appling for a new job.

For some employers this will be seen as a benefit as they will have less applications from unsuitable and unmotivated candidates. There is however the concern that a good candidate may be put off from applying. Ultimately, it will depend on how many applications you typically receive and the quality of those applications.

With the video interview at the very start of your process however, it does give you the opportunity to see and hear all candidates and consider whether or not they look suitable before you look at their CV. A candidate's CV is after all only a written record of their educational qualifications and working history. It tells you very little about whether or not they can do the job, or importantly, whether they are going to fit into your organisation or team. This approach is also more suited to high volume roles, in particularly graduate and entry level ones. Candidates for these types of roles are often harder to differentiate on paper as they will have little or no career history.

Other things to consider

One of the most often raised concerns by employers is discrimination. Many think that using video interviews will make recruiters and hiring managers more likely to discriminate as they are able to see and hear a candidate earlier in the recruitment process and as a result not give them a fair change. On its own, video interviewing is no more discriminatory that any other form of assessment or interview. Quite simply, if a recruiter or hiring manager is going to discriminate, then they will do so whether they are conducting a video, telephone or face to face interview.

In fact, using video interviews can reduce the potential to discriminate in a number of ways. Because all candidates are asked exactly the same questions, with the same thinking and answer time, there is no opportunity for the interviewer to influence the candidate either consciously or sub consciously. Also, with the candidates answers recorded it is possible for more than one recruiter or hiring manager to review each candidate and come to a decision on their suitability.

As with any new technology, there will always be some individuals who are less comfortable than others completing a video interview. However, we receive very few requests from candidates asking if they can do an alternative type of interview. In fact, of the thousands of candidates we have completing video interviews, the vast majority report finding the process simple, easy to follow and far better than a telephone interview or having to attend a first stage interview only to be told they're not suitable two days later.

Another common question we hear is, "How many questions should I ask?" We tend to recommend you ask around 3 to 5 questions if you're using the video interview for stage screening. With a couple of well chosen questions, you should gain sufficient insight into the candidates personality and character. A video interview is not going to replace a final in person interview, so the questions you ask at this stage should be fairly general and open. By keeping your interview to only a few questions, you won't have to spend hours watching each candidate's response.


Video interviewing has become increasingly popular as a way to screen high volumes of candidates more efficiently. As the technology has evolved, in particular the increasing use of tablets and smartphones, they provide easy way for candidates to sell themselves to recruiters, without having to meet them in person.

For recruiters and hiring managers, the time and cost savings can be considerable making them an attractive alternative to telephone and face to face interviews. Here at Tazio, we work closely with our customers to help them gain the most from using video interviewing, including enhancing their employer brand, improving quality of hire, reducing time to time and better candidate engagement.

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