Role for technology in job selection process

FACE-TO-FACE meetings may still be considered the best way to recruit new staff, but companies increasingly are using technology to assist with the appointment of candidates.

While some local companies fly candidates to Perth (both from the eastern States and over-seas) to fill senior roles, most conduct an initial telephone conversation, a telephone interview and/or a video conference when making their selection.

High phone costs and time-delay problems associated with video conferencing are barriers to its uptake, although new Internet-compatible equipment is poised to bring prices down.

Clough Engineering director of business integrity Sue Murphy said an initial telephone conversation ensured both the company’s goals and the individual’s goals were aligned. She said reference checking was crucial in the decision to appoint an applicant.

“Generally there is a one-on-one phone conversation between the HR person and the applicant, which is a discussion about the position and their situation,” Ms Murphy said.

“We have a conversation that explores what they are after. Do they want to stay in Australia permanently or are they looking to come for six months, what visas do they have and all of those sorts of things. We talk about what they are looking for and what we are looking for.”

She said reference checking was the next step, which determined whether to take the interview to the next stage – the teleconference.

“Reference checking is the most important part as it determines what their capacity is to do the job,” Ms Murphy said.

“If we decide to proceed we set up a teleconference. This usually has the technical person, who is the functional head, and the HR person, who conduct the first interview.”

She said Clough Engineering might decide on the appointment following that process, removing the need to proceed with a video conference.

“If it’s for a six-month contract we could have a phone discussion and a reference check and then hire off that,” Ms Murphy said.

“Depending on the seniority of the position – if it is senior management and up we may fly them out – we would rarely fly over for the interview.

“Recruitment is very much not deciding if we want them but if they want us. When you look at the Aussie dollar, people are taking a significant pay cut. If we fly them here and show them the prices of houses and take them to Coles and so forth they get a good idea of the cost of living.”

Clayton Utz human resources manager Gail Anderson said the company used video conferencing to recruit people but often had colleagues in State offices to hold interviews.

“Video conferencing doesn’t quite give you the same inter-action. In most cases we will get someone in the other office to conduct an interview. If we do not have an office we will consider flying them over,” Ms Anderson said.

“Generally, video conferences work. We would do a teleconference and back it up with a video conference.”

Anson principal Stephen Anson said recruiting sight unseen could work for contract positions and for positions where interpersonal skills may not be crucial, but he questioned whether quality candidates would take a position without seeing their prospective boss and workplace.

“If you are acquiring talent, would that person be prepared not to meet the manager and see the organisation?” Mr Anson said.

Robert Walters general man-ager Bruce Henderson said video conferences were better than teleconferencing because they provided a means to non-verbal communication.

However, some companies have cited costs and delays between sound and speech as reasons not to use the technology.

According to Hire Intelligence International franchise manager Clayton Moulynox, technological advances over the past three years had brought video conferencing to “normal” video quality and new equipment just entering the market should bring costs down.

“Most machines at the moment are operating on an ISDN line and can be quite expensive. Because of call costs, you can pay about $300 an hour to connect to London,” Mr Moulynox said.

He said many people did not understand the capability of video conferencing equipment.

“People are used to seeing web cams on the computer or the basic technology which has that time delay or still-frame look. When you have proper facilities with a 384K band-width, which is a little less than a video connection, there is no drop between visual and audio,” Mr Moulynox said.

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