Never Worry What Makeup To Wear For A Job Interview Again

Photographed by Julia Robbs.
Whether you’re fresh outta college or 10 years into your career, job interviews can be seriously scary. But, like all things in life, they're all about preparation when it comes to your résumé, references, and yes — even your makeup.
As much as we support an individualistic approach to beauty, what works during your off-hours may not cut it at your 9-to-5. And, since an interview serves as your first face-to-face interaction with a would-be employer, it’s important to find the balance right off the bat.
Advertisement
That said, the line between appropriate and inappropriate is often determined by your industry: Makeup that’s frowned upon in a field like finance could be considered totally tame in retail.
So, to investigate the best interview makeup across different fields, we spoke to hiring managers and HR professionals from seven industries. Read up on their surprising dos and don'ts, ahead.
1 of 8
Photo: Via Estée Lauder.
The Industry: Retail
In retail, customer is king — and part of the royal treatment is keeping the attention on them. So, you won’t often find salespeople sporting over-the-top looks. (Makeup stores and fashion brands known for a particular aesthetic are the exception.)

That’s why, for an interview, “You don’t want to look washed out or [like] you aren’t trying, or don’t care, by having little-to-no makeup on,” says Dana Toor, talent acquisition manager at John Varvatos. “But, you don’t want to look like you're too high-maintenance or don’t take your job seriously if you have too much makeup on.” And, that middle-of-the-road philosophy still applies when it comes to the daily grind.

If subdued makeup isn’t your thing, Toor advises that you stick to your guns from the get-go. “If you do wear more makeup on the job than on the interview, just like anything, it could be considered a misrepresentation,” she says. So, visit the store before applying. If you can’t see yourself meshing with the brand’s aesthetic, look elsewhere.
2 of 8
Photo: Via Eyeko.
The Industry: Education
Your work environment greatly depends on the teaching philosophies, location, and vibe of a given school. So, before interviews, do a little homework: Your winged eyeliner could be a hit at a performing-arts academy, but a total miss at a conservative, private institution.

"At my current school, any look that complements the person’s personality is considered appropriate, as long as it doesn’t interfere with or completely distract from the interview,” says Minelly Mercado-Walter, assistant principal at Leonardo da Vinci Intermediate School 61 in Queens, NY. “I tend to favor a natural makeup look, but we have many staff members who rock bold lipsticks and eyeshadows."

Mercado-Walter’s ultimate "do" for interview makeup? "Do feel comfortable in your own skin. If someone is going to judge you solely on what you wear on your face, you may want to reconsider if you want to be a part of that environment." Spoken like a true educator.
3 of 8
Photo: Via Buxom.
The Industry: Hospitality
It’s all about location, location, location. “We represent hotels all over the world, so there really isn't a set look that applies, as obviously fashion and style in each market are different,” says Kristie Goshow, senior vice president of commercial at Viceroy Hotel Group. “For example, [makeup] we would look for in a candidate interviewing for Sugar Beach, a Viceroy resort in St. Lucia, would lean toward clean and natural. At Viceroy New York, a candidate could take a more confident and bold approach, with daring splashes of color.”

There are still some guidelines that apply across the globe. “Regardless of what city they are interviewing in, we seek team members who can really put themselves together and tell a story through their makeup and wardrobe,” says Goshow. “The narrative of that story should be chic, on-trend, and thoughtful. Distracting, over-the-top makeup can detract from what really matters, and that is their experience and qualifications.”

Ultimately, says Goshow, it’s a matter of “reflecting [the] guests.” For both interviewees and employees, this means tailoring their makeup look to a given location and clientele. Talk about customer service.
Advertisement
4 of 8
Photo: Via Topshop.
The Industry: Beauty
Megan McIntyre, Refinery29’s beauty director, sees the industry's creativity as one of her job's perks: “I think people in the beauty industry like to see each other doing fun, new things with their hair, nails, and makeup. I tend to get ideas for trends or looks I want to cover, or products I want to try, by what I see on other editors or people in the industry.”

Beauty-biz hopefuls should look to the aesthetic of a particular brand to inspire their makeup choices. And, make sure you’ve got your basics down. “If you walk into a job interview for a beauty-writer position and your foundation doesn't match your skin tone, or your lipstick is all over your chin, I am going to be a little concerned about your personal experience and knowledge about makeup,” says McIntyre.

If you’re a beauty buff who’s interviewing for jobs in other industries, though, McIntyre has an important PSA: “You need to decide for yourself: Is it more important to you that you get the job, or that you work in a place that allows you to be your true self? If it's important to you that you are allowed to freely express yourself in the workplace, then go into the interview with the makeup and hair you want to wear. You just need to be prepared that you might not get that job.”
5 of 8
Photo: VIa Guerlain.
The Industry: Health Care
Health-care professionals work with people who are at their most vulnerable. So, according to Emily Stimson, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist, your day-to-day makeup should be warm and approachable — and that goes for your interview look, too.

“The health-care field is focused on helping patients, usually during a stressful time in their lives," says Stimson. "Therefore, professionals in health-care should wear natural-looking makeup that implies a sense of competence and warmth, and does not draw the focus away from the patient.”

Some makeup looks could actually interfere with treatment, says Stimson. Certain colors (think reds, oranges, and yellows) could evoke intense feelings, like anger or fear. "A contemporary, neutral look presents as accessible to a wide range of patients, who may include anxious, conservative, or skeptical people," she says. "They want to know that their health-care provider is competent and can take care of them."
6 of 8
Photo: Via Tarte.
The Industry: Publishing
At a publishing house, you’ll be interviewing with the corporate human resources office. So, even if the role would be in a fashion or beauty department, it’s best to err on the conservative side.

“I’d suggest interviewees opt for very neutral colors, like nudes and creams,” says Alyson Lindquist, technical recruiter at Hearst Digital Media. “Nothing too dramatic; no distracting jewelry. As a general rule, less is more — the simpler, the better.”

She adds: “Millennials tend to be daring [in their beauty choices], but generally, it’s best to keep it conservative: neutral nail polish, hair pulled back and away from the face, and definitely no overpowering fragrances.”
7 of 8
Photo: Via MAC.
The Industry: Finance
Should interview makeup in this field be as conservative as you’d think? In short, yes — although it depends on the company. “Everyone at our office is very well-dressed,” says Janet Wu, a recruiter at Northwestern Mutual. “The men wear tailored suits; the women are very pulled-together and wear heels. I’d say the dress code influences our typical makeup look, too.”

So, what constitutes a winning beauty look in the financial industry? "In terms of makeup, I’m looking for someone who looks polished and elegant," says Wu. "Red lipstick could be okay, if it’s done well. Likewise, a bare face is fine as long you still look pulled-together.”

Luckily for interviewees, Wu wouldn't turn away a candidate based on makeup alone. “If someone really blew me away at the initial interview, makeup or dress wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me. I’d probably take someone aside, and let them know that next time, their look should be more formal or conservative.”
8 of 8
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!
Advertisement