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Natural Hair And The Workplace: What You Need To Know

Does natural hair make a difference in your job search?

Minutes away from jumping off the deep end at my recruiting job, I got a call from a hiring manager about a corporate human resources position. As a recruiter, I knew I needed to do some research to decide whether or not I’d take this company seriously. In previous jobs, I was careful to analyze financial, political, or community-related dirt on companies, but taking a deeper dive into the organizational culture was an afterthought. For me, this time would be different.

In the past, I found myself removing my braids or straightening my hair for interviews. “Why should I have to alter my hair for fear of rejection? My hair grows from my scalp this way,” I often said. It was time to put my foot down with this foolishness and never be caught asking my boss if a potential hairstyle was “professional” enough or against company policy.

After all, this new employer was recruiting me, and I was feeling like a hot commodity. Since I didn’t apply for the job and they were courting me, I decided to flip the script and do most of the judging. You do know that’s what happens in an interview, right? You’re always judged — by your appearance first and your skills last.

From previous experience in interviews, it seemed as though, the tighter the curls, the more your hair was a “distraction” — whatever that means. Girl, bye! What if the melanin-enriched community got together and decided redheads were a distraction? Seems silly, right? Well, it’s the same thought process when it comes to Black women and their hair, whether corporate America wants to admit it or not.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand when you don’t make the rules, you have no real authority in changing them. When someone else writes your check, you come to a crossroad on whether to bite the bullet and alter your hair or find another job.

Is there scientific evidence proving my Afro, dreads, or twist-outs produce less quality work than my straight or wavy-haired counterparts? I doubt it. However, until I had my own business was up and running, I had to take a long, hard look at my next employer before accepting an offer. I refused to work for a company rooted in self-hatred.

As previously stated, research is crucial in your job search. Here are three ways I investigated my potential employer’s views on natural hair and respect for cultural differences in general.


I visited the company website to view photos, branding, and messaging to gauge the company culture. This particular company had a personal statement about accepting the differences of others. OK, I thought, good start.


Next I searched LinkedIn to find current and past employees of this company. Did they look like me and how long did they stay? Did any have natural hair? It turns out, more than a few employees were natural, including an executive leader.


Lastly, during my visit for the interview, I observed employees as they walked to and fro. The environment was casual and family-oriented, and this was important to me. I didn’t want to wear suits every day and I certainly didn’t want to have to hide my hair in a bun every day.

Each personal experience will be different depending on the industry, location, and other factors. Companies will most likely have a dress code stating your hair must be clean and “neatly groomed.” Keep in mind that “neatly groomed” is left up to that company’s interpretation. Do some digging before you find yourself in a workplace that forces you to abandon your personal identity.

Has your natural hair affected your job search?

Ashley Watkins, of Write Step Resumes, LLC, helps job seekers and career changers find the career of their dreams by creating the perfect resume, providing interview preparation and career coaching. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or via Click here to schedule a FREE consult today!

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