Does wearing bright red lipstick or some other bold shade say something about you to an interviewer that you might not expect? Should you even wear lipstick when you dress for a job interview? What about your makeup?
To many interviewers, these things – yes, even the color of your lipstick – really do matter. And, unfair as it may seem, a wrong shade can leave a lasting impression that may even keep you from getting the job!
Lipstick isn’t the only thing an interviewer notices
Whether you’re a man or woman, everything you say and do from the moment you’re first seen by someone at the company (or heard on the phone or viewed on paper) go into painting the picture of who you are and what you might be like to work with. I mention lipstick mostly to make this point since many women don’t even think about just how carefully their signals are being “read” by the employer, both now and after you start the job.
Something as small as a really bold shade of lipstick – or even heavy eye makeup – is sending an unnecessary message. Should interviewers be able to look beyond this? Of course! But your job during the interview process is to help them best see who you really are and how well you fit the job in question – and not to teach them the way to be more open in life.
Just look at her juicy red lips!
I’m reminded of a man I once worked for who liked to confide in me. As his executive assistant, it became part of the job – an uncomfortable part I might add. (I’ll save the rest of that story for another post.) There was a very talented woman who worked in our department – pleasant to work with and skilled in her field. But my boss couldn’t help mentioning her lipstick quite often when we spoke. She used a very bright shade of red, starkly contrasted to her very light skin. And it seems he couldn’t keep his eyes of her juicy lips.
Wait … are women readers out there outraged? Are you thinking this man is an idiot and not worth the time to read about his dirty mind? Probably. But I once had a boyfriend who also was very … uh … noticing of women with bright red lipstick. Almost as if the brain gets stuck on “oooh … look at her lips” and misses anything she is saying. And let’s face it, women also rush to judgment based on how a job candidate looks, yes even her lipstick.
I get that none of this may be exactly relevant to your interview. But my point is why provide possible diversions? If the way you dress or the makeup you wear is shining more than you, you’ve probably lost the job already by undercutting the most important thing you have to sell – your ability to be a valuable, respected employee. Or if you do get the job … what are you getting into? And what impression have you left about yourself?
Looks shouldn’t matter – but they do
So when you’re dressing for an interview, why even add another factor? Think about clothes that are clean and attractive, but that do not scream “Hey look at me. I’m a hot babe.” (Or hot dude.) The same goes for your lipstick and makeup. Keep it neat and simple and stay away from ultra-bright colors. Understated is better. You’re not a runway model. (Unless you are. But even then, come in as a canvas and not the finished work of art.)
And lipstick, if you even decide to wear any, is probably best in a more subdued or neutral tone (seriously … no black lipstick) if you want them to actually listen to your words, and not think “look at those lips!” (Yes … even women interviewers can get diverted by things like that.)
Don’t forget to research the company!
Of course, how you dress and present yourself during an interview is partly dependent on the industry or particular company profile. So do your homework ahead of time. If you can, find pictures of people who work there on the website or LinkedIn so you aren’t surprised by the look of your interviewers. Investment banking would certainly require a different type of look and feel than say technology. IT areas might be fine with no makeup (I never wear any) or minimal natural-looking makeup. High fashion would expect a different personal presentation than IT, but I am guessing even there, leading with your personal strengths and not your lips would be the way to go.
And btw … even if your interviewers wear jeans, you shouldn’t. And probably no matter where you interview, no heavy liner, false eyelashes, rainbow eye shadow, or glossy kiss-me lips. (Again, if you’re a man and this applies … well, more power to you.)
[NOTE: The title of this article was written with a wink and due respect for one of the best-known career guides, What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles.]
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