How To Interview For a Job When You’re Wearing a Mask

Halfpoint / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Halfpoint / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Job interviews are always nerve-wracking, but they can be especially stressful now when there are a whole new set of protocols you need to follow — including wearing a face mask in some cases. This may bring up a slew of concerns: How do I choose the right mask for the interview? Do I shake hands with the interviewer? How can I communicate efficiently while wearing a mask?

To find out the answers to these questions and more, GOBankingRates spoke to career experts about how you can nail your job interview while wearing a mask. Use these tips if you’re looking for a job during the pandemic.

Last updated: Nov. 4, 2020

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Choose a Simple Mask Made of High-Quality Fabric

“Just like the interview outfit, the face mask is one of the first visual cues the employer uses, unconsciously, to make an initial impression,” said Chris Delaney, an interview coach with Employment King. “Therefore the quality of the face mask, in the same context as the quality of a suit, can make a subtle difference. A fabric face mask looks more high-quality than a one-use face mask.”

James Walsh, CEO at the sales training and consulting firm Billions in the Bank, said to stick with a simple mask rather than one with any bold patterns or logos.

“Loud patterns, shiny embellishments or goofy slogans will pull focus from your message,” he said. “Choose a plain color or a simple pattern, and make sure it doesn’t clash with your outfit. You don’t need to go all out and match it to your pocket square, but you want it to work together. Remember that the goal is for the interviewer to forget about your mask and focus on your conversation.”

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Bring a Spare Mask

“Remember the good old days when an interview wardrobe malfunction meant spilling coffee on your shirt before the meeting? Now you also have to worry about keeping your mask intact and presentable as well,” Walsh said.

“To ensure that things go smoothly, pack at least one extra mask that you’d feel confident wearing during the interview. The world is an imperfect place: elastics snap, lipstick wanders, birds drop a present right before you enter the building. Have a backup, and you’ll be prepared for anything.”

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Avoid Shaking Hands

Beginning and ending a job interview with a firm handshake is customary in normal circumstances, but you’ll want to avoid doing this while interviewing during the pandemic.

“When greeting, I recommend touching elbow-to-elbow instead of shaking hands,” said William Taylor, career development manager at VelvetJobs. “This has become more commonplace.”

Walsh recommends allowing the interviewer to initiate the elbow bump to ensure that they are comfortable with it.

“Adhere to social distancing guidelines by staying six feet away,” he said. “Do not shake hands or touch the interviewer in any way. If they offer an elbow bump, and you feel comfortable, go for it. But let them lead.”

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Make a Conscious Effort To Speak Slowly and Clearly

When you’re nervous, as you often are during a job interview, it’s easy to want to rush through answers — but this can make it difficult for the interviewer to understand you, especially when you are wearing a face mask.

“Speaking slowly, having good diction and pausing more than usual will help overcome the face mask communication barrier,” Delaney said.

Good To Know: Best (and Worst) Questions To Ask During Your Next Job Interview

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Smile — Even Though It Will Be Hidden Behind Your Mask

“Did you know that people can hear when you’re smiling, even over the phone? The same goes for when you’re wearing a mask,” Walsh said. “Plus, the top of your face will be visible, which means that the interviewer will be able to see your smile in your eyes. Don’t use the mask as an excuse to wear a neutral expression. Smile and the hiring manager will feel your enthusiasm.”

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Pay Attention To Your Body Language

“In the actual interview, the use of body language has become increasingly important,” Taylor said. “Move your hands to demonstrate scenarios and move your eyebrows to define key parts of your sentences. It may feel strange at first, but practice your hand and eye gestures with a face mask on in front of a mirror before your interview.”

Having good posture and avoiding crossing your arms are also body language cues to be mindful of.

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Do a Practice Run

Mock interviews can help you practice answering interview questions and delivering your elevator pitch.

“Practice interviews are more valuable than ever right now because so much has changed from the normal routine of job seeking,” Walsh said. “Ask a friend or family member to do a trial run, wearing masks and observing social distancing. Have them critique your performance, offering any tips for improvement. You might also consider making a video of the mock interview so that you can see for yourself whether your body language communicates your message.”

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