must I shave my beard to get a job?

A reader writes:

I am currently looking for employment in the fields of engineering and mathematics.

I am educated, well spoken, well presented, male and I have facial hair. This is not “stylish stubble” or due to laziness; it’s a full beard.

What are your (and your readers’) thoughts on beards at the point of interview? I appreciate it is “cleaner” to be freshly-shaven, but I (and my wife) like my facial hair and (especially this time of year), I would like to keep it.

I suspect that your reply may close with the note that if a company were to reject me due to my facial hair, perhaps that isn’t the company for me but this does not apply – I need to find employment as soon as possible.

I’ve become predictable apparently, because yeah, that’s what I was going to say. So I’m glad you preemptively told me that that’s irrelevant here.

Assuming your beard is neatly trimmed and not some sort of ZZ Top style monstrosity, I think this is unlikely to be an issue. Can I promise that you won’t encounter a hiring manager with an irrational bias against beards? No, just like I can’t promise that you won’t encounter a hiring manager with an irrational bias against tall people or people with throaty laughs. But overall, in the vast majority of industries, a neatly trimmed beard isn’t likely to be an issue.

{ 56 comments… read them below }

  1. Chelsea*

    I would think you may want to be prepared for the possibility that once you were hired the company's dress code would prohibit a beard. I've seen this happen at my company especially with applicants covered in tattoos. they come to the interview with their tattoos exposed and even go so far as to discuss the art with the hiring manager. On the first day of work they are given a handbook which bears the bad news that they are not permitted to show any skin art and they now, after accepting the position, have to decide what is more important. Just make sure that if you want to keep the beard, you'll be allowed to.

  2. TisDone*

    Depending on the nature of the job – beards may also be prohibited by (the companies interpretation of) OSHA regulations, if personal protective equipment such as respirator masks is required for the job, and such masks are not designed to be worn of full beards. Just another factor to consider if one is entering a field where this may be an issue.

  3. Alexander*

    At my old job they said that you were not allowed to grow a beard. You could have one but it had to be fully grown, you were not allowed to go through the stages of one. This meant that no one could have one unless you had been off for a while.

  4. Anonymous*

    Yes, an interviewer might penalize you for having a beard, but think of it from this perspective – would an interviewer penalize you for being clean-shaven? Not a chance…

    If you REALLY need a job, it's a much safer approach to lose the beard.

  5. The Gold Digger*

    I am not sure how relevant my experience is, but I love to offer my opinion. :)

    I worked for International Paper on the corporate, not the manufacturing, side. There were two men in my division who had beards. One was a very highly regarded IT guy who had not graduated from college (ie, unusual but he was that good), the other was a box designer (yes, that is actually a profession) who was known throughout the industry.

    Point is that the corporate guys felt the need to conform but these two men were good enough that they did not have to.

    My husband is an engineer who works for a Silicon Valley company. Nobody wears suits. He just shaved off his beard at my behest. (It hurt to kiss him.) One of his best friends is a VP at Sun Microsystems. VP has a beard. My husband laughs at my corporate ideas about dress and facial hair.

    I think in a profession where it is easier to evaluate your work, such as engineering and math, you can get away with a lot more than you can in the corporate world.

  6. Christine Witt*

    I totally agree that this should not be an issue – and that if it's a requirement of employment, they could simply tell you at the interview that you would need to shave.

    Having said, though, if you're asking if it could be an issue and you want to eliminate all of the possibilities of issues – shave. Risk -vs- Reward

  7. Anonymous*

    The question from the reader is not whether or not he will have to shave after he is offered the job but whether he needs to shave now for interviews.

    I don't think company policy is much of an issue. Except for situations where safety is a concern, companies rarely have policies specifically about facial hair. They may have policies about hygiene and grooming in general, but specific anti-facial hair policies are pretty outdated.

