Beards come in and out of fashion regularly. And whether or not a beard is suitable for a professional setting is very much up for debate. You either love beards or you hate them. And, quite frankly, there are some professions where having a beard is a complete no-no. Think of food preparation, some healthcare, and industrial manufacturing environments. When it comes to health and safety any issue with a beard is a complete non-negotiable. However, in other office-type environments is it important that people are clean-shaven or have a short and manageable beard. In an ideal world surely there would be a place for a long Wizard beard too. Let’s take a look at the question: does having a beard affect getting a job?
Having a beard can affect your ability to get a job because it very much depends on your interview panel and how they perceive beards. The important thing is to keep your beard incredibly well maintained as not to impact the first impressions.
Does having a beard affect getting a job? What the studies say
In 2009, Gillette (the famous shaver company) survey more than 500 human resources professionals. A huge 90% of them believe that “being well-groomed is key to making a strong first impression”. But you have to remember this study is commissioned by someone who wants to sell you more razors. Having a cleanly shaven face sets you apart from other competitors and 84% of the human resources professional agreed that professionals without a beard climb the corporate ladder faster than those who have some form of facial hair. However, some other science flies in the face of this study.
In 2012, a study from the Warwick Business School, the University College London, and Dartmouth College found that the physical appearance of a person is very much related to their perceived level of trustworthiness. In the financial services sector for example, the more trustworthy you look to potential clients, the more likely are to attract the higher dollar investments. Full beards, having a goatee or mustache are considered to be signs of a trustworthy person. While the neckbeard without a mustache is apparently quite threatening.
One 2003 study found that having a beard didn’t make much of an impact on a man’s employability but having a moustache did. Researchers showed university students a set of CVs each with a computer-generated photo. Some of the candidates had beards, some had a moustache and others were simply clean-shaven. It was found that one of the biggest hiring biases was not against applicants with a full beard but for those with a moustache. The beard, on the whole, didn’t make much of a difference in how an applicant was evaluated. Although, the research showed that applicants with facial hair were chosen less often for higher-level positions like management positions.
People’s perception of an unruly beard is that it may imply a negative worth ethic, personal hygiene issues, or management and organizational problems.
Therefore, having a beard doesn’t necessarily make you more or less trustworthy but having a scruffy bit of hair on your face doesn’t help build great first impressions. Talking about first impressions, let’s have a look to see if it is okay to have a beard for a job interview.
Is it OK to have a beard for a job interview?
This one can be quite a tricky subject. In a job interview, you are balancing a load of social conventions. In an ideal interaction, you should build trust and openness with the people interviewing you whilst also showing them that you are professionally capable to do the role that you have applied for.
There are loads of ways you can do this such as, initiating a firm handshake, looking at people in the eye while talking to them, and just looking “the part”. A hiring decision is generally based on first impressions of how trustworthy a candidate is. Being considered a trustworthy person goes hand-in-hand with what we think of their integrity and ethics. First impressions are important because if someone is initially perceived to be trustworthy based on their looks we will then assign them with integrity and unconsciously look for evidence in their behaviour to support our first impression. We will also ignore evidence that challenges our first impression.
The thing about a beard is you are not sure how the panel feel about facial hair. Entering a room and being subjected to initial impressions means that a beard can very quickly put someone off. You then must work very hard to win them over their first impressions have been negative.
Is shaving a beard really that important for interview?
If we think about all of the advice we’ve ever been given about interviewing, conventional wisdom would say that men have to have a clean-shaven face. This means complete removal of sideburns, goatee’s, stubble, or anything else on your face. Even the 5 o’clock shadow must go. Most corporate jobs are very conservative and have strict professional guidelines on dress codes and appearance. Interviewers are looking for candidates that can best represent the image of the company.
The one bit of advice I would give is to do some research on the company that you are interviewing for.
Some financial companies, medical professions, healthcare professions, and other professional services have very strict guidelines. If you find that the professional image that they are betraying on social media and their website is of men with no beard or facial hair it’s probably a good idea to try to fit in or find a different job to apply for.
Is a beard okay for an interview?
In an ideal world needed men should be able to apply for any job without discrimination – unless it’s a requirement of the job. Unfortunately given the social nature and first impressions made in a job interview it’s best to approach any facial hair with caution. If you do decide on having a beard during your interview make sure that you make special effort to present it in its best light. That means:
- Get a professional to trim and shape your beard – at least one week before your interview go to a barber that you trust to shape your beard. Even if you do it yourself regularly this interview calls for a professional intervention. It needs to be picture perfect. While you’re there asked for advice about the maintenance and condition of your beard so that you know it will look its best on game day.
- Shampoo and condition the day before – this will mean that it is not freshly shampooed and to dry from having all of the natural oils are stripped out.
- Use a good quality beard oil at least one hour before your interview – this will give it plenty of time to soak in and show off your beard in its best light.
- Use a beard balm or wax – use a beard balm or wax to style your beard and as a leave in conditioner. If you find your beard is not styled to perfection use a product with a stronger hold and more beeswax.
- Take a brush with you – even though your beard is brushed in the morning things like wind and travel on public transport can make it scruffy. Head to the bathroom before your interview and give your beard a final touch up with a brush and some beard balm.
Follow these simple tips for maintaining your beard before your interview and it will look at the best it can. So, that is everything you need to know about beards and interviewing.
Should I shave my stubble before an interview?
If you are rocking the 5 o’clock shadow. All you have about a week’s worth of growth you probably need to shave. When people see someone with a bit of stubble it can come across just as lazy. It won’t take you too much time to grow that amount of facial hair back. So, I would air on the side of caution. As it does not signify that you are attempting to grow a beard. To the outside world, it just looks like you’ve kind of just forgotten to shave for a couple of days.
