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Do I have to wear makeup to a job interview?
October 10, 2012 7:36 PM   Subscribe

Do I have to wear makeup to a job interview?

I am looking for administrative work (non front desk - I do not have front desk personality).

Most sources I come across suggest light, natural looking makeup (ugh hate that natural line). I would rather not wear any but I suppose it wouldn't kill me. My self esteem was pretty shitty back when I was reliant on makeup but.. I don't know, I could do it.

I'm often assumed to be younger than I am (23). This can be very frustrating as it often leads to people not taking me seriously at work. Would makeup help with that?

I would especially like to hear from people that actually interview/hire.
posted by secretdawn to Work & Money (35 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
No, it's absolutely not required. I'm a woman, and nearly a decade older than you. I never wear makeup, even to interviews. I get job offers anyway.
posted by 168 at 7:41 PM on October 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


It totally depends on the company. Do you know what the employees dress like? If most of the employees dress up/wear makeup, you probably will look more at home there.

HOWEVER, if you absolutely hate wearing makeup and would never wear it on the job, I wouldn't. You don't want to put out an impression of something you won't do when you actually get the job. That way, if they hire you, you know you can be yourself.

But if you have no idea about the culture there, err on the side of caution and go with light makeup to allow them to focus on your character and ideas, not your blemishes or whatever.
posted by Little Orphan Ennui at 7:42 PM on October 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Your overall appearance is more important that makeup. If you look pulled together(clothing wise and hair wise), and present yourself well, you can get away without it. Honestly, as someone who sits on the otherside of the desk during interviews, I want you to look appropriate for the job and to know your stuff (and mostly I want you to know your stuff). I notice ill fitting clothing more than a lack of makeup....
posted by larthegreat at 7:43 PM on October 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Advice might vary depending where you are and what types of businesses you're looking at. High-end corporate law office in a major metro area, more likely to want makeup. Nonprofit in small college town, maybe less likely.

If you can give a general region (northeast US? urban?) and business type (big corporation?), it might yield better answers.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:44 PM on October 10, 2012


I actually think well-groomed eyebrows look more polished and put-together than makeup does. (This is my personal bias as I'm borderline OBSESSED with my eyebrows, but yeah.)
posted by Aquifer at 7:45 PM on October 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hm, well what is your concept of "the natural look"? For me, it's powder (so I don't look shiny/sweaty), maaaybe some blush and mascara. It's not putting on 3 layers of makeup so it ends up "natural."

And it will definitely help you look older, if you do age-appropriate makeup. If you cake it on or go dramatic it will make you look immature.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:46 PM on October 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I find that powder + mascara + blush is all I really need to look "professional," i.e. a bit older. It helps me feel put together. If you feel confident without makeup though, I think you'll be fine.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:51 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is absolutely not necessary to wear makeup to a job interview. It is more important to be well groomed and dressed appropriately. I never wear make up, even to job interviews, but I do get job offers. I also am told I look younger than I am. I'm in my forties though, but I've been hearing this since my twenties.

Make up can make you look older if you know how to put it on, but you really have to know what you're doing in order to age yourself. If you're not used to wearing it, then you probably will not achieve your goal. If you want to go that route, I'd go to a salon and ask their advice first.
posted by patheral at 7:53 PM on October 10, 2012


I completely killed a job interview a few days ago where I just wore the lipstick I wear every day (it fits really well with my skin coloring; it just looks like that's what color my lips are). I really doubt they'd have been more impressed if I wore mascara or whatever.

As mentioned above, as long as the rest of you (hair/clothing/etc) is immaculate and well groomed, I think you're fine.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:03 PM on October 10, 2012


Our front desk person wears no makeup at all ever, but she has nice even-toned skin and shaped brows. Me, I look dreadful without makeup because my skin is blotchy and I have uneven skin tones. I interviewed a woman the other day who wore no makeup. I thought at the time she would have looked more polished with a bit of foundation, but we hired her all the same.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:07 PM on October 10, 2012


I suppose another question to ask yourself is do you know how to apply make up properly? If you don't i'd skip it regardless. I think that may make you look younger and not so put together.

Also, i think clothing choice can help age you more so than make up. In jeans and a tshirt, I look like a prepubescent boy. A nice business attire will age me enough to make me look my age. (I'm 22 - and female, though I look maybe 17)
posted by electriic at 8:18 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm going to say that yes you need to wear makeup. It sucks, its sexist and unfair but studies have shown that women who wear makeup are considered more professional and competent. .
posted by GilvearSt at 8:21 PM on October 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


With regard to looking young: makeup and hairstyle can really make the difference between looking like a teen at a debate tournament and a professional adult. Clothes are important, but it's easy to end up looking like you're playing dress-up if your face and hair look too young.

