Innovations: Online job interviews


HarQen, a Milwaukee-based web telephony company, recently launched a new application designed to make a company’s hiring process more efficient, less costly and more convenient.

HarQen’s Voice Screener is designed to allow companies, both large and small, to cut the telephone interview process time by more then 75 percent.

“Traditionally the way phone interviews are done. it takes about 30 to 45 minutes for a typical recruiter to conduct an interview. That means if they are really efficient, they can interview about eight candidates a day, and that’s for a recruiter where that is their only job,” said Kelly Fitzsimmons, co-founder and chief executive officer of HarQen. “Voice Screener cuts the listening time to about three minutes per candidate, which allows a person to review around 80 candidates per day if they choose to.”

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Voice Screener is a web-based telephony system that allows a company to brand the home page with their own logo and pre-record interview questions for a particular position opening, Fitzsimmons said. The process is as simple as setting up voicemail, she said.

“The trouble with traditional phone interviews is that many times you may know in the first five minutes of the conversation if the person is right for the job,” Fitzsimmons said. “The pre-recorded questions allow a person to fully complete the interview and answer all of the questions, but also allows the reviewer to skip over lengthy answers or additional questions once they know if the person is a good fit or not.”

According to Fitzsimmons, some companies may receive 40 to 50 resumes for a posted position, particularly in today’s economy. With Voice Screener, the people doing the hiring can look through the resumes and see which candidates look good on paper and then send an e-mail to the candidates they are interested in, inviting them to call into Voice Screener for an interview.

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David Wells, vice president of client services at HarQen, demonstrates the Voice Screener product for all new clients of the company.

“The system is entirely web-based, so anyone can access it on any computer, and at any time of the day,” he said. “It doesn’t expire, so that means if the candidate has a full-time job and receives the e-mail invite while they are at work during the day, they can easily re-open the e-mail later and do the interview when it is convenient for them.”

The interview process begins with the pre-recorded questions.

“What makes it nice is that the questions are able to be customized and recorded any way you like,” Wells said. “A candidate can get a good idea about what your company is like, and whether or not they will fit in, just by listening to your questions.”

Voice Screener allows for up to a three-minute response, but most responses are under a minute, Fitzsimmons said. 

Once an interview is completed, it is placed in a new folder for the company to review. “In the traditional hiring process, it typically goes from a stack of resumes to phone interviews to a round-robin scenario where you can get feedback from team members in the organization,” Fitzsimmons said. “Voice Screener allows that feedback to come right away and alleviates any pressure to like someone that might not be a good fit.”

Voice Screener allows each person in the company to listen to a particular candidate’s interview and rate that candidate on how well they would do in that position. Employers also can make comments and attach it to the interview so others can view it and search for it within the database.

“This allows each person to genuinely review a candidate’s responses and rate them without any outside pressure or feedback, while still allowing the individual doing the hiring to get feedback from a number of different people,” Fitzsimmons said.

Once a candidate is rejected for a particular position, a customizable pre-written e-mail is sent to the individual, informing them that they are no longer being considered for the position. Similarly, a notice that the interview is still being reviewed and is going through the process can also be sent to candidates.

The system can also be set up as a link on a website, which lists job postings to allow access for individuals searching for job positions. Interested individuals can upload their resume, answer qualification questions and interview right from the web by clicking the button, Wells said. That candidate’s interview then goes right into the system just like those that received the e-mail invite.

The system is set up as a pay-per-interview-conducted process and is sold in packages, Fitzsimmons said. For $99 per month, small to mid-size businesses can sign up online and immediately begin using Voice Screener. The package allows them to interview 180 candidates over the course of the year. As hiring needs increase, clients can purchase additional interviews in blocks of 25, 50 or 100, Fitzsimmons said. Additional package options also are available.

“This economic downturn has brought about an astonishing number of layoffs of highly qualified people, and this often means up to 10 times as many people are applying for any given job posting,” Fitzsimmons said. “It’s hard enough to identify the right candidate in a normal hiring environment, but now the game has changed significantly. Many small businesses as well as staffing agencies are turning to Voice Screener because it is an effective way to identify the top prospects very efficiently.” 

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