Pre-recorded Video Interviews: The Pros & Cons

December 21, 2020
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Author: Glenn Hunter

A few things have grown in popularity this year, accelerated by the pandemic. They include working from home, online shopping and the use of pre-recorded video interviews in the hiring process. For many industries and for multiple reasons, more recruiters and talent acquisition professionals are turning to this alternative hiring tool, which is an online interview where the job candidate answers a set of questions without an interviewer present.

Pre-recorded video interviews work well when recruiting for a high volume of candidates at one time.

Also known as Asynchronous Video Interviews (AVIs) – as opposed to “synchronous” interviews, where there’s real-time back and forth between the candidate and interviewer – pre-recorded interviews typically are conducted after an applicant logs onto an online portal hosted by a third party. According to a 2020 academic paper on AVIs published in Human Resource Management Review (HRMR), the candidate records short answers to the interview questions, which are then evaluated either by an interviewer or “automatically, by a computer algorithm.”

Thousands of organizations have helped make the tool a key part of today’s hiring landscape. Clients of the third-party software companies represent a wide range of industries, from accounting (Grant Thornton, PwC) and airlines (Delta, Spirit) to banking (Comerica), energy (BP), healthcare (Baylor Scott & White Health), insurance (Liberty Mutual) and retail (Walmart, Neiman Marcus, Ikea).

It’s not hard to understand why. Used mainly at the front end of the hiring process, pre-recorded interviews expedite decision-making, saving recruiters time and money. Third-party provider ConveyIQ, for example, said that in 2019 its clients enjoyed a 64% improvement in their time-to-hire rates. Pre-recorded interviews also allow recruiters to screen more candidates than they otherwise might have.

“Besides the time and cost savings, pre-recorded interviews provide recruiters and organizations the opportunity to provide more applicants more opportunities to present themselves,” says Bradley Pitcher, a third-year Ph.D candidate in industrial-organizational psychology at Purdue University who has studied the topic. “Instead of only giving 10 applicants an interview, now you can give maybe 100 applicants an interview. From a candidate standpoint, pre-recorded interviews can give applicants the feeling that they had a fair chance to present themselves.”

Providing a General Overview of the Candidate

Pre-recorded interviews are ideal for filling roles that attract a large volume of applicants or for organizations hiring for jobs that have excessively high turnover, Pitcher says. The questions asked are typically designed to give a “very high overview” of the candidate, he adds. Among them: Tell me about yourself. Why are you interested in this field and this company? What motivates you at work? Tell me about the hardest thing you ever had to do in the workplace.

One of the biggest positives about pre-recorded interviews is that they are “highly, highly structured,” Pitcher says. In other words, the tool ensures that questions asked of applicants are consistent, making for a more reliable interview by eliminating the possibility of biased “probing” by the interviewer. “Structured interviews tend to be much more valid,” Pitcher says. “The main factor (that makes) them ‘unstructured’ is the unpredictability of the interviewer.”

There are also some drawbacks to the use of AVIs. For one thing, job candidates may consider them to be “colder” or less fair than face-to-face or real-time videoconference interviews. This could affect the candidate’s perception of the hiring company’s brand, making them less willing to accept an eventual job offer. Pre-recorded interviews can also trigger more anxiety in applicants that in-person interviews.

Related: Eight Ways Recruiters Can Improve Their Virtual Interviewing Skills

These potential pitfalls can be countered, however. One way is to offer candidates plenty of time to prepare their responses to questions, as well as the right to record multiple responses before selecting the one they like best. (Not all the third-party providers currently provide these options.) Organizations can also “personalize” the AVI by including a video introduction to their company and its values on the recording and by having the pre-recorded questions posed by a human “interviewer” rather than by text.

The Importance of Transparency

Pitcher says organizations should be transparent with applicants about how they’re evaluating pre-recorded interviews. “Is it actually a human evaluating the interview on the back end, or is the organization using AI or machine learning to evaluate these interviews?” he says. The HRMR paper points out that the use of AI for such purposes has become a “fairness” issue with legal implications. Under a new law in Illinois, for example, job applicants now must be told up-front whether AI will be used for the analysis of their video and give their consent to the process. According to the HRMR paper, the use of AVIs in the hiring process is “mostly uncharted territory,” with much more research required.

Related: Artificial Intelligence Continues to Improve Recruiting

“I’d recommend that organizations keep pre-recorded interviews more at the screening end of the process,” says Pitcher. “But in terms of actually making hiring decisions (based on these interviews) at the end of the interview process, I’d advise organizations to stay away from that, until more research is done, and they know it’s an equitable process and legally defensible.” For example, he adds, “What are pre-recorded interviews actually measuring? How do they affect the behavior of the interviewee? Are they able to predict job performance?” These are all questions, Pitcher says, that still need answers.

LaborIQ by ThinkWhy reports, forecasts and advises on employment conditions and the impact to jobs, industries and businesses across all U.S. cities.