Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What Not to Wear- Job Interview Edition - Part IV - Women's Accessories and Grooming

Women are lucky to have far more freedom than men when it comes to expressing ourselves through our appearance. Unfortunately, too many women abuse this freedom and do things like this to their faces and hair:


When preparing for a job interview, your mantra should be "less is more". You want your appearance to compliment, not overwhelm, your personality and qualifications in the mind of the interviewer. Don't let them remember you as the girl with crazy eyeliner or stripper shoes.

Grooming tips:

Your makeup should be SUBTLE. Many women are confused by this idea. It means that it should not look as though you have makeup on, just that your features are enhanced by a little bit of color and your flaws are concealed.

Clear skin, a little color on the cheeks and lips, some definition of the eyes (in light colors with only a tiny bit of eyeliner), nothing else.

If you don't ever wear makeup, don't feel like you have to wear it for an interview. Just make sure that your skin is matte (see "We All Shine On" post below) and that you've covered up any blemishes with a little concealer. Blemishes and skin redness will make you look younger and less attractive.

Your hair should be out of your face so that it doesn't fly around when you're speaking or walking. If your hair is short, wear it down, if it's longer, pull half of it back and bobby pin it behind your head, or wear it in a low ponytail. High ponytails scream "high school cheerleader". Avoid this.

Cut your nails short and only use clear or light pink nail polish on finger and toenails. If you're wearing open-toed shoes, get a pedicure. If you have long acrylic nails, get rid of them, they're trashy.

To reiterate what I said about fragrances for men, I think it's best not to wear perfume or strongly scented lotions to an interview. If you absolutely cannot live without a fragrance on your body, wear something light and floral that won't be noticable to anyone more than 4 feet away from you.

Rules for Accessorizing:

ALWAYS wear hose to an interview, or any business situation. There was a period in the 90's when women stopped following this rule, but hosiery is back in style and is absolutely necessary to wear year round in these situations. Choose a color that closely matches your skin so that if you get runs they won't be as noticable. Don't wear anything with a texture or pattern, those are for casual outfits.

When choosing shoes, it's always better to err on the side of sensible than fashionable. Wear pumps, slingbacks or flats that are under 3 inches, even if you are very short. Don't wear a stiletto or wedge heel, even if they are in style. Pick a pair that match your suit and are fairly simple- avoid pairs with bold patterns and large bows, buckles or buttons. Make sure the shoe fits well and won't give you blisters or hurt your feet- wear them at least one full day before you wear them to the interview.

Bring a purse or a briefcase large enough to hold a portfolio. You don't need both- one or the other is fine. Choose something leather and expensive-looking. Don't bring a trendy bag or anything with a ton of hardware.

If you wear jewelry, limit yourself. Choose small pieces: no dangly earrings, long necklaces, multiple rings, pendants or charm bracelets. If you jingle when you move you have on too much. Only wear metal jewelry (gold, silver, etc) as anything else will look cheap. If you have multiple piercings in your ears (or other places on your body), take out them out, at least for the interview.

In closing, I'd like to quote the great Coco Chanel, who said, "a woman should always take one item off before leaving the house." Even the best suit can be ruined by overdone hair, makeup and accessories, so only wear the essentials!

What Not to Wear- Job Interview Edition - Part III- Women's Suits

Women's suits have a reputation for being dowdy, unflattering and indistinguishable. In recent years, mainstream stores have started selling suit lines with many different cuts and styles that flatter women's bodies and allow them to express their personality while still meeting dress code standards. Women are lucky to have far more suit options than men, but this also leaves room for confusion, as different suits suggest different things.

When purchasing your first suit, it's best to get one in a neutral color (black or gray) in a basic fabric like triacetate or a wool blend that you can wear year-round. When you start building a suit wardrobe you can add more interesting fabrics like herringbone and tweed.

Get a jacket that is fitted and shows off your shape, but is loose enough that you can move around without feeling constrained. Lift your arms and dance around in the dressing room to try this out. You want a jacket with full-length sleeves and 2-3 buttons. It's always better to buy a bigger jacket and have it tailored later, so don't worry if the sleeves are too long.

A skirted suit is the most traditional, so for your first suit it's best to have a skirt. If you love the jacket, pick up the matching skirt and pants and just wear the skirt to interviews.

The most flattering skirt is a pencil skirt. Make sure the skirt hits your knees, or right above or below it, so that when you sit down no more than 3 inches of your thigh is showing. If it feels too baggy or is too long, take it to a tailor.

Pair your suit with a button-down dress shirt. Colors are acceptable, but avoid bright colors or shiny fabrics if the industry is more conservative, like finance or law. You can't go wrong with a cotton shirt in a light color like pink, blue or yellow.

