The infamous return of face-to-face job interviews

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Case Study

The infamous return of face-to-face job interviews

Once upon a time, job interviews were all about physical meetings in office spaces. Then came the era of video interviews, making the whole process faster and more convenient. As it stands today, the recruitment landscape in the UK reflects a dynamic blend of traditional and virtual approaches.

The rise of remote work and digital connectivity has paved the way for virtual interviews, offering convenience and efficiency for both recruiters and candidates. However, an interesting twist in the narrative has emerged: a return to face-to-face interviews, which signals a desire for deeper, more authentic assessments.


A bid for the personal touch

In a recent article published by The Times, it was revealed that major consulting firms such as PwC, Deloitte, and KPMG are now favouring face-to-face interviews for their graduate candidates. This shift marks a significant change in the United Kingdom's recruitment landscape and raises important questions about the methods and considerations involved in the hiring process.

But how far along is this trend regarding hiring more senior candidates?

There is certainly a debate on the topic, which mainly stems from the blend of generations in the workplace. Baby boomers, Gen Z, Millennials and Generation Y all have different perspectives, needs and views on work-life balance, which impact their willingness to travel for in-person interviews.This doesn’t, however, deny any of the advantages of face-to-face, as we’ll explore below.  


The undeniable list of pros

In a world that increasingly relies on screens and virtual communication, face-to-face interviews offer a refreshing return to the basics of human connection. These benefits underscore why many companies are embracing this approach as they seek to make informed hiring decisions and build lasting relationships with their future employees.

Strengthening the Human Element: Human interaction remains a vital component of the workplace, even in the digital age. The return to face-to-face interviews signifies a recognition of the enduring value of personal connections. Beyond assessing qualifications, interviews also serve as an opportunity to gauge a candidate's ability to engage, collaborate, and build relationships—a crucial aspect of modern work.

Reading Between the Lines: One of the most significant advantages of face-to-face interviews is the ability to read between the lines. Beyond what's said, we can pick up on non-verbal cues and body language. A firm handshake, eye contact, or subtle expressions can reveal volumes about a candidate's confidence, comfort level, and emotional intelligence. These non-verbal signals often go unnoticed in virtual settings, where pixelated video and muted microphones can obscure these valuable insights. 

Building a Personal Connection: There's something inherently human about sitting down across from someone and having areal conversation. Face-to-face interviews foster a personal connection that's challenging to replicate virtually. In these moments, it's not just about the questions and answers; it's about the chemistry and rapport that naturally develop. Sharing a laugh or connecting over shared interests can set a positive tone for the entire interview and leave a lasting impression.

Real Authenticity: In a comfortable setting at a face-to-face interview, candidates tend to be more themselves. They can immerse in the environment, engage with the surroundings, and respond authentically. This authenticity allows interviewers to gain deeper insights into the candidate's true character and personality, beyond the polished facade that virtual interactions sometimes encourage. It's like peeling back the layers to uncover the real person behind the resume.

Recreating the Workspace: Some companies believe that a face-to-face meeting can provide candidates with a glimpse into their future workspace and company culture. Walking through the office, seeing employees in action, and having a chat in the break room can help candidates visualise themselves as part of the team. This "day in the life"experience can be a powerful motivator for candidates, giving them a bettersense of what to expect if they join the company.


Navigating the in-person challenges

Despite the myriad of benefits that in person interviews bring, there are also many challenges that come with this shift, a lot of them putting pressure on candidates, such as:


Logistics Galore: Going back to in-person interviews can feel like orchestrating a complex symphony. Finding suitable interview locations, coordinating schedules, and ensuring all parties are in the right place at the right time can be quite the logistical puzzle. It's not just about booking a conference room; it's about making sure everyone can physically get there, whether it's by train, car, or even a plane for candidates traveling from afar. This logistical dance can sometimes overshadow the primary focus of the interview - getting to know the candidate.

Access Hurdles: Another challenge arises when we consider the accessibility aspect. Not all candidates have the same resources or circumstances. Some might face considerable hurdles when it comes to traveling long distances or arranging overnight accommodations. This raises questions about fairness in the hiring process. After all, you want to evaluate candidates based on their qualifications and abilities, not their geographical location or ability to cover travel expenses. Companies are increasingly aware of this and are taking steps to ensure that in-person interviews are accessible to all qualified candidates, regardless of where they reside. 

Unpredictable Factors: Nature has a knack for throwing surprises, too. Think about unpredictable factors like the weather. A transport strike can turn an already complicated interview day into a logistical nightmare (especially these days). One significant challenge for employers is juggling multiple backup plans to ensure interviews can proceed smoothly, regardless of unexpected disruptions. These factors add an element of uncertainty that companies need to navigate.

Time and Resources: Finally, there's the matter of time and resources. Face-to-face interviews typically require more of both. Companies invest more time coordinating interviews, arranging logistics, and sometimes even conducting multiple rounds of in-person meetings. This can be resource-intensive, both in terms of manpower and finances. It's a cost that some smaller companies may find hard to bear. Additionally, candidates are also committing more time to travel and participate in in-person interviews, which can affect their existing work or job search commitments.


What's evident is that the job market is not one-size-fits-all and only one thing remains constant: the quest for talent and the importance of making meaningful connections. While some candidates relish the opportunity to meet in person, appreciating the chance to be their authentic selves, others might find it inconvenient or even stressful. Recognising these individual preferences is crucial in creating a hiring process that works for everyone. Whether through a screen or face-to-face, the goal remains the same—to find the right match, foster collaboration, and drive innovation in the workplace.

The resurgence of face-to-face interviews reminds us that, in the end, it's the people who make the difference, and the human touch still matters. Join Rethink for the next part of this series, where we explore the return to face-to-face in more detail. In this article, we’ll have a look at how our current partners are streamlining their efforts when it comes to organising the multiple interview stages. Until then, you can always get in touch to find out more!

Authored by
Andra-Bianca Muntean
Digital Marketing Manager

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