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Nostril hair, construction noise, tech meltdowns: when video interviews go horribly wrong

video conference job interview

VC star

I’ve spent many years recruiting in major financial centres – not so many that I was hanging around a fax machine sending CVs to clients, but long enough that I used to conduct all my interviews face to face.

These days I find myself dealing more and more with banks based overseas or banks who simply prefer to conduct a first interview via a video conference (VC) system.

I get a lot of feedback from candidates after these interviews – and the unsuccessful ones blame their failure on the video format, claiming they would have done much better in person.

But while I know video interviews are challenging, but  we all need to learn how to deal with them. We have little choice – they are essentially being used as an initial round of screening.

There are a few reasons for the growing popularity of VC interviews in the banking sector. One of them is time – with high volumes of candidates applying to global banks, first-round face-to-face interviews can each take up to an hour out of a hiring manager’s busy day. By contrast, bosses can easily jump into a VC interview at their desk and quickly continue with their work once it’s over.

VC interviews also mean banks can quickly eliminate candidates with poor communication skills – only those that pass this communications test will be brought in for the next round.

Location is another big reason why international banks interview by video. If they are considering an expensive overseas relocation, they won’t want to fly a candidate over for a face-to-face until the final rounds. And as an initial interview, being able to see someone on-screen often gives them a better gauge of the candidate than a voice-only phone conversation.

The big banks tend not to use Skype for interviews – I understand this is because of their internal security policies – and prefer platforms such as Webex. The smaller firms often use Skype for Business.

When video interviews go wrong

Somewhat surprisingly, I often get feedback that the technology itself isn’t perfect. Most commonly, there can be irritating delays in the conversation, which can be challenging for candidates in the pressure of an interview.

Don’t be afraid to highlight this to the interviewer as soon as you realise there’s a delay in the connection.

The biggest tip I can give is to be patient.

I once saw a video interview between an American hiring manager and a Hong Kong Chinese candidate go badly wrong.

The manager – who was quite loud and brash – didn’t appreciate the VC time delay nor the linguistic and cultural differences between him and the candidate.

The candidate spoke English well as a second language. But the time delay and his need to first translate questions in his head before responding in English meant that the interviewer simply thought he didn’t know the answers.

Candidates interviewing via VC must also understand that it holds as much value as a face-to-face interview.

Make sure you dress as formally as you would in person, for example, and come across as professional, well groomed and well presented.

You need a very good internet connection and you need to be in a quiet environment. One of my candidates once interviewed in a room near a building site – the interviewer wasn’t impressed when loud construction noise interrupted proceedings mid-way through!

You should not conduct the interview via your mobile phone. I’ve had a few candidates do this and the feedback from banks has always been negative, with statements such as “all I could see was the hair inside their nostrils!”

If you’re applying for any job in banking, make VC interview preparation part of your plans so don’t mess up when you’re faced with one.

Kyle Blockley is the founder and managing partner of recruitment firm KS International.


Image credit: simonkr, Getty

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