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How to handle video interviews during the pandemic, as either recruiter or candidate

If you get an interview during this pandemic, it's not going to be face to face. Financial services firms are still hiring - just - but with most countries now on lockdown, no one is going to want to sit across a table and shake hands, even if the table is two metres wide.

Both recruiters and candidates are therefore coming together remotely, via video. And for people who haven't done video interviews before, they can take some getting used to. Here's how to make sure things go smoothly.

Situate the camera with care

Never, ever, do a video interview on a mobile phone. Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, says you need to position the computer or iPad to your advantage.  "Images are easily distorted, as is distance," he cautions.

In its guidance for candidates preparing for video interviews, Goldman Sachs says you need to ensure your laptop is positioned on a level plane with the eye of the camera.

Test the equipment in advance 

One finance recruiter with long experience in video interviews says this is biggest problem.  Spending the first few minutes fumbling with the software, or worse, being late to the interview due to technical problems, are all-too-common. Do a full software check and practice video chatting with a friend before even sitting down to an interview, she suggests. 

Cohen suggests using a separate headset to ensure high quality sound transmission.  "Even an inexpensive headset will improve communication.  Although most computers nowadays are equipped with both a camera and a microphone, the voice capability is usually inferior to a headset," he says.

Look people in the eye 

Yes, you're not meeting in person but you still need to develop a rapport. It's not easy to make eye contact during a video interview but you can at least make sure you're looking directly at the screen. As foreign as it feels, look into the camera to accentuate eye contact, says the recruiter. It helps to smile too: that's not a screen, but a person.

Cohen advises against watching yourself in the interview. "When you see yourself "live" — and with the likelihood of a delay in transmission — it is easy to get distracted," he advises.

Sort out your surroundings 

Before the interview starts, work out what can be seen. You don't want damp clothes in the purview of the camera. Nor do you want children, pets, or the remains of your lunch.

Sort out yourself

It goes without saying that you need to be appropriately dressed, but you could go further still.  "A little make-up may be helpful...even for men," says Cohen. "TV reporters use it to look better.  Why shouldn't you?"

Stop talking and check they're listening 

It can be hard to gauge the other party's reaction to what's being said if you're interviewing remotely. For this reason, experienced video interviewers say it's important to take stock and to be ultra-alert to the responses of the person on the other end of the camera. Don't just talk and talk - make sure you stop every few sentences and gauge their response. Create artificial breaks in the conversation and ask them if they'd like to respond.

One ex-Goldman Sachs recruiter says the key to video interviews is to be patient. If you're an interviewer you need to moderate the pace at which you ask the questions and to be very attuned to the fact that candidates might need a ittle more time than usual to process and prepare the answers. This is especially the case if English isn't their first language. 

Watch your body language and what you do with your hands

Be conscious of what you're doing at all times - because someone's not in the same room as you it can be easy to momentarily forget their presence. "Don't fidget.  You are heard AND seen," says Cohen.

One banking HR professional cautions that body-language can be hyper-exaggerated during video interviews. If you start moving your hands or fiddling with your hair out of nervousness, it will be much more evident than during an in-person interview. For this reason, you need to make sure you sit square onto the screen, preferably with your hands very firmly in your lap. 

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Photo by Lenin Estrada on Unsplash

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