By ZoomInsights staff

First impressions are important, especially in the recruiting world. But when you’re interviewing candidates from across the country – or even across the globe – that first impression isn’t always made in person. Increasingly, interviews are happening over the phone or via tools like Skype. Even Harvard Law School is turning to Web chat programs to hold interviews. These tools are convenient but there are pitfalls of which to be wary.

The problem with phone interviews

Of course, face-to-face interviews are ideal, but they just are not always practical — especially when you are looking to pull from the best possible pool of candidates, regardless of location. In years past, the first round of interviews with far-flung candidates would likely have been conducted over the phone. “As a recruiter, I often interview potential candidates who are not local to my area. It wasn’t that long ago that such interviews were always conducted by phone,” wrote Michael Spiro, president of Midas Recruiting, on his blog.

Phone interviews, though once a staple of recruiting, are problematic at best. Whether it’s a bad connection or just the impersonal nature of the phone, so much can go wrong. In many ways, it’s the job candidate who is at the biggest disadvantage in this situation, but there are some things recruiters need to think about, as well.

  • An inability to view body language severely impairs the interviewers’ ability to form a full impression of candidates.
  • Phone interviews also keep candidates from being able to familiarize themselves with your office, which can be a problem if you’re pursuing the most in-demand employees.

Video Interviews: The next best thing

In the information age, though, recruiters do not need to settle for phone interviews, even when a face-to-face interview is not an option. Modern technology makes the next best thing possible: a video interview.

From free tools like Skype to more expensive business tools, video chat has become commonplace. If you have a Wi-Fi connection, you can even “FaceTime” from an iPhone or iPad.

“Now, Skype interviews are a regular part of my recruiting tool-box. While seeing someone on Skype is certainly not as effective as a true face-to-face meeting,” Spiro wrote, “there is no question that it is way better than a mere audio phone conversation. The added dimension of seeing a person’s facial expressions, body language, eye contact, etc., gives a much more in-depth impression of the person you are communicating with.”

In essence, the visual nature of Skype interviews helps to eliminate many of the problems inherent to phone interviews — but it comes with its own concerns. According to, there are four main things to keep in mind while conducting video interviews:

  1. Remember, this is still a live interview and it’s up to you to set the pace and the tone. So no conducting interviews in a crowded coffee shop, even though it’s possible.
  2. Whenever technology is involved, assume that something can and will go wrong, so be sure to check your equipment ahead of time.
  3. Details are important, and you may want to double-check things like time zones, or look for alarming signs, like strange Skype handles.
  4. Take advantage of the technology by recording your interviews, which will enable you to share the interviews with other interested parties (like hiring managers).

Video interviews are, in essence, the best of both worlds. They combine the convenience of a phone interview with the more personal face-to-face interview — which is likely to be a boon for your budget.

Whether you conduct an interview on the phone, via Skype or in person, you can be better prepared by looking up candidates with ZoomInfo Pro. See education and work histories and up to 12 years of Web references. Learn more.

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