Building a YouTube for the recruitment market

Using online video for early-stage interviews improves prospects of finding right candidate


A highly innovative solution from Irish firm Sonru. com is reducing the cost and enhancing the effectiveness of the interview process for global firms such as Nestle, Apple, Sage, Schroders, Volvo and our own Paddy Power.

Sonru’s solution involves using online video for early-stage interviews, cutting out the headaches associated with scheduling and improving the prospects of finding the right candidate.

The origins of the application go back to the experiences of Sonru founder and chief executive Ed Hendrick as a job-hunting graduate. “I was travelling from my home in Wexford to Cork and Dublin for interviews that lasted just 20 minutes. That didn’t make sense,” he recalls.

“That was around 2005 and Skype and YouTube were really taking off at that time, and people were getting record deals as a result of videos they had put up on the web. I had the idea of building a YouTube for the recruitment market.”

Pursuing his long-held ambition to start his own business, Hendrick quit his job in 2007 to develop his idea further.

“I joined the South East Enterprise Platform Programme. This is a year-long programme which helps entrepreneurs test out their business ideas and prepares them for start-up.

“As a result of this I ended up developing a one-way video interviewing application instead of a YouTube-type service.”

The application works by replicating insofar as is possible an early-stage interview. “It’s a software as a service product and the client begins by logging into their Sonru account in much the same way as they would log in to Gmail,” Hendrick says.

“Each client’s account is tailored to their identity and is unique to them with their logo and so on. The way it is branded, it looks and feels like the organisation’s own website. After that they can begin creating an interview.”

The interview creation process allows the company to put a title on it, such as the job being advertised, and to add an introductory text or video giving candidates some background on the organisation and details of the post.

First experience
It then sets a closing date for candidates and adds questions. It mirrors an actual interview by allowing the interview-setter to specify the amount of time a candidate has to read and answer each question. After that they can add candidates’ email addresses for them to be notified of how to log in for their interview and so on.

Once the candidate logs in, the application ensures they are properly prepared. “The session begins with the candidate testing their equipment, their broadband connection and the video and sound on their computer,” Hendrick says.

“That means they will know if they need better equipment before they begin the interview and allows them to get access to a friend or colleague’s PC if necessary.”

The next step helps to familiarise the candidates with the process. “There are two sample questions for candidates to practise on. They can practise answering them as often as they like and review the videos of their answers until they feel happy with their presentation and appearance.”

Once they start the interview proper, though, there are no opportunities to revisit answers. “We want to replicate the interview process as much as possible and give candidates the same experience as they would have if they were sitting in front of the interviewers. Once the interview begins, there are no pauses or breaks.

“They have an opportunity to read each question while they are not being recorded. A timer on the screen counts down to zero and recording begins with the candidate being given a time preset by the interview creator to answer each question.

“The process is then repeated for each question and when the interview is completed the candidate gets a message to say thanks.”

The quite rigid structure of the automated interview actually delivers certain advantages over the live process. “We have introduced a lot more structure to the process,” says Hendrick.

“All candidates get exactly the same treatment and that’s very positive from the employer’s point of view as well. It makes compliance with equalities and other employment regulations a lot easier. It also facilitates direct comparison between candidates – they are all answering precisely the same questions put to them in the same way.”

A further benefit is that interviews can be reviewed from any location, meaning that the time and expense of bringing together interview panels from different offices is eliminated at this early stage.

15 languages
“The obvious perceived benefits are the savings in costs and times, but the biggest actual benefit is better candidate selection. The additional information they can obtain about candidates before they meet in person is a huge benefit.”

The Sonru solution has been translated into 15 languages and is in use in more than 100 countries. “We now have 25 people employed here in Enniscorthy and in our offices in London, Singapore, and Sydney,” says Hendrick.

Asia has been a particularly good growth market for us because of its scale and the physical distances involved. Our focus now is on continuing to improve the product to ensure that it remains the best on the market.”