  8. Suzanne*

    My husband ran into the same thing but it was for having long hair. His solution was to cut it short for the interview, then grow it back out after he got the job. Once they knoew he was a good employee, no one cared about his hair.

    1. Chris Vickery*

      This is true, there are exceptions to every rule. I’m a Refrigeration Engineer in Florida, I’ve been with this company for just over a year, and I have what you would call a partial ZZ Top style beard (about 7 in long) anyhow when I started with this company I took a lot of heat for having such a long beard but after a year now of continuously proving myself as a competent engineer they don’t much mind the beard anymore. Anyways, good luck with whatever you choose to do and with the job hunt.

  9. kristina*

    If you're looking for an engineering/math job in a technical company (not a financial one or something) they'll probably assume you know Unix. Other than that the beard will have no impact whatsoever. The only thing that matters to a tech shop is that you can answer the technical interview questions and aren't a total jerk, and sometimes the second part is optional.

  10. Gene*

    As somone who has had a full beard since sometime in the Reagan administration, I have had no problems. Tne few times it came up in an interview I simply said that Leviticus 19:27 says one should not cut the hair on the side of the head nor the edges of the beard and that ended it. I never said I hold those beliefs, but that ended that part of the discussion.

  11. jmkenrick*

    @The Gold Digger

    You're definitely right that some industries care about these things more than others. My boyfriend has gauged ears and several piercings, but that hasn't held him back in his career as a computer science researcher at all.

    On the other hand, my friends in banking have to maintain conservative looks.

  12. Mary Sue*

    I'm actually biased towards men with beards, the longer the better. A man with a beard is a man I trust.

    But I come from a family where "He's the one with the long beard and the beer belly" describes all of my uncles.

  13. Mary Sue*

    I'm actually biased towards men with beards, the longer the better. A man with a beard is a man I trust.

    But I come from a family where "He's the one with the long beard and the beer belly" describes all of my uncles. Most of whom worked in computers/IT/engineering.

  14. Anonymous*

    I have no prejudices against beards, but I think when most men shave their beards they look at least 10 years younger. Now that could be a definite plus in today's job market!

  15. Anonymous*

    If it's not part of your religious beliefs, why not just suck it up and shave it off? It'll always grow back. Forgo the "but it's the principle of the matter!" attitude and play it safe. Just shave. The situation is now moot.

    1. Anonymous*

      Yeah, I agree, it’s similar to this situation: You’re trying to get chummy with a few of your managers to earn a promotion. They know this, and they’ve had their eye on your for a while, but before hiring you, they want to see if you’re really one of them.

      They take you to a bar to test your mettle. You don’t like drinking, and you never have, because it always make you feel horrible. However, your managers won’t accept you unless you get totally sloshed, and you would like this promotion. So, you decide to suck it up, and go drink for drink with the professionals. After all, it’s only one night of drinking – after tonight, no more.

      You end up drinking too much and dying a slow, painful death owed to alcohol poisoning. Your managers give you an honorary, post-mortum promotion. You have achieved your dream.

  16. Richard*

    I am the original writer; the 'beardee' if you will.

    Thank you, everyone, for your opinions. All things considered, I rather think that the anonymous previous contributer hits the nail on the head.

    It will return!

  17. Dan Godspeed*

    I hear you….Just shaved my beard after 3 long years….My boss would give me crap for it every day until I finally gave in. I guess it depends on the kind of job your applying for and the type of industry you plan on working in. I would suggest you keep you beard unless you are told otherwise. Worst case, just state that you have a skin condition and shaving would further irritate it. Good luck.

    1. Anonymous*

      Heres the way i see it, if an employer wont hire you because of a beard, in my mind its the same as not hiring a person because of the color of their skin. Its all feminist bullshit and soon one will be able to sue for discrimination.

