As college students search for work in today’s tough job market, young women face the additional challenge of learning how to apply makeup correctly to appear professional in interviews.

To assist them, many colleges including national universities outside Tokyo are hiring beauticians to teach students to look the part in their job search, and thorough step-by-step makeup demonstrations are becoming a fixture at such institutions.

In mid-January, Etsu Nishijima, a veteran makeup artist from major cosmetics maker Shiseido Co., addressed an audience of about 200 female students at Atomi University in Tokyo.

“Don’t work too much on your eyes so that you can make a good impression on a job interviewer who is about your father’s age,” Nishijima advised the students.

Nishijima believes a job applicant should apply makeup so it allows her face to demonstrate her intellect and enthusiasm. She particularly advises against using excessive eye makeup and blush on cheeks, which are now in fashion.

Third-year student Yui Naruo, 21, had her face done by Nishijima and was satisfied with the results. Stripped of her false eyelashes and thick eyeliner, she looked like a young professional in search of work.

A number of colleges began approaching Shiseido for makeup instruction from around autumn 2008, when the global financial crisis sent the economy into a tailspin. Demand in the current business year through March 31 is up 30 percent from a year ago, according to the company.

Kao Corp., another cosmetics firm, sends makeup artists to job fairs organized by Recruit Co., which provides recruitment information among other services. At events held in Tokyo and Osaka, young women lined up for more than two hours to get advice from the firm’s beauticians, while places for a facial demonstration at a February fair in Sapporo were instantly snapped up.

Young women who gathered at the Sapporo event were eager to receive advice, as many appeared confused by conflicting comments they had heard.

“I’ve heard that the ‘right look’ varies among different lines of business,” said Fumie Ogawa, 20.

Another visitor to the fair, Chinami Goto, 20, said, “It’s hard to figure out what to do because some people say the use of too few cosmetics could set you back.”

Students are doing everything they can to gain an advantage over their competitors in job interviews because it is so tough to find work, said Hideko Yoshimura, a professor at Atomi University, explaining why young women are so preoccupied with their looks.

However, 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,” said Fumie Sano, a brand manager with Kao.

Stage director Ichiro Takeuchi, who authored a book titled “Ninety Percent of You is About Appearance,” said, “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 they express their personalities through their looks.

But while many women meticulously apply their makeup to find employment, it is questionable whether such efforts really pay off. A personnel management official at a major manufacturer said, “Physical appearance does not count much in our screening process for new recruits.”

Atomi University’s Yoshimura said that when they are not out hunting for a job, young women’s makeup styles appear to be quite divergent.

“Makeup is a way of self-expression among today’s students,” said Izumi Yonezawa, an expert on the culture of cosmetics at Konan Women’s University in Kobe. “Some girls bond with one another by wearing similar kinds of heavy makeup.”

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