How do you wear your hair? If it's long and you just wear it down all the time, or in a pony tail, consider getting an updated haircut--something nicely shaped and flattering to your face. A hairstyle that is not overtly edgy but subtly conveys spending thought and time (and money) on your appearance will increase your credibility as an adult professional.

Makeup can also help you look older. I'll defer to others on this subject, but I will mention that friends of mine who look younger than their age tend to look much more "adult professional" when wearing makeup than not.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:39 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


You might find this article interesting. I don't at all think you NEED to wear makeup to a job interview. But I also a female in my 20's and have always felt like people treat me differently when I am wearing full makeup and am in work clothing. (During the period of time when I had to wear suits to work, the effect was really pronounced and actually astonishing for me - people treated me with way more courtesy/deference everywhere - DMV, post office, you name it.)

I once started a job at the same time as a co-worker who had the same position that I did, had a boatload of family and personal connections there, and was also extremely charismatic. In that situation, I had to give the impression of being a much better worker than this person, and I knew that actually being a better worker wasn't going to be enough by itself. There are all sorts of things that people are unconsciously swayed by, even if they would deny ever taking those things into account if asked directly. For me in addition to the things like being first one in/last one out, I absolutely made sure that my physical appearance was way more polished than the co-worker's appearance. That included makeup, other grooming, and dressing maybe a notch and a half more nicely. I could have been imagining it, but it seemed that almost from when I started doing that, people spoke to me a bit differently, and that slowly became more pronounced. People in charge started slowly giving me things to do that required slightly more skill and carried slightly more responsibility, and slowly that became WAY more pronounced. It's impossible to separate out cause and effect here, so it could be that how I was dressing had no impact at all in reality. But I think makeup is something you can use to help give you an edge if you want it. But I don't think you NEED that edge and if you don't really care that much about it, I think you should do perfectly fine without it.
posted by cairdeas at 8:42 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've done the interviewing and made hiring decisions dozens of times for 'back room' kinds of jobs. I couldn't care less what you look like or how you dress. I think I would draw a line at smelling bad, but I'd worry that it was an undisclosed medical problem you couldn't help.

I've likewise had occasion to hear many dozens of people share their opinions of job candidates. And you seriously never know what kind of shallow bullshit people will be affected by. I've been surprised by people whom I'd have supposed to be more enlightened than their judgments suggested, and the information did change what I thought of those folks.

Take reasonable steps here, but really, if this is what kills your chances, you didn't want to work for the people judging you.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:47 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I look young for my age and work in a pretty public facing job (go to court several times a week) and I got hired wearing no makeup, just like I do every day. I'm basically of the mind that if a potential employer needs you to change your personal appearance, you don't want to work for them. That doesn't mean you shouldn't dress professionally, but I don't think makeup comes under the heading of "necessary for looking professional."
posted by mlle valentine at 8:53 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since it's important to you not to have to wear make-up regularly, if you are not in a huge hurry to find a job then you are probably in a position where you can interview without make-up, and if the first one doesn't lead to an offer, just try the next one. As long as your are presentable (clothing- and body language-wise), qualified, and are a good interviewee, for the type of position you are seeking you should be able to eventually get an offer without needing make-up. Employers look for competence, energy, a positive attitude, good work ethic, good communication skills, team compatibility, etc., and if you have all that but no make-up, they'd be kind of irrational not to hire you.
posted by Dansaman at 9:07 PM on October 10, 2012


I would say that if you can pop some mascara and lipstick on, and some concealer if you need it, you will probably appear a little more professional looking. You can then ditch it when you get the job.

It's what I do. I don't like having to do it, but I've realised over the years that people do seem to expect it. That annoys me intensely, but there it is.

Personally, I have interviewed and I'm more concerned about the person's brain and attitude. BUT I have been personally told it looks more polite, like you've "made an effort", not just thrown some clothes on and dragged yourself in to the interview.

I used to work in the back office but sometimes had to present myself in public. I wasn't in a particularly stuffy industry - library supply and a lot of librarians dress very casually in my experience. But I wore a dress and jacket once and got comments "Oh, how INTERESTING" etc. (from other women) that made it clear that I was not toeing the line appropriately.

