Your Next Job Interview – Via Webcam?

Ray Sweger is a 25-year-old operations manager with a mid-market financial firm who landed the job he wanted 2,000 miles from home, not by flying out for an interview but by answering employment questions over a webcam.

Ray Sweger is a 25-year-old operations manager with a mid-market financial firm who landed the job he wanted 2,000 miles from home, not by flying out for an interview but by answering employment questions over a webcam.


Although video résumés are controversial and have not been accepted by corporate America, video interviews conducted over the Web or on videoconferencing systems have caught on quickly. Video interviews are considered a fast, cost-effective and excellent way to filter job candidates.

At first blush, it might seem like a double-standard. Why do hiring managers feel video is okay for interviews but not for résumés? In a word: control. It turns out that employers are comfortable using video for interviews when it’s clear that they can both control the process and save time and money by not having to fly (or even bring) in three candidates for every one they hire. Currently employed job candidates like it because they don’t have to miss work or travel just to complete a job interview.

“I love it primarily for the efficiency but one of the bonuses is there are people we wouldn’t have considered otherwise,” says Sweger’s new boss, Devin Thorpe, CEO, Thorpe Capital, a middle market investment banking firm in Salt Lake City. “We did an interview [for an internship] last night with a woman in Paris.” She had found a Web-based internship notice that Thorpe Capital placed with the nearby University of Utah’s career center, contacted the company, and within hours had completed the process online.

Interestingly, Sweger’s job interview with Thorpe Capital wasn’t live; instead, the answers were taped so that the Thorpe could watch it on his own time, hours after Sweger hit ‘submit’ on the web-based application. Thorpe uses a turnkey solution supplied by HireVue, a Salt Lake City-based company that provides the software, hardware, hosting plus advice to employers. HireVue ships out webcams to job applicants who lack the technology.

“We will compress the hiring cycle by making it easy for candidates to take interviews on their own time and employers don’t have to worry about time zone schedules or travel,” says Mark Newman, COO of HireVue. The Q&A approach solves one of the major problems found with video-résumés – it imposes structure on the production process and forces applicants to address the employer’s questions in a fixed period of time.

One catch is that job seekers are typically inexperienced at setting up or using webcams and usually don’t know how to make themselves seem professional in a cyber-setting. Penelope Trunk, a career columnist and author of Brazen Careerist, suggests that job candidates approach video carefully. “Get coaching if video is required, and if video is not required, skip it all together,” recommends Trunk. Her concern is that video might diminish a candidate’s chances of success.


Once a candidate is deemed viable, a video-based job interview, which is typically orchestrated by a specialized provider such as HireVue or a large recruiting firm such as Korn Ferry, introduces a question-and-answer process that is controlled by management and more impervious to the whims of amateur videographers.

Here are some video interview tips to keep in mind, courtesy of HireVue’s Newman and Korn Ferry senior partner Kim Bishop, among others:

  • You might think the situation is informal, but it’s not perceived that way by the people interviewing you. Dress-up for the interview, even though it will be conducted over a webcam or a videoconferencing system
  • Find out how much time you have to complete the interview questions.
  • Many people haven’t done a video interview before and it’s okay to tell the recruiter or hiring manager that you are new to the process.
  • Practice for the interview. Good video interview software will have a window that shows what you look like to the interviewer. Try to minimize your movement and keep your eyes from wandering all over the room. Posture is probably more important in this situation than it is in person

“It was kind of nerve wracking,” recalls Sweger of the interview experience. “It’s totally different than sitting in front of someone for a live interview. You have 30 seconds to read the question and at the same time you have to think of an answer. The green light comes on and all of a sudden you’re being recorded.” He handled the pressure well, but not everyone will get it right the first time.

Rusty Weston, My Global Career • San Francisco, Ca • •