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Hair Up or Down for an Interview? | It Depends

Hair Up or Down for an Interview? | It Depends

There are many ways to exude professionalism for a job interview, including how you wear your hair. If you are wondering whether to wear your hair up or down for an interview, read on.

What Are Professional Hairstyles, and Why Do They Matter?

Professional hairstyles come with a long lineage of social pressures. More important than whether you wear your hair up or down for an interview is that your face is visible. If this confuses you, you probably have more questions than answers.

  • What are professional hairstyles, and why do they matter?
  • Why are some hairstyles considered more professional than others?
  • At the end of the day, how do you style your unique hair texture as professionally as possible?

Whether we like it or not, professionalism is a reality of our work that we cannot get around. Unspoken social codes of professionalism keep a workplace safe, productive, and ethical.

However, social pressures and inequities often influence professionalism’s rules. Professionalism will feel different in every country you visit. In some workplaces in Asia, it is customary to nap in the office during the siesta hour!

In the United States, this is not appropriate. Even though where hair intersects with professionalism can feel like a minefield of confusion, some basic tenets can help job-seekers find success.

You want to be able to nail that dream job, and you don’t want to hear that your hairstyle cost you the job. The short answer to whether an up-do or a down-do is better for a job answer is: it depends.

No matter how you style your hair, you need to ensure that it is professional and appropriate for the work environment you are interviewing for. Read on to learn more examples of professional hairstyles – both up and down – for job interviews.

Read Next: Unprofessional Hairstyles to Avoid Wearing

Up-Dos for Job Interviews

Woman with her hair up in a job interview as seen from behind

fizkes/Shutterstock

Traditionally, up-dos were the de-facto hairstyle for women in the corporate world because they exude an aura of conservatism. It is also possible that wearing your hair up gives it the illusion of being shorter, which looks slightly more masculine. 

For women in corporate America, working with the biases against feminine behavior is not always a hindrance; in many ways, it helps. Though there is nothing wrong with being soft or feminine, in corporate settings firmness and assertiveness are higher priorities.

If you are interviewing for a corporate job, it might be a good idea to wear your hair in a sleek updo. Here are just a few examples of professional up-dos you can wear to almost any job interview.

Elegant Ponytail

Another simple up-do for work is a sleek, clean ponytail. Just make sure that the ponytail isn’t too high on your head. The higher the pony, the more casual and unprofessional it appears.

Low ponytails that sit anywhere from the nape of your neck up to about mid-crown are professional and appropriate. Looking to make it even sleeker? Take a strand of your hair and wrap it around the ponytail holder to make the whole look smooth and professional.

Read Next: Sleek Ponytail Hairstyles to Wear in 2022

Crown Braid (Perfect for Short Hair)

If you have medium-length or shorter hair but want to make sure you wear your hair up for your interview, one great option is the crown-braid. While it may take some practice to get it right, crown braids keep your hair out of your face without sacrificing delicacy and femininity.

One word of caution for crown braids: lots of people wear the style with wispy strands of hair falling out of the up-do. While this may be appropriate for some workplaces, use your best judgment about whether a sleeker look is better for your new potential employer.

Down-Dos for Job Interviews

Lady in a job interview with a braided ponytail looks at four people in front of her

Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Despite the historical preference for up-dos in corporate America, today’s professional landscape has a lot more room for variation, personality, and preference.

There are lots of reasons why a person might prefer to wear their hair down; anything from the length, maintenance, and face shape. If you do opt for a down-do for your job interview, make sure that no matter what, your hair is clean and not distracting.

You don’t want flyaways and frizz that enter the space before you do. The most important thing to remember is that your down-do should keep your face clear and visible. You don’t want to hide behind a curtain of hair.

Half Ponytail

One classic down-do mixes the best of the down with the best of the up. The half ponytail is so versatile that it can be worn casually after work, or sleekly for a job interview. Gather the top third of your hair into a ponytail.

The rest of your hair will fall neatly behind your shoulders or around your face, while your face is clear. Another professional variation is to braid the ponytail portion of the half pony. In addition to making your hair more secure, it also adds a feminine flair.

Box Braids

For women with relaxed hair, or for women who weave synthetic hair into their scalp, box braids are an excellent down-do style because they are specifically designed to minimize flyaways or kinky frizz. Box braids derive their name from the box shape that the hair is gathered into before it is plaited.

This hairstyle, in addition to being professional enough for any work environment, also comes with a long history. Ancient Egyptians braided their hair in box braids. If it was good enough for Cleopatra, it is good enough for a job interview!

Read Next: Who Created The Braided Hairstyle?

Frequently Asked Questions

Woman in a job interview with her hair behind her ears for a guide titled hair up or down for a job interview

fizkes/Shutterstock

Preparing for a job interview can be a nerve-wracking task. Here are some frequently asked questions about interview-appropriate hairstyles.

Is it Better to Have Straight or Curly Hair for an Interview?

While there is an unfortunate bias against curly and/or “natural” hair (which is a broad title for Black Americans’ hair), there are now protections against discrimination based on hair type.

No matter your hair’s natural texture, the most important thing is that your hairstyle looks neat and that it does not obscure your face.

Why Is Curly Hair Traditionally Unpopular in Professional Settings?

There is a long history of discrimination against Black Americans in professional environments, which extended to their hair. Even hair that held looser curls was seen as unprofessional because it did not resemble the “mainstream” ideal of straight hair.

While our history is not always pleasant, a combination of legal repercussions and evolving attitudes about race and appearance means that curly hair is not a de-facto deal breaker in the workplace.

What Are the Best Hairstyles for a Zoom Interview?

With remote workplaces on the rise, it is more common than ever to receive an invitation for a virtual interview. While you may be tempted to go back to the drawing board for a Zoom interview, the same basic principles stand.

Whether you choose an up-do or a down-do, the most important thing is that your hairstyle is not distracting, and your interviewer can see your face.

Is it a Good Idea to Get a Perm or Hair Relaxer for a Job Interview?

It may be tempting to go all out in preparation for your job interview. Whether or not you should go to the salon before your interview is largely dependent on the workplace.

In corporate jobs where there is an expectation that employees spend large sums of money on their clothes and appearance, getting a perm or a hair relaxer before your interview isn’t a bad idea.

Meanwhile, people interviewing for jobs at non-profits or education settings will need to look approachable in their jobs to a wide variety of people; opting for a professional look with your natural hair in those industries goes a long way.

Do Hairstyles Say a Lot About Your Personality?

Hair is a feature of our personalities because it is a place where we can express ourselves. The link between hair and culture is so strong that countless scholars and media-makers have explored the topic.

The reason people spend so much time thinking about their hairstyles for job interviews is that that is one space where you get to express part of your professional personality to your potential employer.

So, What Kind of Hairstyle Will You Wear?

Even though up-dos have dominated the corporate working world for several decades, times are changing. People find success with all kinds of hairstyles. 

The most important thing is that the hairstyle is clean and does not obstruct your face. Pick a hairstyle that makes you feel confident and powerful, and you can nail any upcoming job interview!