I still look young for my age at 40 (you will appreciate it when you get here!!) and I find sticking very light makeup on makes me look more pulled together and age-appropriate, so I do it.

I think MeFi does have a bias towards liberal people who don't care about this stuff, but it's worth bearing the 5 mins of mascara and lippy just in case, I feel.

Where you are and the industry would, however, be helpful.

Good luck for the interview!
posted by LyzzyBee at 10:47 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Which do you hate more, makeup or more formal professional attire? Pick at least one. Either can help get you over the hurdle of looking too young. Makeup is cheaper, suits require less energy in the morning.
posted by desuetude at 10:52 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Moisturize flaky dry skin or use powder if your skin is oily; trim your eyebrows if they need it; cover zits. Have clean, trimmed fingernails with maybe a neutral polish. Otherwise I wouldn't worry about it.

To look older, hairstyle and dress matter a lot more. As does not giggling or using slang.

Shake hands firmly, look people in the eye, respond confidently, smile, and be prepared. All of that matters more.

Only exception: if this job is in the beauty industry.
posted by emjaybee at 12:34 AM on October 11, 2012


I never wear makeup to work and I have never worn it to job interviews. I work with the public everyday and it has never been an issue. I don't pluck or trim my eyebrows either fwiw.
posted by amapolaroja at 12:51 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've worn make-up less than five times in my life (I'm 30) and I have a 95% success rate with job interviews (the only jobs I don't get are ones that I don't want and I sort of get to the interview after a while and start thinking "I don't want this" -- maybe they pick up on that).

I've held administrative jobs and retail/restaurant jobs in three upscale places.

My hair is always done for the interview and I always make it a point to dress well.

Oh, I have interviewed before and I've hired people without make up as well as people with make up.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 1:37 AM on October 11, 2012


I'm a woman, and this is what I think:

It sucks but people judge you based upon your appearance. Both men and women suffer this. We can all go on about how that isn't how it should be but it is how it is. Looking "put together" (which, like it or lump it, for women usually involves at least SOME makeup) is key to having people take you seriously. And there have been detailed psychological studies done to show that if two people people with identical resumes and experience, almost every time the more attractive one will get it. And even if there are women/people in the office that look decidedly scruffy, your career is best served not dressing to match the lowest common denominator, but the highest.


If your issue is that you used to rely on make up too much and that did a number on your self confidence, try to reframe it as "career makeup" not "make myself look beautiful" makeup. For me it falls under the same category as wearing work-appropriate clothes.

Here are what I consider to be the "essentials for the office" (and therefore also for an office job interview)
- well groomed eyebrows (FOR REAL!)
- tidy hair
- mascara (I would always include a little bit of eyeliner on the outer half my my lid just to open my eyes up a bit more, that is totally up to you)
- lip colour of some sort (a sheer lipstick/gloss would be perfect)
- well fitting non-wrinkly clothes

That's it. It takes next to no time in the morning to put on that tiny bit of makeup, but it will make a difference in how people see and approach you.

Oh, and if you don't want to look young, be careful of your hairstyle. In my experience a basic pony tail can make you look young, as can the big messy looped over bun.


And for the record, I too look much younger than my acutal age. I am 12 years older than the minimum drinking age and have only recently stopped getting carded at the liquor store. I definitely feel your pain. You know what matters more than looking young? Looking professional and classy. I know this first hand. And a little bit of makeup just to look more polished goes a long way towards that. It isn't about playing dressup or beauty queen, it is just about accentuating my features and leaving it at that.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:41 AM on October 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, forgot to mention: If you really hate putting on make up that much, you could just get your eyelashes tinted. My red-headed sister has practically blonde eyelashes and really isn't fussed about putting on makeup, but she does get her eyelashes tinted regularly and she uses a brow pencil to fill in her eyebrows a bit since they are also blonde. Small small things but they make a difference.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:51 AM on October 11, 2012


Not wearing makeup probably won't keep you from getting a job, but wearing light makeup to the interview almost certainly won't hurt. It goes with dressing appropriately for the interview - go a little more formal/professional than would be expected day to day for the job.

But if you'll be so uncomfortable wearing it that it affects your confidence or manner during the interview, skip it.
posted by songs about trains at 5:07 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honestly I think it depends on what you look like (coloring and skin type, mainly). If you feel like MeMailing an imgur link, I'd tell you whether I think you need makeup. If you don't wear it regularly, you probably don't need it. That said, well-shaped eyebrows, blush/lip color if you're pale, powder if you're shiny, and foundation or BB cream if your skintone is uneven can go a long way in making you look more polished (ESPECIALLY the eyebrows--you should get them waxed professionally just once, then you can keep the shape by plucking them on your own).

