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Six dumb things not to do during a video interview

Phone interviews used to be the first line of defence for banks sifting out large numbers of candidates, but video interview is increasingly the grilling of choice for financial services firms, particularly for those applying for roles in far-flung locations.

A video interview may seem a lot like one over the phone, but in reality interviewing on Skype or another video service is a different art altogether.

Here are five tips to avoid slipping up:

1. Don’t drone on

Have you ever listened to your voice back on a Dictaphone? Chances are you’re no John Hurt. Interviewers have even less tolerance for long monologues by candidates while watching them on camera. You may be desperate to apply the S.T.A.R (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique in your interview, where every answer is framed by the challenge you faced, your contribution to resolving it and the result of your actions, but make it brief. Peter Harrison, a former executive director at Goldman Sachs who now runs Harrison Careers, said that an interviewers’ attention span is diminished during a video interview.

“The potential for boring the interviewer is much higher when video interviewing. Don’t talk for more than 40 seconds without pausing to re-engage the interviewer,” he said.

2. Don’t play with your hair or talk with your hands 

The most an interviewer is likely to see of you during a video interview is the top half of your body. But it’s more likely that more than just your head and shoulders will be displayed. To you, the interviewers are a small screen on your laptop, but you will be broadcast on a big flat screen TV in a plush meeting room. Any body language will be exaggerated.

“If you’re gesticulating wildly, or playing with your face and hair then this will prove very distracting to the interviewer, because it’s likely to be all they will focus on,” said Andrew Pullman, managing director of People Risk Solutions and a long-standing investment banking human resources professional. “Conversely, slouching or slumping in your chair will be a much more obvious signal that you’re not really interested, and you need to look at the camera, not the screen, to maintain eye contact.”

3. User name, not loser name

Keeping Hotmail and Gmail addresses sensible was a basic and long-standing piece of advice for anyone putting together their CV. The same issue applies to your Skype user name – keep it related to your name, don’t try to be clever. Your interviewer will see it and make a judgement call.

“There was a woman we interviewed for a senior management position at a bank and her user name was sleezedoll150,” said interview coach Margaret Buj. “Obviously, we couldn’t take them seriously, but any sort of fancy user name creates a negative impression.

4. Remember, this is your ONLY opportunity

This is not an initial screening process, this is not a chance for a bank to catch a glimpse of you before formally embarking on the recruitment process – this is it. The biggest mistake people make is simply not taking a video interview seriously enough, said James Sayer, director of recruiters Robert Half UAE, which reports an uptick in video interviewing.

“Remember to behave as professionally in a video interview as you would in any business meeting,” he said.

“There will be competency-based interview questions, technical questions as well as brain-teasers during Skype interviews and they can last over an hour,” said Buj. “Prepare as you would for any other interview.”

5. Get the mood right

This may seem obvious, but sitting in your kitchen, dressed in business attire up top with underwear below and the potential for either the dog or kids to go running across the camera’s line of sight isn’t a wise move. Neither is taking time out during a lunch hour to conduct the interview in Starbucks.

“Sit in a quiet, tidy space where distractions can be kept to an absolute minimum and make sure the lighting is flattering. Simply try to create as professional an atmosphere as possible,” said Pullman.

6. Get to grips with the technology

These systems are pretty self-evident, but it doesn’t hurt to know how they work before the interview if you’ve never used them before. If the interview is abroad, there are always delays in transmission and it’s important to account for these during your answers to avoid embarrassing interruptions.

“Sometimes the technology doesn’t work as it should and the interviewer hears what you say a second or two later than you said it,” said Harrison. “Clearly show when you are finished, or pausing your answer, and stop talking until the interviewer re-engages.”

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