The majority of job interviews are being conducted online--can your choice of professional clothing make or break your chances of being identified as the perfect candidate? Experts weigh in.
It's been just about a year since many offices and companies moved their business model from on-premises to working remotely to allow employees to work from home as needed. So, business attire has become a thing of the past for many employees as they get cozy in their loungewear and sweatpants.
While your pets at home don't care what you're wearing as you work at your kitchen desk, what you wear matters when it comes to sitting down in front of your phone or computer camera to impress recruiters or someone who you hope will be your future boss if you're doing an interview over Zoom or Microsoft Teams or another video conferencing software. While the professional atmosphere has become considerably more casual than workwear of the past (with the exception of some in corporate, politics, or law), it's still important to take advantage of the few moments of time to present yourself best.
SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
You don't need to run out and buy a new suit or outfit (this isn't a middle school graduation ceremony), but you do need to put yourself, your experience and capability ahead of an outfit of any kind that might be distracting. Don't call attention to your clothing, but to what you have to offer the company. That said, here's what experts had to say:
"A definite and universal rule would be not to show up in pajamas and to take the time to dress," mused Elisabeth Collazos, editor of Gemma magazine. "Avoid prints and patterns and stick to neutrals: black, grey, and white," she said. "They definitely come across well on camera. Also, since most people are doing zooms from their home, the neutrals will not interfere with the background."
Collazos suggested investing in a white background or conducting the interview in front of a white wall. "You won't clash with your background and the emphasis stays on you, not the background. This is more important than you think." There are also several appropriate Zoom virtual backgrounds for virtual interviews.
For women, "a solid go-to outfit would be black trouser pants with a feminine, but still business-like blouse." Collazos said. "A grey or white blouse would work well with the black trouser pants." Accessories are a good touch, but Collazos warned that it's "important to keep jewelry and makeup minimal. You definitely want to wear light makeup to show that you made the effort. With jewelry, go with small earrings or a watch and bracelet combination." She also suggested job hunters mine their own closets for the kind of combinations she suggested, or go to either Banana Republic or Nordstrom to find timeless separates that will last a long time, and not be dated by fashion.
"An easy way to dress appropriately for a virtual job interview is to click to the site of the company that's interviewing you and do a quick survey of the sartorial choices of the execs and key team members," advised Rafe Gomez co-owner of VC Inc. Marketing. "Use their examples as a guide that you can replicate when assembling your outfit for your virtual job interview." Craft "your visual presentation in a way that mirrors the company's existing style vibe, you'll instantly fit in and position yourself as a desirable ready-for-hire candidate."
Mary Savoca, co-founder and buyer at Ash & Rose said, "For a virtual interview in most industries, it doesn't make a lot of sense to wear a suit or anything extremely formal, but you still need to look crisp and professional, I recommend showing your personality through color, texture, and print, and choosing a slightly more structured style that fits well. Avoid anything that's low cut or adds extra bulk. This is a great opportunity to choose a new top or dress that is comfortable and even stretchy, that you'll be sure to wear more than once."
Savoca suggested three picks for women from her shop "for a Zoom interview:" Here are my top three picks for a zoom interview: The tailored Blue Confidence Dress, available in sizes XS to XL for $128; the Darjeeling Pocket Dress, which also comes in XS to XL, but retails for $112, and, the Sueded Veronica Top.
A rep from the Los Angeles-based, small-batch sustainable clothing line Paneros Clothing suggested the following for a woman's virtual interview: the 100% Tencel Kyle Shirt (available in sizes XS to XL, $120) and the red The Kate Blazer (available in XS, S, and M, $179) dubbing the sustainable pieces "the perfect business attire that will bring energy to any interview, even virtual."
"Wear business professional or business casual clothing if you are to be in a virtual interview," said John Peterson, editor of Safe Drive Gear. "What you wear represents your individuality. If you want the interviewers to see you as a credible and reliable person, show it on your appearance. Be presentable and prepared. Also, consider clothing that is comfortable to wear and you can use it again or upcycle."
