Dressing for a job interview can be sartorially daunting at the best of times. In the current lockdown situation what to wear becomes even more of a challenge as the interview will take place over a video call. Not only do you need to consider what you wear, you also need to ensure you show yourself in the best light, quite literally!
Whether online or in-person, the key to dressing for an interview is to plan your outfit well in advance. If you are likely to have more than one interview then be sure to have a few options at the ready.
This is not the time to overthink or take risks – save the risqué outfit for another time.
Research the company culture
There will be a marked difference in what you wear to a job interview in a fashion company to a job in the financial services. That doesn’t mean that you have to wear a hoodie to an interview with a tech start-up but looking overly formal in a suit won’t work either.
Ensure you understand the company values, dress code and what they are all about before choosing your outfit. This isn’t just about dressing smart or casually, it’s about showing that you understand the business e.g. if you are interviewing for an Architect with a minimalist ascetic your outfit will need to reflect this. If in doubt speak to the HR department and check out the website.
If in doubt, go smart
Once you understand the company dress code, take it up a notch for the interview. Even if the company has a very casual dress code you will be expected to make an effort for the interview.
Choose your colours wisely
Wear colours that flatter you from the neck down and ensure you don’t blend into the background. A white top against a white wall will not make you stand out. Black can also be draining as well as projecting a sombre image and very bright colours can be distracting. Mid shades in colours that enhance your natural skin tones are generally a good bet – as long as they don’t match the wall behind!
Keep accessories simple
Too much ‘bling’ and cartoon ties are definite no nos! Don’t avoid accessories altogether though as it’s important that you stand out from the crowd. A well-chosen scarf, necklace, or even a pocket square (if appropriate) add personality and will also help frame your face on the call.
Good grooming is non-negotiable
Grooming is a massive part of presenting a professional image and showing respect to your interviewer. Your lockdown locks might not be at their neatest but you should be able to tidy them enough to make them presentable. If you wear make-up, I would suggest wearing a little more than usual as it’s more flattering on video – don’t overdo it though.
Hair and nails should be clean and clothes crease-free as well as being comfortable. Don’t wear anything that you are likely to fiddle with and adjust. Steer clear of low necklines and anything that shows too much flesh.
Wear solid colours if possible as busy patterns can distort due to buffering issues on video. You don’t want to make your interviewer dizzy!
Dress from head to toe
By this I mean wear something appropriate on your bottom half. It may not be visible but being half-dressed means you may only be half present psychologically. Show respect for the process and get out of your pyjama bottoms and slippers!
If you are able to position yourself with natural light in front of you it is far more flattering. If this is not possible try to use artificial light behind your screen. Down and dingy lighting is very unkind to the face so should be avoided at all costs. Have your camera at eye level or slightly elevated so that the interviewer is focused on you and not your chin!
Always leave enough time to test how you look prior to the live call. If you have a Zoom account you can run a mock meeting or take a selfie with your phone. It’s the best way to check your outfit, grooming, and the light.
With the risk of sounding like a parent here, sit up straight, don’t slouch or fiddle, and look your interviewer in the eye. It’s easy to be distracted when you can see yourself on screen. Don’t be tempted to look at yourself during the call – I know it’s hard! Instead, find something on the interviewer to focus on and draw yourself back to this point when you feel your eyes wondering.
About the author
Sally Smy is a personal stylist and founder of Queen Bee Styling. Prior to setting up her business ten years ago, Sally had a successful 18-year career in fashion buying working for leading high street retailers.
She now specialises in helping professional women and men dress with confidence and create a wardrobe that plays to their strengths.
Sally is a partner of Capability Jane, Parenting & Professional, Transition Peak, and other organisations helping women work flexibly in the workplace. She also speaks at and hosts workshops at many women’s networks both online and off when restrictions allow.
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