Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Can This Be Salvaged?

Something has been weighing on my mind over the past week or so. I know of a situation in which there is a job opening and three candidates have been interviewed. Of the three, one clearly ranked above the rest in terms of experience and consensus was that this person was the most personable and all-around best fit for the position. The position was not offered to this person because of this person’s appearance. This person would be going out to meet with people to get them involved with the organization and it was unanimously felt that this person’s appearance (more specifically, hair) was unkempt and disheveled and that this person would not present well to the public for this reason. This person is warm, well-spoken, and passionate about the cause that they would be speaking about. Everyone who interviewed this person liked this person and wanted to hire this person. Everyone on the interview panel agreed that it was a shame they had to discount the person for this reason.

In this economic climate, I can’t imagine that this person (who, like the other two candidates, has been unemployed for some months) would refuse to do something about their hair if they really wanted the job. This is probably hindering their job search considerably, so even if they are offended that this criticism is made, it just seems the decent thing to do to let this person know what’s up.

The person who ultimately makes the hiring decision has been agonizing over this for the past week, particularly given that another interview was held yesterday and the interviewee was not anywhere near the caliber of the first person. The interview panel now compares every interviewee to the first person and finds them lacking.

The hiring person really wants the first candidate. If you were in the position of the hiring decider (just made that up) how would you handle this situation? If you were the really strong candidate who is being passed over due to your appearance, would you want to be told? And how?


Bridget said...

Wow. That's a touchy one. Is hair any different than skin color or religious background? :-(

I would hire the best qualified person regardless of their hair. If everyone loves her on all points but gets hung up on just the hair who's to say that she can't bowl people over when she gets out there to do the job? It could always be approached delicately that there is a 'dress code' for the company and see if she is open to making some changes.

Look at Einstein! Dude had some serious hair challenges.

Keep us posted.

Los Angelista said...

Oh wow, that's a tough one. I'd hire her even if her hair doesn't look so good. I have no idea how to approach the dress code convo without teetering into lawsuit lane.

DaChickenLady said...

I would do the decent but cowardly thing of telling the person kindly, sincerely, but anonymously.

Nerd Girl said...

Hmmm. If it were me, yes I'd want to be told. I'm just not sure how you could tell someone that and not risk being sued. Which is sad.

I'd probably hire him/her anyway. Though I do wonder if they've been told about their hair and just chose to ignore the advice. Like I cannot imagine walking around looking all crazy about the head and nobody (friend, family member) saying, um, if you comb your hair,you'd probably be better received at interviews.

I know that when I lost my job I was transitioning, but I kept my hair pressed (for interviews) until I finally got a job - then I locked it up quick as a wink! :)

Lisa Blah Blah said...

All: thanks for your comments. Ultimately she was not hired because it turns out that when she was invited for her second interview, she was was told that appearance was an important part of the position and she should "dress for success" when she came in. She came in wearing a nice suit and with her hair again a hot mess. SO disappointing.

The consensus was that there are liability issues if you tell a person that they'd have to change their appearance in order to get the job. I think this was particularly touchy because the candidate is an African-American woman and you know how we are about our hair!

To clarify the issue: it looked like she had relaxed her hair some time ago and then had about 3-4 inches of growth. At the top of her head, half of her hair was smoothed down, and half of it was sticking up. It didn't look like she had even put a comb through the relaxed sections for days. I kept thinking to myself, "when all else fails, slick it back into a bun!" I wish I could just say something to her, but I can't.

I am bummed because this was a pretty high-level, visible position, I liked her, and I would love to see a woman of color in that role.

So that's the sad end to that story...