But is it unprofessional to have facial hair generally in a workplace?
Is it unprofessional to have facial hair?
When beards are out of fashion some argue that facial hair is actually unprofessional. There is no doubt whether or not you are in a professional environment that a scruffy beard looks bad no matter what. The only thing that makes a beard or other facial hair unprofessional is that it is kept neat and tidy.
Unfortunately, if you are currently growing a beard there is a time where it will look very messy and scraggly. There is no getting around that beards go through an awkward phase and you have to make sure that your workplace is okay with this phase. If you are starting a new job, you shouldn’t start growing a beard until you have settled into your new role. That way, your first impressions with your colleagues won’t be that you are scruffy.
It all comes down to having a deliberate style and beard rather than one that looks like you have just thrown some hair at your face.
Professional beard styles for interview
Let’s take a look at some of the professional beard styles that you can wear at an interview.
The short beard
The biggest trick to keeping a short beard looking professional for an interview is to trim it the same length all over. You can fade to the sideburns or into other areas but having it a continuous and even length will help improve its looks.
A short beard paired with a snappy and trendy hairstyle is an absolute winner. Keep the hair over the lip trimmed close to the lip line and make sure that any hairs under the lips and towards the chin sit flush with the face. The cheek line should be trimmed so that it looks defined and not messy.
A medium beard
With a medium beard you are given a little bit more freedom around the chin and cheek area. But the top lip and the moustache must be kept shorter. Any hairs that escape into the mouth or the lip could be perceived as being untidy and unkempt.
It’s at this point that you need to use a fair amount of beard balm or wax to hold your beard in place. Play about with different combinations of oils, waxes, butter, and balms to find the perfect combination where you have a strong hold but it does not look wet or greasy.
Combine a medium length beard with a trendy haircut and a well-fitting suit and there is no reason why you cannot look super professional.
Having a goatee in a professional setting requires that all of the lines are super sharp. Use a tremor to keep all of their hair relatively short and close to the face. It’s important that the goatee on the chin does not become too long and look out of place with the moustache and sides of the goatee. There is a little bit of freedom to grow the chin hair a tiny bit longer but not too long.
A well-defined, professional, goatee relies on having a nice clean-shaven face on the chin and neck. The moment these become filled with hairs that are 1 to 2 days old a goatee can quickly look unprofessional. Stick to the simple rules and is your goatee will be perfect for a professional setting.
A well lined up long beard
There are some workplaces where having a super long beard really doesn’t matter. However there are some simple ways to keep a long beard looking super professional. You need to pay particular attention to the lines of the beard i.e. at the bottom. And the line on the cheek. With a bigger longer beard you can also have a longer moustache that covers the upper lip. A longer beard requires a much bigger moustache to give the beard some balance.
A fuller and long beard really needs to be as clean and well-maintained as you could possibly manage. Use products regularly and tackle problems like beard dandruff as soon as they arise. You may consider buying a beard straightener as they are one of the easiest ways to keep your beard looking really well-maintained.
Check out my other article about beard straighteners – click here – for a full rundown on everything you need to know.
Growing a beard in a professional setting
If you are planning on growing a beard in a professional setting, then you need to make sure that your company and direct management are aware of it. Before approaching them, you should look out for other people in the workplace with a beard – if you don’t see any it may be against the dress code. That doesn’t mean you won’t be allowed one, but you may have to ask special permission. Also, check out human resources and any work policies before launching into your beard growing journey.
Growing a beard takes a fair bit of time and patience. During the growth phase, you will end up with an awkward beard at some point. As long as you and your direct management are aware of this it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Throughout the entire beard growing process make sure that you are hygienic and your beard hair is well shampooed and oiled. You need to make a special effort not to have any beard dandruff or musty smells during the growing stage.
If you are in a stale office environment those things can really matter.
Follow these steps and you will be able to grow a beard in a professional setting that is welcomed by your employer:
- Shampoo and condition your beard every 2 to 3 days – this will lay the foundations for keeping your beard soft and clean.
- By a beard oil that doesn’t smell too pungent – smells in the office place are so much more obvious than in the real world. You don’t want to gas out your office place with essential oils that people don’t like. Therefore take the time to buy and unscented oil and add just two drops of your favorite essential oil. Or you can leave it to smell free.
- Keep a small travel kit of beard products in your desk drawer – every so often we forget to do certain things with our beard. Having a small selection of travel beard essential products in your desk will mean you can easily touch up your beard for important meetings throughout the day.
- Buy a pocket comb – a wooden pocket comb is a fantastic way to keep your beard looking fresh throughout the day. Excuse yourself and go to the bathroom for a light brushing before important meetings or conference calls. You can even keep it in the top pocket of your suit jacket so it is always available to you.
In summary, it is not unprofessional to grow a beard in a professional setting. You just have to make the effort to keep your beard looking fresh and professional at all times. Go to see your barber regularly and learn to maintain your beard properly.
So, having a beard can actually impact getting a job. However, keeping it well-maintained is one of the most important ways to ensure your beard does not impact your job-seeking efforts. If you are deciding to keep your beard for your job interview, remember that first impressions are so very important. You will need to make sure that your beard does not put off the panel through looking scruffy and therefore implying that you are disorganized and untrustworthy.
However, follow the simple guidelines in this article and there is no reason why having a beard should affect your ability to get a job (where beards are allowed).
Beards go in and out of fashion but a well-kept beard is timeless. Keep it well-maintained and it will not look out of place in a professional setting.