As college students look for jobs amid the toughest economic times in Japan’s recent history, young women face the extra challenge of learning how to apply makeup to make them look their professional best in job interviews.
Institutions of higher learning including state-funded universities outside Tokyo are hiring beauticians so that the physical appearance of their students would not be a disadvantage in their job search. Thorough step-by-step makeup demonstrations are becoming a fixture at many colleges.
In mid-January, Etsu Nishijima, a veteran makeup artist from major cosmetics maker Shiseido Co, spoke before an audience of 200 attentive female students at Atomi University in Tokyo, saying, ‘‘Don’t work too much on your eyes so that you can make a good impression on a job interviewer about your father’s age.’‘
Nishijima believes that a job applicant should use makeup in a manner that lets her intellect, emotional intelligence and enthusiasm shine through her face. She advises particularly against excessive eye makeup and overuse of blush on cheeks, which are now in vogue.
Third-year student Yui Naruo, 21, had her face done by Nishijima and was pleased with what she saw in a mirror. Stripped of false eyelashes and thick eyeliner, she was transformed into a fresh-faced debutant into the job market.
Shiseido began getting an increased number of requests for makeup instruction from colleges since around autumn 2008 when the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers sent the global economy into a tailspin. Demand so far in the current business year through March has gone up 30% from a year ago, according to the company.
Another cosmetics firm Kao Corp sends its makeup artists to job fairs organized by placement information provider Recruit Co. At such events held in Tokyo and Osaka, young women line up for two hours to get advice from Kao cosmetologists. A facial demonstration at a fair in Sapporo became booked up instantly.
Young women who gathered at the Sapporo event in February were eager to receive accurate information as they were confused by conflicting advice. Fumie Ogawa, 20, looked puzzled, saying, ‘‘I’ve heard that the ‘right look’ varies among different lines of business.’‘
Another visitor to the fair, Chinami Goto, 20, said, ‘‘It is hard to figure out what to do because some people say the use of too few cosmetics could set you back.’‘
Explaining why young women are so preoccupied with what could plausibly be a skin-deep aspect of their job search, Hideko Yoshimura, a professor at Atomi University, says since it is so hard to find a job now, students are doing everything they can to do well in an interview.
Young women’s tendencies regarding makeup appear to be quite divergent when they are not in job-hunting mode.
‘‘Makeup has become a way of self-expression among today’s students,’’ says Izumi Yonezawa, an expert on cosmetics culture at Konan Women’s University. ‘‘Girls have been bonding with one another by wearing similar kinds of heavy makeup.’‘
On the other hand, there are many who wear no makeup at all.
‘‘Neither type considers makeup as a kind of etiquette. So they don’t know how to do their faces for a formal setting with a job interviewer,’’ says Fumie Sano, brand manager with Kao.
While many women meticulously fine-tune their makeup to find employment, there remains a question whether such efforts are really worth their while. A personnel management official at a major manufacturer says, ‘‘Physical appearance does not count much in our screening process for new recruits.’‘
Stage director Ichiro Takeuchi, who authored a book titled, ‘‘Ninety Percent of You is About Appearance,’’ says, ‘‘What I mean by appearance is nonverbal expressions including the way you move your eyes, facial expressions and gestures.’’ He said job seekers should not forget that their personalities are revealed through their looks.