cut your hair and get a job
May 28, 2006 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Is my long hair affecting my job prospects?

I am male, with longish hair -- down to roughly chest-level. It's naturally brown, but dyed black (actually, 'blackest black', it said on the bottle). Would that make you reluctant to employ me?
posted by reklaw to Work & Money (28 answers total)
What types of jobs are you applying for?
posted by wryly at 12:37 PM on May 28, 2006

yup, on some conditions. Is it obviously dyed? Is it well cared for? Are hte ends splitty? Is it clean? Is there an appearance of any sort of styling product in it. And what kind of job are you applying for? (I manage a dental practice)
posted by bilabial at 12:38 PM on May 28, 2006

I'm applying for generally studenty jobs: bars, retail, that kind of thing. It's clean, quite cared-for, and I don't go around gelling it to crap or anything like that. I'm not sure how obviously dyed it is -- black isn't that crazy of a colour, is it? It's just very black.
posted by reklaw at 12:42 PM on May 28, 2006

Well, let's just say that your hair is making a "statement" and that your best bets for employment will be spots where the statement either means nothing (e.g., telemarketing) or else means something positive (e.g., a goth-themed coffee bar).

If you're looking for more mainstream work, I would say do your best to minimize the hair -- pull it back into as nondescript a ponytail as possible. And dress a little more conservatively, behave with great politeness and so forth, basically to offset the possibly disturbing hair.
posted by La Cieca at 12:58 PM on May 28, 2006

Dark black hair color is pretty obvious, depending on your race. If you're white, it is probably quite apparent to everyone.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:01 PM on May 28, 2006

It also depends upon where you live.
posted by LooseFilter at 1:31 PM on May 28, 2006

Black hair colouring generally has a blatant blue tint to it. I've had a few friends who died their hair black, and they didn't seem to notice themselves, but everyone else could see clearly that it was dyed. Maybe that could be detrimental?

I'm a guy with long hair, too (blonde, shoulder length), and I hope that people aren't too bothered by it, though I generally tie it back if I'm doing anything that may require me to be smarter looking.
posted by iamcrispy at 1:37 PM on May 28, 2006

We're struggling with this at work, and you know, no matter how much people are trying to be open-minded, liberal, etc., there's no doubt that this sort of thing factors in heavily. People will just say that you didn't have enough experience or something, and might even believe it themselves, but in reality it maybe did have something to do with the hair.

Though if you're applying for something non-corporate, and studenty you're probably ok.
posted by hoborg at 1:44 PM on May 28, 2006

There are some people with highly-affected personal appearances at my work. Some of them are some of the best at what they do. I work in an office on internet stuff. There are certain positions where a crew cut and khakis would probably send the wrong signals.

However, long hair in food service is a little more problematic. You can tame it, of course, but it doesn't look great to the management because they think it doesn't look great to the customers. Clothing retail... I dunno... you have to be something of a maverick to have a male ponytail these days. If they are fashion-nazis they might hold it against you.

None of this should amount to much, though, if anything. You're probably fine. Certainly for bars, you're cool. Just present yourself as clean and professional and it should be nothing but a detail. Good luck!
posted by scarabic at 2:32 PM on May 28, 2006

You could try cutting it and see what happens. It grows back.
posted by RussHy at 3:00 PM on May 28, 2006

You ask the question as if you would consider changing your hair if necessary to get a job - would you?

If so, raise the issue directly in the interview and offer to cut / un-dye your hair if their corporate dress code requires it. Then you're taking the issue out of the hiring equation.

If not, then keep at the job hunt, but be prepared for a few people / organisations who have a problem with it... knowing whether your hair was the reason for not getting the job doesn't help you if it's something non-negotiable for you.

Good luck!
posted by bella.bellona at 3:07 PM on May 28, 2006

My office has no ban on long hair for men, and men in some other departments have long hair, but my own boss (a woman in her 60s) finds the look completely unprofessional and threateningly countercultural.

I'm pretty sure she'd never even considering hiring a man with long dyed black hair. In fact, she still talks about the hiring "mistake" she made several years ago, when she offered a job to a respectable young man who was well-groomed and dressed professionally when he started, then later grew his hair out and started looking like a hippie. She actually asked me during my job interview if I would continue to adhere to the same standards of appearance as I wore to the interview -- and told me that professionalism was required of everyone who worked under her.

Justified? Not really. But it's how some people are.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:12 PM on May 28, 2006

Would that make you reluctant to employ me?

