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Don't employers love the neat & tidy look?
July 16, 2009 9:38 PM   Subscribe

Should I explain why I (a 22-year-old female) am bald at an upcoming job interview?

(I am still shaving my head regularly. My aunt's hair has not yet begun to grow back, so I keep shaving mine too.)

I have a job interview on Monday morning. The position involves working with the public, and sort of promoting/representing the company I would be working for (though it isn't direct marketing or promo work). For what it's worth, this is an awesome company and I am comfortable with the staff that I have met there. Also, I had a phone interview this week and the woman said that she was impressed with my resume and my conversational skills (which would be a great skill to have for the job...)

Anyway, I love being bald and I am sure the interview will go smoothly/well, but I do worry about whether or not my bald head will affect my chances of being hired. I have had a few people stare, a few people ask if I'm ill (it probably doesn't help that I'm really pale), and plenty of children point or gape or make funny comments. None of that bothers me, but I'm nervous about the interviewer thinking, Do we really want a bald girl representing the company? I know I can do the job, and I think I could be good at it, but I don't know if they'll think my being bald will affect the company's image.

Should I bring it up when I go for the interview? If so, how? Or is that a terrible idea? I can see it being okay to bring it up if it's small talk as we introduce ourselves and get settled and such... But I can also see it being a weird thing to do.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions. I realize this is probably a plate of beans question, but I'm hoping you'll humour me and tell me what you would do (or think I should do).
posted by gursky to Work & Money (29 answers total)
 
I think that if you're concerned about it, mentioning that you did it as an act of solidarity with your relative towards the interview might be appropriate, just because it's definitely and unexpected look, but by no means should it be significant in the decision to hire you. Unless you're selling, say, hair-care products.

I would also mention that you like the look, though, so that they don't read that to mean "this is temporary and she'll look 'normal' soon".
posted by disillusioned at 9:45 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I do worry about whether or not my bald head will affect my chances of being hired.

Honestly, it might. I recommend you tell the story about your aunt and why you chose to do this; do it briefly and show you are comfortable with it. Depending on the company culture, though, it may be a bit of a 'thing.' Or not. It totally depends on whether they can see your look fitting in and not being a distraction to co-workers or clients.
posted by Miko at 9:58 PM on July 16, 2009


I would mention it during the interview, if for no other reason than to put your interviewer at ease. If you treat the interview as a more professional version of a conversation you might have with someone at a cocktail party, there's no reason not to mention it. When you are meeting a potential employer for the first time, their most important criteria is usually, 'Can I hang with this person? Will we be buddies? Will she annoy me?' So be yourself, have fun & go make a new friend! If I were interviewing you & heard that story I'd hire you in a second.


(I don't know how to do that small font thing, so right here I will say that my best friend had leukemia when I was young, and I felt so guilty watching her lose her hair while I was out doing dumb stuff like getting perms. I think what you're doing is rad.)
posted by ohyouknow at 10:03 PM on July 16, 2009


It's going to be an elephant in the room if you offer no explanation - and you certainly don't want the interviewer wondering whether or not you have ongoing health issues.

You said you've already met other staff, so it's possible there's already some speculation going on about the reason for your baldness.

I can't tell you whether or not your baldness will be an issue with this particular employer, but you might want to think about how you'd feel about being asked to disguise it. Would you sacrifice a job opportunity to maintain your baldness? As you're already aware, it's something which could be an issue with potential employers, so it's a good idea for you to be very clear in your own mind about just how much of a priority maintaining your current look is to you.
posted by Lolie at 10:04 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmmmm.... you shouldn't have to explain, but, society has issues......

I would play it by ear, taking careful observations regarding your interviewer.... it comes down to what Lolie said.... would you be comfortable working for someone that made you hide what makes you feel happy?
posted by peewinkle at 10:08 PM on July 16, 2009


P.S. I hire people for a living, FWIW. If you don't mention why you are bald your potential employer will likely assume the worst. Much better to put it out there, see how they respond, and then weigh how important job vs. baldness is (if it comes to that).
posted by ohyouknow at 10:09 PM on July 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I work in hiring/screening creative and tech people. I came in here to say "No, don't say anything because it's a good test of whether this is an open-minded employer worth working for."

But then I read your REASON for having a shaved head, and I changed my mind, because that is a big plus for you. It shows character and determination, and I think it's an admirable thing. With that in mind I'd actually try to find a way to introduce it casually.

You know, a smooth window to introduce it as a light comment. "I started shaving my head to support my aunt, and I'm still getting used to it." or reach up to knock some ghost hair away and say "Oh. Sorry, I've been shaving it to cheer up my aunt, sometimes I forget my hair's not there."

