COVID-19 Resources

Interviewing for a New Role During a Pandemic? [Professional Etiquette Tips for Socially Distant Interviews and Business Meetings]

Written by Cari Cline on October 5, 2020

Warren Averett socially distant interview etiquette image

In a professional environment, handshakes, facial expressions and eye contact have been the currency of communication for many years. But, these days, things are a bit different.

Mask mandates and social distancing have changed the way people live, the way companies conduct business and the way we communicate with each other. So how can you effectively present yourself in a professional setting, especially in an interview when impressions matter greatly?

Social distancing is our new norm, but it’s still possible to communicate effectively and professionally.  After all, communication is much more than the words coming from your mouth.

If you’re struggling with how to speak through a mask or how to show your personality in a video call, here are a few tips for communicating professionally if you’re interviewing for a job during the age of social distancing.

Learn more about Warren Averett’s Staffing & Recruiting division and connect with our recruiters here.

Face Masks in a Professional Environment

The use of face masks is a dynamic that the business world has inherited through the pandemic, and—remember—it’s new for everyone.

  • Different states, cities and businesses have different guidelines and expectations for wearing face masks, so if you’re visiting a business for an interview or meeting, ask about what you can expect during the interview, and follow social distance guidelines.
  • Be prepared; even if you may not be required or expected to wear a mask in a particular situation, you never know when or where a mask will be needed, so always have a reliable mask in your purse, briefcase or cars.
  • Wear your mask properly when entering a building and interview room, by covering both your nose and mouth completely.
  • Once seated in an office or conference room, feel free to follow the lead of others when removing your mask. If distanced from others, you can politely ask if it is okay for you to remove your mask.
  • Expressing personality and emotion in a mask can be tough. Smile through your eyes, use your eyebrows and speak clearly. A kind, confident demeanor will go a long way.

Socially Distant Hellos and Goodbyes

Especially in a business meeting or an interview, greetings and can be a challenge since the age-old professional handshake is taboo for the time being. Here are some tips for saying hello and goodbye professionally and from a distance.

  • When the time comes to say hello or goodbye, you should continue to distance yourself from others. Respectfully remain six feet apart and adhere to safety precautions throughout the interview or meeting.
  • Avoid offering a handshake, and instead, opt for a nod or wave. (If you’re like me, an awkward wave is inevitable. It’s easier, and slightly more professional, to simply nod hello. You can always throw in the wave if you forget and go for the handshake.)

Video Call Etiquette and Intelligence

If you’re interviewing or meeting via a video call, you won’t have to worry about distance or masks, but there are other considerations for successful virtual communications.

  • A video call on any platform will most likely show more than just your face. It’s best to have a simple, solid background, but at the very least, ensure that the area in your camera view is clean.
  • Just as you would in an in-person interview, arrive ahead of time and log on to your meeting link early.
  • Practice makes perfect when dealing with camera angles and microphone settings. You don’t want to be hindered due to technical malfunctions. Test your audio and camera settings to be sure everything is working well. Personally, I also keep a headset handy as backup to the computer’s internal microphone in case unexpected technical difficulties occur.
  • Dress in professional clothing from head to toe, even if you only expect that your face and shoulders will be in view. Pro tip: keep a professional outfit on hand for unplanned calls.
  • Keep your head up and shoulders back. One of the biggest temptations on a video call is checking yourself out. Yes, you look nice. However, if your eyes are darting to the bottom of the screen every few minutes, the person on the other side may feel you are distracted or uninterested in the current conversation. Stay present in the conversation, keep your eyes up and truly listen for questions or comments.

Virtual Interview and Meeting Protocol Considerations

While social distancing is new to all of us, effective and professional communication is still possible behind a mask or on screen when you are prepared and present. Communication is more than the words you speak; it’s facial expressions, timeliness and even silence.

And whether you are meeting someone in person or scheduling a video call with a potential employer, you have the opportunity to make a great impression by simply being yourself. Confidence will show through a mask or screen no matter the social distance.


Cari Cline is a Recruiter for Warren Averett Staffing & Recruiting. Her primary responsibilities include identifying talent for clients in a variety of industries, serving as a resource for professionals who are seeking new opportunities and advising job seekers about all aspects of the recruiting process. Learn more about her or contact her directly here.

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