Professional Recruiter Shares Best and Worst Natural Hair Interview Styles

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
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.