I have been getting a number of questions lately on the issue of hair color on an interview. In a decade of recruiting, I’ve probably been asked about hair color twice… this week alone I’ve been asked about it 3 x by men and women.
Many men and women are concerned about the competition with younger workers. They are trying to get every advantage over the young 35 or 45 year old without the grey. They want to know should they dye their hair or let it go natural color.
Before I answer, a little bit about why hair turns grey:
As we get older, the pigment cells in our hair follicles gradually die. When there are fewer pigment cells in a hair follicle, that strand of hair will no longer contain as much melanin and will become a more transparent color – like gray, silver, or white – as it grows. As people continue to get older, fewer pigment cells will be around to produce melanin. Eventually, the hair will look completely gray.
People can get gray hair at any age. Some people go gray at a young age – as early as when they are in high school or college – whereas others may be in their 30s or 40s before they see that first gray hair. How early we get gray hair is determined by our genes. This means that most of us will start having gray hairs around the same age that our parents or grandparents first did.
That said, here has been my answer to the job seeker who is concerned they won’t be as competitive with greying hair.
No matter what company and what job, you will be judged on the following spoken items:
- Qualifications to the Job
- Ability to Move the Organization Forwards
- History of Success
- Cultural Fit
- Technical Abilities
The unspoken things you may never know are:
- Age Bias
- Sex/Gender Bias
- Religious Bias
- Regional bias
- Cultural Bias
The happiest people in the workforce are those that can be themselves. If you are 25 and grey, does that make you any less competitive against someone 25 and balding?
If you are 55 and grey and competing against someone with less skills, similar personality and cultural fit that is 35 and great blond hair, does that make you any less competitive?
I’m a huge advocate of doing your research before the job interview. Visit the company. See the average age. Talk to the receptionist. Pull up information about the management team. Find people in LinkedIn or other Media and see their pictures.
It’s not a perfect world. There will always be social bias, but you have alot of control before, during and after the interview to prove you are the best candidate.
If you are 58 and going into a company of 22 year olds in a technology startup it might be awkward working daily for you and them. They could be your kids. That’s just poor planning on your part.
If you are going into an interview with mixed ages and you know they have a history of keeping people they may be looking for your long-term capabilities. Prepare for that question before-hand.
Be yourself. Be Confident. Demonstrate your excellent capabilities by case studies, stories and successes. Most of all, have fun being who you are and remember… you are interviewing them as they are interviewing you. They want to make a great impression on you as well.
A final story why I will not dye my hair myself. I had a work associate in a consulting group, one time who was approximately 55. He was always dark haired, no grey. I never thought anything of it. When our consulting team went our separate ways, we didn’t see each other for about 2 years. My colleague started his own business. When I saw him next I was shocked. He was totally white!
I asked him what happened. He said he’s been grey since he was 35 and didn’t know himself how grey he was until he let the hair dye naturally fade. He went from black to white overnight. That was a shock I would not want to do to anyone especially myself.
If you feel the urge to ‘hit the bottle’, no not that bottle but the dye bottle, then do it. Experiment; but have a professional at least do it for you at first. Have fun with it and determine for yourself if you can be yourself.