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Friday, January 8, 2010

must I shave my beard to get a job?

A reader writes:

I am currently looking for employment in the fields of engineering and mathematics.

I am educated, well spoken, well presented, male and I have facial hair. This is not "stylish stubble" or due to laziness; it's a full beard.

What are your (and your readers') thoughts on beards at the point of interview? I appreciate it is "cleaner" to be freshly-shaven, but I (and my wife) like my facial hair and (especially this time of year), I would like to keep it.

I suspect that your reply may close with the note that if a company were to reject me due to my facial hair, perhaps that isn't the company for me but this does not apply - I need to find employment as soon as possible.

I've become predictable apparently, because yeah, that's what I was going to say. So I'm glad you preemptively told me that that's irrelevant here.

Assuming your beard is neatly trimmed and not some sort of ZZ Top style monstrosity, I think this is unlikely to be an issue. Can I promise that you won't encounter a hiring manager with an irrational bias against beards? No, just like I can't promise that you won't encounter a hiring manager with an irrational bias against tall people or people with throaty laughs. But overall, in the vast majority of industries, a neatly trimmed beard isn't likely to be an issue.

20 comments:

Chelsea said...

I would think you may want to be prepared for the possibility that once you were hired the company's dress code would prohibit a beard. I've seen this happen at my company especially with applicants covered in tattoos. they come to the interview with their tattoos exposed and even go so far as to discuss the art with the hiring manager. On the first day of work they are given a handbook which bears the bad news that they are not permitted to show any skin art and they now, after accepting the position, have to decide what is more important. Just make sure that if you want to keep the beard, you'll be allowed to.

TisDone said...

Depending on the nature of the job - beards may also be prohibited by (the companies interpretation of) OSHA regulations, if personal protective equipment such as respirator masks is required for the job, and such masks are not designed to be worn of full beards. Just another factor to consider if one is entering a field where this may be an issue.

Alexander said...

At my old job they said that you were not allowed to grow a beard. You could have one but it had to be fully grown, you were not allowed to go through the stages of one. This meant that no one could have one unless you had been off for a while.

Liz said...

I agree with AAM: As long as you don't look like ZZ Top, I think you're in the clear.

This article from WetFeet about donning beards in a corporate environment might be helpful: http://www.wetfeet.com/MBA/On-the-job/Articles/Hairy-Decisions.aspx

Anonymous said...

Yes, an interviewer might penalize you for having a beard, but think of it from this perspective - would an interviewer penalize you for being clean-shaven? Not a chance...

If you REALLY need a job, it's a much safer approach to lose the beard.

raskal said...

Is the beard a reflection of your religious beliefs?

The Gold Digger said...

I am not sure how relevant my experience is, but I love to offer my opinion. :)

I worked for International Paper on the corporate, not the manufacturing, side. There were two men in my division who had beards. One was a very highly regarded IT guy who had not graduated from college (ie, unusual but he was that good), the other was a box designer (yes, that is actually a profession) who was known throughout the industry.

Point is that the corporate guys felt the need to conform but these two men were good enough that they did not have to.

My husband is an engineer who works for a Silicon Valley company. Nobody wears suits. He just shaved off his beard at my behest. (It hurt to kiss him.) One of his best friends is a VP at Sun Microsystems. VP has a beard. My husband laughs at my corporate ideas about dress and facial hair.

I think in a profession where it is easier to evaluate your work, such as engineering and math, you can get away with a lot more than you can in the corporate world.

Christine Witt said...

I totally agree that this should not be an issue - and that if it's a requirement of employment, they could simply tell you at the interview that you would need to shave.

Having said, though, if you're asking if it could be an issue and you want to eliminate all of the possibilities of issues - shave. Risk -vs- Reward

Anonymous said...

The question from the reader is not whether or not he will have to shave after he is offered the job but whether he needs to shave now for interviews.

I don't think company policy is much of an issue. Except for situations where safety is a concern, companies rarely have policies specifically about facial hair. They may have policies about hygiene and grooming in general, but specific anti-facial hair policies are pretty outdated.

Suzanne said...

My husband ran into the same thing but it was for having long hair. His solution was to cut it short for the interview, then grow it back out after he got the job. Once they knoew he was a good employee, no one cared about his hair.

kristina said...

If you're looking for an engineering/math job in a technical company (not a financial one or something) they'll probably assume you know Unix. Other than that the beard will have no impact whatsoever. The only thing that matters to a tech shop is that you can answer the technical interview questions and aren't a total jerk, and sometimes the second part is optional.

Gene said...

As somone who has had a full beard since sometime in the Reagan administration, I have had no problems. Tne few times it came up in an interview I simply said that Leviticus 19:27 says one should not cut the hair on the side of the head nor the edges of the beard and that ended it. I never said I hold those beliefs, but that ended that part of the discussion.

jmkenrick said...

@The Gold Digger

You're definitely right that some industries care about these things more than others. My boyfriend has gauged ears and several piercings, but that hasn't held him back in his career as a computer science researcher at all.

On the other hand, my friends in banking have to maintain conservative looks.

Mary Sue said...

I'm actually biased towards men with beards, the longer the better. A man with a beard is a man I trust.

But I come from a family where "He's the one with the long beard and the beer belly" describes all of my uncles.

Mary Sue said...

I'm actually biased towards men with beards, the longer the better. A man with a beard is a man I trust.

But I come from a family where "He's the one with the long beard and the beer belly" describes all of my uncles. Most of whom worked in computers/IT/engineering.

Anonymous said...

I have no prejudices against beards, but I think when most men shave their beards they look at least 10 years younger. Now that could be a definite plus in today's job market!

Anonymous said...

If it's not part of your religious beliefs, why not just suck it up and shave it off? It'll always grow back. Forgo the "but it's the principle of the matter!" attitude and play it safe. Just shave. The situation is now moot.

Richard said...

I am the original writer; the 'beardee' if you will.

Thank you, everyone, for your opinions. All things considered, I rather think that the anonymous previous contributer hits the nail on the head.

It will return!

Anonymous said...

Fuck the All!! Keep the FUR dude!

Anonymous said...

In a math field, a beard shouldn't be a problem. But if you want to get laid, consider a shave.