Hire Calling

Now You See It

For many entrepreneurs, posting jobs and sifting through the resulting resumes is only half the battle. Assuming you find prom-ising applicants, you still have to set up interviews. But what if, thanks to the Net, you're getting resumes from Portland, Maine, and you're in Portland, Oregon? Such situations have happened to Tena Hoke, 40, president and co-founder of EASE Software, a 10-year-old software engineering company in Beaverton, Oregon, thanks to a job link on its Web site. "We've gotten resumes from ev-erywhere-Canada, Russia, the UK and all over the U.S.," Hoke says. "At first, I was amazed, but now it's run-of-the-mill. We usually send out a canned response [to long-distance applicants] because it's too much of a problem to connect."

For budget-minded entrepreneurs, streaming video will let you interview potential employees in real time when face-to-face meetings are too challenging or expensive. With streaming video, both parties "dial in" to the same Internet connection so they can see and hear each other during the interview. Some software programs, like Microsoft's NetMeeting, even let both sides share resumes and other documents on-screen.

Another advantage: Online interviewing puts a face to a voice, and might even help determine whether it's worth the trouble to meet the candidate up close. "Streaming video would give us the opportunity to look at several candidates over the span of one hour, saving time, and, maybe in the long run, some money," says Steve Bradley, 37, CEO of RAC Solutions, a Bethesda, Maryland, company that provides customized com-puting services. He hasn't used streaming video for interviews yet because he still tends to recruit locally, but he's excited about its potential as his company expands. "Resumes and phone interviews alone don't do it for me," he says. "I need to see the person. Streaming video could be an added tool, a way to expedite the process."

The technology for streaming video has been around for a few years, but its market is small because most Internet connections are still too slow to support the large amount of digital information being sent and received. Today, people using slower Internet connections get grainy, slow video that lags behind the audio. This can be difficult for some people to handle. "The participants end up communicating via the audio," says Rick Pittson, product manager of Viewcast, a Dallas company that designs, manufactures and markets high-quality, standards-based video commu-nications solutions for businesses.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill MBA student Shannon Smith, 30, got some experience with online interviewing when she was on a European exchange program to the Netherlands in the fall of 1999. While there, she applied over the Net for jobs with various U.S. companies. She ended up doing preliminary interviews with some larger employers, live and online from videoconferencing facilities at her host school. Smith found the experience disjointed because the pictures and sound were out of synch. "I couldn't even look at [the interviewer] or I wouldn't hear the question," she says. "But at the same time, it was neat to see who I was talking to. The tech-nology is slow right now, but it will improve."

Ken Auer, 37, CEO of RoleModel Software Inc., a software company in Holly Springs, North Carolina, says that meeting someone via live video would be cheaper than flying the applicant out to interview, and could be useful if the person needs to do something that can't be done over the phone, like making a presentation on a white board. But Auer says he'll wait for the technology to improve. He adds that he'd never hire someone on the spot solely on the basis of an online video interview. "I'm not against [online interviewing]," he says, "but I'd need that face-to-face time before hiring, to let the person be around the others in the company beforehand."

Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.

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This article was originally published in the August 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hire Calling.

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