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Looking professional, whether in an office, or online is of utmost importance, especially in today’s job market and remote-first times. In this article, we’ll discuss the top tips for looking professional (and maintaining it) while working, learning, interviewing or networking, remotely, and why it’s important. By setting up your online presence professionally today, you will be better prepared for future job interviews and networking opportunities.

At Microverse, we instil the importance of looking professional, both online and in work settings, for all our students. Not only is it good practice but it helps when you start building your network, making connections, and applying for jobs. Looking professional online is similar to looking professional in-person, but has a few clear differences. 

Presenting yourself professionally online requires doing two key things:

  1. Making a good visual impression
  2. Reducing background noise and other distractions 

How to Make a Good Visual Impression

For some, it may seem obvious to look professional for your day-to-day interactions at work or school but for others, this might not be the case. Since many of us are now working from our homes, it can feel like different rules apply than in a workplace or in-person classroom. 

We know appearances are important no matter where you work, or learn, from every day. Small details make a big difference in our impressions on others, especially over video conferences. We’re not suggesting you need to look like a movie start or news reporter but rather, that you implement the small ways you can appear more professional and prepared, so you positively stand out when working, learning, interviewing, or networking online. 

Looking Professional on Video Calls

Key elements for looking your professional best in a video conference include:

Avoid distracting backgrounds 

This includes those that are visually busy or remind people you're in your personal home (e.g. your bed, a pile of dirty clothes). This might mean moving your desk away from the wall so that you sit with your back to it, or rethinking where in your home you work from.

Wear professional clothes 

Not only does this look better, studies show it helps with productivity too. At the very least, wear a presentable top, but we still recommend acceptable pants to avoid blunders like this;

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Hey put some pants on my guy <a href="https://t.co/PpCIBRrjP5">pic.twitter.com/PpCIBRrjP5</a></p>&mdash; Adam Graham (@grahamorama) <a href="https://twitter.com/grahamorama/status/1255108155182329859?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 28, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Pay attention to lighting; 

Avoid having a bright light or window behind you that creates a glare.

Position your computer so you are in the center of the screen.

When you’re off center in a video call, your background becomes even more distracting.

Make eye contact properly

It might feel strange at first, but looking at the camera when you are talking shows will reflect to the person listening that you’re looking at them.

Sit up straight and show a positive attitude

Your posture and overall demeanor have a big impact on how you look and portray yourself to who you’re talking to. 

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Test your Internet connection and microphone ahead of time.

This is essential to avoid the cutting out and never ending, “Can you hear me” tests at the beginning of video calls. In these times when we work from home, if you’re on video calls often, it’s definitely worth ensuring you have an internet connection that can support it. 

Avoid Background Noise and Other Distractions

One of the great things about technology is that it allows us to study, work, interview or network, from anywhere with an Internet connection. 

Even though we can work from virtually anywhere, that doesn't mean we're making a good impression when we do, especially if we're not paying attention to background noise. Doing a job interview with clinking dishes in the background, working in a room with a loud TV or other background noise, or working next to a window where there is frequent loud noises outside, will all cause you to make a bad impression. You'll be harder to hear, and your listener will be distracted from what you are saying.

In addition to paying attention to the visual impression you make on video conferences, it's also important to make a habit of paying attention to the following best practices. 

Limit background noise 

No one will mind an occasional ambulance siren, or low noise from a coworking space, but loud, constant background noise is very distracting. 

In large group meetings, always mute yourself when you're not talking. Also, arrive to online meetings a few minutes early to test your connection; allow yourself even more time with interviews or important calls.

If possible, have a backup device handy (mobile phone, tablet) in case your main computer or internet connection fails.  

If you’ve ever been on the other side of someone who is not paying attention to you, in person or online, then you understand the importance of all of these best practices. It's easy to notice when others are doing things wrong; it's harder to take the time to look at ourselves and make the changes needed to make a more professional impression. But, we guarantee they will be well worth it, especially when interviewing and networking online.

For more tips and advice on remote work, career growth, learning to code and more, click on the articles below! And to learn more about Microverse, the online school for remote software developers, that helps you land a life-changing job, click here.

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