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The rise of the one-way interview: pros and cons

2nd December 2021

How would you feel if, when interviewing for a role, your first ‘meeting’ was with an online portal instead of a recruiter or HR Manager? Over the last year we’ve seen some clients deploy this technology in the place of a first stage, face-to-face or virtual interview. It certainly raises questions around the candidate experience, the speed of the recruitment process and the effect on the employer brand of the client in the employment marketplace; all points worth discussing here.


It is not uncommon for a candidate to undertake a ‘pre-screening’ process in the early interview stages. Many businesses already utilise more automated pre-screening methods such as skills and personality assessments, but with technology continuing to play a more significant role in recruiting and hiring, one-way first-stage interviews have become increasingly popular. So how does it work? Employers have a branded portal, app or website and candidates are given log-in details. The candidate logs on at a convenient time for them and gives video-recorded responses to written questions. They have time to prepare and practice their responses before submitting them. The employer can then view all candidate videos at a time convenient to them, and invite their preferred candidates to a first stage interview.


Obviously the buzz words here are convenience and time. Often the most obstructive part of the recruitment process is the co-ordinating of multiple diaries and at times – especially the holiday seasons – things can grind to a halt due to team absence. Giving this first stage over to technology is certainly a way of moving things along or perhaps not letting candidates wait too long for that first interaction. Some candidates also might prefer this quicker, more formal start to the process. It allows them to answer the standard, CV-based questions in their own time and with preparation and there’s no need to travel or adhere to a dress code. Moving at this space should give employers access to a wider candidate pool for first stage, once the challenge of diaries is removed. When interviewing for multiple businesses, we could conclude it’s really useful to conduct the first stage in this way.


Does this process place some candidates at a disadvantage? We aren’t all comfortable talking to camera and not everybody has reliable wifi and decent lighting. Is there a danger of sounding too rehearsed, or wasting time recording and deleting responses? From the employer’s side, how much can they really glean from a short video of pre-recorded responses? It’s challenging for a candidate to bring their CV to life in a series of short videos. What is the employer really learning about the candidate in these ten minutes that they couldn’t have gathered in a phone call? As they still need to sit and watch the responses and compare them against each other, time investment is still required. It’s true however that the video interviews allow multiple team members to view them and feedback, therefore expanding on what a phone call could provide.


Is all this speed at the expense of effectiveness? The one-way interview’s impersonal nature prevents any employee-employer connection which makes it difficult for the interviewer to determine the candidate’s character. This process overrules the importance of not only the employer trying to find the ‘right fit’ candidate, but also a candidate finding a ‘right fit’ business. With interaction disabled, candidates are robbed of opportunity to ask questions, just as it robs the employer the chance to promote their business and build early connections with candidates. Without gaining an accurate depiction of the candidate, one-way interviewing should definitely not be the only criterion when rejecting or moving candidates forward.


Appearing on camera at this early stage also has implications for unconscious (or conscious) bias too. Unfortunately, there may be some interviewers who will decide for or against candidates based on physical attributes; this one-way interview process enables rather than challenges this behaviour, although we’d hope a rigorous process was in place to combat the potential for this. Other pitfalls include a missed opportunity to engage candidates from the very beginning of the candidate journey, where every step should convert candidates into brand advocates whether they are successful or not.


A good interview process should help businesses and candidates find the best fit for them. One way-interviewing is favoured by businesses needing to filter a large number of applicants, but it’s no replacement for conversation and exploration of the smaller details of someone’s life or CV. How can employers maximise the effectiveness of this technology? We suggest asking open-ended questions, to give the candidate space to elaborate on answers. Interaction with the brand is essential to build rapport at the early stage, so the portal, app or website used should be well branded with language in a consistent tone that’s in keeping with the brand itself. After submitting their answers, the candidates should receive a phone call from a hiring manager within 48hrs. After all the recruitment process is a personal one involving life-changing decisions, as much as technology can help streamline things, it can’t replace the human touch.

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