Black businesswoman

By Indigenous Curls

It’s no secret, our hair is a source for controversy, confusion, and frustration, on a daily basis for some. Interviews are nerve racking enough. What to wear? What to say? What about THAT hair? Going On an Interview? Don’t worry! I have answers!

As a professional NYC recruiter, I’ve worked across various industries from fashion & retail empires, to Wall Street firms, all while transitioning from relaxed to natural hair. I have my share of success stories, and horror stories from my journey.

1st Tip: Do your research.
No matter how fly your hair is, the most important thing a recruiter is looking for, is that you’re qualified. They are making sure that your resume is consistent with your interview. They are also analyzing your personality. Will you be a good fit for the department, or team? The fact that you are scheduled for an interview speaks volumes. Your resume beat out hundreds or possibly thousands of other resumes and the recruiter has seen something special, something worthy of a closer look. Be confident in that! Before they laid eyes on you, they loved your resume. Do your research and be prepared! Be confident! You Got This!

2nd Tip: Look the part
No matter the industry, or the level of the position, when you enter those doors you must already look like you work there. Like the star employee. Wear a full suit, or a knee length dress. Stay away from distracting patterns, and too much fragrance.

Now, on to the hair!
I have interviewed hundreds of people from all walks of life, for all kinds of positions. Hair DOES matter! Big hair is OK, only in a ponytail. Neat hair is necessary. Limit hair accessories to thin simple headbands, and a hair clip or two. Below is a list of suitable styles for corporate interviews. Important tip: keep your look tailored, and your edges in check.

Safe Side
Bun (Curly or stretched)
Top Knot Bun
Braided Bun
Coiled TWA
Palm Coils
Flat twist into Bun
Pin Tuck Roll
Stretched Up Do
Wash n Go
Mini twist in a bun
Anything straight, but it must be polished

Wear If You Dare
Twist Out into Ponytail
Braid out Into Ponytail
Cornrows into Ponytail
Fingerwaves
Flat twist updo styles
Mini twists

Don’t Do It Girl!
Messy Wash n Go
Shredded ends, or little knotty balls at the ends of your hair
Wet Hair / goopy wet hair products
Braidout/ Twistout left out
Big & Fluffy hair (Unless company culture is big and fluffy)
Cornrows straight back
Unkempt edges
Large / distracting hair accessories
*Box Braids* { Hit & Miss…}

Don’t Do It Girl! Here’s Why!
Messy Wash n Go: It’s just not cute. If you have not perfected your wash & go, an interview is not the best place to try it again. DO NOT experiment with your hair on an important day. Just don’t! It says to the recruiter, “I’m not put together”, I don’t have it together yet. Shredded Ends also give the same impression.

Wet Hair: Please do not go to an interview with your hair dripping all over your suit. Do not go to meet anyone with globs of product mangled in your hair. Work the product in, allow time for it to dry. I know that’s a tall order for some. My hair takes 3 hours to completely dry. Keep this in mind: going to an interview with soaking, dripping, goopy wet hair says “I just jumped out the shower. I was rushing. I have time management issues”. Keep that in mind when choosing your look for the interview.

Braidout / Twistout: Just don’t do it. Our hair is amazing! It is so beautiful, and massive by nature. By simply growing out of our heads it makes a statement whether you want it to or not. A massive braidout or twistout can be breathtaking, and distracting. Sadly, our hair can steal the spotlight from what we can offer the company. I have witnessed natural hair taking over an interview, or a meeting. It can be unpleasant, as a minority. Keep the spotlight or your skills and talent. Not your cascading coils. Corn rows and box braids can be distracting to some interviewers, or may be a clear departure from the company culture, or dress code. I love all these styles and sport each of them at appropriate times. To keep the emphasis on your skills and talent I recommend that you minimize anything that can distract from the bigger picture.

Box Braids: You might be surprised to see this on the list. To explain this, I’ll give you two differing stories of how box braids were received in a professional setting.

One of my first jobs was at a local mall. I worked at a teen apparel retail store, and interviewed in jeans and a tee shirt, my hair in box braids. I also worked in jeans, tee shirts, and blouses. While on a lunch break, I was stopped by a solicitor, who wanted to survey me on a new product from a major beauty company. She led me down a small corridor, and into an office. She was a sweet Italian mother. As she conducted the survey, she probed into my daily beauty regimen, my likes, dislikes and needs, including my hair. The survey flowed like a conversation between two old friends chatting about a new product. At the end of the survey she slipped away, and returned with her boss. He was a tall heavy-set man in a suit. She introduced me to him.

“Ellen tells me your very personable, and you’re working here at the mall.”
I nodded my head, unsure of where this was going.
“I would like to hire you. Are you in school?”

