While it’s nice to think your skills should be the only thing the interviewer notices, it’s almost never the case. Potential employers can and will judge you on presentation.
Sarah Rigg, a career management consultant at Randstad, says that when you have little information about a person, it’s human nature to make assumptions based on presentation and body language.
“Employers are particularly judgmental because they are about to make an investment in you, so presenting yourself as polished and made up appropriately for the role sends a strong message about your personality and professionalism.”
It may seem shallow, but if you’re in the final round of interviews and head to head with another candidate, your chipped nail polish may be your undoing. Subconsciously the interviewer could equate it with lack attention to detail.
1. Avoid heavy make-up
Hair and make-up artist Julia Green says subtlety is key. Think simple, sophisticated and professional. “Focus on making your skin look clean and fresh,” says Green. “Don’t try to create your ‘going out’ look.”
But don’t suppress your personal identity altogether (you don’t want to be seen as wishy-washy).
“Stay true to yourself and apply your make-up thoughtfully so you appear chic, with a few compromises here and there if necessary,” Green says. By all means wear your favourite electric lippie but tone it down by patting your pout to turn it into a lip stain.
To keep make-up flawless, apply a primer before your foundation and carry touch-up tools on the day. “If you get a bit hot or sweaty under pressure, have a pressed powder compact and mirror on hand so you can quickly touch up your base before you’re called in,” says Green, who also suggests getting a manicure prior to the interview. Freshly painted, nicely shaped tips in a neutral colour like pale pink or beige will work every time.
2. Adopt the attitude ‘less is morel
When deciding which products to use, less is definitely more; don’t feel you have to wear extra because it’s an interview. “Aim for natural, fresh and glowing (not shiny) skin,” suggests Green. “A subtle swipe of blush on your cheeks, a lick of mascara and a touch of lip colour will always impress.” Rigg agrees, noting that too much make-up can be very distracting for an interviewer.
For hair, well-maintained strands project professionalism, so make sure your dye job is fresh and your hair is clean. “Nothing says ‘I don’t look after my appearance’ quite like greasy locks!” says Green. When choosing your hairstyle, go with a neat, unfussy look that’s out of your face. If in doubt, a chic chignon, sleek ponytail or fresh blow wave will always work.
3. Skip the perfume
As for fragrance, it’s safest to skip the perfume. Everyone has different scent preferences and if your interviewer takes offence to yours it will shift the attention from your skills to the waft trailing behind you. “Sometimes the devil is in the details,” says Rigg. “Too much perfume, make-up and noisy jewellery can be very distracting in an interview setting.”
4. Do your research
Keep in mind that the rules do change depending on whether your target workplace is corporate or creative. If you’re unsure, Rigg suggests checking the company’s LinkedIn or social media profiles for hints on how employees present themselves.
“Your overall look should match the role and demonstrate that you understand their culture,” says Rigg. “Make it easy for your interviewer to visualise you in the role and you are halfway there!”
Words: Jessica Anne-Lyons