February 26, 2001, 10:54 AM — Videoconferencing proved long ago that it can reduce travel costs and extend a company's geographic reach, but have you considered what it can do for recruitment? Conducting job interviews over a long-distance video hookup has undeniable benefits. Doing it consistently well requires mastering some logistical issues, however; recent Web-driven trends make the technology choices both more interesting and more complex.
The potential for savings is obvious. Renting a videoconferencing room -- the preferred option for companies who lack their own remote facilities -- rarely costs more than a few hundred dollars per hour. Travel and hotel costs can easily exceed $3,000.
Arguably, a more important benefit is the expanded labor pool that videoconferencing lets you reach. "It's opened up the world for job candidates," said Lois Grimshaw, provincial coordinator of videoconferencing at the British Columbia Ministry of Education in Victoria, B.C. "In the past, you wouldn't have flown someone in. It would be too expensive." Grimshaw said her agency used a video interview to hire a candidate in Cairo, Egypt, and she regularly rents out her boardroom-size videoconferencing facility for interviews.
Video interviews have been around for at least a decade, said H. Michael Boyd, program manager of human resource strategies at International Data Corp. (IDC) in Framingham, Mass. "The search firms started using it years ago when videoconferencing was in its infancy," Boyd said. "Around 10 years ago, they would send people to Kinko's, which had videoconferencing rooms." The method worked well for executive search firms because the search firm's commission could easily cover its expenses, and clients benefited by relieving senior managers of time-consuming prescreening interviews, Boyd said.
Kinko's remains a player in video interviews, said Amy Holmes, group manager of conference services for Sprint's Global Business Markets Group (Kansas City, Mo.), which provides the network connections and services. "Kinko's does a lot of business in the interviewing space, especially in the major metropolitan areas," Holmes said. "In fact, they are targeting HR people." You can schedule the joint Sprint/Kinko's service by calling (800) 669-1235. Sprint, like archrivals AT&T, MCI WorldCom, and others, also sells videoconferencing hardware and connections directly to corporations, according to Holmes.