You know... casually. :)

P.S. for ohyouknow: <small>Small text here.</small>
posted by rokusan at 10:16 PM on July 16, 2009 [9 favorites]


I suggest you do bring it up, and also that you dress more conservatively than you might normally - or even might normally dress to a job interview - to help balance your look.
posted by serazin at 10:17 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


NO. You should NEVER discuss anything that is not directly relevant to your suitability for the job. Not anything to do with your appearance. Not your racial / cultural background. Not your sexual orientation. Not any medical conditions you have. Etc.

If an interview candidate discusses a non-qualification trait about themselves, or documents similar information on their resume / application form, then there is a chance (however exceedingly small) that a candidate who isn't hired will sue on the basis of being discriminated against. To reduce the risk of this occurring, it is standard practice for recruiters not to call such candidates back for a second interview. A candidate who made it onto the shortlist has a much higher chance of winning a discrimination suit (or extracting a large settlement) than one who only had one interview. Thus recruiters tend to weed out the "risky" candidates as early on in the recruitment process as possible.
posted by randomstriker at 10:29 PM on July 16, 2009


If an interview candidate discusses a non-qualification trait about themselves, or documents similar information on their resume / application form, then there is a chance (however exceedingly small) that a candidate who isn't hired will sue on the basis of being discriminated against.

I agree with you that this is also a reason why recruiters will not ask certain questions, but this is something the candidate doesn't wish to hide at the interview and about which the recruiter may very well make assumptions if no explanation is offered.

And the truth is that recruitment decisions are rarely made on the basis of qualifications alone - "fit" with the workplace culture and psychometric traits are becoming an increasingly important consideration in recruitment (in some industries, this is partly to limit the possibility of workers compensation claims and psychometric testing is conducted both prior to and after the interview process).
posted by Lolie at 10:52 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


C'mon. Making sure nobody's discriminated against isn't the job candidate's problem. Tell the story, or don't; but don't worry about it to that extent.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:58 PM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


If it were me, I'd wear a scarf, and I would address it. Subconsciously, I think their concern would be that because it's an unusual look for a woman, your appearance might be distracting (I mean, it depends on the company and clientele) and that rather than representing the company, and the company being the center of attention, you'd be the center of attention. They want you to be the cruise director, not the cruise ship, if you know what I mean.

I think a nice scarf would mitigate it. I don't think it's actually discrimination to have guidelines for appearance--I remember working at companies with no facial piercing rules and so on.

I don't blame you. Being bald must be great.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:18 AM on July 17, 2009


If you're fine with saying something, I would just play it off when you inevitably see their eyes go up there: "Hi, how are you? My aunt has cancer and I'm shaving my head with her." Boom, continue on.
posted by rhizome at 1:30 AM on July 17, 2009


NO. You should NEVER discuss anything that is not directly relevant to your suitability for the job. Not anything to do with your appearance.

This is a very good answer if the goal is to get the OP NOT HIRED.

You have to explain. Briefly and without dwelling on it, of course. But the interviewer may well assume you're in chemo or something otherwise and not hire you.
posted by Justinian at 3:11 AM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


randomstriker To reduce the risk of this occurring, it is standard practice for recruiters not to call such candidates back for a second interview. A candidate who made it onto the shortlist has a much higher chance of winning a discrimination suit (or extracting a large settlement) than one who only had one interview. Thus recruiters tend to weed out the "risky" candidates as early on in the recruitment process as possible.
Um. So, in order to reduce the risk of the candidate winning a lawsuit on the basis of not being hired because of {insert prejudice-trigger here}, you suggest that the HR department, upon being informed that the candidate has/is {insert prejudice-trigger here}, should immediately not hire the candidate. Because that somehow reduces the risk of a reasonable person drawing the inference that they were not hired because of {insert prejudice-trigger here}, which they didn't know about, until they were informed of it by the candidate.

That makes no sense at all.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:11 AM on July 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


If you don't want to slam it in their faces, you could try the following line to get it into conversation - brush your hand over your head when you sit down and say

"whew, still getting used to finding nothing there!"

they will almost inevitably say, oh, did you shave your head recently?

then you can explain without it seeming too forced :)
posted by greenish at 4:02 AM on July 17, 2009


I often have to hire people who will have to face the public on a day-to-day basis and if you told me the story behind your baldness I'd defiantly count it a plus, it shows a really positive confident attitude.

Personally I'd look for an opportunity to bring it up during the interview, not as a big thing but just an example of how you have taken on a new challenge or how you have dealt with difficult people. This not only clears up any doubts the interviewer may have had about your baldness but also helps show a positive aspect of your personality.

You might get away with bringing it up as small talk at the start but it might make me think you were very self-conscious about it (depending on the context) and you do miss the opportunity to tell a good and relevant story at the time when the interviewer will be paying attention.

Good luck!
posted by badrolemodel at 4:42 AM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I concur with everyone that it will likely be a surprise and a bit of an elephant in the room, which you can neutralize very graciously by telling them your story (which, bonus, will be a plus.)
posted by desuetude at 6:38 AM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd look for a place where talking about shaving your head for your Aunt was an appropriate answer to an interview question. Was there much of a hoopla surrounding your head-shaving, or organized fundraising? It might be an example of your teamwork. Or, since it's a marketing type position, your marketing skills, if people outside your family were recruited to donate funds.

