How to Dress For An Academic Interview

Research shows that in a face-to-face encounter, 7 percent of a verbal message comes from the words used; 38 percent comes from the pacing, vocal tone, and inflection; and the speaker's appearance and body transmit 55 percent of the message. Since the interview process begins the moment you meet, and a first impression is often challenging to alter, why not strive for the best impression possible?

With most universities utilizing a teleconference interview as the first step for the interview process, thoughts regarding what to wear and your appearance should begin when you start applying for positions so you are prepared when you receive your call for an interview.

Although you do not meet face to face with a teleconference interview, your first impression will be verbal, vocal tone, and appearance. Skype or Zoom conferencing reveals from the top of your head to the mid body, so your hair, skin, smile (teeth), and part of your clothes will be in view. A teleconference interview is like being on television. You are viewed via a screen, so the goal is to have the focus be on you and your interview answers while reducing every possible distraction. Here are eight tips on what you can do to leave a favorable impression with your interview committee.

1. Hair: Ladies, this is not the time to try out a new hairstyle or color; however, it is the time to schedule an appointment for a hair cut or trim and highlights if necessary. If you have streaks of different colors in your hair other than highlights, it's best to let the color fade or grow out. As much as you may want to express your individuality, this isn't the time to do that. If you currently pull your hair back into a ponytail or chip clip, let your hair come off your head so your hair can frame your face. Hair pulled back or put up on the top of the head is an informal and casual look, and that is not what you are shooting for during an interview.

Hopefully, you have a hairstylist that cuts and styles your hair as you like it. Trying out a new hairstylist before an interview can be disastrous if they don't cut your hair in the style that you love, so resist the urge to try something new.

Also, if you have the habit of twisting or running your finger through your hair or pulling it to one side as you talk, work on decreasing that habit because it is distracting. The focus should be on what you are saying in the interview, not on your hair.

Men, remember to get a cut or trim, clean up the beard if necessary, and cut any stray hairs on your ears or in your nose.

2. Makeup: In a teleconference interview, you are viewed through a screen, and without makeup, your face can look washed out. If makeup isn't your thing, then its time to either chat with a friend who wears makeup for some help in this area, or take a trip to an Ulta store ( Let the experts help you. Tell the Ulta personnel that you are going for a subtle interview look. Watch what they do and then work to duplicate the look in the days up to your interview. Stay away from bright lip shades and glossy lip color since the gloss will reflect the light, and it's a distraction.

3. Jewelry: Ladies, choose earrings that are small hoops or studs and leave the bracelets and shiny or dangling earrings in your jewelry box. Clanging pieces will distract and may make it difficult for the committee to hear you speak.

4. Undergarments: When your bra strap keeps slipping off your shoulder, it tells you two things. One, you don't have a bra that fits you properly, and two, you will distract the committee every time you move to adjust the strap. Make sure that your straps stay put before you get in front of your computer screen. If your strap does fall off your shoulder, leave it down and focus on your interview.

5. The Unibrow Is Dead: Your eyebrows are part of the frame of your face, and if they need attention, the Ulta stores have a Benefit brow bar wherein less than twenty minutes, you will end up with shaped and tweezed brows. And men, Ulta will shape your eyebrows as well. If you don't want to go to Ulta, ask the person who cuts your hair to tweeze and trim your brows.

6. Teeth: You are in an interview, but you will undoubtedly want to smile and be yourself. Brush, floss, and check those pearly whites before you sit down for the interview. For heaven's sake, don't find out after the interview that a remnant from your breakfast or lunch was part of your smile. If you utilize teeth whitening products, continue to do so because your teeth are part of the view from the other side of the screen.

7. Piercings: Regardless of how much you love your piercings, the last thing you want is to have a shiny object flashing on the screen or distracting the committee. Since you won't know how someone on the committee feels about piercings and you don't want someone on the committee to dismiss you as a viable candidate, play it safe and remove them.

8. Clothes: Enhance your appearance by wearing the best color for "television," as well as your skin, hair, and eye color. Women, it is best to stay away from loud colors such as bright pink, yellows, reds, or orange around your face.

A dark suit coat jacket with a hint of color under the jacket will be professional and soothing for your committee's eyes. Wearing a crisp white or light blue blouse under the jacket with the color framing your face is always a safe bet. Iron the shirt even though it will be under a suit jacket because the screen picks up everything.

If you want to wear a multi-color dress, you can put a solid colored suit blazer over the dress and button the blazer. Here again, let the color of the dress slightly show through but not overtake the screen. The blazer offers a serious and formal look while still allowing your style to shine through.

Men, a suit coat jacket in dark blue, gray, or brown with a crisp, white shirt and complementary tie color is your best bet. Be sure that the suit coat is a structured suit jacket. The shoulder "strength" will add to how you are perceived throughout your interview.

Once you receive the call for an interview, you have jumped over the first hurdle of the process. With a little preplanning and preparation you will be ready to focus on your interview and not on your wardrobe which is the perfect approach to a successful interview.



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