Pre-Recorded Job Interviews: Love Them Or Hate Them?

Photo by Firza Pratama on Unsplash

Another day, another disruption. The latest tech-driven disrupter of things comes by way of on-demand job interviewing. Business schools are reporting a noticeable spike in the number of firms bringing new meaning to the recruiting term “phone screen” as students take their first go at jobs not by telephone or in-person meeting, but by talking into a laptop, mobile phone, or tablet device for a pre-recorded dialogue of one.

The rising trend goes by a handful of tag names: asynchronous recorded interviewing, on-demand video interviewing, pre-recorded video interviewing, or simply video interviewing, just to name a few. For the most part, it’s used as a first-round screening tool for companies to evaluate potential hires prior to subsequent, in-person rounds.

The premise is to save time and money and bring added convenience for both recruiters and applicants alike. Candidates get to video record answers on their own time from the comfort of their home, dorm room, or wherever is most conducive for them, while companies have the luxury of granting way more first-round interviews than ever before.

It appears to be a win-win for everyone involved. But how do undergraduate students really feel about this new way of doing things? The jury’s still out.

‘IT’S BEEN GREAT FOR ME’

For some students, it’s met with rave reviews. “Having the ability to do these interviews in any location, depending on your availability has been great for me,” shares Patrick Lyons, a junior at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Lyons is a business administration major and entrepreneurship minor with his sights set on a career in finance. So far, he’s racked up a good seven pre-recorded video interviews. Four of these were for financial services firms, including JPMorgan which is where he’ll be interning next summer (2019).

Kenan-Flagler student, Patrick Lyons, has done nearly 10 pre-recorded video interviews and says he enjoys the convenience and flexibility. Courtesy photo

“This spring, a lot of banks were using HireVue,” Lyons explains, corroborating reports from schools that financial services firms appear to be leading the way in the new trend and that HireVue is one of top-used platforms.

Lyons — who’s also a UNC lacrosse player — recalls one instance where video interviewing really came in handy. “I was traveling with my team out in California and the night before a game, I had to do a pre-screen,” Lyons recalls.

Formally dressed in a suit and tie, Lyons sat in his hotel room, opened his laptop, accessed the HireVue platform and proceeded to record his responses to the prompts he was given.

“I saw different companies will use different formats, but all were similar in terms of five minutes for three questions,” he says. “You can be the one to decide how much time you want to spend on a question. For instance, eight minutes given by a firm doesn’t mean it’s necessary to use all eight minutes.”

Lyons continues, “For me, it’s a great thing in terms of convenience. I think it’s beneficial for a lot of students who are working during college. I think it’s a great way to do interviews on their own time and be able to prepare to the best of their ability.”

From the firm’s perspective, Lyons says, “I think the way investment banking is, making available time is something that’s hard for anybody in that world. Also, for consulting and a lot of fields in general. And so many people are applying these days. Flexibility in scheduling and time are huge positives both for the companies and for the students.”

Lyons adds, “Being able to have a first screen of your applicants from a company point of view and for students to be able to put a face to their resume and communicate who they are and what they will bring to the table.” 

Overall, he describes the experience favorably and says the platform and technology proved to be easy enough to use.

SOME PROS AND CONS

“I don’t remember the platform that was used, but you logged on to the system and there was a brief intro explaining how the system worked and gave you the option to do some practice questions.” That’s how Will Benson, another Kenan-Flagler student recalls his experience with pre-recorded interviewing. “You’re given a prompt, you read the question, and you have 30 seconds to prepare yourself and think through a response,” Benson continues. “After 30 seconds you have a minute and a half to three minutes to answer the question. You’re not expected to reach the full amount of time allotted, but you need to make sure you have an answer that’s concise enough to be included.”

For Benson, his pre-recorded session was also a first-round screen for an internship he sought to land. He opted to use one of his school’s soundproof study rooms to record his interview and, similar to Lyons, dressed the part in a full suit and tie ensemble.

“The style of questions are pretty much the same,” Benson says, comparing video interviewing to in-person interviewing. “But quite a few times I had to practice speaking to a computer and how to best organize my thoughts and be concise. In a real interview, you have a general feel of how much time to use. With this, you have to be more cognizant of how much content you should include.”  

When asked for the pros and cons of video interviewing, Benson told Poets&Quants for Undergrads, “Being able to do something on your own time is a pro. If on your interview day you’re not feeling your best or most confident, you can do a pre-recorded interview on a different day when you feel great. There’s also the benefit of being able to do it somewhere you feel comfortable; picking a spot where you generally feel confident in yourself.

“As far as cons — it may be personal taste — but, for me, speaking to a computer screen is much more difficult than speaking to a person where you can read their reactions. In a pre-recorded type of interview, you don’t have much flexibility to read the situation. It makes it difficult and feels awkward at times.”

All in all, the junior business administration and computer science double major concludes that convenience is beneficial, but he also enjoys human interaction. “Truthfully,” he says, “I enjoy speaking to people and being able to gauge people’s reactions to things that I say and having a human face to look at as opposed to looking at my computer camera.”

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