My box braids did not hider me from getting this position. The surveyor became my boss, and she loved my hairstyles. She would always compliment my hair, and even asked where she could go to try something similar! Positive experience with braids at the work place.

Flash forward a few years, I’m interviewing for a luxury goods retailer, I wear a full black suit, with a classic white button up in a fashionable cut. My hair is in a long cascading weave, my coils moisturized and protected underneath. I interview with a young black woman (her hair is a short relaxed bob), and an older, reserved Caucasian woman. The three of us began to chat, the black lady driving the conversation. The interview flowed like a conversation between three old friends chatting about a new role. At the end of the interview they slipped away and returned with their boss. He was a short young man, VP of the company, and grandson of the company’s founder.

“The ladies tell me you’re very personable, and you’ve worked in payroll as well.”
I nodded my head, unsure of where this was going.
“I would like to hire you. Are you in school?”

I accepted the offer, and started 2 weeks later. A lot can change in 2 weeks! The young black woman I interviewed with quit, and it was just me and the director running the entire ship! Despite that initial set back, the first week went smoothly.

It was time to remove my protective style and without a second thought I had box braids installed. I figured there would be late nights and early mornings until more people could be hired, and I would not have time to deal with my hair in the harsh NYC winter months. A new manager was hired within days. He was a tall slender, well-manicured, high energy Indian man. When we met, his eyes connected with mine, then my hair. On his second day he gave me an employee handbook to look over, despite the fact that I had already reviewed it. I had a feeling my hair was making him uncomfortable.

After a client meeting, I was suddenly pulled into an impromptu meeting, just the new manager, the reserved Caucasian director, and I. The initial focus: MY HAIR! Their argument: they were a luxury retail whose employees adhered to a strict dress code that limited clothing color, nail color and hair styles. Perfectly legal, as long as the code was applied evenly across all employees. Their concern: As a recruiter I should reflect the principals and corporate culture that they wanted in their staff. I made it clear that my hair was my business and the process for braids was time consuming, costly and, most importantly, directly connected to my heritage. My braids were staying put, like it or not!

At this point in my story I want to refer you to my first tip. RESEARCH! If I had researched further, I would have noticed that this company was recently sued for discrimination. The company was small, and family owned, and not diverse at all. Researching gives you the knowledge to make better decisions. With that in mind, I spoke with the former manager and got the skinny on why she promptly left. Turns out, this wasn’t the company for her, or me, or the person before her that left.

Needless to say I no longer work with that company. I left with a few classy, but true words, and moved on to better things.

~Final Take Aways~
* Research – stalk that position & company
* Look the Part – plan ahead, keep those edges in check, look sharp
* Let the interview flow – like a conversation between friends, or colleagues, keeping the focus on the bigger picture, emphasizing your skills. And smile!
* Safest styles – a neat Bun, coiled TWA, polished wash n go

Sound OFF! Share your hair raising stories here! What is your go-to interview hair style?

For more natural hair interview tips, check out Indigenous Curls.

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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205 Comments on "Professional Recruiter Shares Best and Worst Natural Hair Interview Styles"

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Kenji
I have a serious question. I have been looking for work for months. I wore my hair braided (box braids) to interviews (they were twisted back into a low chignon type thing at the nape of my neck during interviews). I had so many interviews I have lost count, I was qualified for the positions, dressed appropriately so I figured it must be my hair or my skin. At any rate? these past 2 weeks Ive decided to stop looking for work as I simply cant take the rejection anymore but here is my question to everyone that I would… Read more »
wds

the only thing you can do is wash your hair, redo your edges and put your hair in a neat, low bun. anything else would require you to take out your braids.

Nel

Hi Kenji,
You have to do your research. Not just for your hair but the job itself. When asked how you would deal with circumstances or your opinions about this or that, or your weaknesses and strengths we want to see that you have done your research. Do you know the companys stance on certain industry topics? Even better, do you know mine? (the interviewer). It’s better to apply to 3 positions fully prepared than 10 out of desperation.

Deena
I personally think that you would either have to buy a nice wig or continue wearing the style in a bun. I don’t think it would be distracting to the employer at all. Just try to keep your braids neat and clean. That’s pretty much all you can.do if your not willing to take the out. I don’t know if you care much for these type of.jobs but restaurants/grocery stores/clothing boutiques are jobs that most likely would not care if you have box braids. But is there anything specific that you are looking for as far as work? A company?… Read more »
Kenji
im in education so applying to jobs such as teaching assistant, after school worker, etc. I would be willing to be more prepared and not install them in the first place rather than take them out, but again, once i already have them im kind of stuck as i refuse to waste money installing braids, then a month later end up having to look for a job and take them out. oh and I have no problem wearing a wig, however i dont know any wig that will cover box braids even box braids wrapped up as they are quite… Read more »
Eli

