Your Etiquette Questions Answered: Manicures for the Office

Q: I landed an interview for my dream job and am not sure if I should wear my usual red manicure during the process.  What do you recommend?

A: Congratulations on your interview! By now you’ve likely thought of everything when pulling together your business interview look – the perfectly tailored suit (pantsuits are absolutely acceptable), understated makeup and hair, classic shoes, minimal accessories and a sleek bag. Your manicure is scheduled but what color should you choose?

Here are my do’s and don’ts when it comes to manicures for the office:


Do keep nails short and clean. If you take nothing else away from office nail etiquette, remember this tip! Nothing is more distracting than a little smidge of makeup or breakfast bar under your perfectly polished nails.

Do keep the polish neutral.  Think soft pinks, not bold reds.  You want the attention to be on you, not your bright and shiny nails.

Do tuck away an extra bottle of polish for an emergency touch-up.  I’m not suggesting you touch up your nails while waiting in the lobby, but if you discover a chip, you can easily cover the damage in a matter of seconds.  When you check your teeth in the rear view mirror, do a quick nail check in the car before entering the building. In reality, if the color is buff, it won’t even show.

Do avoid embellishments.  Whatever you do, absolutely skip the rhinestones, stick on flowers or reverse French manicure with hot pink tips.


Don’t fall prey to sporting the latest nail trend to the office.  Save the purple, yellow and/or leopard spots for the weekend (or avoid altogether!).

Don’t pick at your nails. During your interview, avoid the nervous gesture of picking at your nails. Make it a point to keep your hands above the desk, rather than in your lap.

Don’t tap, tap, tap your nails. 
Another annoying behavior that will not go unnoticed.

Don’t overlook your toes! If you plan to wear the perfect peep-toe pumps, don’t forget to sport a fresh manicure.  Remember, unless you’re interviewing at a hip ad agency, it’s probably best to save the peep toe footwear for another day.

Bonus tip for my male readers…
Your nails matter in the office, too! Remember to keep nails neatly trimmed and clean.  If your cuticles are an eyesore or your hands are otherwise neglected, don’t hesitate to get a manicure (polish-free). Your hands will thank you!

Best of luck on your interview,


Diane Gottsman

Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette expert and modern manners professional, sought out industry leader, television personality, accomplished speaker, Huffington Post blogger, author, and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and etiquette training. Diane is routinely quoted in national and international media including The New York Times, The BBC, CNN, Bloomberg Business Week, Kiplinger, Huffington Post Canada, U.S. News and World Report, and Forbes. She is the resident etiquette expert for two popular morning talk shows, SA Living and Good Day Austin. She has been seen on The TODAY Show, HLN Headline News, WGN Chicago, and CBS Sunday Morning. Her clients range from university students to Fortune 500 companies and her workshops cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media.


  1. Toby Adams says

    Every year I purchase a nominal gift to give my co-workers including supervisors. For the last three years in a row one of the supervisor (to whom , until this year I reported to) didn’t acknowledge my gift in any manner (not even an e-mail saying thanks or happy holidays). Another co-worker also gives gifts to co-workers including supervisors as I do. The same supervisor I am referring to always acknowledges this co-worker’s gift (the co-worker at least receives a “thank you”). I’m considering dropping this supervisor from my holiday gift list this year (I’ll still include everyone else). Should I drop her from my list assuming her lack of acknowledgement is her way of indicating she is uncomfortable receiving anything from me during the holidays or continue to include her ?

  2. Diane says

    First of all, kudos to you for continuing to give this supervisor a gift. If you are gifting everyone else, it would be uncomfortable to overlook one particular person. Instead I suggest saying, in a pleasant tone, “I hope you enjoy your fruit basket. I love going to the farmer’s market during the holidays.” This is a kind way of bringing attention to the issue without “calling her out.” On another note, the protocol in office gifting is that it is not necessary to gift your supervisor or boss and perhaps you suggest a group office gift next year. Happy holidays! Best, Diane

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