Hong Kong candidates face tricky video interviews as banks respond to coronavirus

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Hong Kong candidates face tricky video interviews as banks respond to coronavirus

Hong Kong banking professionals looking for new jobs in the post-bonus hiring season are facing an additional challenge: interviews via video conference – and potentially several rounds of them.

Banks and recruitment firms are moving more and more interviews to video in response to the widening coronavirus crisis. Not only is there a drive to reduce non-essential face-to-face meetings, but candidates and hiring managers may well be staying away from the office if they’ve recently visited China or are feeling unwell.

Having to do an online interview is obviously a trivial concern in a city that is currently afflicted by panic buying of staple goods over fears that the coronavirus may spread among the general population. But video conferences are nonetheless more difficult to sail through than the in-person interviews that they are replacing at banks in Hong Kong.

“It’s simply harder to make that personal connection,” says Warwick Pearmund, an associate director at search firm Hamlyn Williams. “In Asian culture, face-to-face meetings are essential in building relationships,” adds Rick Chung, director of banking and financial services at recruiters Randstad.

Still, if you have a video interview coming up at a Hong Kong bank, you can at least be sure that rival candidates for the job are in the same boat – and that’s where you can start eking out an advantage by preparing and performing better than them.

Many job seekers underprepare for video interviews because they perceive them as “not as formal” as face-to-face meetings, says Chung, adding that in reality the reverse is true. Interviewers may be watching you on a big screen in an office conference room, so they will also be trying to examine your body language to identify signs that you are confident, open and approachable, says Chung.

You’ll need to put even more effort into staying engaged throughout the video interview, demonstrating your enthusiasm by smiling more and making as much eye contact as possible, says Nick Lambe, managing director of Space Executive in Hong Kong. “Look at the screen during the interview. If you look at the camera it can appear to the interviewer that you’re not making eye contact, which can leave a bad impression,” adds Warwick Pearmund, an associate director at search firm Hamlyn Williams in Hong Kong.

Banks also tend to be unforgiving when it comes to technical glitches at the candidate’s end. Vince Natteri, director of search firm Pinpoint Asia, has seen interviews go wrong when candidates use their phones to access the video. Laptops tend to have better and more stable cameras – even compared with phones mounted on stands – and their larger screens allow you to pick up on visual cues from the hiring manager. A solid wifi connection, backed up by mobile hotspot, is a given.

Try to make the meeting appear as corporate as possible – that means a “well-lit clean background” with little or no external noise, says Robert Sheffield, managing director for Greater China at recruiters Morgan McKinley. And don’t forget to silence your phone, while having it close by and turned on, just in case your laptop fails.

Sheffield says candidates shouldn’t expect video interviews to run seamlessly. “Ensure you give people the time to finish speaking, and if there are sound delays or quality issues, make it clear that you need them to repeat what they said,” he adds.

Wearing formal clothes is, of course, also a must. “Just because it’s a video conference doesn't mean that a T-shirt will do. First impressions are critical, so you need to look decked out for work,” says Natteri.

Photo by Holly Stratton on Unsplash

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