Bringing interviews into the YouTube and Skype era

The idea came to Edward Hendrick during his own job-hunting days

Edward Hendrick, chief executive of Sonru: spent countless hours travelling from his home to various locations around the country for interviews that frequently lasted less than half an hour. Photograph: Conor McCabe

Edward Hendrick, chief executive of Sonru: spent countless hours travelling from his home to various locations around the country for interviews that frequently lasted less than half an hour. Photograph: Conor McCabe


Every day of the week, job applicants to international organisations such as CERN, Volvo, Nestlé, GSK, Qatar Airways, Morrisons, SAS, Thames Water and Tiger Brands are recording first-round video interviews using an online service provided by Irish company Sonru. The company is the brainchild of entrepreneur Edward Hendrick, who began developing the technology in his home in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, seven years ago.

The company has just celebrated its fifth birthday. Despite the fact that it has grown to employ 30 people with offices in Singapore, the UK, Australia and South Africa, the company has stayed true to its roots and is still headquartered in Enniscorthy.

“We’ve kept the HQ in Wexford despite Dublin being such a major technology centre because it’s home, the lifestyle in the country is so much better with the land and coast and so on,” says Hendrick.

“That’s all very well but ultimately, we’ve found really good people here as well. As our company has grown and our technical requirements have grown more sophisticated, it has become necessary to run our development team out of Dublin’s Digital Hub because that’s where you find the technical talent. We’ve the best of both worlds.”

The Sonru application works by replicating as closely as possible a normal early stage interview. Applicants log on to an online interview set up by an employer or recruiter where they find a list of questions and some background information on the employer and the post.

Once they have familiarised themselves with the questions, they record a video using the webcam on their PC or the camera on their smartphone.

Once uploaded, the videos can be viewed by the employer at any time and in any location.

Cost -effective

The idea of making the interview process simple and cost-effective came to Hendrick during his own job-hunting days. He spent countless hours travelling from his home to various locations around the country for interviews that frequently lasted less than half an hour.

“That didn’t make sense”, he says. “Skype and YouTube were really taking off back then and I had the idea of building a YouTube-style application for the recruitment market.”

The business now has customers around the globe and is growing at a very healthy 300 per cent year on year. The plan is to continue growth by putting more people on the ground in key markets.

“We start off marketing in new countries by attending trade shows and so on. We’ve always said that Sonru clients are evangelical so we set up a ‘Success Stories webinar series’ where users and clients talk about their experiences. These have been hugely popular and we often have more than 500 prospects sitting in to learn more about our product.

“Clients such as the UK NHS, Perisher, Nestle and SAS have been kind enough to lead our webinars, but to succeed in a new market, you’ve got to put people on the ground.”

To support this international growth, Sonru is available in 13 languages, including German, Spanish, French, Korean, Danish, Malay, Polish, Russian, Swedish, Turkish, Simplified Chinese and Chinese Traditional. Clients choose the language when creating the interview and all the communications candidates receive are in that language.

Tour de France

Growth is also coming from some unexpected quarters, with the system increasingly being used for applications other than the recruitment process.

One recent example of this was its use by Tour de France sponsor Asda for enlisting tour maker volunteers for the grand depart in Yorkshire. “We’ve been using Sonru across the HR and recruitment team for the past number of years and could immediately see the opportunity for process gains given the volume of interest,” says Richard Mason, tour maker project manager at Asda.

“The Tour de France in the UK enables our communities to come together and showcase themselves to the world, so it seemed fitting to use Sonru to allow over 4,000 prospective tour makers to showcase their interest and passion in an online video interview.

“The results have been phenomenal,” he adds. “We recorded a 75 per cent response rate, which is unheard of for volume recruitment of volunteers. Only 275 applicants chose to take a phone interview compared to the 3,248 video interviews and the feedback has been hugely positive.”

Very appropriately for an Irish Times Innovation Award winner, the system was used in this year’s awards to allow entrants to supply an online video submission with their written entries. Enterprise Ireland is using it for its Competitive Start Fund, with applicants now being required to pitch directly to the assessment evaluation panel using a video made on the Sonru platform.

Another interesting user is US-Ireland Alliance, which uses it to select graduates for the George J Mitchell Scholarship.

“We’re seeing more and more clients see opportunities to bring the benefits of video interviewing to other areas of their business such as sponsorship, casting, talent management, mobility and so on,” Hendrick notes.

Other new developments have seen the introduction of two mobile apps. The Sonru Player lets clients view candidate interviews while Sonru Record enables candidates to record their interview directly from their mobile device.

“We’ve been really pleasantly surprised with the mobile take-up, with 25 per cent of candidates recording their interviews using iOS devices,” Hendrick says.

Prime focus

Staying ahead of the competition in its core job recruitment remains the prime focus.

“There is a lot of competition which is fine as it demonstrates there is a market for asynchronous video interviewing,” he adds. “Fortunately, we’re one of the market leaders. Our technology is robust and stands up well in external audits and reviews.

“We maintain a competitive edge by consistently and constantly reinvesting in product design, user experience and best in class technology.”