Ethnic Hairstyles in an Interview or in the Workplace

Anonymous writes:
I am an Afro-America woman and have always permed my “nappy” hair
straight ponytail or curled and worn that look to the office. It is too hot
and takes too long to style and does not last long.
What is your view on black women wearing braids twists Jamaican locks or other ethnic hair fashions to an interview and/or on the job in a corporate environment (suit and tie). Honesty how will she be perceived and if interviewing
will she get the job if she’s the best candidate?
I realize that this is a highly controversial and sensitive topic and your reply
may shock your readers but this issue needs to be addressed for the new
decade and for the financial stability of our black race.

The Career Doctor responds:
I’m going to come at this answer from a couple of different ways with the
hope of not exposing myself as a typical white male.
First approach. As you mention perceptions are so important in interviewing
and on the job. People make judgments all the time simply based on your
appearance. Is it fair? Of course not. Is it reality? You bet. My sense is that
hairstyle on women needs to be professional — brushed neatly for shorter
styles and pulled back (and kept away from the face) for longer styles. Longer
hair that has braids twists locks or beads is acceptable if the style is
conservative and professional.
Second approach. There is something to be said for the importance of job-seekers
feeling comfortable in job interviews and in the workplace. Pretending to be
something you are not might get you the job offer with an organization with a
conservative corporate culture but would you really like to work for such an
organization? One of your goals in job-searching is finding an organization
that has a corporate culture that feels right to you.
Third approach. I sense a bit of something — perhaps laziness (“too hot and
takes too long”) or rebellion (“highly controversial and sensitive topic”) — that is
driving you to challenge the norms of job-interviewing behavior. Job-seekers who
wear nose rings or excessive ear or body piercings have the same attitude –
why should they be frowned upon by prospective employers just because of their
self-expression. And the answer is always the same: because the job interview
is a chance for both the employer and job-seeker to showcase the potential fit
by making strong positive impressions — not by making controversial statements.
Read more advice in my article
When Job-Hunting: Dress for Success
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