How do you dress for a phone interview?

27 Mar
How do you dress for a phone interview?

You think I’m kidding.

Just last week, I participated in two phone interviews. One was a preliminary screen with a big and growing SaaS company and the other with a content marketing team at a state university.

Just like a regular interview, I prepped by thoroughly reviewing the job posting and description and researching that division and organization. Plus, I gained some insight from friends in my network who worked at each place. I had fully prepared myself, except for one detail.

“What should I wear?” I asked myself, half kidding.

I hadn’t done a phone interview for a long time, and that was when the NCAA interviewed me for a blogging position. For that, I dressed TV Anchor style: suit coat, crisp shirt, solid tie, boxer shorts, bare feet. At the time, I liked suiting up for the call, but I also enjoyed my personal inside joke that I felt took the edge off.

I didn’t get that job.

Instead of giving me an edge, did my attire contribute to lack of seriousness that carried through my interview? To ensure that companies interview a range of candidates not tied to a particular area, phone interviews make for a dull tool in a recruitment process. I couldn’t see their facial expressions or body language, just like they couldn’t see mine. I had no idea whether my responses missed the mark or whether I droned on too long.

I’ve sat on the other end of a hiring call as well. My team at the time interviewed three candidates for a position, and not seeing them distilled the process into their answers and their voice. Maybe that equalizes the process, but from the hiring end I actually found it distracting without the candidate present. For me, on either side of the hiring, body language means so much. Great career counselors always harp on the visuals: dress, eye contact, body language, gesturing.

So as I prepared for the two interviews, I chose to dress up. For the first, I threw on a slightly wrinkled dress shirt, tie, sport coat, kakis, and nice (but scuffed) Clarks shoes. For the second, I had attended a leadership breakfast that morning, so I stayed dressed in my business attire.

Just today, the first employer sent an email starting with “Thank you for your interest… .” Damn. Rejected. I thought I nailed that one.

I haven’t yet heard back from the second employer.

So, did my lack of completeness in dressing for these phone interviews somehow hinder my performance? Might my sharp dress in the last phone interview have contributed to a more serious approach? That employer asked me to campus for an in-person interview.

Meta Moment: At this point, or maybe a few paragraphs up, I would have peppered in some data or referred to other authoritative sources to back up my anecdotal observations. A search fetched a few dated blog posts with cursory explanations like “There’s lots of evidence showing that how we dress affects how we work.” (No link to that plethora of evidence, by the way.) Perhaps, I’ve hit on some uncharted territory here.

So how about you? How did you dress for your last phone interview? How did it go? Do you think how you dress in this setting matters, even when the employer can’t see you?

Photo credit: CJS*64 Saturday Morning ! via photopin (license)


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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in Hire me Already!


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