  18. IL*

    Hmmm…here is some food for thought. Perhaps when beginning a job or having an interview, one might shave or trim closely the beard. I think whoever does the hiring may want to be able to see the man behind the beard; to actually know whom he or she is hiring. A long bushy beard might cause the hiring manager or boss to suspect that you are hiding something. Unfortunately, first impressions count, speaking in terms of appearance. Facial hair can definitely enhance facial features. A man with a weak chin or jaw bone could benefit from a beard, giving the appearance of strength and confidence. Facial hair can also detract from the person’s abilities and skills. The key is to find the right style that fits your face shape and keep it tidy. I usually sport a beard or goatee myself. My wife hates it when I shave it off completely, complaining that I look 12 years old. LOL.

  19. sokotroko*

    To be honest I like my wear at least a gootie… But if you go to a josb interview you need to go the most profisional (clean) that you can go… And believe me with out the Beard would be a better presentation of yourself. Is my own experience… No matter if you apply to executive sales position or to a management position. The first impression and how you develop in that interview… Is the start to give you that new role.

  20. SINGH*

    Today I went to an interview at UPS, they called me back this evening to schedule another interview…and the recruiter says “by the way, we have a no facial hair policy here – you need to shave off your goatee if you get hired”.

  21. Anonymous*

    I just got hired as a security guard and had to shave my goatee but could keep my mustache. I really don’t understand the policy as my beard was neatly trimmed but I was told I had no choice. I think it is just the product of the overly anal retentive personalities that causes this policy to occur. The truth is it shouldn’t matter and I think that some people need to get the cork out of their asses and learn to live a little. My boss is ex-military and we all know how anal they can be. Interestingly my boss even indicates that he shits less than once a day. Freud would have had a field day with him. Even still though he is a friend of mine. I can’t do anything to change him though.

  22. Anonymous*

    I was in the military for 4 years and had to shave every day. Sometimes the petty officer in charge would tell me to shave towards the end of the day because my hair grows fast. All I’ve ever wanted to do in life is grow a life-long beard. It’s not fair that jobs are against letting your facial hair do what it does. “Image is everything” is a horrible trait of modern humanity. It drives me nuts and makes me sick. I hate shaving, and people who just don’t have the ability to grow beards DISGUST me. I bet those people are the ones who made it hard for people like me to find jobs. No, now I have to groom my face every morning for 10 whole minutes. What a waste of time.

    1. Anonymous*

      You’ll be glad you shaved when you here “GAS!” Or “FIRE!” Since you were in the navy. Did you all not have to go through the gas chamber? The masks are supposed to seal around your face, so no hair with length on your face. Having to go shave stubble in the afternoon sucks, but hey, orders are orders.

      Wow this is kind of an old post…

  23. Blackbeard*

    I am a man who approves that men should not be descriminated against for there natural body functions it should be ok to have a full grown beard at work and I will fight the system as long as it takes! My old manager told me everyday to shave it off but I kept telling him I would never did and didn’t get fired or anything just kept annoying me about it every job interview in the future I will have my beard and nothing will stand in my way!

  24. Anonymous*

    Beard is a sign of masculinity! It’s natural. It’s one of the aspects that
    distinguish us from females.
    Sodomites , people of Lot, were the first people to shave off their beards.

  25. Revolution for beards*

    My brothers don’t give in to temptation fight for your freedom to have a beard! Every job interview I will go to I will have a beard and stand up for our rights to exist as a free human being I thought this was America! I mean come on It’s facial hair if you have no criminal record and a bad work ethic I see no reason why you should not be able to express yourself!

  26. king beard*

    Hi I’m 24 , ive been blessed to grow the most epic beard since I was 14. I think when America first started all companies were owned by original settlers(100% Caucasian). Being the racist individuals they were when all races became ultimately free in America and gained the equal opportunity to work here the racist settlers were forced to hire people of races they would have never considered before. So with 60%(white) and (40% other colors they and most the community were against) as there employees, how could you make a bearded blackman, bearded Indian, bearded Arab, etc look like the white young employees? make them all shave and dress similar and customers will grit their teeth’s and look pass the fact their the ones surfing them.most likely an illuminati scandal…give me your thought, I know this theory sounds crazy but I think it accurate

    1. GP*

      Yes, kingbeard. Business requirements for the removal of facial hair are a secret racist plot.

