As a woman, you want and deserve to be more than just your appearance. You want your skills, knowledge, and background to speak for you at an interview. It shouldn’t have anything to do with how you look, right?
Sure. That would be nice. But we all know that how we look – whether male or female – plays a big, big part in what people think of us. Have the “wrong” look, and you could be finished before you even sit down. Don’t believe me? Try and get hired wearing a Juicy Couture velour tracksuit. I dare you.
A hiring or HR manager is going to form an opinion of you within seconds. Your clothing, your stride, your handshake, your facial expression (and even features), everything. If their first impression is positive, they’ll be subconsciously expecting you to wow them, and may even lean that way if they’re sitting on the fence about you later. A negative impression and you’re starting in the hole before you’ve even opened your mouth.
All of us are drawn to attractive – whatever that means – people. Attractiveness includes looking and dressing appropriately. And an interview, even for a laidback and casual company, typically requires a bit more formality and professionalism. In your dress. In your manner. And yes, even in your hairstyle.
There are hundreds of styles for women. They come and go, and rise and fall in popularity. Some disappear entirely while new ones emerge all the time (remember the “Rachel”?). Others are adopted by a particular group as a means of identification. Your hairstyle is a reflection of you as a person and, therefore, shouldn’t be subject to the preferences and opinions of others.
Except it is. At times, at least. And an interview is most definitely one of those times. There are some styles that should never, ever be donned for an interview of any sort. Ever.
Employers were asked about the influence of physical attributes for a 2006 Job Outlook survey, where 49% said that an unusual hairstyle would have at least a slight (negative) influence and 21% admitted it would have a strong influence. That’s 70% in total. If you’re serious about wanting the job, avoid these “unusual” styles at all costs.
See Also: Can Your Hair Colour Affect Your Job?
It used to be that only women would dye their hair, and only in different shades of the “big three” colours: blonde, brown, and black. Then, men discovered the joy of Nice ‘n Easy, too. Everyone could go from chestnut to ash brown, and back again. Grey could be hidden like some secret shame. If you wanted to test the theory that blondes have more fun but were born a brunette, you could finally change your cursed genetics and find out. Hair colouring had arrived. And it was good.
Then something unexpected started to happen. We moved past simple brown, black, and blonde to include every conceivable colour out there. It started with punks and other counterculture fringe groups, but over time, it spread to the mainstream. Brightly coloured hair is everywhere. Singers like Hayley Williams. Actors. Athletes. And even regular folk like us. Pink hair. Blue hair. Green hair. Purple hair. It’s a virtual rainbow… made of hair. And, perhaps surprisingly, it looks good on many people.
But that doesn’t mean you should sport neon hair to your big interview with Citibank. In that same Job Outlook survey, 46% of employers said a nontraditional hair colour would have a slight influence in their hiring decision and 28% said it would be a strong influence. Can you afford those odds? Unless your name is P!nk, probably not. It may not be as exciting, but copper blonde is the safer bet here.
Originating at the start of the 60s, the beehive used to be quite the little trendsetter. It was hip. It was popular. It made all the ladies look glamorous and beautiful. But that was then. And this is now. It’s no longer the 60s (if you participated in the hippie and drug movements in that decade, you may not actually know that).
The beehive involves piling long hair on top of the head in a conical shape. Done right, and it resembles a traditional beehive (hence the “clever” name). It’s not necessarily a bad hairstyle, and some celebrities – most notably the late Amy Winehouse – have done their part to bring it back to prominence. They’ve had limited success.
The problem with the beehive is twofold: its complicated structure means it could easily fall apart or down – leaving you with a rat’s nest on top of your head – and it’s incredibly dated. It’s the 1960s “hairified” (the hair equivalent of “personified”, and a word I just made up). You look like someone who just emerged from an underground bomb shelter after locking yourself in during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Unless that’s what you were going for (and why would that be what you were going for?!), it’s the wrong look for you.
A hiring manager wants someone with their finger on the pulse of the industry, up to date on the latest trends and changes happening. A beehive makes you the exact opposite of that in every way possible.
Let’s continue with this outdated theme, shall we? Say hello (and goodbye… don’t get attached. This is a list of hairstyles to be avoided, remember?) to the bouffant. This one goes back. Way back. It was actually popular in the mid-to-late 18th century and then reemerged in the 1950s and 60s. It’s big hair with an attitude. The name bouffant is derived from bouffer, meaning to puff or puff out. And if the 50s and 60s had a poster, it would probably be a bouffant hairstyle vacuuming while wearing a dress and high heels.
Here’s how to create one, according to Wikipedia: “Hair on the top of the head was raised, using a comb being dragged back and forward to create the raised effect which used knots in the hair caused by the comb. The hairstyle was lightly combed over the top to give a neat look.”
Sounds fetching, right? Much like the beehive, the bouffant literally sets you back decades in appearance, impression, and opportunities. And you’ll look like Peg Bundy, which is generally not high on the list of "Good Interview Tips".
It’s easy and low maintenance. No argument. You’ll save a ton of money on styling products, shampoo, and conditioner (not to mention combs, brushes, hair dryers, and curling irons). But a shaved dome is… tricky. It can most certainly work for many women, and it’s becoming an increasingly popular choice, but many others still consider it a bit too hardcore, too masculine, and too “butch” for anyone but stereotypical lesbians and actresses making a military movie.
Right or wrong, a shaved head can make you seem harsh, abrasive, and fierce. Those aren’t bad things, mind you, but they may not be the impression you want to make at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Many might ask why a “pretty girl” would want to do such a thing.
It’s unfair and a double standard: men can shave their head at any age, and it can make them sexy and distinguished. Women? Not so much. Sinead O’Connor did it a while ago, but many people think of her as the “weird, angry Irish chick”. Unless weird and angry (and possibly Irish) are in the job description, it might be a bad idea.
Last but not least, the familiar ponytail. What could possibly be wrong with a ponytail? Nothing – most of the time. But be honest: the ponytail is your fallback when you’re too tired, too busy, too hung-over, or just staying in all day. And that’s the message you might be sending when you walk in to meet the HR manager. Ponytail = I just couldn’t be bothered.
It’s fast. It’s simple. Pull back, bunch, and apply an elastic hair tie – done. And it’s not even that the ponytail doesn’t look good. It does. It’s just a bit too informal and laidback for most companies at the hiring stage. You might as well extend your hand and say, “Hi. I literally just woke up, rolled out of bed, and ran over here”.
It’s more “hanging out on campus” than “designing a marketing campaign for Adidas”, and More “laundry day in the city” than “applying for the civil service”. Hiring personnel will expect a bit more, so give it to them.
Your hair shouldn’t matter, but it does. It shouldn’t influence someone’s decision to hire you, but it does. Your appearance counts whether you like it or not, and some “appearances” are best left at home and/or the dustbin of history (beehive and bouffant, I am looking in your direction).
Any others? What hairstyle should a woman never don for an interview? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below.