So you got invited to a Zoom job interview…congratulations! But you might be wondering how to dress for a Zoom interview that takes place halfway between your bed and your Netflix-watching zone.
*Quick Tip:* Is your interview in 10 minutes? Here’s what to do:
- Google the company.
- Look at their team page or pictures on their website. (You can also look at the LinkedIn profile pictures of people who work at the company.)
- What are they wearing? Match their level of formality. Are they wearing suits? Wear a suit. Are they dressed in button-downs or dresses without ties? Match that vibe.
For more detailed instructions, read on to learn what precisely to wear to ace your Zoom interview.
Zoom is the New Normal
These days remote work is increasingly the norm.
Of all job-holders in the US, 58% say they can work1https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/real-estate/our-insights/americans-are-embracing-flexible-work-and-they-want-more-of-it at least part of the time remotely.
More and more of life, work, and job interviews will take place on Zoom. And there are slightly different rules of social engagement on Zoom to master.
Knowing the proper etiquette and psychology for how to show up on Zoom will boost your chance of landing that job.
Why It’s Important to Think About How to Dress for a Zoom Interview
When it comes to in-person interviews, It’s well-known that every detail counts. Because the interviewer has so little time to get to know you, it disproportionately impacts your clothes, handshake, and physical presence.
The same is true of Zoom, except because you’re only communicating through a 10 by 8-inch sheet of glass and LED, the interviewer has even less information on which to base their impression of you.
Every aspect they see of you is critical.
Many people mistakenly send off distracting or unprofessional signals by wearing the wrong colors, having improper lighting, or dressing too casually.
In this guide, we’ll ensure you avoid all the pitfalls and make all the right choices in how to dress for your Zoom interview to give yourself the best possible shot to land the job.
How Formal Should You Go?
To figure out how formally you should dress for your interview, let’s first go over the levels of formality.
The 5 levels of formality
How formally should you dress for your Zoom interview?
It’s important to get this right since studies show that what you wear2https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2782564 impacts how others perceive your professionalism.
To lay our groundwork, let’s briefly go over the five levels of formality3https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/starting-new-job/guide-to-business-attire in business attire.
This is the most formal attire out there, and it’s reserved for award ceremonies and benefit dinners. Think long evening dress or a black suit and bowtie.
Unless you’re applying to host the next Oscars, you won’t need to worry about going this formal for your interview. If you dress too formally, it might feel discordant to your interviewer. Imagine showing up to an interview where the interviewer is wearing sneakers, jeans, and a t-shirt, while you are wearing a ballroom gown or a tuxedo. Being too formal could convey superiority or being out of touch.
This is the most formal attire that you’d actually wear to work. Think dark suit, plain tie, and leather shoes. Or a suit with a blouse, nylons, and heels.
The industries most likely to expect business formal attire are law, finance, accounting, government, and executive-level corporate positions.
This is the next most formal option. Here think slacks, khakis, blazers, button-down shirts, cardigans, skirts, blouses, simple jewelry, boots, heels, and loafers.
Industries that may have business casual attire include marketing and advertising, insurance, non-profit, or education.
Smart casual is one step looser than business casual. It’s similar to business casual but with more room for style and personality.
You could include more color, stripes and patterns, clean sneakers, sweaters, polo shirts, chinos, more jewelry, scarves, flats, dark jeans, and bomber jackets.
The least formal attire code is casual. This would include tee shirts, jeans, sneakers, denim jackets, sundresses, and sandals.
Over 50% of businesses embrace a casual dress code4https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2018%20Employee%20Benefits%20Report.pdf, and this dress code is most popular with newer tech companies and startups.
Formality is a spectrum
Notice how attire is a spectrum from casual to formal. More formal tends to mean fewer colors, more homogenous options, and less personal flair.
Also, notice how “casual” attire does not include sweatpants, tank tops, workout clothes, Macklemore-esque fur coats, or cat ears. There is a level of dress that is even more casual than “casual,” and it’s best to avoid those clothing options for your interview.
Now that you know the levels of formality, let’s determine how formally you should dress for your Zoom interview. Here are the steps to take to find out.
Double-check your interview invitation
Sometimes, companies will include the dress code in your interview invitation.
Double-check their last email to see if the company included the dress code.
If not, it’s time to put your detective monocle on and follow the following steps.
Look at pictures on the company website or the LinkedIn profile of the person interviewing you
Look at the pictures of the team on the company website, and see if you can suss out what people are wearing in their photos. It is also helpful to look for pictures on the website of people in action working.
If you can place their style in any of the five categories, then you are good to go. If there aren’t any pictures on the website, then it’s time to use some more deduction skills.
Look at the copywriting language
Usually, the formality of a company will manifest itself not just in its dress code but also in its social norms, company culture, and overall brand.
