We have seen a variety of candidates looking for work attempt to impress us with their experience, poise, communication, and attire. Unfortunately, as anyone who conducts interviews knows, sometimes people are a lot different in person than how they appear on paper. With the advent of online video communications technology such as Skype, companies can now save a lot of time and money by conducting a virtual interview, and the majority see it as the most effective way to interview someone besides using a traditional face-to-face meeting. In fact, a survey conducted last year by Futurestep showed that 71% of companies now use video interviews, and 50% use them to narrow down their list of potential job candidates.
But this has left job seekers with a couple important questions: Are virtual interviews more informal? What should you wear? Since the company may or may not tell you if this is a full-blown interview or a quick, informal vetting process, I suggest you always treat it like you would any other interview. More and more companies are coming to understand how a bad hire can hurt their bottom line.
Wear a Full Outfit
This may seem funny or obvious, but it’s important to state clearly-get fully dressed for your Skype interview. Don’t assume you will only be seen from the chest up. While you may think you have no reason to stand during a video interview, you never know what could happen. Video connections fail. Sound needs adjusting. Lighting looks terrible, and the interviewer can’t see you. Trust us; you don’t want to suddenly find yourself in the awkward position of having to get up and move around while wearing a suit jacket with sweatpants. To a potential employer, this comes across as you, didn’t leave enough time to get ready, don’t take the job seriously enough, or can’t be too pressed to do anything above the bare minimum.
One time a client of ours was vetting candidates and had set up a series of quick Skype interviews about 15 minutes long. The main purpose was to get to know them a little more, help them feel comfortable, and get a first impression of their professional appearance. Sure enough, one candidate was dressed very casually in a summer tank top and left the wrong impression. While this wasn’t a deal breaker for our client at the time, that overly casual persona continued to come out in other aspects of the interview, and the candidate was not selected for the position.
When it comes to video interviews, employers still want to know that they are hiring a professional even if the job is remote and you will get to sit in your pajamas until noon every day. You need to show them that you take the job seriously and can be counted on to act professionally, meet deadlines, and effectively manage your own time.
If you are applying for a more traditional position that requires going into an office every day, this is even more important. Employers want to see that you are treating this as a real interview. Men should still consider wearing a suit, or at least a shirt and tie, and women should dress professionally in a nice blouse or dress. If you know for sure the company prefers interviewees to dress more casually, your casual look should still be clean and professional. If you’re unsure, always choose the most professional option to be safe.
Dress for the Camera
If you’ve ever used Skype, Google Hangouts, or other video tools to have a conversation with someone, you know that sometimes the video and sound qualities aren’t always the best. Keeping this in mind, you need to make sure your attire doesn’t detract from the interview. Both men and women should follow the same principles here: avoid wearing anything with complicated or intricate patterns, such as a thin pinstripe suit or a busy floral top (these tend to look strange on a screen when you move around).
We also strongly discourage wearing all casual clothing like t-shirts and tank tops, partially because of my own experience. Neutral colors and blues are easier on the eye than bright whites, dark blacks, and other bold colors. Shiny or noisy jewelry and anything that can cast weird shadows become distracting when using a computer’s video and microphone features, so I suggest avoiding these as well.
In the end, treat your Skype interview like you would a face-to-face meeting, and use your best judgment. Dress in a way that matches the type of interview and company, and consider getting a second opinion on your appearance beforehand.