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Why We're Not Quite Done With Virtual Interviews

18 Aug 2022

Tom Guilfoyle

Are virtual interviews here to stay?

From employers to jobseekers, we might just have all become a little complacent when it comes to job interviews. At the beginning of the pandemic when everything including interviews went online, there were plenty of objections to conducting a job interview virtually. How would you get a feel for the company culture, how could the interviewer gauge your suitability if they can’t read your body language or meet you in person? But as the months went on and glitches were ironed out, the feeling crept in slowly that, actually this isn’t so bad!

Benefits of a virtual interview

From a candidate’s point of view, virtual interviews were intimidating at first. Soon, however, the benefits of online interviews were becoming apparent. You didn’t have to take an afternoon off to go to an interview, merely click on a Zoom or Teams call. You didn’t get awkward questions on why you were suiting up when normally your office was casual. You certainly didn’t run the risk of being seen as you skulked into what could have been a competitor’s office. As everybody got used to communicating through the virtual word, the advantages for both jobseeker and employer were glaringly obvious. You simply checked your virtual calendar for scheduling dates and popped into the call at the appropriate time. Granted, it’s always easier to get a better read on someone if you’re physically in the same room as them but it was a relatively smooth process and meant that vital recruitment activities could still carry on unhindered.

Even if hiring panels were in different countries /time-zones, coordinating virtual interviews suddenly became far easier as everyone adjusted to this new digital world. It’s incredibly convenient and more cost-effective. There are no travel costs (either locally or internationally) as expectations of having all interviews online rapidly decreased. Organisations who have shifted to remote or hybrid workforces have the advantage of a much larger talent pool that’s no longer required to be located in any specific geographic region, so they need the flexibility of video interviews. However, now with most organisations returning to the office for a minimum of 2 days a week, the argument for bringing back mandatory in-person interviews is coming up again.

Back to in-person interviews?

Working in the financial services sector where most of our clients are integral parts of global teams, I have noticed a preference for at least the final round interviews to be conducted in person. I recently conducted a poll on LinkedIn where I asked with hybrid working models now the norm across the financial services industry, what is the attitude towards a return to face to face interviews?

  • 56% of respondents (grudgingly?) admitted that in-person interviews could be good for final round interviews.
  • 35% opted for remote interviews only
  • Only 9% were in favour of face-to-face interviews only during the recruitment process.

 I didn’t differentiate between hiring managers and candidates in my poll but the fact that less than 10% of respondents wanted a return to in-person interviews for all interview rounds illustrates that there is still a healthy appetite for virtual interviews from all sides at some stage throughout the interview process. What my team have noticed is that certainly for final round, the majority of our clients are looking for in-person meetings, particularly when it comes to senior appointments. For junior to mid-level appointments, the virtual interview is still popular, especially for global teams who may need input from other teams on the interviewing process but who may not all be available to hop on a call. Conducting these videos by video interview means that they are able to share interview recordings with the rest of their hiring teams who can then better evaluate them and offer feedback in a far timelier fashion. In a candidate short market, speed is of the essence, particularly in niche roles where potential employers run the risk of losing candidates to another offer should they not expedite the recruitment process.

So it looks like the virtual interview is here to stay! Even it’s only deployed for a certain amount of the recruitment process. Certainly, within the financial services jobs market, we’re seeing a continued reliance on virtual interviews across the space for at least half the interview route. With organisations still continuing to operate a blended or hybrid working model, using virtual interviews to expedite the process and secure the best talent possible makes the most sense.

 Tom Guilfoyle is Associate Director of Brightwater’s Financial Services division.