Your top business professionalism questions, answered

In each issue of Lynchburg Business, Scott Robert and Jimmy Roux from the University of Lynchburg’s Career and Professionalism Center will answer your top etiquette questions surrounding business meals, events, trips—you name it.

Q: It seems that businesses are getting more casual in the dress code for work. When I am going to an interview, does that mean I can dress like they do or should I still wear a suit? – Submitted by reader Scott Harvath

A: While some businesses have lowered/changed their dress codes, I would always try to step up your level of attire for the interview. Do not show up in casual attire unless the individual arranging the interview specifically says to wear casual attire. Follow the rules: Make sure your clothes are clean, pressed, free of wrinkles, with no stains—and your clothes should not smell like they have been in a high school gym locker room. Your clothes should showcase your potential (think promotion). These guidelines go for video or online interviews as well. Many employers conducting online interviews will ask the candidate to stand up and show what they are wearing. They are making sure that you did not only dress from the waist up and had pajama pants on for the interview. Lastly, flip flops are a flop in the workplace.

Q: In today’s fashion, glitter has become commonplace. That being said, a lot of makeup products, sprays, mists, etc. have glitter within the product. Is it appropriate to wear such products to an interview?
– Submitted by reader Kara Martinez

A: I know you want to sparkle during your interview, but I would suggest letting your words and manners convey your message. We do not want you going to an interview looking like a Disco ball. Blind the interviewers with your answers, not your glitter. I have seen situations where after an interview the applicant left that sparkle behind for us to clean up. If you feel you must wear a small amount of fashion glitter to brighten your face, please keep it to a minimum.

Q: Virtual meetings have become even more popular following the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes I feel like our online meetings are chaotic, with everyone talking at once. What should I do to be polite but still make my voice heard? – Submitted by Lynchburg Business staff

A: The current business model of video meetings is a new endeavor for a lot of companies. It’s important to recognize they are not the same as face-to-face interactions and they can be more difficult to participate in. This type of meeting can be well run if the host establishes some ground rules and takes charge. But likewise, attendees must follow suit.

IF YOU ARE AN ATTENDEE: Make sure you “arrive” one or two minutes prior to the meeting start time and that your screen name is accurate. You should look professional (or at least not like you just rolled out of bed). Utilize the chat feature when you have a question or would like to say something. Some video platforms have a way of virtual “gesturing” or “raising your hand.” When the host is ready, they will be able to either look at the chat panels to see if you are “gesturing” and then call on you by name. When it’s your time to speak, have your say but do not take up too much time—be concise. Mute your audio after speaking. If the host wants more from you or has a question, they will ask for it.

IF YOU ARE A HOST: At the beginning of each meeting, take a few moments to make sure everyone can be seen, their screen name is accurate, their audio is muted, etc. Address or troubleshoot any issues. Everyone should be visible on the screen. (I have been on several video meetings where the attendees intentionally do not have live video pictures. The host called on them and there was no response—they had left the room. That did not sit well with the host.) It’s important to make sure everyone’s audio is muted except for the host or presenter so no one will talk over anyone else. This will also decrease audio feedback.

Whether you are a host or attendee, your goal is to act professionally and respectfully during these video meetings. If there is more to say and not enough time during the meeting, reach out to the host. These meetings are a direct result of the host establishing parameters and setting the tone.


Do you have a business etiquette question?
Send an email to shelley@lynchburgmag.com and we may have an answer for you in our next issue.

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