Professional outfit? Check. Hair done and out of face? Check. Nail polish is pristine and professional appropriate?
When gearing up for an interview, we’ve all been prepped on the military basics - brush up on the most commonly asked interview questions, do research on the company’s mission and background, purchase or clean a professional set of attire, and remember to arrive at least 10-15 minutes early, but not earlier than that in order to avoid being seen as overeager. But when has your business professor or job coach ever reminded you about what to do with your nails?
And does it even matter?
The short answer is a definite and resounding - yes.
Even as a large number of interviews have begun moving from in person one-on-one sit-downs, to over Zoom or Google Meets from the comfort of your own bedroom, how your nails are done has an impact on your appearance.
Imagine you’re there, right in the middle of the interview, and just as you’re eagerly explaining how you took charge and handled that disastrous situation at your previous job, using your hands to enumerate your points, you catch out of the corner of your eye a ragged nail tip and another with parts of the polish chipping off. In fact, it was a white and red manicured nail, which now looked like you had massacred a Dalmatian. You quickly hide your nails on your lap, hoping the interviewee wasn’t as focused on your hands as you were. Regardless, you’ve just thrown yourself off your game and you find it difficult to recompose yourself and remember what you were just explaining.
Anything and everything you put forward in an interview is a part of your first impression, and if it’s a job you’re after, you’ll want to make a very good one.
Main Interview Nail Tips
Nail Tip #1: Well-Kept Nails No Matter the Color, or Even Lack Of
While having a fresh set of nails done isn’t a requirement for an interview (unless perhaps the job you’re applying for is beauty or fashion related), what you do or don’t have on your nails can say a lot about you.
For example, an interviewee with a month old manicure with the polish chipping off or clinging for dear life can cause your interviewer to assume that you aren’t someone who stays up on routine or daily upkeep. It also tells them that you might not have put in the effort to make yourself presentable for the meeting and that you don’t take the interview seriously.
Whether or not any of those situations or assumptions are true, it won’t matter to the person sitting across from you, drilling into you with a boatload of questions that never seem to end. For many hiring managers, their goal is to locate the one thing about you that might not make you the right fit for the position, and it’s your job to make sure that they don’t find one. Especially over something like the presentation of your nails.
You don’t have to get a new set of fresh nails painted on, but we encourage you to make sure that all of your nails are the same length, have been filed down and there are no sharp or rough edges that might poke or cut the interviewer when they go in for a handshake, and that no leftover aging nail polish can be found noticeably on your nails.
If you’re running low on time:
If you do not have the time or cannot afford to go to your local nail salon and get a professional set of nails done - do not do this. We know that not everyone has the luxury of downtime to spend removing each nail polish and buffing and filing your nails to perfection, but the payout of doing so could mean a world’s difference in the long run.
The night before the interview (or any day before when you are able), soak around 10 cotton balls in some acetone and have them wrapped around each nail using aluminum foil to keep them in place. If you think your makeshift remover may fall off during the night, put on some disposable gloves to keep them from removing on their own, then head to bed. The amount of the time your nails spend soaked in the alcohol remover should be either able to remove the polish all at once, or accelerate the nail polish lifting process, where you may be able to quickly remove it all with a nail file or buff.
Nail Tip #2: Fit for Your Industry
As we previously mentioned the nails you decide to bring to your interview should cater to the industry or job position you are applying for. If you’re applying for an editor position at Bustle, going with no nails done at all or even a “boring” manicure could be a big turn off. On the other hand, going for more than a single-color or simple design could immediately disqualify you from a corporate, Type-A company.
Remember to do your research, but most importantly go with what makes you confident and what you feel comfortable in. If this is a job you really want, it’s more than likely you’re already acquainted with the best practices, and you’ll make the right choice with whatever design you choose to sport. However, if this is for a company’s culture you’re not too well versed on, it’s best to stick to the basics.
Nail Tip #3: What nail colors are professional?
If you are interested in wearing a beautiful set of nails to your interview, or maybe wondering whether you need to remove the current set you’ve got on, you’re probably wondering - what nail color should I wear?
We know we already sound like a broken record, but there really isn’t a "one size fits all" color for your interview. However, we'll base this on the assumption that you are going into a traditional business setting.
When going in for an interview (or hopping onto your Macbook’s webcam) in a conservative office environment - typically businesses where the dress code is formal on the regular - go with a neutral, nude, or light-mild pink color for your shade. Anything very light and sheer, a look that looks like you're wearing nothing at all, is also a good option.
Check out our [Chromatic Nail Here] if you’re looking for this kind of color.
For interviews at professional companies that are a little more business casual, you have a little more flexibility when it comes to your nail color. This doesn't mean bring out the bling and loud colors, but you aren't restricted to the nail version of a "no makeup, makeup look." We do recommend sticking with neutral tones, and not using any colors that will stand out and may be too dark or bright.
Nail Tip #4: Nail shape and length
Now that we’ve got color out of the way, it’s time to discuss interview nail length and shape.
Unless, unless, unless (and we cannot say this enough), unless, you are applying for a creative position, particularly one in the fashion, cosmetology, or beauty industry, you are practically forbidden from donning a set of nails that extended beyond a quarter of an inch of where your nail bed ends.
Unfortunately, there is very much a negative stigma surrounding those who are willing to wave around 5-inch nails that are longer than your highest pair of stilettos. This is a pretty universal sentiment amongst hiring professionals, and so we recommend saving your badass coffin babies for your weekend outings.
Stick with short-medium length nails. Remember that we don’t want to accidentally jab our interviewer when they go for that obligatory handshake. In terms of shape, there really isn’t a “professional” nail shape to aim for. Coffin nails are appropriate and professional when they are closer to short. The only nail shape we would probably warn you to avoid is the deadly stiletto - a sharp nail like this is way more likely to stab the other person. It’s just common sense.
The Perfect Interview Nails Don’t Exist
- How creative your nail art can be depends on the job industry
- In general - keep it simple
- Short-medium length nails
- Any shape aside from stiletto is acceptable
- Stick to neutrals, sheer colors, and light-medium pinks
Take it from a company that literally sells press on nails and lives and breathes nail art - don’t stress too much about what to do with your nails. While nails are a part of your appearance just like your outfit and your hair, what you have to say matters the most, and if you have everything else going for you and you blow the interview out of the park, the hiring manager won’t even remember whether you had on the season’s current favorite shade of pink or nothing at all.
Oh - and if you’re really in a pickle and really can’t spare the time to throw your hands in some acetone, we might recommend grabbing a pair of one of our Chromatic press on nail sets. You can chop them into any desired length or shape and glue them over any aged manicure and securely hiding any chips and undesirables.