Recently I had the displeasure of having my hair bar me from a job. Despite the fact that I didn’t really care for the job, I decided to go on the interview just to see what the job entailed. I sat calmly waiting for my turn. The first person to be interviewed was a Black man with the standard hair cut for a Black man, the tried and true shaved head; complete with an impeccable line. You know the hair cut I’m talking about. NASA can’t even get lines that straight! At the end of his interview the interviewer/boss told the young man he was to start on Sunday. I thought to myself, “Wow that is an ultra fast response!”, because usually they let you know in a week or a few days if they are interested in hiring you.
Next up was a girl from Syria. I know she was from Syria because that was brought up during her interview. Her interview went on the longest, because her and the interviewer got into a heated political discussion about the ongoing conflict in that region. I used to work in HR and I know that politics shouldn’t ever be brought up in an interview. I looked into the office at the interviewers face he seemed a bit flustered at the young ladies thoughts. I feared the worst for her… But then he told her, “Alright we will start you on Sunday!”. Then he thanked her and patted her on the back on the way out. At the door he called in the next person.
Again I sat there, waiting and listening. The next person didn’t seem completely there mentally. And this was also reflected in their voice and speech during their interview. Luckily this was also the shortest interview. At the end of the interview the boss said, “I’ll be honest I’m not completely sure you can do the job, BUT I’m all about giving people chances here! You will start on Monday.” That was really nice of him I thought to myself. I didn’t have time to dwell on that thought long because I was next!
I walked into the office, and sat down. He looked up at me as I sat down, then spent the remainder of the interview staring down at my resume. He wasn’t all warm and friendly with me, like he was with all of the other people he interviewed. There was no eye contact, and no rapport either. When I answered his questions he didn’t really seem to care what I was saying. He didn’t take an interest in my answers like I had just witnessed him do with the three people that preceded me! Then I found out why…
“So this hair of yours” he started, finally looking up at me, “do you think I should hire you with that hair?”
“What does that have to do with this job?” I responded.
“Do you think I should hire you with that hair” he asked back in a snippy tone.
I looked at him and said, “I don’t know. You’re the boss here…”
He scribbled some notes on my resume and then told me he would let me know in a week if he wanted to offer me employment. I knew he wasn’t about to, because everything about how he treated me was different. All because of my hair. Now I could have just walked out and just accepted that disrespect. Because I also have been taught never to burn bridges. But there’s more than one bridge across a river, so I decided to set this bridge on fire! So I switched roles, now I was interviewing him!
“That’s pretty offensive isn’t it?” I asked calmly.
Shocked, he answered, “What do you mean??”
“This whole interview. It was all highly offensive wasn’t it?”, I asked him.
“I.. I… I’m not sure I’m following you.” he stammered.
“I have literally just sat here and watched you interview three candidates, and the way I was treated was unequivocally different. I’m probably the strongest candidate you’ve interviewed for this position, and I’m being brushed aside because of a hairstyle.” I exclaimed.
At this point he tried to regain a sense of control over the interview, but by that time it was too late, I was all fired up.
“I hardly see how that could be offensive” he shot back.
“Of course you don’t!” I retorted, “You’re white! Your hairstyle is the defacto corporate style”
At this point I stood up straightened my tie and then in a flash grabbed my resume out of his hand as he sat their utterly confused. People I’ve told this story have asked me why I snatched away my resume. Well if you are wondering as well, it’s simple. First it is MY resume I typed it up, I printed it out, and I brought it in. So I was reclaiming my property. And secondly I wanted to see what he wrote on my resume. Because as someone who has worked in HR, I know that when you write notes it’s to highlight something of importance during the interview. So I would make notes about any additional pertinent skills the interviewee brought up during the interview that weren’t stated on their resume. This is of course done so I can make a professional and informed decision later on.
There was only one thing written on my resume. One single word. Guess what that word was….