Sunday, August 4, 2013

Get Ahead with THAT Head of Hair

How to Rock that Interview
Your Natural Hair

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! 

View From the office
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, the recruiter 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 (Most conservative) 
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, and polished
Wear If You Dare (Moderate)
Twist Out into Ponytail
Braid out Into Ponytail 
Corn Braids into Ponytail
Flat twist updo styles
Mini twists

Dont do it girl (More Liberal) 
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)
Corn Braids straight back
Unkempt edges
Large / distracting hair accessories
*Box Braids* { I found the acceptance of this style varies greatly, I will explain later} 

Don't do it girl!  Here’s why!

Messy Wash n Go : Its 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 weather 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 experienced when your hair can take 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 braid 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*
Why?  I’ll Tell you why…..& give a few interview tips
A Thin Line between love & hate

Personally, I have a love hate relationship with box braids. Growing up it was my go to style, in between relaxers, as my mom didn’t  want to bother with my hair each morning. I would have box braids installed each month. As I grew older, box braids kept my hair regime simple as I studied, and snagged my first few gigs. 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, and best of all it was a free $5 after I answer a few questions. 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. She wanted to know about my shampoo, and conditioning needs. 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 your 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?”
I was in high school. I declined a full time position, opting to work evenings, and Saturday mornings. My box braids did not hider me from getting this position. The surveyor became my boss, and she loved my hairstyles.   She would always complement my hair, and even asked where she can 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 founder.
“The ladies tell me your 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 smooth. It was time to remove my protective style, without a 2nd thought I had box braids installed. I figured there would be late nights, and early morning 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, dark haired, well-manicured, high energy Indian man.  When we met, his eyes connected with mine, then my hair. His 2nd day he gave me employee handbook to look over, despite the fact that I had already reviewed the hand book. I had a feeling my hair was making him uncomfortable. After a client meeting, I was suddenly pulled into an impromptu   meeting.  The new manager, the reserved Caucasian director, and  I. The initial focus: MY HAIR! Their argument: they are a luxury retail whose employees must adhere to a strict dress code, that does limit clothing color, nail color, and hair styles. Perfectly Legal, as long as their applied evenly across all employees. Their concern:  As a recruiter, I should reflect the principals, and corporate culture that they want in their staff…... I made it clear that my hair, was my business,  the process for braids is 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, me, or the person before her ||

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. Negative experience with braids in the work place.

  All in all I have a love/hate relationship with braids and natural hair. I love them, but not everyone does, I hate that.

~Final Take Always~

  • *     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. & Smile!
  • *     Safest styles-  a neat Bun, coiled TWA, polished wash n go

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