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Should You Wear Makeup to a Job Interview?

woman applying makeup

Question: I’m transitioning from the Air Force in 60 days. During my eight years in service, I never wore makeup. I’ll be pursuing work in human resources for a technology company. Is it necessary to wear makeup to the interview and then on the job? Where can I learn how to apply it correctly?

Answer:  During your military career, you were focused on accomplishing goals necessary to completing your mission. I understand that wearing makeup is not typically an important component of flying a fighter jet.

From one woman to another, let me help you understand what makeup can do for you, and what it should not. Makeup can help you present a polished appearance, and give you an extra boost of confidence, if you apply it correctly and appropriate to the situation.  Makeup should not be used to cover up who you are, make you feel like someone you’re not, or be applied to the distraction of your abilities and values.

My recommendations for proper makeup application:

  1. Find a look that requires minimal makeup, but evens out your skin and highlights your features.  If you love your eyes, play them up. Have full lips? Apply a light toned lipstick to accentuate them. The goal is to use the least makeup possible to smooth out your features and make you feel polished and confident.
  2. Avoid heavy eyeliner, dark eye shadows, intense blush (rouge) and bright lipsticks. They are distracting and unflattering to many women. Unless you are skilled at applying vivid colors (and the industry and company you are pursuing embraces boldness), stay with neutrals.
  3. To learn about makeup and receive application tips, visit the cosmetics counter at a local department store. These employees are skilled in the newest products and how to use them. They typically will give you a full makeup application and instruction for no cost, although they appreciate if you purchase something you like that they used. You can also get the instruction and the tips, and find similar products at a drug store for less money.

Do you have to wear makeup? No, not at all. I know many women who don't wear a stitch of makeup and their careers are thriving. Makeup is not a requirement! I happen to enjoy makeup — when I apply my morning “face,” I feel creative and it relaxes me. I enjoy trying new techniques and colors, and often read magazines or look at websites like Pinterest for new techniques and ideas. If makeup makes you feel happy, enjoy it.

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Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is passionate about helping veterans learn how to compete for careers in the civilian sector. A TEDx Speaker, Lida presents her unique personal branding training programs across the U.S., at military installations and events, serves on the Board of Directors of NAVSO  volunteers with ESGR, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans successfully transition after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at She is also the author of the best selling book, "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition," available at and on Amazon.