If you have concerns about looking too young, eye makeup can definitely help you look much more professional and "grown up".... Just something simple like a neutral shadow, highlight on your browbone, subtle eyeliner on the top lid only, and a daytime mascara like Cover Girl Lash Exact, also on the top lashes only.

The study two people linked to was sponsored by Proctor & Gamble, so I'd take it with a grain of salt.

Lastly, I can't believe all the women on here who never wear makeup! I'm such an addict that I almost forgot that not everyone wears it. You must all have good skin and for that I am VERY jealous!
posted by désoeuvrée at 5:38 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am sometimes responsible for hiring and interviewing people for mid- to entry-level administrative jobs. Frequently the people I interview are your age, give or take a couple of years. More often than not, they are women. Tomorrow, I have three interviews scheduled for an admin postion and my best guess is that at least one of them is your age. Maybe you are her! Probably not, but maybe.

Things I will judge my candidates on, because I am a super-harsh judge and our last admin person kind of sucked, so I want to be sure we get someone really good this time around:

  • appropriate attire. Yeah, it's an entry-level position in a laid-back office, and you can totally wear flip flops and shorts to work in the summer. That said, you don't know that before you come in, and I expect any interview candidate to be on the fancier side of business casual. Business casual is the absolute bottom rung here. I'll be more impressed if you're wearing a suit, or at least a blazer with a well-fitted skirt or slacks. Your clothes had sure as hell better be pressed/wrinkle-free, free of lint and pet fur. I will hold myself to the same standard for your interview, even though most days I just come to work in my sweaty bike-commute clothes and change into whatever is tucked away in my desk drawer.
  • politeness and initiative. I took notes on your phone manners when I called to schedule the interview. I told you to check on our website for directions. Every one of you replied with, "What is your website?" Guess what, if you Google the name of the place you applied for a job, our website is the first hit. If you hadn't figured that out and looked through it extensively before applying, I'm already wondering why I'm bothering to interview you. If you wanted to confirm what you should already have known, a better response would have been, "That's at [short url], right?"
  • qualifications. Our job description was a bit vague, so I will tell you specific things that the position will be required to do, and I expect you to tell me why you think you're qualified to do them.
  • a well-groomed appearance. If you have badly-applied make-up on that looks cakey, splotchy, or otherwise crappy, I'll make a mental note of it. If you have really, really good make-up on, I'll probably make a note of that as well and be slightly impressed. If you're not wearing any make-up, I probably won't notice at all unless you have obvious, unconcealed blemishes or dark circles, in which case I will feel a little bad for you and wonder why you didn't throw on some concealer. Nothing makes people look young and inexperienced quite so much as badly-applied make-up, but no make-up is not a liability unless you really can't pull it off. For me, personally, I think I look better with a bit of make-up, but I'm usually too lazy to wear it on a regular basis. I will wear it for special occasions and yes, interviews, but only because I think it makes me look better, so wearing it makes me more confident. If that's not the case for you, you can skip it.

  • posted by booknerd at 6:11 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Yeah it does depend on your coloring and skin type. If you don't ordinarily wear makeup it can look funny. If you want to try out lipstick or mascara, try them for a day when you are not going on an interview to make sure you have no problems with flaking or smudging.

    As far as "makeup" all over the face, I never wore any until I discovered tinted sunscreen. A lot of the new ones have words like "glow" or "radiant" in the name. I really like Aveeno Positively Radiant. You apply it very very lightly and it makes your skin look a lot smoother and a little brighter-- not that glitter-face look you see on some people. You should be wearing sunscreen anyway so maybe try getting a tube of tinted and mixing a little in. I do this and a bottle of the Aveeno product, while it costs $16, should last months.
    posted by BibiRose at 7:50 AM on October 11, 2012


    Here's the thing: I'm older than you, but even when I was your age, many people (mostly men) thought I "didn't wear makeup" or "looked great even without makeup." That's because tinted moisturizer/sunscreen, tinted lip balm, lightly applied cheek tint (optional) a standard concealer, and garden-variety mascara are a sort of cultural default, to the point where many people (mostly men) don't have an eye for what's makeup and what's natural. This very light routine ends up looking "professional", "polished", "healthy", "rested."