Yup. You're hair style is too in line with popular stereotypes of drug users, dealers, goth freaks, weirdos... in general unreliable types.

Cut your hair, ditch your piercings (if you have any), cover up your tattoos, buy a suit and you'll go places.

It sucks that our society is structured like this... but it is. Get used to it.
posted by wfrgms at 3:28 PM on May 28, 2006

EDIT: not that drug users, dealers, goth freaks, weirdos, etc are ALWAYS unreliable - just in general.

Also you have to think of your competition. If the clean-cut, professional type who's "going places" applies for the same job then you're screwed.
posted by wfrgms at 3:33 PM on May 28, 2006

Down to chest level isn't "longish" -- it's long. How do you wear it when you go for interviews or even initial meetings -- free-flowing and rock-and-roll or tied-back in a neat pony tail? Many many many places -- food service, lots and lots of retail -- will not hire men with hair longer than their collar unless they cut it to their specifications. In college I worked at a chain of record stores that got bought by Blockbuster (fuckers!) and all guys with hair longer than their collar had to cut it or get canned (no ear piercings on guys either). Bars may not be as picky, provided it's a corner bar and not a bar-food emporium place like a Bennigans.

Also, if you have any facial hair -- including eyebrows -- people can tell it's dyed black. I don't think the dye would be as much of a deal-breaker as the length if you are interviewing for jobs.
posted by macadamiaranch at 3:57 PM on May 28, 2006

Yes (and I hire).
posted by trii at 4:25 PM on May 28, 2006

If you're looking for a non-career job, it's likely that you'll be happiest someplace that doesn't freak out over hair length. Ask a couple of stylish friends if your hair looks bad. If yes, get it trimmed, and reconsider the color. For any job that you'd wear a suit to the interview, get a really good trim, and get rid of the extreme black. If you want to work at A & F, you probably have ot be somewhat stylish. To work at Border's, not so much. To wash dishes, no one cares.
posted by theora55 at 4:29 PM on May 28, 2006

Well, I would like to think we live in a society where things like this don't matter.

Appearances do matter though, a job interview is generally a few hours at most and the interviewer is going to pick up a few cues to get an idea on your personality - most of the cues associated with long hair are negative.

I worked in telemarketing and I found a lot of goths and other non-mainstream types found employment but didn't get promoted even if they otherwise did very well. It is a jungle out there my friend, and you should take every advantage you can get. As long as you can play the part of a nice normal hard working person for eight hours a day the other sixteen are nobody's business.
posted by Deep Dish at 6:44 PM on May 28, 2006

Fourthing or whatever wearing it neat and pulled back and dressing slightly more conservatively.

Unsolicited hair-care-advice: If you don't use conditioner, start. Hair dye is already drying, and the light-absorbing nature of black hair makes it look less shiny anyway. Boys with a long mane of overdry hair wearing a t-shirt look shabby, boys with a ponytail of pretty hair wearing a buttondown shirt look handsome.
posted by desuetude at 6:53 PM on May 28, 2006

There are are both black hair dyes with a brown base and hair dyes with a blue base(blackest black is definately blue based). There's even dyes with a red base, which look fabulous dyed over purple hair, but that's probably not for you. You might not have to cut it depending on where you want to work, but dying it to a brown based black would probably help.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:17 PM on May 28, 2006

I'm a long haired white guy and the ONLY time I've had problems getting a job because of my hair was years ago when I was desperate and applied at Carl's Jr. The woman gave me shit about my hair and when I pointed out that the girl currently working behind the counter had hair that went down to her ass, she simply replied "Well, that's just how life is. Get used to it."
I walked out of the 'interview' and ended up getting a job elsewhere. (Actually, the job I got was as a sawyer at a roof truss plant. Working graveyard. Around huge pieces of machinery with 6 24" saw blades. And my hair was ok. anyway..)

It depends on where you are. I'm in California. Supposedly, people are more open minded here. ;-)

I also suggest trimming off the dead ends, keeping it clean, and tied back during interviews. The conditioner comment is also a good one.

And be honest - are you pierced & tattoed as well?
posted by drstein at 7:18 PM on May 28, 2006

It wouldn't affect your chances around here, at least for most of the jobs you're applying for, but then I'm in Berkeley, Calif.

But - I second the keeping it neat advice. Shell out for a professional trim, etc.

Blackest black hair on white people is always noticeable. (Which is why I like it, personally, but I'm not your interviewer.)
posted by small_ruminant at 7:46 PM on May 28, 2006

It does and will affect your employment opportunities, to some degree, depending on the jobs.