I wouldn't make it the only answer to a question like "tell us about a time where your marketing skills really made a difference?" -- I'd include a work anecdote, as well -- but I would look for a place like that to mention the whole experience. It keeps things on topic, tells the story, assuages any fears they might have about you decimating their group health plan with your imaginary cancer bills.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:46 AM on July 17, 2009


Since the job you're going for involves promotion and representation and working with people, I would bring it up. As casually as possible, but with an emphasis on why you started (to support your aunt) and how that led into fund raising, and how you really like the look. It shows you take unconventional approaches to things, are confident, take charge, and can get people to back you - all good things when you're dealing with the public. I guess my point is you can use your baldness as an example of the practical application of those relevant skills you have for the job. And those interviewers are always looking for examples.
posted by sandraregina at 7:22 AM on July 17, 2009


Of course you should mention it
posted by A189Nut at 7:30 AM on July 17, 2009


thank you, everyone!

great answers... i will definitely bring it up!

ohyouknow: thanks for the "i'd hire you" comment! it made me feel a bit better. hopefully my interviewer is as cool as you.

Lolie: i understand what you're saying about priorities (hairstyle or job?). my loyalty is to my aunt, not any company, so if they don't want to hire me based on my appearance, that's fine. i understand completely that it may look strange, but at least i'm not in an awkward-growing-out stage..! haha.
posted by gursky at 7:37 AM on July 17, 2009


I have shaved my head three times in my life. Once was because I had lymphoma and the hair was falling out anyway; the other two times were just because I wanted to. When I had lymphoma and shaved my head, it was useful to remember that I had had no hair before and this didn't mean I was sick - it could just be a style choice I made.

It's easier in NYC to be a bald girl, and certainly in the queer community, but the second time I shaved my head I traveled across the country with that hairstyle (in fact that was one reason we shaved, so that we wouldn't have to worry too much about hair care when living in a van...) and I don't remember it being an "elephant in the room" or anything. I think it's only as big a deal as you think it is. When people meet you, they accept the version of you that shows up - they don't have a previous version to compare, or some expectation of what you're supposed to be like.

I would say it's perfectly possible for them to accept your hairstyle as a legitimate personal choice and nothing else. In that case, you don't have to say anything. If someone seems uncomfortable, comments or asks, then you can tell the story.
posted by mdn at 7:39 AM on July 17, 2009


Yes. Explain it. I once interviewed a guy for a desktop support job at the Corporate HQ of a fairly conservative mid-size company. He turned up looking like a caveman, with thick, thick hair half way down his back. He was pretty much the same quality as one of the other candidates, but I knew I couldn't send this guy down to the CEO's desk to fix an issue so hired the other. Months later the recruiter who recommended him told me that he grew his hair out so he could donate it to Locks of Love. What had been a pretty large negative mark would have been a big positive if he'd brought it up in the interview and may well have earned him the position.

[Not caveman-ist]
posted by IanMorr at 7:46 AM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


randomstriker: "NO. You should NEVER discuss anything that is not directly relevant to your suitability for the job. Not anything to do with your appearance. Not your racial / cultural background. Not your sexual orientation. Not any medical conditions you have. Etc."

Except that "shaved head" is not a "protected class." It wouldn't be discrimination if a recruiter thought an applicant's appearance made them unsuitable.
posted by radioamy at 8:53 AM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Volunteering details that an employer cannot ask about in the first place is not a disqualification, legally, or practically. Marital status is the single biggest bogey in those rules, yet people are permitted to wear their wedding rings and engagement rings, after all. Many other protected classifications (race, national origin, age over 40, gender) are 100% obvious when you put together the resume review and screening interview.

Mentioning why your head is shaved is good because even if baldness is not a literally protected category, enough of the causes for it are (illness, some minority gender or religious practice, etc.) that a prudent interviewer would likely never ask, and perhaps jump to unhelpful conclusions.
posted by MattD at 10:30 AM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I shaved my head because my aunt had to go through chemotherapy, so we made a fundraiser out of it." Sounds good to me!

You might want to disclose this. Frankly I don't care if my employees are covered in blue polka dots as long as they get the job done, but as Miko and others said, it can't hurt to disclose it.

Could you offer us something a little more specific on the nature of the job?

FWIW, I hope you get it because your karma is looking pretty darn excellent.
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:52 PM on July 17, 2009


thank you, futureisunwritten!

the job is consultation work, more or less. people are interested in a service and it would be my job to help them decide whether or not it's the right time, it's the right service, we're the right company, etc.

...if i get the job.
posted by gursky at 5:48 PM on July 17, 2009


Let us know what happens!
posted by ohyouknow at 9:40 AM on July 19, 2009


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