How to Dress for Success Before a Virtual Job Interview

The Virtual Training Agent for Veterans, or VITA4VETS, is a virtual simulation designed to build job interviewing competence and confidence, while reducing anxiety. Juan Gutierrez, a 33-year-old Navy veteran with experience in aviation electronics tries out the new system. (Army Research Laboratory)

A job interview is stressful enough. What do you say? How do you sit? What questions do you ask? How do you do it all without worrying about what to wear?

You might think you’re off the hook if the interview is virtual (either via phone or video), but that’s not the case.

Why to Dress for a Phone Interview

It’s all about mindset. Sure, you could conduct a phone interview in boxer shorts and slippers, but your attitude, composure and communication will come across differently.

For a phone interview during which they will not be physically seeing you, I still recommend dressing up. Why? Because when we dress as we would for an in-person meeting, we bring a more polished, focused and professional tone to the conversation. You’re putting yourself mentally in “interview mode” and will be more aligned with the discussion than if you aim for a more casual or relaxed appearance.

A phone interview allows you to have your notes, questions, websites and resume in front of you for easy reference. Prepare for the phone interview as you would for a face-to-face meeting, and the results will typically be better.

What to Wear for a Video Interview

Video job interviews are tricky; the interviewer can only see you from the waist or shoulders up. Most candidates make the mistake of only focusing their image and wardrobe on the aspects of their appearance that are visible.

What if you need to stand up during the interview? Wearing pants is vital! If you’d wear a business suit to the interview in person, do the same for a virtual one. Include the shoes, socks and cufflinks -- if that’s how you’d show up in the flesh.

Depending on the industry and the job, it may be appropriate instead to skip the jacket and wear a well-fitting dress shirt and tie. This is where researching the company in advance is helpful.

For women: Dress professionally and include the heels and jewelry you’d wear in person. Remember that anything distracting (i.e., dangly bracelets that make noise against your desk) can be off-putting.

Style your hair as you would in person. Avoid too much hair in your face; sweeping it to the sides or even in a ponytail or bun can make you feel more polished and avoid distractions. If you wear makeup, apply slightly more for the camera, as your lights may wash you out a bit. Pay attention to grooming (brush your teeth, trim your beard and mustache) as the focus will be mostly on your face in a video meeting. Keep your nails and hands groomed and clean, so that if they enter the camera view, they are appropriate.

Depending on the colors of your background, or if you blur the background, dark colors typically work best for virtual meetings. That said, if you prefer a bright color, and you know the company culture embraces individuality, then wear what makes you feel most confident.

Try on the outfit you’ll wear in advance. Watch for gaps, pulls or anything that could be so uncomfortable to you that you aren’t focused on bringing your best self to the interview.

Treat a virtual interview as you would an in-person one to ensure you show up as the same person they’ll (hopefully) meet one day soon!

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