As anyone who has lost data in a hard drive crash can attest, technology can be our friend as well as our enemy. Healthcare has been accused of playing catch-up to the technology bandwagon, and losing out on a lot of efficiencies as a result. But for some processes, the old-fashioned way is still the best way. Hiring is one of those processes.
I’m not saying that technology in recruiting is all bad. My smartphone is my constant companion, and the ability to research organizations, locate potential candidates, build networks, and receive a resume or reference list in an instant makes the process infinitely faster in the past. That’s a win for everyone involved. But when we start to rely on technologies such as videoconferencing to replace face-to-face interaction, we as recruiters have gone astray.
At first glance, recruiters’ clients may like the idea of videoconferencing because it’s much cheaper than flying in a recruiter to meet with candidates or clients. But what’s gained in money is lost in quality.
For example, while it may be acceptable to use videoconferencing for some business meetings, the technology just isn’t good enough for those “getting to know you” meetings in which recruiters meet with boards of directors and the executive team to find out what they need in a new leader. The clients can run through their list of operational and financial targets on camera, but the recruiter won’t experience the interpersonal interaction in the halls or the tension around the coffeemaker in the break room. These are the things that make up an organization’s culture, and a new hire’s cultural fit is just as important as his ability to improve patient care or boost the bottom line.
A good recruiter’s position prospectus runs 40 pages or more for C-level positions. To ensure that the right person lands the job, that document should reveal both the face the client shows the public and the not-so-positive things going on behind the scenes. It’s impossible for a recruiter to draw out an honest assessment of a job’s potential negatives with a group of strangers through a wi-fi connection.
For the same reasons, videoconferencing is a weak way to interview candidates. Those who conduct interviews this way are missing out on the subtle cues that human beings naturally rely on to evaluate another person. They don’t connect with the candidate in a real way. It’s like trying to view someone through a layer of gauze: You get a general impression, but it’s frustratingly difficult to get the complete picture of who they really are.
Some executive search firms never actually meet their candidates in person until they present them to the client, and by then, it’s too late. Some firms’ early screening interviews consist of a videotape of a candidate reading his answers to a list of questions. That’s the epitome of lazy recruiting, and it’s unfair to both the client and the candidate, who isn’t given an opportunity to put his best face forward.
The typical videoconference delay of just seconds is enough to create awkwardness that can cast an otherwise confident candidate in a bad light, and the short length of a typical videoconferencing session doesn’t allow for the in-depth conversations needed to make a good judgment call about a person. There is just no substitute for shaking hands and sitting down to really talk with someone to learn about their passions, emotions and values, and to see how they respond under pressure.
Sure, videoconferencing can save the client some money. But is it really worth the price of misunderstanding the job, the candidate or both, and hiring the wrong person? When you compare the cost of a few plane tickets to that of replacing a senior-level executive with a six-figure salary, it seems pretty simple. In the end, cutting this particular corner is just not worth it.