This means you can explore how the company presents itself on its website to deduce its dress code. The easiest way to do this is to assess its use of language.
The most casual companies might write “hey” instead of “hello,” use emojis, acronyms, and one-word sentences, and include plenty of wits. Casual companies tend to have a louder “voice” in their writing.
More formal companies use more formal language. In your email, the company may have written “Dear Mrs…” instead of “Hello.” On their website, they might use only formal grammar and word choice and will steer clear of any humor.
What to do if you’re uncertain of the company’s dress code
If you have no clue what the formality of the company is, default to business casual. It’s a happy middle ground that won’t feel too snooty for casual companies and is still within reach of business professional companies.
In this survey, business casual5https://hbr.org/2020/06/dress-for-the-remote-job-you-want ranked as the most authentic, innovative, and trustworthy compared to casual and business formal attire.
What Colors to Wear and Avoid on Your Zoom Interview
Avoid all black
As a rule of thumb, avoid wearing all black on Zoom. The camera won’t pick up the texture of your black fabric too well. And if your background is dark, you might appear like a floating head. You can wear a black blazer or jacket but try not to go for all black.
(timestamp of still frame: 1:35)
Avoid all white
If you wear an all-white shirt with no accessories, tie, or jacket, the camera will focus on the white and darken everything else accordingly. So if you wear white, it may dim the lighting on your face.
Avoid busy patterns
Wearing patterns can be distracting and take the focus off your face.
But also, if the patterns are too small, it can create an effect called moiré, when repetitive pattern details are too small for the resolution, creating a distracting wavy pattern.
Avoid flesh-colored tops
Avoid wearing colors that are too close to your skin color. Wearing clothes that are similar to your skin tone can make it look like you’re naked. Even if the interviewer doesn’t believe you are naked, they might subconsciously perceive you that way. For an interview, it’s best to avoid that possibility.
Wear a color that’s different than your background
Think of your Zoom box as a portrait painting. There is the background and the foreground. You are the foreground, and want to ensure that you stand out as the center of your portrait.
So pay attention to the colors in your background, and wear a different color. If you have a beige wall behind you and wear a beige shirt, you’ll blend into the background.
Aim to wear a color that contrasts with your background.
Opt for neutral tones
According to this survey, people on Zoom came off as most authentic, expert, and innovative when wearing neutral colors5https://hbr.org/2020/06/dress-for-the-remote-job-you-want instead of bright colors or patterns. Though people ranked slightly more innovative when wearing bright colors, which may be good if you’re interviewing for a more creative job.
If you are unsure, neutral tones are the safest bet.
Here is a graphic where you can pick from a palette of neutral colors (remembering to avoid anything too close to white or black).
Colors: putting it all together
When in doubt, wear solid, neutral colors that aren’t too close to white or black that stand out from your background.
Wear Nice Bottoms During Your Zoom Interview
While it’s true that the interviewer will likely not see below your waist, it’s a good idea to assume that they will see your pants. You never know if you’ll need to get up during your interview or if you’ll knock the angle of your webcam.
There are too many “Zoom Fail” montages on Youtube whose ranks you do not want to join.
So wear a full outfit—top and bottom.
Avoid These Garments
If the company has a casual dress code, you might opt for a T-shirt. But make sure to avoid these mistakes.
No graphic tees
Graphic tees are fun and show character but are too heavily associated with recreation and unprofessionalism. For your interview, it’s best to pick a plain t-shirt color over your favorite Rick and Morty tee.
We live in a hot political climate, and it’s best not to ruffle any feathers inadvertently with your political views.
No baseball hats
Baseball hats, while trendy and functional, scream overly casual. Make sure not to wear a hat.
If you must cover your head, opt for a flat cap, fedora, or something more formal.
More of our favorite clothing hacks:
Dress to Optimize Your Internal State
While it’s essential to get the colors and formality right on your outfit, it’s equally important to wear an outfit that gives you an emotional edge.
This boils down to three aspects.
Wear something comfortable for sitting
You want an outfit that you feel comfortable sitting in. You don’t want to feel constricted, itchy, or like the inside of your wool jacket is a sauna. Sometimes we look in the mirror while standing, but our Zoom interview is sitting! Make sure your shirt or dress does not bunch in all the wrong places.
Those discomforts will distract your attention from showing up powerfully for your interview.
Consider these factors when picking your outfit:
- How well does the fabric breathe
- How soft is the material
- How loose is the fit
- Is it the right temperature
- Are there any buttons, zippers, or strings in places that might irritate you
Dress to feel confident
Studies show that what you wear affects how you perceive yourself6https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/hrdq.1208.
Make sure to wear clothes that have you feel confident, and it will come through in your interview.
If you’re not sure, you can envision yourself showing up to the interview in each of your outfit options and imagine which one creates the deepest feeling of self-confidence.
