How to Style Yourself and Your Background for Video Interviews.
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
During coronavirus (and potentially for a long while after) it’s safe to say that the great majority of interviews will be conducted either over the phone or over video applications like Zoom, Skype or FaceTime. Spend a little time ahead of these interviews to make sure you make the best impression.
For video interviews, dress and groom as you would for an in person interview. Professional clothing, hair and attention to your overall appearance are vital.
You: As we all know, we can only see the top half of you! I won’t comment on shorts, flip flops or PJ pants on the bottom half. Whatever makes you comfortable, go for it. But up top, be sure you look professional. This means tailored tops and shirts that fit you well, are clean and without snags or tears. You probably don’t have to wear a tie and jacket or formal suit for most Zoom interviews unless you’re interviewing for a very formal role like in Investment Banking, a law firm or the government. Otherwise a nice button down, blouse or sweater is appropriate.
Keep the colors basic and no wild patterns. You don’t have to hide your personality, AT ALL, but you don’t want your clothing to be a distraction or to say something about you that you didn’t intend.
Your approach to your hair, make up and jewelry should be the same. Just keep it toned down. And if you have to wear ear buds try to use the most unobtrusive kind you can. Definitely avoid big headphones. Again, you don’t need to squelch your individuality, but you don’t want it to become a talking point either (unless you do and then go for that!).
Definitely try a few outfits in front of your webcam or on your phone before the big interview.
Your Background/Location: This is almost as important as your personal appearance. Not only do you need to be in a location that’s quiet, with good wifi and in which you won’t get interrupted during your interview, but you want the background to make you look good!
This means no obvious personal effects in the immediate background like unmade beds, piles of clothing, a messy kitchen or coffee table covered with take out. Again, move your laptop to various locations to get a background that’s peaceful to look at and keeps the focus on you. Also try not to position yourself in front of a blank wall. One of my favorite Twitter accounts is called RoomRater, @ratemyskyperoom. This is a hilarious and savvy account that rates the backgrounds of people interviewed over Zoom. If you Twitter, take a few minutes to look at this account. I’ve learned so much from it. RoomRater calls videos shot in front of a blank wall, “hostage videos,” and I totally get that. With a blank wall right behind you, you can look like you're being held in a secure location.
Likewise you don’t want too many items in the background to be distracting, and definitely no people moving around back there! Be sure it doesn’t appear as if any plants or lamps in the room are sticking out of your head, you don’t want to be backlit with your face in shadow, or washed out from light coming in from a side window. Experiment ahead of time with all of these things. Soft lighting coming from in front of you is generally best, and lights turned on behind you in the room are also great. If you can, give your background some depth, meaning that you have some visible distance behind you, but you are the focus.
Be sure to pay attention to the angle of your webcam. You may need to raise your laptop up on a few books so that you feel as if you’re looking the interviewer in the eye. Stay well away from the up the nostrils or the double chin angle. And finally, clean your camera lens. Many people touch these and they get dirty and blurry.
Make yourself comfortable ahead of time with your location and appearance and you will be able to better focus during the interview and make a great first impression!