The search for unicorns: Leverage the first-round interview

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‘Take risks:  if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.’


Organizations looking to hire the next unicorn to join their team utilize multiple tools to get the desired results.

The first-round interview is an avenue to further screen candidates who meet the baseline qualifications listed in a job description.  Organizations make a concerted effort to attract and hire the best possible candidate for their openings.  The preferred method to conduct a first-round interview will vary by organization and industry.  Some folks will swear by the telephone interview while others leverage technology and bring a video element to the first-round interview process.  Enhancing this process may allow organizations to spot and hire their next unicorn.

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Telephone interviews:

Yes, there still are organizations that leverage this method to screen candidates.  It allows candidates the ‘convenience’ of selecting a location to chat with interviewers.  This method also provides the opportunity to have documents (resume/cover letter/notes) readily available to refer to during the actual interview.  Candidates do not have to dress professionally for this type process, but it is recommended to get them into the right frame of mind.  Some do and some don’t; this may hinder a unicorn’s performance during the interview.  This type interview does not allow the organization seeking talent to get a full ‘view’ of the candidate.  Emotion, passion, desire and professionalism may not translate for everyone via a phone call.

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Video interviews:

Google video interviewing software and you get results for a large amount of available options.  Recommend organizations research the software tools to fit their unique needs.

Two familiar options are:  Skype and HireVue.


Skype has been my go-to tool for conducting first-round interviews in previous roles.  The flexibility of Skype interviews allows for scheduling ease when hosting panel interviews.  This process provides a search committee with an opportunity to meet a candidate via a live feed to see their interactions with other committee members.  The candidate can also meet the committee via the live feed and engage them like a face to face meeting.  Facial expressions (good or bad), eye contact, and communication ability can all be ‘viewed’ on both sides of the video feed.  These real interactions can help when deciding if the candidate progresses to the next round in the interview process.  This is also a quick and easy way to gauge a candidate’s ability to utilize technology.  Creating a Skype account and using the software is not a highly complicated process.  This may highlight limited technology skills for the candidate (important if your organization values technology skills).


HireVue is a software package that provides organizations the ability to search a deeper pool of candidates.  Organizations can create the structure needed to ensure each candidate’s interview experience is consistent.  This concept can help to eliminate perceived or real bias in the interview process. Candidates receive a HireVue interview request via email with a link to select with a deadline to complete the video interview.  Instructions on computer, camera and microphone capabilities are provided to test run prior to conducting the interview.

HireVue also enables candidates to try ‘practice questions’ and record themselves with real playback as many times as needed to get comfortable. All candidates are presented with the same written interview questions/situations in exact order.  They are provided time to gather their thoughts and notes with a countdown clock.  Candidates then provide their video recorded response to each question with a scheduled pause between questions.  The recorded responses are compiled at the end and provided directly to the hiring organization (committee) for review and final assessment.  Successful candidates are then provided instructions for the next round of the interview.

HireVue is another quick and easy way to determine a candidate’s technology capabilities.

Again, there are a lot of ways to look for and hire a unicorn.  Recommend organizations find a method that provides multiple ‘touch points’ to ensure they are using a platform to bring out the very best of each candidate.  You don’t want to miss the unicorn and bring in a candidate who had a great ‘phone’ voice but nothing more once you meet them for the first time.

How does your organization find and hire unicorns?  What things can your organization improve in the first-round interview process?  Curious and eager to learn more—thanks!

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Author: WalkintotheFuture

Sharing information to help others walk into the future!

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