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  • Writer's pictureKarla Trippe

Interview Essentials During a Pandemic

After much research, I wrote a blog last year about the five essential pieces a woman needs for a job interview. With Covid19 causing many job layoffs, I thought it might be a good time to update the blog. Interviewing in the time of a pandemic certainly changes things.

Standard wardrobes since the time of Reaganomics

When I interviewed for jobs in the 1980s, you always needed a suit. I remember the beautiful navy and white tweed suit my mother made me for my college graduation gift. It had a simple skirt and a short jacket that buttoned up to the neck. She made a darling white blouse with a large ruffled collar that came out of the top of the jacket. I paired it with beige heels and my first nice leather bag.

My hair was quite long, almost like it is now, so I often would wear a headband or a ponytail with a large bow – the ’80s were all about bows. I always wore that suit for my first interview. And then I needed another suit or dress for the second interview and yet another for additional interviews. But it wasn’t as if this clothing was wasteful because we wore suits, jackets with skirts or pants, or a dress to work every day.

Clothing needed now for each stage of an interview

Now that the world has tilted, you might be wondering what key pieces you need for an interview wardrobe. Let’s begin with the interview process, which may be completely different than what you are used to. Your first interview most likely will be by phone, so for that you can remain in your sweats, workout clothes, pjs, or whatever is your go-to home wear during a pandemic.

Creating an interview space

But your second interview probably will be by Zoom, FaceTime or some other video chat format. This means you need to think like a newscaster. You will be seen only from the waist up and you need to consider your background. Pick a spot in your apartment or home where you can set up a professional background, preferably with books, bulletin board or a piece of art (my husband has a beautiful Southwestern bull painting that people always comment on). It’s good if your desk is visible and neat. Whatever setup you choose, it needs to feel like a professional workspace because the interviewer wants to know that you are already set up to work from home if necessary. Coloring will be important, so you should take that into consideration. You want the background to be flattering to you. Not too busy and not too much color. Now for your clothing.

Your primary essential pieces

  1. Dark jacket Whether it’s black or navy, a dark jacket will look professional. This is your first visual presentation, and you want to look knowledgeable and interested in the position.

  2. Coordinating blouse Select a blouse that looks good with your jacket and your complexion. Take care with your makeup so that you don’t look washed out. Keep your accessories, such as earrings, simple. If your interview is with a creative person or company, then you can show a bit more style or dress in a current trend.

  3. Alternative blouse or sweater In case you have to do a second interview online, you should have another blouse or sweater that flatters you and works with the background.

At this point you either will have completed the interview process or you may have one additional step, which is an in-person interview. Given the pandemic, I have heard of people going in just once for a final, personal interview.

Interviewing in person

Again, you want to look professional, so you may want to use your jacket and wear it over either:

  1. Black pants When discussing this essential piece with my colleagues, the pants elicited the most disagreement. My millennial fashionistas felt that black pants were too traditional, and I would agree that a woman interviewing for a job in a creative industry needs something more on trend. But for the woman looking for a job in law, finance or engineering, this should be an essential part of her interview wardrobe. Again, a blouse is needed and I generally recommend a nice white/cream or other light-colored blouse in pink, grey or blue.

  2. Dress This is the final piece in the wardrobe. Dresses have become quite popular and work for many events, thus are good investment pieces. The style of the dress is dependent on the industry and your figure. The color should be based on your color palette though, unless you are in a fun industry such as fashion, I would stay away from pink. Too girly at this stage of your career. A red dress would be great and works with a navy or black jacket. A white or cream dress is another great piece for the spring or summer.

Hire a stylist

If you need clothing, I strongly recommend a store that offers stylists, such as Nordstrom. You can generally call and make an appointment. Or you can hire a stylist by the hour that will pull pieces and have them ready for you to review when you arrive at the store. They’ll work with you until you’ve chosen all your clothing. This is the time for you to learn what looks best on your body. The worst thing is to have an ill-fitting jacket or pants that are too tight. It’s not about the price of the piece, it’s about the fit. Look for a store such as Nordstrom that provides free alterations. Companies are more conscious of how people look now due to social media. And if your job is client-facing, how you look is critical. If you are considering using a service such as Stitch Fix, you might want to take a moment to read my review.

Last, if you are interviewing in the office, you will need a face mask. I have several masks, so I can color coordinate them with my outfits. I have a neighbor who makes them and if I have a special event, I will have her make a mask to go with my outfit.

Welcome to the world of dressing for interviews during a pandemic.


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