As a tall woman, I often have a problem finding shirts that are long enough for me to sit and stand repeatedly without having the shirt come undone. Try this out at the store to make sure you won't have this problem. One trick I use is to tuck the bottom of the shirt into the top of my hose so that it stays flat and tucked into my skirt all day long.

Wondering which shoes are acceptable for an interview or how much makeup or jewelry is too much? Check back tomorrow!

What Not to Wear- Job Interview Edition - Part II - Men's Accessories and Grooming

Yesterday I introduced the importance of personal appearance for a job interview and discussed men's suits. Today's post will discuss men's accessories and grooming.

Tips for Accessorizing:

Wear dress shoes that lace up and a leather belt that both match the color of the suit. Loafers are NOT acceptable (which is pretty sad, actually, as they are very comfortable).

Wear dark dress socks that won't show your ankles if you cross your legs.

Pocket squares are stylish, but they're a little showy for an interview, unless you're Michael Irvin.

Bring a briefcase or leather portfolio that has your resume, any additional paperwork they might want (such as a transcript or letter of recommendation), a pen and a pad of paper to jot down any important notes before or after the interview or to write down someone's contact information. Staples has a number of inexpensive options.

It's not a bad idea to carry a handkerchief in your pocket in case you have to sneeze or you have a runny nose.

Don't wear jewelry, except for a wedding ring or watch (a silver or gold band is preferable, but a leather band works too). Anything flashy will distract, so leave the bling at home.

P. Diddy looks fantastic, but that ring could blind someone.

Grooming Tips:

Make sure your hair has been cut recently and don't forget to shave the morning of the interview.

Avoid cologne or any strongly scented lotions or hair products, as many people are allergic.

Bring breath mints or mouthwash strips and use one 10-15 minutes before your interview begins. You don't want to overwhelm someone with mint when you open your mouth. I love Listerine PocketPaks because they don't make noise like a lot of mints and you don't have to chew them.

Make sure your nails are trimmed and your hands are clean and soft, but don't put on lotion right before you go in, as no one wants a slimy handshake.

Tomorrow I'll have a post about women's business attire, so be sure to check back!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What Not to Wear- Job Interview Edition - Part I - Men's Suits

Dressing appropriately for a job interview is a difficult thing; many people are not used to wearing formal business attire and are uncomfortable putting together an outfit for an interview. Because different industries have different dress standards, you may not know how formal or casual you should dress for the interview.

I believe that you should always play it safe when applying to any job and dress in standard business attire, even if it's for a company that is known for their casual workplace dress. You want your attire to convey professionalism, seriousness and competence, and the best way to give that impression is to wear a flattering suit with appropriate accessories. Countless studies have shown that professional appearance plays a key factor in whether a person is hired, so make sure that you're not letting a poor appearance keep you from getting the job you want.

So basically, going business formal is the best bet 99% (or more) of the time. Although most companies these days have a business casual dress code, interviewers are likely to expect a suit. Conversely, if you walk into an interview and are less dressed than your interviewer, you've likely sabotaged your chances right there. So, stick with a suit for the first round.

Today's post willl deal with men's attire, and tomorrow I'll cover men's accessories and grooming for interviews. Later in the week, I'll talk about what women should and shouldn't wear at an interview.

The Suit:
Wear a matching suit in navy, gray or black. Navy or gray are the safest colors, as black can sometimes appear too flashy. Pinstripes are ok, but you're better off just sticking to solid colors. Make sure that it is fairly conservative and that it fits you well (you can take it to a tailor for a professional opinion).

Pair it with a white or light blue dress shirt. There are plenty of other viable dress shirt colors for a day at the office, but unless you're interviewing for a job in the fashion or marketing industry, there's no reason to deviate from safe colors.

Wear a tie that compliments the suit but strongly contrasts with the color of the shirt. Make sure the print is subtle, or it will be distracting. For ideas about color combinations, check out the websites of well-known stores like Brooks Brothers and Nordstrom.

For detailed instructions on how to tie a tie, check this out.

If you doubt your ability to match your outfit, you're not alone. Go to the men's department of a nicer department store like Nordstrom or Lord and Taylor or a specialty suit store and bring your suit. A salesperson will help you find a shirt and tie that match. People do this all the time, so don't feel embarrassed. And if you don't trust the judgment of the salesperson helping you, don't feel obligated to buy what they suggest.

For more information about suits, check out these articles from Wikipedia and GQ.

Check back tomorrow for Part II of What Not to Wear- Job Interview Edition.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Check Please!

