You’ve landed this interview, and it’s on zoom.
If you’re new to using a video conferencing platform for work, you might have questions like, “Can I really just wear pajamas?” or “Do people really go pantsless in Zoom meetings?”
(The answers are no, and if they get it right, no one will ever know.)
With remote work remaining popular, even as some businesses return to the office, your next business may not be on site, so Zoom (resp Microsoft Teamsor Google Meetetc.) as you are likely to talk to your potential new employers.
When it comes to a virtual interview, there are three main considerations: the company’s workplace culture, your personal Zoom environment, and basic on-camera tips for looking professional.
When in doubt, disguise yourself
If it’s a corporate job, you can’t go wrong dressing as a business professional in a suit or jacket and tie. And no, you don’t have to worry about wearing a skirt or pants, but you do need to wear something other than pajama bottoms in case you need to get up suddenly for whatever reason.
If you know for sure that the company’s office culture is casual, you may still want to appear more professional than in the office or follow the general rules of business casual, which differ from casual casual.
What is the difference?
- Business casual is a less formal style of business attire. For example, instead of a suit and tie, an employee may wear khakis or jeans with a button-down shirt or blouse or collarless sweater and perhaps a jacket. Ties are not required, but business casual allows for a more personal style. Scarves, prints and lighter colors are acceptable – and if a tie is part of your personal style, feel free to wear one.
- Importantly, business casual attire is neat and clean and doesn’t make you look like you’re having a day off.
- Casual casual is loungewear, pyjamas, beachwear and scuffed t-shirts (although t-shirts in good condition are often appropriate for business casual, especially when paired with a jacket). You may actually do your work in casual clothing, especially if you’re working from home, but you want to look more professional at a job interview – and once you get the job, the same goes for business meetings.
Ultimately, always look for clues. If you get a pre-interview email that says, “We’re strictly casual, no suits!” then that’s the guide to follow.
(And think of leaders in the workplace: any written dress code should be gender-neutral.)
your background environment
If you’re new to video calling, consider where you’ll place your laptop for the interview, including your surroundings.
A blank, neutral wall is safe – maybe a little boring, but safe. It can take quite a bit of furniture to get past a wall like this if your desk normally has your back to a room, but it’s worth the effort if it means you’re not standing and holding your laptop or phone have to. That won’t work, and it definitely won’t look professional.
Ideally, you’ll have a corner of your room where you can curate a backdrop—perhaps a bookshelf or artwork behind you. That adds just a little bit of your personality without revealing too much. Just don’t overdo it to the point of distraction (and check this out room rater for inspiration).
If you have no choice but to fully see a room in your background, make it as uncluttered as possible. You can also use Zoom’s blur feature for more privacy or a simple, neutral Zoom background.
Things to avoid:
- Nature – This is fine for informal work meetings, but don’t look too relaxed for a job interview. They want to see you in an “office” environment. Depending on the location, noise can also be an issue outdoors.
- Coffee Shops – Again, fine if you have the job and attend informal meetings, but coffee shops can be noisy and distracting and you may need to speak loudly about your business with the interviewee in public.
- New Backgrounds – It can be a fun thing to communicate with teammates, but a background that puts you on a space station, in Middle-earth, or on a tropical island doesn’t show you’re serious about the job.
- Sitting in front of a window or other light source – backlight is not your friend in front of the camera. If you have a lot of natural light, maneuver your setup so that you face it.
If you are not comfortable with your space, you can use a free study room or meeting room at your public library (reservation usually required), community center, school, or coworking space.
Tips for the camera
Unless you use Zoom a lot, it’s a good idea to do a test run before the interview, alone or with a friend, and make sure everything is ready for interview time.
- Is the camera height correct? You should be looking directly at the camera, not at her. And while a tall camera makes for flattering selfies, you shouldn’t look up either. If your desk isn’t height adjustable, use books or crates to raise your laptop to eye level (and consider getting a laptop riser).
- Is the light bright enough? A ring light can make your eyes pop, and small “selfie” ring lights that clip to your laptop are cheap. Otherwise, place a lamp near your setup to brighten things up when needed.
- Your clothes should set you apart from the background. If your background is white, choose a light color; If your background includes artwork or stacks of books, wear solid colors if you want to follow the advice of the many Zoom fashion advisors that have appeared since 2020.
- If you wear makeup, make sure the light doesn’t look streaky or uneven and that any lip or eye color complements your shirt on camera.
- Don’t overdo the filters. Zoom has a filter called “Enhance My Looks” under the video settings that gives you a subtle boost that shouldn’t be noticeable. Applying more filters will quickly catch the eye of most people and will look unnatural, potentially turning off interviewers.
Once you get this done, Zoom interviews and meetings become less stressful. Just watch out for Zoom burnout once you get the job.