The Virtual Interview Conundrum: Measuring the Effect of Remote vs In-Person Interview Processes
Many have spoken on the alienating and dehumanizing effects of technology and how Zoom and other similar platforms, while incredibly convenient, cannot compensate for human interaction, connection and information exchange that in person meetings allow for.
With so many employers now relying exclusively (or at least mainly) on interviews conducted over a technology platform, it got me wondering if this “virtual effect” is also occurring in interview processes happening in today’s market? Moreover, could this lack of in-person connection explain the prolonged recruiting lifecycles we’re seeing?
A Look Back at Interviews Before COVID
In order to evaluate whether there has been an increase in the average interview-to-hire timeframe for the permanent searches we’ve conducted since employers have started leveraging remote interview processes, we compared our pre-COVID and post-COVID time to fill stats. The differences were jarring. In 2019, when candidates met in person, our average time to hire was 17 days. When we look at the same metric for interviews conducted entirely virtually, that stat jumps to 55 days. Fascinatingly, when we measure time to fill where employers also include a live or in-person interview, that number significantly decreases to just 31 days.
*Hiring stats based upon data collected between January 2022 through September 2022.
Not only that, but our hiring data shows that moving to live interviews in an average 1.52 rounds was more likely to result in a successful hire. Unsuccessful searches conducted up to an average of 3.11 interview rounds virtually before moving to live interviews, if at all. This information would suggest that interview processes that rely entirely on virtual interaction are far less likely to conclude successfully, and those employers run the risk of wasting significantly more amounts of interviewer time, bandwidth and resources before reaching the conclusion that an individual isn’t the right fit for a role.
A client of ours learned this lesson the hard way. Desiring to hire an Executive Assistant, their initial thought was to go through multiple rounds and screenings of virtual interviews before committing to an onsite interview. This was partially because they felt virtual interviews would be more convenient to schedule and because several of their team members were traveling and they reasoned it would allow the process to keep moving.
The candidate was presented and went through three separate rounds of virtual interviews and had touch points with four team members in total, all of whom were extremely enthusiastic. References were checked in anticipation of the candidate coming onsite for a final meet and greet and to see the physical space they would be working from. Unfortunately, it was at this stage of the process that things unraveled as the client determined that the characteristics of the candidate and demeanor were not going to be suitable for the role, after all.
All in all, from the time of presenting the candidate to declining the candidate from the process, 42 days had elapsed and approximately 6 hours of interviewer bandwidth had been used up, not including the additional time spent internally on gathering feedback, coordinating logistics or communicating with external search partners, in this case us. Had the client inverted the process and started with an onsite interview or even moved to onsite after one virtual screen as we discussed above, significant amounts of time and effort would have been saved. They also recognized that, while convenient, the virtual interviews didn’t convey the same level of information or clarity they needed to make a decision about a candidate and that those inputs were best received from an in-person interaction.
Recognizing this, the client shifted to onsite meetings as the first step going forward.
Our empirical experience suggests that the most efficient approach to interviewing, both in terms of time to fill and in terms of information gleaned that is relevant to decision-making, is an approach that includes an in-person interview. Moreover, companies are advantaged by incorporating the onsite interview stage as early in a process as possible, as doing so allows everyone to get on the same page faster and greatly reduces time to fill stats.
Metrics aside, I believe there is something very powerful that shifts in our empathy and ability to relate and connect to others when we introduce the distance of technology. It’s a lot easier to dismiss a candidate you’ve never spent time in a room with, shook the hand of, taken a stroll with or truly looked at face to face. Those are the moments that lend to connection and through connection comes understanding, which should be the goal of any interview process. Not only do the stats support it, but our collective humanity suggests meeting in person is the dignified thing to do.
Written by Jessica Vann
December 20, 2022