Going out to eat with friends or a date is one of my favorite things to do, but it seems that no matter how well the night is going, things often fall apart around the time that the waiter brings the check to the table. Every single time I go out with a large group of friends, at least two or three people don't have cash on them and offer to pay with their credit card. One person wins and gets to use their card, while I usually end up having to pay for one of my cash-less friends. The only thing I hate more than unpreparedness is loaning money, because it only leads to problems when someone keeps forgetting to pay you back. It's an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved.

Dates are even trickier because people have varying (and often strong) beliefs on who should pay for what on a date. Because I enjoy the benefits of gender equality, I don't feel comfortable allowing a date to pay for me, as it introduces a financial imbalance to the relationship. If he absolutely insists, that's fine, but I expect to treat him to dinner another time. I understand that most women (and many men) reading this will want to send me an angry e-mail about how chivalry is alive and well and should stay that way, but I think that if women want to be respected as equals, they can't depend on men financially, at any stage of a relationship. And you never know how your date feels about this issue, so ladies, don't forget your wallet at home.

Some people are very funny about paying at a restaurant. I once went on a double date where the other couple insisted on putting the check on two different credit cards and having us pay the rest in cash. They had cash on them, they just wanted to charge it. This created a big scene as the couple had to write down their list on instructions to our waiter as well as explain just what they wanted on which card and what was to be paid in cash. Not only was it embarrassing, it was extremely rude to the waiter, who had done a great job serving us that night.

The same thing goes for seperate checks, either you tell the waiter when you order that you'd like seperate checks for everyone at the table (and understand if he says this isn't possible) or you work with one check. Working at a restaurant is an extremely demanding job, and if someone has provided you with good service, it's not fair to make their life harder by making all kinds of silly requests.

So, in conclusion, some do's and don'ts when paying at a restaurant:
DO always have cash on you (more than enough to pay for a meal, drink and tip at the restaurant you're visiting)
DON'T expect your date to pay for you if you're a woman
DON'T feel compelled to pay for your date if you're a man
DON'T be rude to your waiter by making the payment process difficult, get all your money together and pay either entirely in cash or on one credit card

Happy eating!

We all shine on...

Most of us assume that once we're no longer teenagers, we won't have to deal with oily skin. Sadly, this is not the case for many people in their 20's and early 30's. Stress, hormonal changes and bad sleeping and eating habits (hello college) only exacerbate the problem. And when you're getting ready for a big event, whether it's a first date, job interview or presentation, you don't want your shiny skin to distract from how great you look. Here are a few products that get the job done and will keep you shine-free all day:

Clean & Clear Instant Oil-Absorbing Sheets

These work extremely well and are gender neutral, so guys don't have to feel weird having a pack of these in their pocket. Any time you want your skin to be completely matte, press one of these all over your face. If you're a woman, it's best to use them before putting powder on, and it'll make your makeup last all day. There are lots of blotting papers on the market but these are the cheapest and most effective (they're also available at every drugstore).

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Face Cream SPF 50 50ml/1.7oz

Wearing sunscreen every day is essential for anyone who wants to prevent aging and avoid skin cancer. Shiseido's line of sunscreens are the most effective available in the States AND they are amazing mattifyers. Putting this on in the morning will protect you from UVA and UVB rays and keep your skin from producing oil for most of the day. It is on the expensive side, but if you're going to splurge on any beauty product, sunscreen should be it.

Clinique Day Care - Pore minimizer T-Zone Shine Control 15ml/0.5oz

Good to use in the morning after moisturizing your face, not as effective as the Shiseido sunscreen, but will keep you shine-free for at least a few hours. A little bit goes a long way and the price is reasonable for what you get.

Mac Blot Powder (pressed)

Hands down, the best powder on the market for oily skin. Using it after blotting sheets will set your makeup and give your skin a beautiful finish. It comes with a small puff, so you don't have to worry about the compact taking up too much space in your purse.

These are a few of my favorite products for combating shiny skin, but if you're in a crunch, you can always go to the bathroom, fold a kleenex into a square and press it all over your face. This will absorb oil for at least a short time.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Classroom Etiquette

As a college student, I'm often shocked by the lack of respect people show during classes. I understand that you pay $48,000 a year to go here, but that does not give you the right to eat an entire plate of barbeque chicken wings (on a real plate, with real silverware, no less) while I'm trying to focus on the lecture and take notes on Rousseau's "Social Contract". I watch people take off their shoes or sandals and put their naked feet on the chair in front of them, eat a bag of noisy bag of potato chips, clean out their fingernails and flick the dirt onto the floor and stroll into the room 15 minutes late every single class (you're not Jeff Spicoli and it's not amusing). Also, I know I go to a hippie college but not bathing before class is unacceptable. The 1960's are over and cleanliness has been in style ever since.

Yes, you are paying a lot of money to attend this class, but so am I, so clean up your act!

