Every once in a while it comes up, and it irritates me. It’s the myth that a clean shave face is a must in an interview if you want to make an impression. You have heard that right?
Of course beards are making a come back among men, and the clean-cut (or shaven) look is starting to take a back seat. However, this may not always be the case. I’ve personally found that some jobs still require its employees to shave, making it uniform among male employees. This makes it a hindrance in a job seekers search due to having beard whether for religious reasons, or other wise; since it still carries the stigma of giving the person a lazy and unclean appearance.
In Defense of the Beard
While companies reserve the right to hire people, and deny employment to whom they choose. It still smacks of unfairness in some cases, for example, in most fast food chains and other restaurants male employees are required to shave due to health standards of working around cooked food. However employees of Beef, and other raw food processing plants that have higher sanitation standards do not, and are even accommodated with hair and beard nets. What’s the point you may be wondering? Let’s say, God forbid, someone happens to eat a burger with a stray hair in it his/ her chances of getting sick (really sick ) aren’t that great. However, if a stray hair happens to fall on a piece of beef carcass during processing and left to be contaminated it can spread to other product causing pustules in the product and if eaten cause greater harm. Besides, people have done worst things to food being served to rude customers than a stray hair or two.
I remember one particular instance where I went to an interview for a local Jack in the Box. As a Muslim, it goes against my faith to shave my beard, with this in mind, I figured I’d be smart and prepared; and along with a well crafted resume I had a letter from the Mosque (Masjid) typed and signed. The letter stated that not only was it a religious requirement for me to keep my beard, but also that I was willing to provide and wear a beard net, along with a number where a representative could be reached for further information. While the interview went well, in my opinion, I wasn’t hired. Persistent, I went to an open interview a couple of weeks later for the same store and the results were the same. In the competitive job market where hiring managers are still being swamped with applicants for jobs it can be just one thing against a job seeker. No hiring manager wants to have hanging over their head the hiring of someone who may potentially sue the company due to a misunderstanding leading to violation of their civil rights.
It has happened, the news has testified to companies that have had to shell out thousands of dollars over the misunderstanding between an employee, and manager over company standards vs. religious/personal freedoms. For example, McDonald’s in a December 2013 suit ended up paying 50,000 to a Muslim employee who was fired due to not shaving. This gave Mcdonald’s good reason to refine some of it’s policies regarding grooming. In my own personal job searches, where I didn’t get the job despite performing well at an interview I’ve been tempted to name the beard as the culprit between not being selected. While not always the case, and I’m sure there are plenty of people who have found and maintained employment, for many still this comes up as an issue. The question being, why? Does the way a person look, especially the wearing of a beard really matter? Why is it so hard for employers to recommend accommodations for individuals who have a valid excuse, such as religious belief, for example. While Employers and hiring managers aren’t always willing to come forward on the answers to these questions. There are some things job seekers that have religious exceptions can due to ensure they aren’t discriminated against:
1. Know your rights – As I’ve stated before, companies have the right to hire, or deny employment to who they will, and the reasons are many. However there are a few reasons that are actually illegal, and while we know them they can at times be done subtly.
Religious affiliation and practice: This includes grooming, clothing, religious days of worship. So long as the aren’t an undue hardship (and few are) employers are encouraged to give accommodations to such employees, and job seekers.
Gender: This includes pregnancy based discrimination, which is illegal; and employers are expected to treat these cases as temporary illness or other temporary condition necessitating special consideration.
Age: Age discrimination is a practice specifically protected by law. With a few rare exceptions, companies are forbidden from specifying an age preference is job advertisements. Employees must receive the same benefits regardless of age, the only exception being when the cost of providing supplemented benefits to young workers is the same as providing reduced benefits to older workers.
2. Groom to impress – Whether you keep a beard for religious reasons or personal ones, grooming it will help to take attention away from it. Obviously the Grizzly Adams look will be an automatic disqualification at any job interview. While every man’s style of grooming his beard will vary, the best tip I can give is keep it tailored to the shape of your face. Also, wash and condition it there is a large market for beard products out there that help with the look and feel of facial hair. Here is my personal favorite:
3. Go to every interview well prepared. – It goes without saying, the best way to get your foot in the door with any job interview is to go well prepared. Actually, you should have been preparing in between filling out the application and waiting for the interview. Taking the time out to craft a winning resume to present, research the company you’re applying for, and preparing answers (and questions of your own) to questions the interviewer will ask about you and your interest in the position you’re seeking.