Clothes aren’t the only way we influence others. If you want to learn more about the laws of influence, check this out.
Become More Influential
Want to become an influential master? Learn these 5 laws to level up your skills.
Don’t wear clothes that might create self-consciousness
Make sure you avoid wearing clothes that have you feel self-conscious.
If you’re worried that you’re showing too much skin, you’re not “cool” enough to pull off that color, or your sleeves are too short, then some of your awareness will focus on that self-consciousness.
This subtle distraction might hinder your ability to ace the interview.
If you try an outfit on and you feel a trace of self-consciousness, ditch it for a different one.
Groom Yourself that Day
If you come into the interview freshly groomed, it will signify to the interviewer that you put care into your preparation.
You know your grooming habits better than anyone, so do whatever you need to with your hair, face, and skin to make it look like you put in the time.
Should You Wear Jewelry to Your Zoom Interview?
Jewelry can be a great option to add extra care and flair to your image. If you’re going to wear jewelry, go with something subtle so that it doesn’t dominate your Zoom portrait.
When in Doubt, Think of Yourself as a Brand
If you feel indecisive about what to wear, you can picture yourself as a brand. You are a one-person company with a message, a set of values, a skillset, and an aesthetic.
How would you present yourself as a representative of your professional brand?
Here’s a great example of what Seth Godin wears on his website’s home page. One picture says it all:
Use Zoom’s Visual Features
Presenting yourself on Zoom starts with what you wear, but there are also features on Zoom that can add to your look.
Turn on high definition
You can turn your camera to HD on Zoom to provide a clearer image of yourself.
Just click the small arrow next to the video icon, then click the box that says “HD.”
Adjust for low lighting
If the lighting in your room is unideal and there’s nothing you can do about it, try this Zoom feature.
Click the small arrow next to the video icon, then click the box that says “Adjust for low light.”
Touch up your face
Zoom also provides a “touch-up” feature to make your face look younger, smoother, and glowy.
Again click the small arrow next to the video icon, and this time click the box that says “Touch up my appearance.”
Some folks might feel disingenuous using this feature to cover up their wrinkles, while others may have no problem using it. Leave it up to your discernment about what feels right for you.
Set Up Your Seating Arrangement
Get the right camera angle
You’ll want your laptop camera to be about eye-height for your interview. This way, your gaze is level with the camera. It can feel unsettling if you are looking up or looking down at the person you’re talking to
If you need to elevate your laptop, you can use a stack of books.
Get your posture just right
Just like in in-person interviews, posture is critical. Posture impacts both how you feel about yourself7https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ejsp.607 and what image you are projecting.
If you lean too far into the camera, it will feel too up-close and crowded to the other person. And if you are leaning back too much, you might come off as aloof or disengaged.
In general, sit upright with your shoulders open and back. Think “open and expand.”
Pro Tip: Want more vocal power? Try standing. Use a standing desk or prop your laptop up on a stack of books. This may allow you to control more oxygen as you speak, creating a deeper, more rich voice.
How to Pick Your Background
So you know what to wear and how to orient towards the camera. But your background is also a considerable part of your Zoom portrait. This Harvard study found that on Zoom, people feel more impacted by the other person’s background5https://hbr.org/2020/06/dress-for-the-remote-job-you-want than their clothing type or color.
So follow these background tips to optimize your Zoom presence.
Keep it tidy
If you choose to use your actual background, it’s crucial to keep your room clean. Your space reflects your character, so make sure the room behind you reflects competence.
If you tend to embrace mess and chaos, make sure to clean the night before so you don’t feel a last-minute rush before your interview.
Put a little character in it
If you’d like, you can include one object in your background that either relates to the position you’re applying for or speaks to your personality. It could be a degree on the wall, a trophy, or a bouquet of flowers.
Your interviewer may even remark on your background, which will give you a chance to talk about your item.
According to this survey, people with plants in the background felt more approachable, intelligent, and trustworthy8https://www.signs.com/zoom-backgrounds/. And people with books in their background came off as more professional.
Just make sure the background doesn’t steal the attention from you.
To figure out what to pick, ask yourself: what is something I feel proud of about myself, and how can I express that through an item?
Zoom also allows you to use virtual backgrounds. The options span from a chair on a tropical beach to floating in outer space in Earth’s orbit.
However, virtual backgrounds do have their drawbacks. They don’t track perfectly, and your head or hands can disappear at any given moment, or an object from your actual room might pierce through the veil.
Virtual backgrounds can also come off as hokey and make you appear less trustworthy and authentic5https://hbr.org/2020/06/dress-for-the-remote-job-you-want. So be careful if you do choose to go with this route.
But if you have no other option because your home is under renovation or your kid just tested their new marker on the wall behind your desk, either go with the “blur” background or a simple and tasteful room. To explore these options more, check out this article.
