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Beard or No Beard for Job Interviews?

Are beards okay for a job interview? I get this question quite frequently from people who know I’m a Hiring Manager.

Let me say right up front that times have changed in regards to facial hair. In the past, the traditional advice was to always shave off all facial hair for an interview.

However, beards are more acceptable and in fashion now, so the rules have changed for many industries.

When It Is Still Not Acceptable to Have a Beard

Regardless of the industry or the company, there are still situations where beards are not acceptable and probably never will be.

  • If it’s a job involving fieldwork that requires a mask. Beards are generally not a good idea when wearing a mask. They may prevent the mask from sealing properly, which is after all the purpose of a mask.
  • For jobs that work with food. Long beards are particularly a problem, but any beard is generally frowned upon from a sanitary standpoint.
  • For jobs working with people who might be sick, such as nursing homes, hospitals, and other medical facilities. Hygiene is much easier if you shave regularly.
  • Customer-facing jobs. While beards are more popular and accepted today, many companies still feel that beard-free employees are still best for customer-facing jobs.

When Beards are Acceptable, There are Still Rules

Even in jobs where beards are acceptable, that are some rules and guidelines that most companies follow.

  • Old fashioned styles make a bad impression. The most common example is the ‘mountain man’ type of beard: long and scraggly (unless, of course, you’re interviewing to be a lumberjack!).
  • Beards with bare patches are out. The general consensus is this creates an unkempt look that no employer wants in an employee.
  • Beards must be clean and well-trimmed.

I’ve been a Hiring Manager in several different industries, some of which were open to beards and some of which found them unacceptable. For me, it depended on two things: One, if the beard is well-groomed and not an outrageous style, and two, if my job opening was a type for which I considered a beard acceptable (see the list above).

Jobs and Industries Where Beards Are Generally Not Acceptable

  • Financial companies. As a rule, they are very conservative and work hard to project an image of dependability and trustworthiness. They rather strongly believe that facial hair detracts from that image.
  • Government agencies. I’m been a Hiring Manager in a large government entity and can tell you that short, conservative beards are now acceptable for many positions. That said, for positions that deal directly with the public, or even more so, the press, beards are still discouraged.
  • Medical professions. This is primarily an issue of patient safety. Beards lessen the effectiveness of face masks, thus making for a less sterile environment. This is particularly an issue during our current pandemic, where all employees in the medical profession are required to wear masks at all times.

Jobs and Industries Where Beards May be Acceptable

  • Bartenders. These folks are expected to be a bit hip, which means a neat beard is probably acceptable and perhaps even enhances the image.
  • Construction workers. As you may guess, dress codes and facial hair restrictions are very relaxed in the construction industry, where you tend to get your hands dirty.
  • Auto Repair. As in construction, dress and grooming codes are very relaxed. This is especially true for highly skilled auto mechanics, who are currently in great demand and short supply.
  • Many IT jobs, particularly at smaller or younger companies. IT companies focus more on skills than appearance.
  • Manufacturing, trades, and blue-collar jobs in general. There are exceptions, though, for certain jobs that are customer-facing or involved in sales or marketing.

How Do Religious and Cultural Issues Affect the Acceptability of Beards?

This is a sensitive area, as some types of beards are considered cultural or religious symbols. Since diversity is more prevalent in today’s world, these types of beards have become more accepted in corporate culture.

Also, discrimination against employees who have a beard in order to comply with religious teachings is now prohibited by federal law. In most instances, unless the employer can make a valid case that a beard presents a hardship to the company, you have the right to wear facial hair when it is in line with your sincere beliefs.

Here’s The Bottom Line on Beards

As a Hiring Manager, I’ll tell you that while beards are now acceptable in many instances and may not hurt you in an interview, they will not help you, either.

Yes, it’s your decision and perhaps it’s a matter of principle and personal freedom in your opinion. But why take a chance? Your beard will always grow back, but that job you wanted so badly may not come around again.

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