Thursday, March 4, 2010

To Beard or not to Beard

I recently interviewed for an assistant sommelier position at a major hotel in midtown Manhattan. After filling out the necessary paperwork, I met with an HR representative who quickly led me to his office deep down in the neon-lit, unglamorous basement of the hotel. Before I even had the chance to hang my coat and take a seat he began his long list of probing questions.

The questions, which were shot at me like the lightning round of a TV game show, were pointed and uncomfortable. I expected to be asked about my knowledge of Bordeaux and Burgundy, not my personal ethics. At one point in the interview he asked me to describe myself in a single word or phrase. Stunned, I wished I could opt to phone a friend to answer this one for me. How on earth can I create a tagline for myself on the fly?

Surprisingly, not one question was asked about food or wine. Instead he asked me to describe things like my most serious regrets and how I react to failure. It felt more like a confessional than a job interview and I was completely blindsided by his hard-hitting questions.

At the end of the interview he said he had one more question that may be uncomfortable for me to answer. My mind began to race, thinking of a question that could be any more uncomfortable than the last few. Would he ask about my sexuality, a death in the family, or how I once shoplifted at the grocery store when I was six? His eyebrows furrowed, he was about to ask something seriously personal.

“Mr. Bean, how attached are you to your facial hair?”

Apparently, this particular corporation bans beards. Well-groomed moustaches are okay but anything more than that is not allowed, unless, he specified, your beard is part of your religious practice.

Regardless of my answer to his question, I felt like the job opportunity was lost for me. My beard conveyed a certain attitude and marked me as some sort of anti-corporate rebel. I left the interview feeling like maybe I should sport a different look. Perhaps a clean-shaven face would open more doors and make me more appealing in certain job interviews. Job hunting is a lot like auditioning for a character role, but the challenge is that you are given no information on the specific qualities you are supposed to portray to win the part.

I never received another call from the hotel and I’m blaming it on the beard.

Since the interview, I’ve had to seriously think about the seemingly small details that may keep me from getting hired. I’m starting to think that it’s the subtle, non-verbal characteristics that set you apart and impress a potential employer. Rather than spending time revising my resume, maybe I should be spending more time with my razor.


  1. A beard isn't just "a beard"; each one is a specific creature. Is your beard a project or is it just a lazy thicket? Are you mindful of changing your razors regularly so as to not irritate your neck? Are your touch-ups precise? Do you even do touch-ups? Do you trim the beard? Questions, questions, questions, I know, but what I'm getting at is, are you walking around with a big "I don't give a fuck" on your face? When you walk into a "major" business you should keep in mind what made that place "major". Someone, in tandem with a lot of other people they had to convince, poured their whole life into creating an empire. Someone vomited care into that joint. A lot of it. When it comes to hiring (I'd like to think), people want to know that they can not only trust you with the alotted duties but also, they're hoping they can trust you with the vision of the establishment. Employers want to know that you can be a liason between them, the customers, and inter-departmentally. So, think about that beard. If it's an indulgent security blanket, a la a fat squirrels nut stash or a fat girl's tightly clenched fast food bag (clenched so firmly you might mistake it for something else. Which is what she's hoping), then you need to chuck. People see the laziness. People can sense disregard. Unless that creature is so pampered that it dissolves into your all over seamless appearance, it's doing you no good. Showing up with a less than sensational image is saying "I'm going to let the water slip through my hands".

    In my opinion.

  2. I think that is absolutely appalling. Both the situation and the the comment that was left.

    First of all, there could be a thousand reasons why you didn't hear back from the hotel and to blame it on the beard is a bit silly. Maybe it could have been in your answer about your beard. Maybe telling them that you were open to getting rid of it, showed a lack of ownership. Maybe it was in the way that you sat down, did you cross your right leg over your left, or the other way around? Maybe it was due to the fact that your hair is blond, I mean, it could clash with this what made that place "major" as our other commenteur had put it. It all comes down to the fact that for what ever reason, you didn't hear back from them, and that's fine. The sooner you pick yourself up and stop trying to figure out why, the sooner you can fast track yourself on the the next prospect.

    Finally, take it from someone who's entire career is based on image, like you, your beard is properly groomed and perfect. Don't listen to him, you are a far cry from walking around with "I don't give a fuck" on your face. There are plenty of successful cooperate beards out there. You be you and the right employer won't care. If you are actually considering breaking out the Mach 4 Turbo, then just be sure you are doing it for you and not because of some idea that it is some how holding you back from getting the things that you want.

    In my opinion

  3. I'm sorry Dyl. I like your beard, that counts for something right? Well I agree, people will judge you for the dumbest reasons even a beard.

  4. I like the beard too. But like u said, u have to put on a certain face in interviews...u have to dress, act, and speak a certain way. So maybe before u have an interview, u can shave...just to appease the interviewers. Then once u get the job u can grow it back and braid it if u want. =)

  5. I stand by my response. Even more so. I'm not attacking Dylan, I'm spouting my take on image/impact.

    You have an awesome day, though.