Peterson recommends the following for men: The Slim Fit Japanese Oxford, which retails for $62, is available in five colors (in regular and tall) and six sizes, ranging from XS to XXL; The Brushed Flannel Shirt, which retails for $72, is available in two heathered colors, blue and olive, and is available in four sizes, XS to L; a knit blazer, which retails for $298, is available in three colors: burgundy, navy and olive, and in four sizes, S to XL; and a Brooks Brothers' shirt which are long-lasting and classic.
Suitably, specifically caters to women's professional wear. Suitably's workwear pieces all sell for less than $100. "The piece that every woman can wear, irrespective of her industry, for a virtual interview is our black, machine washable, 24/7 Blazer ($98)," said a company rep. "It's the wardrobe staple every woman needs and will ensure she looks polished. Dress it down with a sweater or layering shirt, dress it up with a shell or a button down long sleeve top." It's available in sizes 00 to 16. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be a petite, tall or plus alternative.
Tailored clothing not only fits properly, it just looks better and is more flattering. The clothing line Ash & Erie is for men 5"8 and under. A rep said, "The two founders were tired of wearing bagging shirts and ill-fitted pants, and wanted to solve a problem for the 40% of American men out there. They went on Shark Tank and Mark Cuban came on board to help fuel their mission. And that's the long and the short of it (see what I did there?)"
Sustainable fast-fashion is the buzzword for the clothing line Common Strand which offers men a versatile under-a-blazer or sweater tee-shirt for $39 that's available in four colors and six sizes (XS to XXL). There's a version of the hemp t-shirt for women, too. It also retails for $39 and is available in four colors, but only in five sizes (XS to XL).
Another sustainable clothing line is Sugopetite which has an eggplant colored streamlined, fitted, turtleneck dress called The Tulip, which is made from 30 recycled plastic bottles. It retails for $210 and is available in four sizes (XS to L). It's also ideal for the job seeker who worries about perspiration: the fabric is antibacterial, and both piling and odor resistant. And you'll look spiffy because the non-toxic fabric is also wrinkle resistant. If you want to wear it out, it has a 50 UPF sunscreen, too. Another dress, The Ruffled Tulip has all the features of the regular Tulip, but comes in ocean blue, has a scoop neck, ¾ sleeves with a ruffle at the end and a ruffle at the hem.
You shouldn't forget you're presenting the whole package: "Doing makeup for a Zoom meeting is not complicated, but it's not a photo shoot or red carpet, so if you're not a glam person, then no need to feel the pressure of wearing more makeup just because it's on camera," said celebrity makeup artist Nick Barose.
Keep shine away, he advised, "matte-down your T-zone with powder or a mattifying primer" (Urban Decay has one). "Even out skin tones with foundation and concealer that looks natural, anything too heavy or thick will look more exaggerated and look overdone." Barose says he loves Armani Luminous Silk Foundation and concealer. Add a healthy, natural tone on cheeks and lips, color should "look like it could be your own flush and lips colors, with just a bit of exaggeration. For lips, a bit of fresh sheen is great. But not too glossy as it's too distracting."
For eyes, "Define eyes but don't go too dark, I like super-thin liquid liner along the lash line and either soft brown or grey powder eyeshadow. Be sure the mascara is not too thick or chunky as it looks even more messy on camera."
Lastly, Barose said, "Make sure you have good frontal light. It might be smart to invest in one small or medium makeup ring light which adjusts brightness and warmth, and offers you a flattering light. I like the tabletop one, it makes everything better on Zoom. Bad lighting can make your makeup look even more sloppy on camera." If you don't have the YouTube favorite ring light, "You can put a lamp in front of your face. I take the shade off sometimes, if I need the light to look brighter. Check in-camera to see if the lighting is clean and flattering and then adjust."
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