Preparing For the Interview:Before The Paint and Powder

The Secretary of State has bad days too.

It says, “I do things at the last minute. I don’t plan, I just live…”

Determining what is appropriate for interview makeup brings out a broad stripe of ambiguity about women. The general consensus: Take it easy. Not too much, but don’t come in bare faced either (that’s country!) Recruiters’ blogs and advice articles I have read  quote research  that gives a thumbs up for a lady to wear natural toned makeup applied with a light hand for that touch of professional sophistication for the interview. It says, “I respect myself. I’m together”. Remember our discussion about the “precious moments” before an applicant emerges from the car and how those moments may not be so private? Another bad thing  the corporate parking lot  lookout could catch an applicant doing in the car is applying makeup. It has the tang of disorganization and non-readiness. It says, “I do things at the last minute. I don’t plan, I just live…”

In the single numbered days of my life in a new state, I did the second worst thing: apply makeup in the ladies’ room just before the interview.

Attention to health, rest and  nutrition matters…

After a restless night , I stumbled sleep deprived, and raccoon-eyed into an interview at a temporary service agency in the state my family had just moved to having no professional contacts, no social ties and not a clue about looking for work at the tail end of the 20th century.

After the interview, the image I caught in the ladies’ room mirror appalled me. How on earth had I let myself get into this state? and…how is this outdated shade of lipstick still in my purse? Sure enough, the impression I left with the hiring associate at that agency was not a positive one and relations with that outfit went unhappily ever after. Fixing the personal self-esteem damage that experience did to my morale  took scrubbing, bleach and therapy.

The fact that my old address was still on my woefully dated  resume was bad enough, but that is a discussion for another day.  The spotlight (or that horrible light in the bathroom) is on the fact that  I was caught plain faced and tired looking when I should have been well rested, energetic, and prepared. I should have rescheduled that interview. Attention to health, rest and  nutrition matters even before the first stroke of foundation goes on and no amount of make up can cover its lack .


Preparing For The Interview: Indy-Goth-Grunge-Punk Style

rock and roll musician, George Michael

Ready to rock, but at the interview, not.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. True enough. When it comes to hair, makeup and physical adornments at interviews, there seems to be a theme running through much of the literature on the shelves and online: WATCH IT. There is a definite prejudice towards contemporary styled, neat hair, and  clean, hairless faces. For many of us that translates into these kinds of admonitions:

Keep the haircut conservative.

Keep the pink coiffed, bed head, and emo-black hair for the weekend–and don’t have any pictures of it on Facebook. Some ethnic hairstyles in the eyes of some executives still denote a rebellious attitude, so it pays to understand the corporate culture before showing up in dreads or twists. The grunge-y stubble that looks so great on George Michael might not be a good idea at the interview. Beards, van-dykes and other facial hair styles should be neatly trimmed. Women should not wear beards. Generally, arts industry professionals have much more leeway to express personal style in comparison with, say, bankers or Wall Street stock traders.

Keep jewelry near the face conservative.

Many interview advice comments I have heard from recruiters are along the line of small, non-pendulous earrings for women and no earrings for men. A woman with more than one piercing in her ears should decide which two to wear a small stud in. Generally, ear jewelry should not make noise or be a distraction. Believe it or not, large hoop earrings still have a negative connotation.

Hands should look neat and cared for; conservatively adorned.

Clean and clear. A man’s hands should be clean with neatly trimmed nails–all of them. Having a longer nail on the pinky finger used to mean a certain social status, but it does not translate well at the interview today. Likewise, a woman’s hands should be clean with neatly trimmed nails. Trade the robin’s egg blues and safety orange for closer to natural tones for the interview. For men and women, dial down the finger bling. That means Diamond Jim should wear one or two rings on each hand instead of the usual fistful. The same goes for Sophisticated Lady. One or two rings will do. Neither should be sporting noisy wrist wear.

I put on the single strand of pearls (good fakes that do not show wear) and ear studs with my suit. My artsy stone pendants  and talismans stay at home when interviewing for the corporate office. Never a sell-out in any sense, it is merely one more classic move in “the game” of getting the job.

Preparing For the Interview: The Sweet Smell of Excess?

Shalimar fragrance and Prince Machabelli bottles

My mother’s perfume

I love perfume. So did my mom. It must be genetic.

As a child, my merchant seaman father would come home with gifts of fragrance from around the world and I used to love rummaging through mom’s dressing table testing for treasures of scent. There in that alchemist’s collection of  mysterious bottles  lived the captured souls of romance  with names like “My Sin”, “Tabu” and my favorite, “Shalimar“. To this day whenever I can find it, I enjoy daubing on a little of the classic Avon fragrances. Perfume is the most affordable of luxuries and the essence of womanliness.

Most times, job loss  means shedding things to save money, so there is a sad, gradual loss or downgrade of items like hairdresser appointments, salon shampoo, new clothes, new shoes,  makeup, and finally perfume. If I am rendering the research correctly, the human sense of smell is the most powerfully evocative of  all the senses. One whiff of warm granny apples with cinnamon and suddenly there is a desire to run up the front steps of the “old house” two at a time. Caught downwind from “Old Spice“, tears well up as it conjures warm memories because that was “his” scent.

On an emotional level, I get it. One never knows what dreams or nightmares will be called forth in an interviewer by an applicant’s wearing a certain scent. Know, however, that scent is part of  image strategy. Beware. The choice of scent must be contemporary, tasteful, complementary to business wear/hairstyles and light. Wearing some scents that were popular a generation ago actually say, “frumpy and old-timer-ish”;carries peppermints in the bottom of her hand bag. Scent could give your age away in that case.

a 21st century perfume

Dangerous drink, intoxicating perfume?

Then again, interviews  held in tiny, ventless inner  rooms dictate that neither recruiter nor applicant wear highly scented cosmetic products to avoid triggering allergies or the gag reflex. I have stopped thinking that the often given advice against wearing my incense woods-heavy signature  fragrance in interviews as another shameful loss of freedom in the USA and started thinking of it as a courtesy; like graciously not sharing  information too intimate for that venue. It might just be best to keep this emotionally loaded potion bottled up on the dresser until the ink on the new-hire papers is dry.

Gleanings on wearing scent in an interview or at work