One-Way Video Interviews in Technical Pre-Screening and Why It Works
When hiring technical people, technical interviews are indispensable. They are also a thing that candidates complain about — very often, and for many different reasons. We’ve tried to change this, and are happy with the results.
“Recruiters hate them! They discovered how to improve candidates’ and employees satisfaction with one simple trick!”
Ok, jokes aside. What we’ve come up with saves a lot of time and has some pretty serious advantages for candidates and interviewers. Our solution is to use one-way video interviews in place of the often difficult to schedule and time consuming in-person technical interviews.
Before using one-way video interviews we would give candidates a take-home code-writing task or we would review some code they’ve already written. Our main obstacles for doing this are:
- The time our developers spend on assessing tasks
- Lack of visibility into the thinking process of the candidate as they’re writing code
- An unsatisfactory rate of candidates completing tasks
- Sometimes, during the face to face interview later, we had serious doubts about whether the candidate completed the previous task on his own…
We wanted to change it, and, spoiler alert, all of these problems are now gone. Let’s break it down.
So, what is a one-way video interview? Long story short: one-way video interviews are asynchronous interviews, which means that the only participant is the candidate and he/she is doing all the talking. The questions to answer are shown on the screen (text or video), and the candidate answers them in real-time. All responses are recorded. The candidates may have just one shot to answer the question, or a few — depending on how the organizer of the interview will set it up. The recorded interview can be checked by the potential employer right after completing it.
The solution is not yet so common in EMEA (only 3.3% candidates took part in such type of the interview (Talent Board, 2018)). This type of the interview has been usually used in corporations for pre-screening, as a first stage of the process, to assess the cultural fit. At SwingDev, we noticed the advantages of this solution and used it in a bit different way that fits our needs.
The Care is Still There
Yes, the idea of speaking to the camera without anyone on the other side may sound soulless at first, but hear me out. We do not send the interview links to everyone. At the very beginning, the candidates get to know me during a call when we discuss their expectations, experience, and I present our company to them. I tell them how the recruitment process works. They are informed that in case of any questions, I am here to help — no matter if it is some more info about the job or the interview itself. This is why they can feel they are treated individually, with proper care. The video interview is just a second step in the process, followed by a detailed live technical interview with our CTO, COO, and one of the Senior Developers.
What Does It Look Like? It Just Works for Both Sides
Ok, so the candidate sits in front of a laptop, the camera LED turns on, and then what? Well, the whole process has to be tailor-made for your company. I’ll give you an example from SwingDev.
We prepared a set of 10 technical questions for each position we recruit for. Our CTO and developers come out with questions that check both knowledge and thinking process. The answers can be based on a real experience– we don’t expect book definitions. They are aligned with the technologies we use, covering issues we face daily. The candidate has just one shot to record the answers. Thanks to this we know that their answers show their real knowledge — there’s no “Phone a Friend” option.
The rate of people taking the assessments increased to almost 90%.
The whole interview takes no more than 30 minutes. The candidate can take it within 7 days from the time he/she gets the link (in case of being away for a holiday or having other obligations we can just resend the link when the candidate has time). They can do it anytime no matter if it’s morning or night or in a different time zone — there’s no need to schedule it in advance, too.
All responses are checked by real people, not machines. Our developers can check them wherever and whenever they want. Of course we have limited time to provide feedback to a candidate not later than within next 7 days, but thanks to the fact that it’s flexible for them, it happens to be quicker. If we notice that some questions are often misunderstood and should be asked differently, we just tweak them a little.
If you now go back to the list of obstacles from the beginning, you’ll see that our take on video interviews tackles all of them. Let’s take a deeper dive to see how to check whether it will work the same for your company or not.
Is It a Good Fit for Your Company as it is for Ours?
Each company has a different approach, priorities, and things they value. When choosing the best solution to assess candidates’ technical skills you need to consider many aspects. Think about the aspects you want to cover, not about what is most common on the market. Some of the questions we asked ourselves were, for example:
- How many people in our team can rate the candidates and how much time they can spend on doing that?
- How much time would other steps of the recruitment process take?
- How many candidates do we want to hire within the next few months? Are we going to have mass a recruitment event or hire individuals one at a time?
- Do we have room in the budget for this solution?
- What knowledge do we want to have about the candidate after this step of the recruitment?
- What do candidates complain about the most and what do they expect?
What were some of our results?
We can treat candidates individually
At SwingDev’s Warsaw Office, we are a team of around 30 people, with mostly seniors on board. We don’t do mass recruitment events, we usually hire slowly for individual positions, but at the same time we have quite a lot of applicants.
The employee experience is just as important as the candidate’s experience during the interview, and no one wants to spend more time than needed assessing someone’s work. In the recruitment process, we need to treat each other as partners and find a good balance, which is why we also wanted to limit the time our developers spend on assessing the candidates and make it flexible for our developers to review the results on their own schedule.
In the recruitment process, we need to treat each other as partners and find a good balance.
What’s valuable for us
When hiring a new person in terms of a technical fit it is important for us to get to understand their technical knowledge, but also the way they approach problems, HOW they use their skills, and we try to get to know something more about their thinking process. Moreover, their skills should be in line with what we do and how we develop solutions to be sure the new hire will be a good fit at SwingDev.
What Are Your Candidates’ Needs?
Recruitment is not a one size fits all — that’s for sure. But knowing what is important or annoying for most of your candidates can make the process much smoother for both sides. We knew what our candidates value the most, and we did our best to fulfill their needs. These things are:
Of course, if someone decides to change their job, they need to be prepared to spend some of their time interviewing. However if someone is still working and has other obligations and takes part in other recruitment processes… Spending a few hours on an initial recruitment task and then hearing ‘no’… is not a good experience. I hear this a lot from candidates during the recruitment process.
Scheduling a few interviews with nearly full calendars may not accelerate the recruitment process. Candidates often need to take many days off or leave the office during working hours to be able to take part in the recruitment process.
Getting to the questions that really matter
Last, but not least — this is actually what I hear from the candidates very often. Sometimes, theoretical or trivia questions or random tasks that are copied from some websites and don’t check the actual knowledge or have anything to do with what is done in an actual job. It still happens very often unfortunately. It looks unprofessional and leaves the candidate with a feeling that they just wasted their time.
Always Ask for Feedback
How did we find out about this? By feedback, obviously! It’s the most crucial outtake from this article, by the way — ask around to find out what people need, and find a solution that solves potential problems.
Sounds obvious? Well, for some people it’s not. 53,5% (EMEA) and 78.2% (North America) of candidates said they were never asked to provide feedback on the screening or interview process (The Talent Board, 2018)! Don’t make this mistake — ask for feedback on the phone, or via an online survey, and you’ll be able to improve it in on time.
Works Like a Charm!
We implemented one-way video interviews 8 months ago and we are happy with the results. Not only did the rate of people taking the assessments increase to almost 90%, but also most of the candidates say that it was a new, innovative experience for them that helped them save time. Our developers involved with the recruiting process are also pretty satisfied that they have much more time for real coding ;-)