Virtual interviews have become increasingly common nowadays. In fact, according to a 2021 survey from Jobvite, 22% of recruiters believed that remote interviews would be the default going forward, and 61% said they expected the hiring process to be a combination of virtual and in-person.
For candidates, there are a lot of benefits to a remote interview. You don’t have to be nervous about getting lost on the way to the office or being delayed by transit-related holdups. But whether an interview is remote or in-person, one question remains: What should you wear?
There’s one simple answer, says Christine Heinrich, a recruiting manager at Taurean Consulting Group, a woman-owned, Las Vegas-based IT staffing and project solutions company. “I recommend wearing exactly what you would wear if you were going for an in-person interview,” she told The Balance via email. “Being dressed in this way exudes professionalism and confidence. You will instantly feel more qualified to be in the situation.”
Still, there may be some nuances to keep in mind when it comes to choosing your outfit for a remote interview. Here’s what experts recommend.
- Wear the same interview attire to a remote interview as you would to an in-person interview.
- Be careful about stripes or very dense patterns as they can be distracting.
- Check your background and lighting before the interview to see how you appear on camera
- While attire can help set the tone for a conversation with a hiring manager, there’s no need to feel overstressed about what to wear.
Dress for the Job You Want
According to Heinrich, if you would wear a jacket to the interview, wear it on camera, too. Overly casual outfits can be a stumbling block. She recalled that a candidate recently received negative feedback for wearing a tank top and having their hair in a ponytail.
Likewise, if you wouldn’t wear it during an in-person interview, avoid it during a remote interview as well. “Every company and culture is different, but as a general rule of thumb, don’t wear items of clothing that may be perceived as offensive,” said career expert and talent acquisition lead Olga Etkina, founder of Black Swan Careers and creator of Cultivate Career Authority, via email to The Balance. For example, stay away from shirts with curse words, she said. Also on the don’t wear list: sunglasses, T-shirts, and pajamas.
Know Your Industry and Audience
Outfit expectations are different when you’re applying for a role in the c-suite than if you’re interviewing for a retail job. That’s why it’s wise to know your audience, Etkina said to wear a suit if you need to, or, alternatively, don’t wear a suit when the culture is very laid back.
If you’re working with a recruiter, ask for advice on your outfit. The recruiter is there to help you succeed.
While you want to dress to meet the standards of the company, you’ll also want to avoid feeling as if you’re putting on a costume, said Linda Davis, the USA training manager for stylists at style advice brand House of Colour, via phone to The Balance. Opt for an outfit that’s appropriate but also feels authentic to who you are, she recommends.
Consider Going a Bit More Casual
While you should dress for the job you want and meet the role's standards of formality, in general, remote interviews may be innately more casual than in-person ones.
“Here’s what I’m hearing: It’s going more casual,” Davis said. Where a suit might make sense at an in-person interview, business casual may be sufficient for remote interviews, for instance. But when in doubt, opt to be more formal.
Wear Interview-Appropriate Pants or a Nice Skirt
While it’s not likely your bottom half will show up during a remote interview, try not to risk a sitcom-like mishap by neglecting to wear professional clothes below the waist. “This way, if anything happens and you have to stand up and move, you’re fully prepared to handle the situation,” Etkina advised.
A surprising number of people wear sweats or other non-professional bottoms. It’s unlikely this would be a deal-breaker to a potential employer. But if you are seen wearing shorts with your suit jacket, it could leave you feeling stressed, which in turn could negatively affect your job performance.
Bottom line: Why risk it? Wear an interview-appropriate outfit from top to bottom just in case you have to stand or your camera shifts.
Go for Color
“We’re more memorable in color,” Davis said. “That’s why advertisements use color, not black and white.” That doesn’t mean you should choose fluorescent shades or attention-grabbing orange. Instead, look for flattering shades for your shirt and jacket.
Navy is kinder than black for most people’s coloring.
Adding a second layer—such as a blazer, a less structured jacket, or a cardigan—can add a bit of authority for an interview.
Be Cautious With Patterns
Solids are always a good choice. Be more cautious when it comes to patterns. “Be careful with stripes or very dense patterns as they can vibrate on the screen,” said Shelby Goldfaden, senior manager of merchandising and product development at professional women-focused clothing brand M.M.LaFleur, in an email to The Balance.
For tops, try larger-scale prints. Or consider adding an accessory with a pattern, like a scarf, in place of a patterned top.
Check Your Background
Think about how your background interacts with what you’re wearing. Make sure to check what serves as your backdrop and how it’s lit ahead of time. Watch for odd shadows across your face from light sources.
If you have a white wall as your background, wearing patterns or more vibrant colors may work well, while if you have a bookshelf behind you, a solid color may be the better choice. Think of it as creating a painting, with you in the foreground.
It can help to take a screenshot on your computer of how you’ll appear in a video chat. The goal is for you to show up, not your outfit.
Don’t Stress Too Much
Yes, what you wear matters. It helps set the tone for a conversation with a hiring manager. And it influences your perspective as the interview kicks off. “You should wear what makes you feel comfortable, polished, and confident,” Goldfaden said.
However, there’s no need to feel overly stressed about attire. In the end, choosing a black button-down shirt instead of a blue one is not necessarily going to be the reason you’re hired—or not.
“I have interviewed thousands of people in my career. I cannot remember one outfit that made me say, ‘This is a no hire solely based on the outfit,’” Etkina said. More than your outfit, it’s your responses and your ability to sell your skills that matter in an interview setting.
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More Tips for Remote Interviews
What you wear is just one factor. Here are a few additional tips to help you ace a remote interview:
- Prep for the tech part. Download any applications you need for the interview beforehand, and test your speakers and microphone the day before. You can test it out again the morning of your interview, too.
- Show up early. “Always join the call about five minutes early so the hiring manager isn’t sitting there waiting for you,” Heinrich said. This also gives you an opportunity to troubleshoot if you wind up with unexpected technical difficulties.
- Do your normal interview prep. You’ll be at a disadvantage if your interview preparation is only choosing an outfit and not researching the company and role. “Your outfit will not get you hired, but your industry knowledge and skills will,” Etkina said.