Video interviewsTad Walgreen dressed in a suit and boasted to his Cisco Systems interviewer about his leadership qualities and passion for international business. But he’s not sure any of it made an impact.

The Rollins College international business student interviewed for a sales position last fall in front of the indifferent eye of his computer’s Web camera. The second part of the interview process, a two-minute video he had to upload to YouTube, also left him feeling “uncomfortable.”

“It’s definitely not for me,” said Walgreen, 23, who did not get the job. “Not only did it seem a bit theatrical, which is not my forte, but I couldn’t see the interviewer’s reaction. I didn’t like that.”

More employers are turning to video resumes and interviews on Skype, YouTube and similar videoconferencing services to gauge a candidate. They say the high-tech approach can save them money and help sort through scores of candidates more quickly.

In the ideal video interview, both candidate and interviewer can see each other in real time or over a slight delay. Walgreen said in his case, Cisco Systems didn’t activate its end of the video transmission and that could have soured his experience.

“I didn’t know if this person was actually engaged in the conversation,” Walgreen said.

Most modern computers have integrated Web cameras and microphones or the ability to connect to a relatively inexpensive external video camera. Skype software is free, and if candidates and employers own an account, the video calls are free. If not, there is a minimal charge.

GetHired.com, which launched in January, allows candidates to upload video resumes and sound bites to their profiles. Employers can sift through multimedia resumes, post jobs and schedule video interviews online. The service is free.

Other online job sites, including Sideskills.com and Purzue.com, offer similar services.

Though time-tested paper or digital resumes remain the preferred initial step to measure a job seeker’s work experience, hobbies, education and community involvement, some companies find that video interviews help them sift hundreds or thousands of potential candidates, especially at a time of high unemployment.

“Skype interviews are being used more often by employers as a cost- and time-effective way to narrow down a large list of candidates,” said Workforce Central Florida spokeswoman Wendy Jo Moyer. “This is especially true for out-of-the-area interviews.”

Employers choosing video interviews save money by not flying candidates and putting them up at hotels.

Laura Kern, associate director of marketing and communications at the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, used Skype recently to interview a potential intern from his home in Arizona.

Kern said using Skype saves money, but she also finds that video interviews are “refreshing” to both applicants and employers.

“It really helps to see how someone communicates with you over the camera by watching their social cues, instead of the silence encountered over a phone interview,” Kern said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more (of these interviews).”

Still, Moyer, who works for the region’s jobs agency, warns that video resumes and interviews have drawbacks.

She said technical difficulties could lead to poor connections and dropped calls.

“A job seeker’s poor background or lighting could cause employer distractions,” Moyer said. “Job seekers may treat the interview in a less-professional manner.”

Despite the potential pitfalls, some candidates say they prefer video interviews.

Jess Wetton, a 29-year-old hairstylist in Orlando, said a high-end salon in Manhattan hired her in late April after interviewing her on Skype. She recalled the interview as a “creative way” to reveal her personality.

“I did the interview right from my chair at my home salon,” Wetton said. “I made sure to have everything just right, especially my hair and clothes. I knew I struck gold when the stylist on the other end said she loved my hair.”

SURVIVING A VIDEO INTERVIEW

Tips to help job seekers prepare for a videoconference interview:
—Look at the camera, not the screen.
—Turn off cellphones and televisions, and silence other distractions.
—Avoid wearing patterned clothing.
—Practice the interview in front of a mirror.
—Practice with a friend to reduce possible technical malfunctions.

Source: MCT Information Services