    If I DIDN'T wear makeup (especially if it wasn't summertime, or I wasn't sleeping well) I would get concerns about my health/restedness, or read as much younger. It's up to you, but consider spending a bit of money at the drugstore and just about 5 minutes in the morning to do this for the interview.
    posted by availablelight at 8:28 AM on October 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


    I think, unless you're desperate to get a job right now, you should begin as you mean to go on.

    If you have to wear make-up to get the job, you're going to end up getting a job where you're expected to wear make-up. Since you don't seem to want to wear it, I wouldn't suggest wearing it to the interview. Just dress appropriately and nicely, and be otherwise clean and well-groomed.

    I'm a woman, and I'm currently involved in the hiring process for an executive assistant for our legal team. I've interviewed tons of people recently, in company with a few other staff members. We've seen people with make-up and without, and the only time I've ever heard the make-up mentioned in reviews of the candidates is when one woman's eyelashes were sagging with the weight of the many clumps of mascara she'd inexpertly applied.

    I never wear makeup, either in interviews or on the job. I used to be an executive assistant myself, but have moved up the ladder since then (and still no make-up!)
    posted by kythuen at 9:43 AM on October 11, 2012


    I have been touting BB Creams and I'm going to do it here.

    First of all, they blend directly into your skin and they moisturize, cover, even out skin tone, have sun protection and do something so you look luminescent and glowy.

    Wearing make up isn't about looking artificial, it's about looking super healthy.

    I kind of got the impression that by Make up, you meant Foundation, which, ew. No.

    I've never liked foundation, and for decades I used a Clinique foundation that you had to have a degree in physics to apply because it was water based with loose pigment in it and you had to learn how to "work with it". It looked great on and was good for my oily skin.

    When they discontinued it, I ended up with tinted moisturizers and powder, which is okay, but not great.

    Then mineral makeup, which I like fine.

    But the BB Cream. Ahhh, that's the thing. It's so great!

    I have a friend with a beautiful complection and perfect eyebrows, she's about the only person I know who can get away without makeup and still look great.

    Wanting to look nice isn't a terrible thing and it's not vain. It's reality.

    As you can tell, other people think differently, but I don't think a bit of slap will go amiss.
    posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:12 AM on October 11, 2012


    It's definitely not required. However, it will probably help. Unfortunately, sexism is still alive and well, and things like this sometimes matter. For example, women fare better in job interviews if they wear a skirt.
    posted by asnider at 2:27 PM on October 11, 2012


    Most general definitions of "minimal" or "essential" makeup include twice as many products as what I would ever use. You don't have to buy into the whole list like it's an "appropriate office makeup" costume on your face. Just consider whether any of this stuff might be a handy tool for you personally.

    For instance, I often have dark circles under my eyes due to chronic sinus issues, even when I feel fine. Are they so hideous that I must protect my coworkers from the horror? Nah, of course not. But I don't like how they look, and I don't love hearing "you look tired" as a conversation-starter. Nor do I love the really dull ensuing small-talk explaining that it's just sinus issues, and then reassuring well-meaning people that no, I'm not sick, I'm fine. Though it's FAR preferable to the version with the supercilious "out too late partying, hmmmmm?" assumptions.

    So, I don't use foundation all over my face, but a quick swipe of concealer is a small thing that makes me happier with my reflection in the mirror while also preventing unwelcome office behavior. I know other people who wear blush instead on the same basic principle. (Myself, I reject blush, to the horror of the makeup counter ladies.)

    I don't have any reason for wearing mascara other than aesthetics, but the way it looks pleases me enough to justify bothering to use it. I know some people who have never bothered with mascara a day in their life but feel similarly about lipstick. And so forth.
    posted by desuetude at 2:55 PM on October 11, 2012


    Thanks everyone for your replies.

    I graduated from college over a year ago and am still struggling to find real work so it's hard not to go back over past interviews and pick at everything as small as makeup.

    The upcoming interview is actually with the company I have been temping with - Though not the same position or in the same office. I also heard from a friend in the company today that some supervisors have said they don't think I have the right personality for the company (yeah that didn't feel too great).

    Makeup is probably the least of my worries now!

    I'll probably go without. If they don't like me, they don't like me..
    posted by secretdawn at 5:13 PM on October 11, 2012


    Good luck, secretdawn.
    posted by cairdeas at 12:33 AM on October 15, 2012


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