East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust recently interviewed a clinical child psychologist from Australia for a post via a video-conferencing link-up. The candidate, whose details are confidential, sat before a microphone, camera and a screen in Adelaide, as did the interviewers at the Kent & Canterbury hospital.
“The picture and sound from Australia was amazing,” says the trust’s recruitment office manager, Twyla Mart. “It was as if the candidate was in the same room. The quality of the link and the cost saving involved means we will certainly be using this way of interviewing candidates again.”
Although the trust is pleased with the results and plans to use video conferencing in future interviews of overseas candidate, it advises that preparation is key.
The technology used at either end must be compatible, of very high quality and capable of handling digital presentations, for example, in PowerPoint. UK recruiters will also need a competent partner at the other end to manage that side of the process.
Also, as the candidate was situated 12,000 miles away, its interviewers had to contend with major time differences.
“This required planning and compromise,” says the trust. “Staff at East Kent were so keen to give this new development a try that they volunteered to conduct the interview at any time that would match the Australian working day.
“The team in Canterbury met at 9 am while the candidate’s [local] time was nine hours later.”
The candidate faxed copies of her qualifications and other relevant documentation, although the originals will have to be produced when she arrives at East Kent.
Other issues include the psychology of live video interviews.
“The notion of speaking into a camera rather than to ‘real’ human beings can increase candidates’ anxiety levels,” says Aparna Malhotra, senior consultant at business psychology specialist Blue Edge Consulting.
“It is worthwhile briefing candidates in advance about how to prepare themselves for the interview to get the best from them.”
She adds that interviewers must be aware of body language issues and must make sure they are not tempted to “read more into non-verbal cues, such as eye contact and gestures”.
Camera positioning is key as this affects direct eye contact. If it is not set up appropriately, it “may lead to inaccurate or exaggerated evaluations about the candidate’s communication and interpersonal style,” says Malhotra.
Legal issues must also be addressed. Declan O’Dempsey, barrister and employment law specialist at London firm Cloisters, says the use and storage of a video would constitute the processing of personal data for the purposes of the Data Protection Act 1998.
He advises recruiters to obtain candidates’ written permission if they want to use the recorded interview for other purposes, such as training.
“It’s possible that misuse of data would constitute an infringement of the candidate’s right to respect for his/her private life,” he adds.
So how much does video conferencing cost? East Kent already had video conferencing facilities, but they can be bought or hired, or recruiters can use a bureau. They charge from £50 per hour plus call charges upwards – usually the greater the distance, the higher the cost.
Local chambers of commerce also often have video conferencing facilities for hire.
Eye Network (www.eyenetwork.co.uk) has a searchable database of affiliate public video conferencing bureaus worldwide.
Costs start at £80 per hour depending on requirements. Two hours to Australia costs about £250.
VCWarehouse (www.vcwarehouse.com) sells video conferencing equipment. A basic view station, which includes a camera, costs about £1,300. A sound station and compatible screen will also be needed. Prices vary widely.