8 mistakes to avoid in an online job interview

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(MoneyWatch) Ever had an online video interview as part of a job search? Chances are that if you haven't, you will soon. Every day, more recruiters are using this tool to save time and money.

But because pitching their credentials by computer is new for many job seekers, mistakes are common. Here are eight things you'll want to avoid in order to present yourself onscreen as a capable candidate:

Not setting the stage. Whether you're in a home office or in a studio apartment, the background your interviewer sees needs to look as professional as possible. A cluttered space is a strike against you before you even open your mouth. "You'll be painting a picture of a disorganized person who lets things pile up," says Bill Horne of William Warren Consulting.

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Failing to ask if the connection is clear. Avoid technical difficulties by immediately asking if your interviewer can hear and see you clearly. "It is in your best interest not to proceed if technical difficulties present themselves as the interviewer will be challenged in focusing on your responses and it has the potential to reflect poorly on you," says Lynda Zugec, managing director at The Workforce Consultants. If needed, ask to quickly reboot the connection.

Watching yourself instead of the interviewer. Look directly into the camera instead of at your interviewer on the screen or at your image. This will create direct eye contact. For some candidates, the urge to watch themselves is too strong, and it becomes a distraction for both parties. "If you can't get used to seeing your image as you talk, turn off the two-[way] shot," suggests career expert Nicole Williams, founder of Works by Nicole Williams.

Having bad posture. Your posture should convey that you are relaxed yet attentive. So lean in ever-so-slightly, but don't crowd the camera (and in turn, the interviewer), warns Kendall Slagle, public relations manager at online coupon publisher Vertive. "Do not sit too close to the camera, and sit up straight."

Talking over your interviewer. Connection delays make this an easy mistake to commit, and it can make for an uncomfortable conversation. "Wait for the interviewer to stop speaking before you answer. This also gives you a few seconds to think about what you want to say before you speak," says attorney and consultant Jessica Silverstein, founder of Attorneys Counsel NY.

Forgetting to smile? Since you're speaking to a computer, it can be tempting to act like a robot. And that's not going to help you sell yourself. "The candidate's face is the only window that the interviewer has to their personality," notes Christy Grimste, director of teacher placement firm Educators Overseas. The fix is simple: "Put a sticky note above the computer reminding [you] to smile."

Repeatedly touching your face. We all touch our faces throughout the day, but when someone is staring directly at you, it becomes more obvious and unsettling. "Be mindful of your self-touching, such as itching your nose or touching your hair, as it can make you appear nervous or uncertain -- the last thing you want in a Skype interview, where the viewing window is so small," says communication expert Wayne Soares.

Sitting in a dark room or area. Your interviewer wants to see you in order to "meet" you. Otherwise, they would've asked you for a phone interview. "If your lighting is too dark, the interviewer will not get a clear picture of who you are and might be distracted," says Amanda Guaralski, president of bizMe Consulting. It's a good idea to practice a Skype interview just like you would any other. Your practice interviewer can alert you to any issues they perceive, lighting or otherwise.

What's your best online video interview tip?

Photo courtesy of Skype 

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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