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Work in fashion: how to nail a video interview

By Weixin Zha

Jun 9, 2020

The world has experienced a digital takeover, and much of what used to happen in person now takes place online. The process to apply for a job in the fashion industry is no exception: Instead of sitting down face-to-face, applicants and recruiters now meet screen-to-screen. Many factors that applicants should focus on during a personal job interview also apply to other important video calls.

Checking technology in advance

First and foremost, it’s beneficial to find out which video program the recruiter will be using. The applicant should take time to set up the software, preferably in advance, said Nabila Staschel, senior executive search consultant at the fashion personnel consultancy company Deeken HR in Berlin. “You can start a day or two beforehand and make a test call.” When testing, applicants should make sure that the camera and microphone are working. She also advised not to rely on the program’s built in tests, but to make a real test call. If the technology is up and running, it is also less likely to cause uncertainty during the interview.

Daylight

A second important factor to ensure a successful video call is the lighting. The applicant must certify that he or she is clearly visible in the video and is not sitting in the dark. “We always recommend using daylight as much as possible,” said Staschel. “This means aligning the laptop or camera so that it falls against daylight, exposing you to it.” Sitting with your back to daylight can give the impression of having a “halo” and dazzle your conversation partner.

Background

“We’re all in our private rooms now and one thing to consider is what we want to share with others,” said Staschel. “When the desk is in the bedroom, it’s possible that the wardrobe and perhaps the dog basket next to it are in view. You should consider: How serious does this look and do I want it to be seen?” This does not mean that everyone needs to show a bright white wall behind them or that they need to furnish an office room for this purpose.

Instead, Staschel advised that it is important to find a background that looks serious and does not disturb anyone. A bookcase, for example, is a good background, or even a photo wall. You should feel comfortable with the background and testing it beforehand to see if it looks serious and appealing is always an option. “We always advise a certain genuinity here,” Staschel continued. “We don’t need to set up a whiteboard with notes on it. It’s about seeing if I can use my background to convey the insight that I’d like to.”

Clothing

“In the end, I always tell candidates to pretend as if they’re going to a personal interview. This also applies to clothing,” she advised. Even when interviewing for a job via video, candidates should wear everything they would otherwise wear for a job interview. But does this mean that you should sit at home in front of the computer screen wearing a suit? “It depends,” said Staschel. “In the fashion, consumer goods or lifestyle industry, classic ‘suit conversations’ - with the exception of the luxury segment - are no longer so common. It’s more about fashion consciousness.”

Genuinity may not be conveyed by sitting in front of a bookcase in a three-piece suit. “It’s all about feeling comfortable. Everyone has to identify with a clothing style,” she explained. For men, during a somewhat formal conversation, she advised to wear a jacket with a chic turtleneck, or even just a well-fitting turtleneck. Women can choose a blouse and lave out the jacket. “It’s perhaps unusual for many to wear a blazer within their own walls. You can try it on and if it doesn’t fit, take it off.”

The job position and sector within the fashion industry also plays a role. In most video interviews that Staschel has accompanied since the spread of the coronavirus, rather than suits, men have been wearing a shirt, blazer or turtleneck sweater, while women chose a blouse. As is the norm with the choice of clothes at a job interview, Staschel advised: “To feel secure and comfortable, applicants should ask themselves which company they are applying to. What does it express? What is its position in the market? What type of fashion does it focus on? What are its collections? What can I represent genuinely?” In the end, it is about creating a “new normal” and embodying the values of the company, just like in a personal interview.

Technical issues

Everything is going as planned: the background, the light and the outfit. But then, despite the previous test, the technology used puts a damper on your performance. Should candidates who are experiencing issues with their internet connection or microphone address these immediately? “Absolutely,” said Staschel. “If there’s a problem with the connection, don’t get nervous. This is technology and it usually doesn’t work right away. Contact them directly and ask them to start the video again. There will be enough time, because this is a new situation for everyone.” It’s worse if you don’t address technical problems and cannot have the quality conversation you would have had without a bad connection, Staschel believed. “From my point of view, solution-oriented and communication are the be-all and end-all.”

Bild: Anna Shvets / Pexels