The non-live interview – here to stay?

These days, organisations are increasingly using non-live job interviews as part of their recruitment process, as they seek more innovative and efficient selection methods. As an explanation for those who’ve yet to have such an experience, a non-live interview is where candidates record answers to pre-determined questions in their own time, their responses are then uploaded and later reviewed by the potential employer.

Benefits for all

Although it’s a relatively new and still developing method of selection, non-live interviews offer significant advantages for both employers and candidates:

  • Everyone saves on time and travel/venue costs.
  • Candidates record their responses to the interview and assessors review it, at a convenient time and place for all parties.
  • It might be less nerve-wracking for some candidates than facing one or more interviewers in a real-time situation.
  • Online delivery of non-live interviews allows organisations to access a wider pool of candidates with diverse skills and capabilities.

But is it fair – and why does that matter?

It is important to measure the effectiveness of any selection method, to ensure it is a reliable and valid tool for selecting the best candidates for a particular role. This is particularly important within the healthcare arena where employing the right doctors and other medical professionals is, of course, vital for both public health and confidence. The fairness of a selection method often forms a key part of evaluation criteria; where candidates perceive unfairness, not only could it result in negative perceptions of the organisation but also a potential legal challenge.

Non-live interviews provide a level playing field in so far as all candidates are asked to record answers to the same questions. Because their responses can be reviewed by multiple assessors, there’s less risk of important information being missed or of evaluations being biased.  In addition, the practical benefits in terms of time, accessibility and mode of delivery, are appealing to both employers and candidates.

On the other hand, candidates may feel somewhat disadvantaged by not being able to tailor their answers based on how their previous responses were received, and they lose the opportunity to generate rapport via techniques such as mirroring body language. Similarly, the absence of a face-to-face interaction means candidates are less able to form an impression of their potential employer and may feel more intimidated by the one-sidedness of the process, to the extent that it adversely affects their performance.

Whilst the interest in non-live interviews is growing, the research is still limited, particularly regarding their application in the context of medical selection. Not enough is known yet about their effectiveness to support their widespread use in medical selection; this provides a driver for further research.

Putting non-live interviews to the test

A recent qualitative study among medical undergraduates assessed perceptions of the non-live interview. This took place in two stages – a 30-minute non-live interview followed by a slightly longer semi-structured interview to discuss respondents’ experiences and general perceptions. The interviews were recorded and transcribed, and key themes analysed. Among these were potential challenges associated with non-live interviews, such as opportunities to cheat, technical issues and someone’s inability to express themselves.

Overall the findings showed that non-live interviews can be perceived as fair, and therefore that there is a place for them as part of selection in medicine. However, respondents also said that the use of a non-live interview solely, in the absence of any opportunity for a live interview, wouldn’t be perceived favourably. In addition, we already know that it is important to assess both academic and non-academic qualities as part of medical selection. This initial research therefore supports the implementation of non-live interviews within a medical context, on the basis it is used in combination with other methods rather than in isolation. Of course, this may not necessarily be the same for all industries.

How should organisations use non-live interviews?

Based on the results of this study, organisations opting for non-live interviews can maximise the fairness of implementation by:

  • Explaining the process and its advantages to candidates beforehand.
  • Using them to measure a variety of competencies and qualities – for example, by designing the interview in an MMI (Multiple Mini Interview) format, with each question addressing a different behavioural or situational scenario relative to the particular role.
  • Checking the video-interviewing software for potential technical issues.
  • Understanding when it is and isn’t appropriate to use a non-live interview, based on factors such as role requirements, candidate perceptions and available resources for selection.

Over to the candidates

What if you, as a job seeker, have been asked to record a non-live interview? The first two things to remember are that 1) visual impressions remain vital and 2) preparation is key, just as it is with conventional interviews! The following tips should help improve the chances of impressing assessors with your professionalism, as well as the quality of your answers:

  • Location: Choose a quiet, private room that’s neutrally decorated and free of distractions (such as posters, mobile phones) and clutter. You’ll appear professional, tidy and organised!
  • Position: Position your webcam correctly, ensuring that it’s above your eye-line, angled slightly downwards. You may need to raise the webcam/laptop slightly to achieve this. Adjust your chair to avoid being too low or high in the frame. Extra lighting may be needed, depending on the light in the room and quality of your webcam.
  • First Impressions: Dress professionally, avoiding white, black or patterned materials in favour of solid colours such as deep blue.
  • Presentation: Sit upright, keeping your back straight with both feet on the floor. Face the camera, smiling and maintaining friendly eye contact as if you were speaking to someone in the room. Try not to stare. Think about your non-verbal/body language. Don’t cross your arms, fidget or distract reviewers with exaggerated hand movements and/or fiddle with hair or other items.
  • Delivery: Speak slowly and clearly when delivering your answers.
  • Preparation: Practise recording your answers – this will also help iron out any distracting mannerisms!