Kenji, I think you should stay off braids till you get a job. That way you won’t be questioning whether or not your hair is the issue. You need that job so you do what you need to do. Unemployment is not pretty 🙂

Kenji

Well I wasnt expecting to suddenly have to look for a job, my layoff was quite sudden, the braids were already installed. Again since most seem to be missing my point, I was looking for suggestions on what one should do when THEY ARE ALREADY INSTALLED. but thanks anyway

Zacaria
I’m sorry, but our hair is big and fluffy by nature. I can understand not brushing it out to it’s fullest puff, our pulling it back *if straight haired counterparts are also expected to do the same* but to say that it is no-go really bothers me. Especially when straight haired women don’t have to go to such lenghts to “hide” their hair, but I mean their hair is standard already. Not everyone is a hairstylist or wants all that trauma and pulling on their scalp. Most of the professional white and hispanic women I know do not style their… Read more »
Megan

Reasons I’m beyond ready to get out of corporate life…conformity is a foundational value and hair is just the tip of the iceberg.

KD Mills
I have to agree with you Zacaria. My most recent position (which I did beat out tons of other candidates -83 to be exact- in a reputable Media Advertising organization, that is a very straight laced corporate environment, where I’m unfortunately the only minority) acquired was while wearing the fluffiest, biggest, flat-twist twist out I’d ever attained. So much so that I’ve yet to replicate it. I intentionally went for big, fluffy, and free curls to show them “This is me”. I didn’t want to “put on” because I refused to do it on a daily basis. I got the… Read more »
Kade
Believe or not but I know a heck of a lot of white people who actually have to style their hair daily. I know a couple of friends who can never leave their house without running a straightener past their hair in the morning in fear it will become frizzy..etc The need to comfort to society very high europeen standard of beauty is being felt by all races…even by those who created the standard! I just felt y’all had to know this too. Yes we have to bad end of the stick but a lot of other women of other… Read more »
ismafromgahna
White women do not have “frizzy hair” unless they are in the small minority, or have black in their lineage. “Frizz” is just a synonym for kinky hair which is characteristic of people of sub-saharan decent. Forty-five percent of white people have straight hair while most of the other have wavy hair, while a very small percentage have curly hair. I go to college and do know a couple white women with wavy hair who sometimes straighten their hair, they certainly don’t feel like they need to. They just see it as a change of style. I also know some… Read more »
mosdef

BIGGER picture: Who cares-I worry about my hair, my weight, my skin, my teeth I AM A WOMAN we all have issues none greater than the other…

mosdef

White people DO have frizzy hair LOADS OF US DO. Like the other person said, we spend THOUSANDS to get it and keep it straight! JUDGE JUDY gets relaxers / kertains…it is what it is.

ismafromgahna
Wow, thumbs down? I really don’t know why all you women want to deny the truth or why you seem hard pressed to show that white women have hair problems remotely similar to ours. It’s like you want to defend your view that black women should style, fix, whatever you are trying to say, their hair sense these white women do it too. The fact of the matter is that most black women relax and weave their hair to look like what the vast majority of white women’s hair looks like if they just leave it alone. If the white… Read more »
Camron
All this hype about frizzy hair is ridiculous. I’ve seen white women with hair that is a lil wavy say their hair is frizzy, as if in the negative, when infact I don’t see anything wrong with it. I’ve seen black women whos curls clump and stretch when wet say they have frizzy hair when it dries and shrinks, undefining the curls. When infact that is the natural state of their hair. I’ve seen white women say they have frizzy hair merely because it is not shiny and flowy. I hear people say heat can cause frizz, but manage the… Read more »
Megan

I have to disagree Isma…I know multiple White women who have actual, frizzy hair…not kinky–frizzy…especially red heads, and that’s regardless of texture (straight or wavy). Some I’ve known since we were children, others are new in my life. They do straighten their hair every day…now…this doesn’t mean they face the same treatment linked to their hair, but they do have frizz…look at all the products geared toward them to combat it. Their standards of beauty drag them down too…it’s just that they drag us down even more.

ismafromgahna
I have to disagree. I do know a couple of white women who straighten their hair, but not on a consistent basis, such as to get a sleeker look if they have straight hair (or wavy hair). Most of them do not, however. I do not know any white women with “frizzy” hair. My close friend groing up was a red-head and she did not have “frizzy” hair, it was board thin and straight. Infact, all of my white friends growing up had hair like this naturally. My other red-head friend does have curly-wavy hair but it is not “frizzy”.… Read more »
Zacaria

*distracting
*discriminatory
damn typos sorry just got back from a 12 hour shift.

Kami

Regardless of if my hair is loose or in twists, I always wear a bun when I go in for an interview. My thought is, if the job is really important to me, I am going to do everything in my control to convey that I am the perfect candidate. You can see what hairstyles you can wear after you get the job…and that 90 day probation period is over.

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