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Interviewing from home

Axpo HR uses time-shifted video interviews for recruiting

Our HR department is structuring the recruiting process more efficiently and has introduced a new recruiting instrument in keeping with the strategy Goal Innovation@Axpo". Axpo is one of the few companies - such as Migros, ABB or Cern - that uses this modern, trend-setting time-shifted video interview method successfully. What's behind it and how does it work?

Before a face-to-face interview with potential candidates on the Axpo Campus in Baden, an online interview is used as a pre-selection instrument. HR or line managers record their questions on video and send them to the applicant electronically to the desired location, e.g. home, the office, or, if need be, to a destination abroad while travelling - so that the applicant can reply time-independently.

The new method saves Axpo money and time. A larger number of candidates can be interviewed in the pre-selection process, and hence the quality of applicants increases. The video interview provides a fast, first impression of the candidate. If the candidate makes it on the short-list, he is then invited to an on-site interview in a second step. This new interview method is not intended to replace face-to-face meetings, but rather to support decision-making, structure the process more efficiently, and enable a broader selection.

Time- and location-independent

How does the new interview method benefit applicants?

When the job applicant gets the video questions, he has time to practice with test questions and check image and sound quality. There's no turning back once the play button is pressed. Similar to a face-to-face interview, the candidate cannot repeat a question or press stop in mid-sentence. A display indicating the preparatory and response times helps the candidate keep track of the interview.

The method provides an in-depth assessment of the candidates. In addition to time management, self-portrayal plays an important role. The advantage is that each candidate is given precisely the same opportunity to present experience, expertise as well as motivation, which allows for an objective comparison of the applicants.

What if the candidate is travelling at the time of the interview? No problem. The time-shifted interview can be recorded any time, anywhere with an Internet connection. The video message provides the potential candidate with a preliminary look at the company and the person they will meet in the face-to-face interview. The distance to the interview partner and being able to record the video at home in familiar surroundings makes the applicant less nervous.

Experience in the first months

We asked Tania Lopez, Senior HR Manager, how she prepares for time-shifted interviews and what the experience has been in recent months.

What steps have to be followed in order to plan and successfully realise a video interview from A-Z?
First the recruiting strategy is discussed with the line manager. The required competences are defined. The interview questions are discussed and prepared at the same time or in a second meeting. Then the HR and line managers record the video separately or together. It is possible to record the video several times in a learning by doing process.

Do you train your voice before the recording?
No. We want to be as authentic as possible, otherwise candidates could be intimidated. It is already an unusual situation for the applicant. If he sees a super performance by Axpo, inevitably the question crops up: Will this be expected of me? But the content of the answers is more important than camera presence unless the vacancy concerns a representative function.  So we don't really practice much beforehand. We usually need two to three takes before the result is satisfactory.

What was it like to speak to a candidate through the camera for the first time?
Unusual. We have an intro and a good-bye video section that I recorded previously and gave me a bit of practice. The questions are recorded with the line manager and put into the desired sequence. When that's finished, you think OK we have it, let's send it off. One could look at the video one more time, but we won't find out the direct reaction of the candidates or the impact until the interview. This is different in a face-to-face interview. You give this all a lot of thought the first time around. But then it becomes routine.

Has the behaviour of candidates or your own changed?
No. In our experience the candidates are very authentic. There haven’t been any surprises - for example that someone came across convincingly in the video interview, but not at all in the live interview. Someone who wasn't 100-per cent convincing in the video, wasn't in the face-to-face meeting in either. What's different is that the video is also discussed in the second interview. The candidates get feedback from us and we ask how they found the process.

Have you had any negative experiences?
There were candidates who called off interview because they didn't think they could record a video or were not familiar with the process.

What do you do in such situations?
We try to motivate them to apply just the same. In most cases this works. If a candidate is especially qualified, we can, in certain cases, forego the video interview, but up to now that has not been necessary.

What was your personal highlight?
My highlight was the first recruitment that we completed successfully with the new interview method.  We got to know the person through the time-shifted interview, invited the candidate to Baden, and recently signed the employment contract. The candidate will start a job in Finance in June. After a long planning phase we were able to conclude the first contract using time-shifted interviews. Now learning and gathering experience will be the main focus.

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