May not be fair, or right, or just -- but it's reality.
posted by davidmsc at 9:35 PM on May 28, 2006

It would be handy to have seen a photo of this hair, but my gut reaction is that all else being equal, I'd probably hire the person that didn't make me think of goths. But you know, performing well in an interview can make any little prejudice evaporate.

(I'm a business owner, outside of your identified industries.)
posted by The Monkey at 11:26 PM on May 28, 2006

Another male here who has had long hair. My hair was a few inches below my shoulders when I started looking for a job a year and a half ago. When I was hired by my current employer my hair was 'professional' looking: short, neat and unobtrusive.

I had several interviews (including one with a bank) while my hair was long, and I was never called back. I cut my hair and fairly soon thereafter was hired by my current employer.

Starting last fall I began feeling trapped in the position I was working in and starting sending out resumes. Before I had an interview I had my hair cut to a 'professional' length, and a few weeks later I had an interview and was promoted to another department.

Now I'm debating whether I want to let my hair grow out again or if I should try to maintain the new look in order to facilitate my climb up the ladder. It sucks that I have to choose but that's the way our society is prejudiced (and if you're in England I would speculate that it's just as severe of a prejudice as it is in the American Midwest).

So I guess my solution is to cut your hair to get a job, and then let it grow out until you want the next job.

Alternatively, you could try and put your hair in a ponytail (this work looks for some people, it doesn't work for me) and then dress up to compensate. A jacket with a collared shirt underneath and a pair of slacks will instantly make you a more marketable job candidate, and it's possible to find stuff at thrift stores that will meet the twin criterion of being affordable and allowing you to find something that fits your own style. I would suggest this even if you do cut your hair.

On Preview: I'm in agreement with others: if you have piercing or tattoos take them out and cover them up during the job hunt. Also, I hope you were looking for advice and not just a yes-no answer to your question. (My answer would be yes-but not if you were dressed as I suggest!)
posted by meditative_zebra at 11:54 PM on May 28, 2006

I met a guy in the UK with a spider web tattoo over his face. He thought it grossly unfair he was unemployed because people never considered more than his appearance (although to be truthful he had poor education and a criminal record).
Lots of people agree it is unfair to judge on appearance, but some of the people doing the hiring have to weed through dozens of applicants in a short time, and will scratch somebody from the list for the most trivial of reasons. If you want to be treated equally in all situations, present equally. Otherwise, accept you are limiting potential employers to that subset that don't care. Either way, for a part time, non-career track job I would say fuck 'em, keep the hair I like and swallow the reduced opportunities.
posted by bystander at 12:06 AM on May 29, 2006

Either have long, natural-colored hair or short, dyed black hair. I think the combo probably projects creepy goth/black metal or something to most people. If it's long, people will think you're a harmless hippie. If it's short and dyed, people will think you're just vain. Both together, no.
posted by lychee at 2:03 AM on May 29, 2006

I too am a long-haired-white-guy.
I never have had any problems, but then again, I've never tried to get a job outside of IT & software dev.
But I always keep my hair in a neat pony tail, dress modestly, no tats/piercings/mods, and I act in such a way as to let my demeanor, personality and manner of speaking draw most of the focus. Really, I think those three things are what counts. If you find those qualities don't offset superficial judgments about your hair, then you are dependent upon conforming to a superficial mold, and your hair will matter.

But in my job sector, and certainly in other sectors that also have counter culture undertones, the self-image of having long hair may put you ahead--you're not some zombified corporate sellout who will shill for anything and contribute to capitalism's secret plans to destroy grandmas, puppies and impoverished third-world denizens.

On the other hand, if those are the kinds of jobs you want, then yes, it matters, because They don't want rebels and freethinkers, They want conformists and "obeyers", and They will use the most superficial criteria to screen you.
But then again, if you're a guy with long hair, you probably don't want those kinds of jobs, so if you're lucky, you'll never have a problem dealing with Them since you are in a totally different ballpark and even sport than Them.

Having long hair sends a message that you are different, and that you have taken back control of your outer appearance, and therefore probably have also taken control of your inner ideas, and are an active, independent, autonomous agent in the world acting in accordance with an inner drive towards duty and integrity. Okay, maybe not all of that, but that is part of the stereotype, to whatever extent that it is true, and to whatever extent I've left out the tendencies towards being a drug-using, dirty hippy.
posted by archae at 5:32 PM on May 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

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