Protect Your Space From Interruptions
If you have pets, kids, or roommates, attend to them before your call. Ensure everyone in your home knows not to enter your room for that hour. Maybe put a “do not disturb” sign on the doorknob.
If possible, it’d be best not to be like this guy!
Create Good Lighting
When it comes to video calls, good or bad lighting can make all the difference. Here are a few tips on how to be well-lit.
Use a ring light
Ring lights are bright lights you can hook to the top of your laptop to cast a light on your face. They are a great option to look well-illuminated.
Create a makeshift lamp arrangement
If you don’t have a ring light, you can place lamps behind your laptop to point at your face.
If it’s dark outside and you only rely on your overhead light, it can cast shadows along your face, so lamps are a great choice.
Use a window
Suppose it’s daytime, park in front of a window to take advantage of natural lighting. It’s ideal to have the window right in front of you to illuminate your face or at a slight angle to cast subtle, flattering shadows.
Don’t take a call with a window behind you; otherwise, you’ll drown your face out in the light.
And avoid relying on window light if your call crosses the threshold from daytime to sunset because the lighting will change and might leave you in a shadowy mess.
Do a Zoom Test Run Before the Interview
It pays to come prepared!
Before your interview, sign onto your Zoom account and test your outfit, lighting, and background.
There are several benefits to this.
Make sure you look good
First, you can see how your outfit looks on the camera, ensure you’ve lined up your camera angle, and verify that your background looks clean and organized.
Minimize the likelihood of tech challenges
Tech challenges happen. And usually at the worst possible time!
But if you arrive early for your call, you can negate some of the major ones.
- Make sure your camera works
- Make sure your microphone works
- Make sure you properly connect your Bluetooth headphones to Zoom
- Ensure that you’ve installed any Zoom updates so you don’t find yourself installing 5 minutes of updates right before your call
- Make sure your Zoom “name” matches your actual name. Maybe you met on Zoom with your Dungeons and Dragons group last night and forgot to change your name back to normal. You don’t want to show up to your Zoom interview as The Dwarven Warlord of the Red Mist.
Arrive early to your interview
Even if you tested all of your lighting and tech out earlier that day, arriving a few minutes early is wise to ensure all systems are running before the call.
If you arrive early and have a few minutes to spare, avoid playing with filters to pass the time. You don’t want to end up like this guy who got stuck as a cat.
Instead, it might be better to go over any intentions of how you want to show up to the interview or calm yourself with some deep breaths.
How to Dress for a Zoom Interview FAQs
Below are some concise answers to some of the more popular questions about the topic of what you should wear to your Zoom interview.
First, discover what the company dress code is. Then dress in that level of formality, leaning towards neutral colors that differentiate you from your background. Ensure you wear clothes that are comfortable and have you feel confident. Make sure you wear clothes on your bottom half and that you avoid graphic or political T-shirts.
In a Zoom interview, it’s best to wear neutral colors. Just make sure to avoid wearing black or colors that are too dark because they may fade into the background, avoid wearing white or colors that are too light because they may cause your face to be dimly lit, and avoid wearing colors that are too similar to your background so you don’t look like a floating head.
Yes! Just make sure to match the company’s dress code and expectations. Figure out what the dress code for the company is, and then you can dress up accordingly. Just because the interview is on Zoom doesn’t mean that you should wear your pajamas!
The dress code depends on the company you’re interviewing for. Company dress codes will likely be either business professional, business casual, smart casual, or casual. Once you figure out what their dress code is, then just dress to match.
It’s best to use your actual background for your interview. Just make sure it’s tidy and that no kids, animals, or roommates will run behind you. You can also choose to include an object of interest that showcases your personality or credibility in some way—be it a plant, a sculpture, or a degree on the wall. If possible, avoid using a virtual background since statistics show them to make you seem less trustworthy.
Dress for Success in Your Zoom Interview
Just remember these tips, and you’ll be in great shape for your interview:
- Determine how formal the company’s dress code is, and match it. If you’re unsure, opt for business casual
- Wear neutral colors, and avoid patterns
- Wear bottoms!
- Don’t wear graphic tees or political statements
- Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident and not self-conscious
- Groom yourself the day of your interview
- Jewelry is a great choice, but don’t overdo it
- Imagine yourself as a brand that you are presenting
- Use Zoom’s video features to optimize your lighting and camera definition
- Sit at eye level with your laptop with an upright posture
- Use your natural background, but make sure to clean it
- Try to avoid virtual backgrounds
- Do your best to prevent kids, pets, or roommates from barging in or making noise
- Prioritize great lighting with a ring light, a lamp setup, or by arranging next to a window
- Do a trial run before your call to avoid technical challenges and ensure your outfit, background, and lighting are spot on.
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