U.S. first lady Michelle Obama speaks during a dress rehearsal of 20 dance students from Duke Ellington School of the Arts and the Joy of Motion Dance Center ahead of the White House music series celebrating the arts featuring Broadway performers in the East Room of the White House July 19, 2010 in Washington, DC. As part of the music series, the students are participating in an educational workshop and rehearsal of a segment from the Broadway show, "Hairspray." (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The beauty of black women's hair is its versatility. There are certain molds, cuts and styles that black women can do with their hair that other hair types simply aren't able to do without a lot of hairspray and mousse. Naturally thick and curly hair usually means they can hold braids tighter. The volume in black hair shows it can naturally bounce. Sistas can stack their hair and the curls stay put the entire day. But just like any other hair type, black women have to be careful about hairstyles during job interviews.
Should the employer be judging you from your hairstyle? No. But the truth is that hair can matter as much as the outfit. If you've got maroon highlights and a Mohawk but you're applying for the front-desk receptionist position, chances are you might be starting off on the wrong foot.
While working at Borders Books, Music and Cafe on the Magnificent Mile, there were employees with studded belts, fishnet stockings, neon hair, jeans and wrinkled T-shirts. It's a bookstore. People were given the option to be a little eccentric. Readers are sometimes eccentric. But even for those jobs, applicants came in wearing proper job interview attire. Afterwards they were given the option to wear whatever they liked as long as it was clean and respectable to customers.
Your first impression can make or break the job interview, and with the unemployment rate sky high and unemployment insurance just now being extended again this week, employers have a lot of competitors looking for the same job. Unless your job is in the music or fashion field, keep your attire and hair neutral and make your personality stand out instead.
Whether you're wearing your hair perm-free and natural, have a perm or press, or have dreadlocks to your knees, don't let your hair be a distraction from the conversation.
Hair Tip One: Pull your hair away from your face into a bun. The employer wants to be able to see your expressions in addition to hearing your answers. If you have a chunk of hair over one eye and look like a cross between Jessica Rabbit and Aaliyah, it gives the impression you're either uncomfortable or have something to hide. It's also distracting for a hiring manager who wants to make eye contact.
Hair Tip Two: If you have long hair, keep it in a neat braid or ponytail. Try to keep your hair out of your face, especially if you know humidity will make it blow all over the place. Eye contact and being able to see your face is more important in a job interview than swinging your hair around.
Hair Tip Three: Keep your hair color simple. If your hair is unnaturally blonde, but you rock the color as lovely as Mary J. Blige does, go for it. But stay away from highlights that only match one outfit and hair tones that don't match your complexion. It comes off looking goofy instead of complimentary.
Hair Tip Four: Wear your dreadlocks or twists proudly. The employer who doesn't want you to have dreadlocks is not the employer you want to work for anyway. However, pull your braids back. You shouldn't have to hide them under a headband or a head wrap, but pull them away from your face. Whoopi Goldberg has a habit of letting her locks hide her face and then adding sunglasses or tinted eyeglasses to block her eyes. India Arie is able to rock her locks a lot more fashionably. People can see India Arie's hair is definitely in locks, but viewers are able to see her smile, her eyes and the shape of her face, too. Actress Kim Fields is another woman who always lets her hair compliment her face, not take over her face. The employer wants to hire someone who he or she can remember, not someone who looks like she's hiding behind her hair.
Hair Tip Five: Keep it simple. When we see First Lady Michelle Obama speaking to a crowd or joining in an activity, she's not fiddling with her hair the entire time. Unless it's a pretty windy, rainy or humid day in Chicago, you shouldn't be messing with your hair the whole time you're answering questions during a job interview. Wear a style that suits your face and makes you comfortable. Avoid any hairstyle that will make you spend more time distracted by its appearance than you will assuring the employer that you're equipped for the job.
Hair Tip Six: Avoid a lot of hair decor. One barrette is enough and stay away from flowers. When Mo'Nique had a flower in her hair for the Oscars, it was a tribute to Hattie McDaniel. When Niecy Nash started wearing a flower in her hair, it was to distinguish herself from other home repair TV hosts. She was branding herself for an entertainment position with the show "Clean House." Why you're wearing a flower to a job interview is beyond comprehension. Leave the flower barrette at home unless it's small, classy and easy to pin in the back of your hair instead of on the side or top. Make sure the barrette is a neutral color, too. If you're wearing a power color like red, leave the red flower out of your hair. The outfit will stand out enough.
Hair Tip Seven: If you have really curly hair, find styles that can compliment your face without letting your hair go awry. TLC's Chilli has naturally curly hair that she blows out sometimes, but her hair is never distracting. Letting your hair flow freely is pretty, but don't let the employer get so distracted by the length of your hair or how pretty it looks and completely forget what you're talking about. If you don't want to pull your hair into a bun, pull enough of your hair off your face so your interviewer can still see the front of your outfit. Always keep your body upright. With hair falling over your shoulders, sometimes it give the appearance that you're slumping in your chair.
Hair Tip Eight: Wearing short haircuts can get a little tricky. Black women have always been able to do flips, twists, twirls and make their hair stand straight up. Some of the stuff sistas can do with their hair defies gravity, and that's the beauty of black hair. But during a job interview, it's not time to show that perk off. TLC's T-Boz always keeps her short cuts complimentary to her face without going over the top. An example of over the top would be "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" and R&B Xscape singer Kandi Burruss. Both women are beautiful with their short styles, but there's a time and a place to get creative with the cuts. "American Idol" winner Fantasia is another woman who knows how to keep a short cut sexy but professional.
Photo 1: Gabrielle Union poses at the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award 2009 held on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, CA. (October 22, 2009) Photo Credit: Byron Purvis/AdMedia
Photo 2: Jada Pinkett Smith poses at the "The Karate Kid" premiere in Los Angeles held at Mann's Village Theatre in Westwood, California. (June 7, 2010) Photo Credit: Byron Purvis/AdMedia
Photo 3: Singer Mary J. Blige arrives at the People's Choice Awards 2010 held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on January 6, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for PCA)
Photo 4: Singer India Arie poses at The 29th Annual Kennedy Center Honors December 3, 2006 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Nancy Ostertag/Getty Images)
Photo 5: Tionne 'T-Boz' Watkins (L) and Rozonda 'Chilli' Thomas of the music group TLC pose in the press room at the 2008 BET Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on June 24, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Photo 6: Singer and TV personality Fantasia Barrino visits BET's "106 & Park" at BET Studios on January 6, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)