Disclaimer: I am personally going through various interviews this right now and feel for both sides of the fence.
Both as an interviewer and an interviewee, we tend to have opinions about each others’ attires and our attitudes and then proceed to judge each other based on their attire and attitude. In the end, if both of these matches to some extent, we have a meeting of the minds and a higher chance that the proposed job or service will become a reality. If any of these two clashes, then there is a very high possibility that things will not end the way the seeker was hoping.
Let us all agree that on a face to face interview or sales opportunity the seeking party should dress well. There are many different ways to get this right. I have come to assume that as a man one should wear a full sleeve shirt with a nice tie and a pair of dress slacks. In some circumstances a nice suit jacket might also be needed and a pair of dress shoes. All of these should be clean and pressed, without a ton of wrinkles and shoes should not be muddy or otherwise shabby.
When video calls or interviews are being attempted, and when interviewing with a group of “Agile friendly” folks in a modern company with forward thinking ideas, things get dicey and the above need not apply.
If you are an interviewer desiring to be successful at hiring people with an online video interview, I propose the following:
- If you expect a professional look and your company has a formal or semi-formal (read: work-casual) dress code, make it clear to the interviewee or the vendor that this is an expectation. Remember that thing about “open communications” in Agile? Use it to your advantage.
- Along those lines, if you are expecting your interviewee to join a team or a location with a formal dress code, you might want to make them aware of this need before the interview process. Many Agile environments are not very formal at all. I believe that Success in Agile has a lot to do with the openness of ones’ environment. If your company cannot compromise on such a simple thing as dress code, they might have a hard time compromising on other, more intrinsic values and concepts that would be crucial in successfully delivering work with an Agile framework. It might be time for your company to take a closer look at Agile and what it means to be successful with it. At the very least be honest with yourself about this.
- If you are interviewing someone for the first time or if it is just an initial screen, leave your preconceptions and your opinions about dress code and environment at the door. This is important. You are not the only job that the interviewee is working on and you are probably just one of the stops on many different conversations that they are having. They might be at a coffee shop, they might be waiting for another phone call or they might simply be at home taking 5 other calls on that day. If you start judging the way people look on video calls, you are missing the point of having a video call. You should focus on more intrinsic pieces such as making sure the person on the call is the same person that shows up at work or watching the interviewee’s engagement style when faced with a screen and a camera instead of eyes and faces.
- If this is the one and only interview to decide on a candidate and it has to be online video conferencing, much of the same applies. This is true for many contracting engagements and I know how hard it can be to make the call on candidates based on just one call. Yet I confess that I have not looked at anywhere but the face for even those interviews. For heaven’s sake, unless the interviewee is at a morgue or a McDonald’s drive-in and you cannot hear them or cannot take your eyes off the background, do you really care?
- Remember that as you are judging them, they are judging you. Your immediate psychological retraction due to your negative opinion is apparent in your pallor and your conversational style. If you are seeking the best candidate and not the best dressed one, you might really be missing out.
- Your time is as valuable as your interviewees. You might be sitting in your cube calling one person after another. Your interviewee is probably at home worrying about the mortgage and sitting in front of their computer which might not have a perfectly bleak cube backdrop. The two environments are completely different and you as a human being need to respect that.
- Don’t immediately assume that you have the upper hand. I promise you that the best employees are the ones that are confident in themselves and their expectations.
If you are an interviewee desiring to be successful with both attire friendly interviewers and attire snobby interviewers, I propose the following:
- Before getting on a video call, ask your interviewer or your vendor if you need to dress up.
- Shower and shave before every video phone call, no matter what. Expect that this is a baseline.
- Sit in a relatively innocuous area with a somewhat plain backdrop. Stay away from areas with a lot of noise and interruptions.
- Ask your interviewer or vendor if there will be a need for technical items such as access to a screen for searching or other computational needs. Do you need to have pen and paper handy?
- Ask your interviewer if they are willing to bear small and unforeseen interruptions and apologize in advance for those.
- Consider the answer from your initial question on dress code on a video call. If the answer is anything other than “casual”, are you willing to proceed knowing that there is a dress code on the real job floor?
- Clean up around you. Look at yourself on your own camera and see if there is spinach on your teeth. Comb your hair, change your shirt or put on a sweater.
- Your time is as valuable as your interviewers’. You might be sitting at home drinking coffee and munching on junk food while your interviewer is sitting in a perfectly bleak cube. There is no excuse for being a slob and it certainly does not bode well for getting the job you are seeking.
How have you dealt with video conference interviews at your place of work?