Here are some basic rules for acting appropriately in a college class:

Try to get there on time, but if you can't, enter the room quietly and take the seat nearest the door. Avoid making a scene.

If you need a snack, bring something that is quiet and can be eaten quickly without any mess or gross smells, like a muffin or a granola bar.

Keep your shoes on.

Don't come to class straight from the gym.

Don't waste people's time with pointless comments or questions.

Put your cell phone on silent or turn it off BEFORE you come to class.

If the class is small and everyone is sitting around a table, be especially aware of what you're doing, because everyone else can see and will not appreciate that you're picking your nose.

In general, respect other people's personal space. Give them enough room and don't distract them from focusing on the class by doing any of the things I've mentioned. No one should have to spend 2 hours stuck next to someone acting rude. If someone acts disrespectful repeatedly and it's making going to the class an unpleasant experience, e-mail the professor and let him/her know how you feel. He/she probably feels the same way and is happy to have an excuse to tell the person to stop.

Meet and Greet

Meeting people for the first time is really difficult, particularly in forced situations (job interviews, weddings, running into your ex's new girl/boyfriend, etc). There are a few basic things that you can do to make a good first impression in any situation:

Step 1: Pretend you're happy to be where you are and meeting this person, no matter how uncomfortable, nervous or completely bored you are. You never know what kind of relationship might come out of this first conversation, so pretend that this person is capable of improving your life in innumerable ways. Along with faking happiness, it's important to fake (or if you actually have it, show) confidence. Go into the situation feeling good about yourself, because other people won't know that you're faking and they'll want to find out why you're so great. This step is mostly to psych yourself up for the actual meeting.

Step 2: You're so delighted to be meeting this person so you show it by smiling (a real smile, not a fake one), looking them in the eye and introducing yourself. The introduction is key, as it's often said that people make a decision about whether they like someone based on the first 5-10 seconds meeting them. Stick out your hand, give the other person a nice, firm handshake and tell them your name AND a relevant fact about yourself. For instance:

At a wedding: "Hi, my name is Meg and I'm the sister of the bride."

At a networking event: "Hi, my name is Meghan and I'm interested in working in finance."

At a first date with someone you met online: "Hi, my name is Meg, I hope I'm not unrecognizable from my profile picture."

You get the idea... the point is that in introducing yourself you open up a conversation without having to resort to dull comments about traffic or the weather. You also get a chance to talk about yourself and show how fascinating you are before you start asking about the other person. In non-professional situations, it's best if your opening line shows a sense of humor (self-deprication often works well), but if you don't know what to say, you can always say something more basic like the examples I just used. And if you feel awkward saying this, you can always use a generic line like "it's so nice to finally meet you." This is all situational though.

If you're introduced by someone else and they don't say something about you, talk about how you know the person introducing you, such as "Neil and I have been friends since high school. How do you know him?"

I have one major pet peeve when it comes to meeting new people and it's that people are lazy and like talking about themselves too much. Often I find that if you show that you're willing to work and ask questions about them, they sit back and forget to ask you anything. This happens most frequently in group social situations when there's enough to talk about without having to do the back and forth, "tell me about your life" thing. Don't let this happen to you! If someone is nice enough to show interest in you (or as I've said before, fake interest in you), reward them by asking about their life, even if it's just repeating many of the questions they asked.

Introducing yourself is difficult, but ending the first conversation is also tough. You never want to make someone feel like you're leaving them because you'd rather talk to someone else (even if it's true), and often using excuses like "I'm going to grab a drink at the bar" backfire when the person asks you to bring them something or decides to join you. Your best bet is using a simple "John, it was a pleasure meeting you, have a good night."

One final thing: often in situations where you're meeting people for the first time, food and drinks are involved. Make sure that one hand (preferably the one you shake with) is free so that you're not juggling things when you introduce yourself. Also, alcohol doesn't improve your ability to make a good first impression unless you're rushing a fraternity, so try not to drink too much if you care about what other people think.

Introduction do's and don'ts:

DO pretend to be excited about meeting someone
DO start off the conversation with your introduction
DO use humor and show confidence
DON'T make someone else work the whole time by asking you questions
DON'T try to eat, drink and talk at the same time


In this day and age, when people take cell phone calls during Broadway shows, customers show up to top restaurants in jeans and sneakers and paper thank you notes are frequently replaced by instant messages, people with social skills are a dying breed. Having these skills is not a matter of knowing which fork to use or which gifts go with what anniversaries- it's about acting in a way that makes people want to be around you, showing respect for others and giving a good impression. In this blog I hope to address some of the situations people encounter every day and how they can improve their interactions with others. I don't claim to be perfect and I don't mean to say that my way is the only way, so please feel free to comment on posts and let me know what you think!