Soon, some job seekers at Cisco Systems Inc. will be able to show up for interviews wearing shorts and bunny slippers if theyre so inspired. Its not that Cisco, long known for its innovative employee recruiting practices, has decided its important to make job applicants feel as comfortable as possible. Rather, the $19 billion networking equipment provider wants to cut the time and money needed to find and hire new employees by allowing its human resources staff to interview candidates via live video Webcasts.
Beginning this summer, Cisco will launch a pilot project to test the concept. If it works, said Matt Schuyler, global recruitment leader for Cisco, in San Jose, Calif., every HR recruiter at Cisco will be equipped with PC-based video cameras and other tools theyll need to conduct online video interviews. Applicants will be asked to go to a local Kinkos Inc. or similar business where they can link to Cisco via Web video.
While Cisco doesnt plan to eliminate face-to-face interviews, the company hopes to perform at least some interviews via video. Even that should considerably cut Ciscos recruiting expenses—as well as make life a little easier for interviewees. Cisco, which hires about 1,000 employees a month, interviews some 20,000 candidates a year. Before being hired, each candidate goes through an average of five interviews. For many of those, Cisco pays to fly candidates to the interview location. Schuyler estimates that moving some interviews to the Web will allow Cisco to cut the time it takes to fully interview and bring the average new hire on board from 60 days to 40.
"The largest recruiting expense we have is travel expenses for the candidate to get to our site," Schuyler said. "Add to that the time it takes to set up the interview and downtime for our people, and its a very inefficient process."
Cisco isnt alone in beginning to use live and archived online video to enhance and streamline the HR recruiting process. Many large enterprises are beginning to do the same, experts say. And independent Web-based job sites like jobs.com and Hire.com are hosting live and archived video for their employer customers. Chimes Inc., a Detroit-based maker of hosted vendor and recruitment management systems, began supporting interactive video interviewing of candidates late last year.
"While not widespread yet, Webcasts and video generally is certainly the next step in online recruiting," said Kazim Isfahani, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc., in Norwalk, Conn.
A leader among job sites in the use of online video for recruiting is jobs.com, in Dallas, which, since the fall of 1999, has been holding what it calls Live Interactive Career Fairs—month-long online events that, among other things, give employers a platform to present live Webcasts or archived video content. So far, 400 employers have signed on for the events, including heavyweights such as Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) and Microsoft Corp.
Employers can participate in the jobs.com career fairs by posting archived video or audio files that introduce potential employees to the company and its work environment, or they can conduct live Webcasts. Potential employees tuning in can submit questions to employers over the jobs.com site, and they can post résumés to companies during the broadcast.
jobs.com actively markets the career fairs in advance and takes care of video and audio content creation via a partnership with broadcaster CBS. (CBS holds a 30 percent ownership position in jobs.com.) jobs.com partnered with Yahoo Inc. for content distribution.
Participating in the jobs.com career fairs isnt inexpensive. Employers pay as much as $15,000 to present a live Webcast during the event. The payoff can be significant, however. Career fair events typically generate 2,000 résumés, according to Sandra Dohner, senior producer at jobs.com.
Cisco officials, likewise, believe the benefits of online video interviews will more than outweigh the costs. Not only will they cut travel expenses and the time it takes to fill jobs, said Ciscos Schuyler, but they will also help demonstrate to potential employees that Cisco is a technology leader. "We want the interview to be a learning experience," Schuyler said. "Candidates should learn something about themselves, the process, the Web and the future of technology."