Is your interview process “Grounded “ or “ Up in the Air?”


By: Pio DiBenedetto, Assistant Practice Manager

Is your interview process “Grounded “ or “ Up in the Air?”

The acclaimed 2009 film Up In The Air stars George Clooney as a Human Resources Consultant who is contracted by companies all over the country to essentially fire their employees for his living.  One of the major conflicts of the film surfaces when Clooney’s character takes a less-experienced HR Consultant under his wing and she attempts to impose a modern touch to firing people: using video-chat technology similar to Skype.  She gets quite a bit of pushback from Clooney’s character as he is a seasoned vet in the trade of terminating people and not meeting with someone face-to-face to do the deed conflicts with everything he has learned about the craft.

My profession as an agency recruiter is very much the opposite of Clooney’s in Up in the Air.  I have one goal, to introduce a candidate that a client company wants to hire and deliver said candidate.  When you think about the profession in such a simple way you can break it down and work backwards to identify what steps need to be taken to create the wonderful result we’re looking for, a hire!  In this regard, my experience has developed a school of thought that Clooney’s character would have agreed with: do it in person.

But Why Not Do It Over The Phone? Today’s Job Market.

Why not just do the first interview over the phone?  Why not have a quick Skype with the candidate for that first step?  In order to understand the answers to these questions an understanding must be gained of the current conditions in the United States job market.

The unemployment rate in the United States has been hovering at around 5% and below for the past 6 months and does not look to be undergoing a drastic change any time soon.  This statistic is  the lowest it’s been since 2008 and if you look back further, say over the past 6 decades, it has dropped this low only a total of 5 times.  Meanwhile, every month over the past 6 months well over 100,000 new jobs have flooded the market.  What does this mean?  We’re looking at historically low unemployment numbers in a market where new jobs are growing on trees and candidates are not going to leave for just anything.

The 1st Round Interview: Make an Impression

If a candidate gets 3 phone interviews and 2 in-person interviews in a week which do you think they are going to remember?  Which do you think will get cancelled or rescheduled if something comes up?  Which companies do you think will have the best chance of actually hiring the candidate?  Which companies do you think the candidate will take the most seriously?

At the end of the day if you ask yourself these questions the response is obvious: the companies that actually make an effort to meet with a candidate in-person for the first step are the ones that are putting themselves in the best position to win.  Period.  In a candidates’ market companies need to make an impression on top-tier talent and can’t expect to be competitive if they are dragging their feet getting a candidate in the door, shaking their hand, looking them in the eye, and leaving a human impression.

What’s the benefit of a phone interview to the company, anyway?

When one asks a hiring leader this question 90% of the time they give the same response: time.  Many have the notion that for whatever reason time can be saved by interviewing a candidate over the phone rather in person, whether it is in the long run or immediately.

The big question is why not spend the same amount of time with the candidate that you would over the phone, but do it in-person?  The average duration of a first round phone interview is 20 minutes. If you are making the decision to interview someone there must have been something compelling enough on their resume to gauge your interest.  If so, wouldn’t it be worth 20 minutes of your time to take it a step further and meet them in person?

Want to get an initial gauge of their communication skills?  In person you’ll see how they communicate not only with their voice, but with their whole body.  Want to just get a fundamental idea of their background and experience?  Kill two birds with one stone and make a real impression on them so they remember your office, your environment, and YOU.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to phone interviews and video-chats the thing that needs to be kept in mind is that there are simply more efficient interview processes that will lead to higher success rates if the goal is to make a new hire.  The argument against in-person interviews is (almost) always time, and if you take a step back and look at what is gained as it relates to the ability to evaluate the candidate and the impression made early-on, it becomes very clear very quickly that time is actually saved the other way.

If the goal is to hire the candidate with the best ability to do the job and the best personality to fit the team culture in the most efficient time possible, just make sure your interview process is grounded to make a human impression and not just up in the air.

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