12/04/2012 10:34 am ET Updated Dec 04, 2012

Olivia Wilde: Actresses Shouldn't Wear Short Skirts To Auditions

If you're an aspiring actress, Olivia Wilde has some advice for you -- tread carefully when choosing what to wear to an audition.

Wilde, who starred in "Tron: Legacy" and "Cowboys & Aliens," once worked as an assistant to Hollywood casting director Mali Finn. At Marie Claire's "The Power of Presence" event in New York City in November, Wilde revealed a lesson she learned during her assistant days: short skirts aren't always appropriate, but it depends on who's in charge.

"I remember an actress coming in wearing a too-short dress. And after she left, Mali said, 'Why was she wearing that dress? She's a joke, I'm not meeting with her ever again.' And this girl was never heard from again," Wilde said, Hillary Reinsberg at BuzzFeed reported. Wilde absorbed the message that a short hemline could lead to her being written off, but Finn criticized her modest outfit choice a few days later.

"I was going for an audition and I was wearing this huge cashmere turtleneck and pants, thinking I looked very 'executive.' As I was walking out of the office, Mali said, 'Olivia, what are you wearing? I said I was going to a meeting, and she said, 'Oh! You can't wear that! You have to wear something tight and sexy.' And I was so confused."

This was Wilde's introduction to the question many working women face: Does looking sexy help or hinder your career?

The issue of appearance in the workplace was the focus of the Marie Claire event, where news correspondent Norah O’Donnell and fashion designer Rachel Roy shared their stories alongside Wilde. To wrap up the evening, The Jane Dough reported, economist and founder of the Center for Talent Innovation Sylvia Ann Hewlett presented research on "executive presence" -- which leadership consultant company Sally Williamson & Associates defines as "a combination of behaviors and attitudes that present a sense of confidence, competence, commitment and authenticity."

The Jane Dough summarized Hewlett's findings: "Appearance is crucial in a job setting and ... even so much as a bad pair of tights could hurt a woman’s chances of landing the position she wants or getting ahead." Also, men aren't judged on their appearances nearly as much. So basically, advancing professionally requires women to devote substantial effort to looking effortlessly put together, and that communicates authenticity? Olivia, we're confused, too.

Would you ever dress "sexy" for an audition or job interview? Tweet your thoughts @HuffPostWomen using #sexyatwork.