      Who thinks up this crap?

      Facial hair fashion has ebbed and flowed, like any other. We’re in a dry spell. Wait it out or conform.

  27. Anonymous*

    What a GOOD employer is looking for is a reliable, confident, and qualified individual. If the beard is making you uneasy, it’ll probably hurt your chances. However, if being shaven makes you uneasy, it’s probably better to keep the beard and the confidence that comes with it.

    But a typical run-of-the-mill employer (which most of them are) will only respect you if you look like you just stepped out of a magazine ad.

  28. Eoghan*

    Your going to have to shave it because the ordinary consumer and employer are wanker’s that are intolerant to those who wish to possess beards, tattoo’s, piercings, etc. and not even bother to look at their skills, characteristics and their personality. Unfortunate but true.

  29. Will Russell*

    You might have to. When I was in high school I was ask to shave off my beard because I looked older than I was and because it was a safety hassard in the science lab. most employers will ask the same because they feel that you should look like everyone else’

  30. H.G.*

    I’m working for the world top software company. I have worked for several large corporations in my country. As long as you are not applying a customer facing position, a trimmed beard is just fine. the key point is you should be taken as “grown beard” instead of “not shaved”
    For customer facing jobs a goatie is always considered OK but full beard is easily misjudged as “not shaving kinda guy”
    Although I’m in sales position I’ve been growing a full beard for a month now, thats how I came up with this post :) I have no complaints from my customers or manager yet.

  31. Kevin*

    All of you “suck it up, give in, conform” type foks are disturbing to me. A beard being seen as a negative is just a paradigm with nothing behind it. So what if you’re a “not shaving kinda guy” as the poster before me said. What does that even mean? That’s how you get a beard, by not shaving duh. I don’t care what the reasons are behind it, if it doesn’t revolve around a safety concern then it just has no merit. Beards have no effect on job performance and that can not be argued. A beard is not like an earring, it grows out of your face naturally. It is viewed in some cultures as a sign of manhood and esteem. I would dare to say that since the corporate America and Wallstreet type guys have ruined this country with their corruption and greed that the clean cut corporate looking guy should be seen by all as the new scumbag and lowlife, not the beardies.

  32. Anonymous*

    Beards are a symbol of power that the administration doesn’t want commonly expressed. Jesus and Mohammad both had beards. You would be hard-pressed to find a prophet who did not have one. When the president of the United States chooses to grow his beard it will be safe for the rest of us. I think beards and clean-shaven look equally unimpressive compared to our ancient roots. Everyone should grow their hair from birth in glorious braided locks.

  33. Amonimouse*

    Why I don’t understand is why the idea has been placed into employers’ heads that being clean shaven is more socially acceptable than having a full beard!

    I’ve been able to grow a beard since sixteen; and in every job I’ve ever had since then, I’ve been told “Shave it off, or get another job”, which is biased against me and other members of the human race who CAN grow facial hair past the four-hair goatee.

    Apparently, the one thing I keep hearing, is that having a beard makes you “look like the kind of sloppy, dirty person” that most people associate with having a beard. Where the hell did this come from? I am, for a fact, well educated, dressed, verbally and writing-proficient in the English language, but am unable to show employers this because they assume I’m sloppy and dirty.

    What makes the difference between me – showing up to a job interview in suit and tie with a trimmed beard – and the guy next to me wearing dirty overalls and running shoes is that fact that he doesn’t have facial hair. He’ll get hired; and that, my friends, is discrimination.

  34. Anonymous*

    I am currently faced with this dilemma. I was hired and an hour after I left the interview I got a call back asking me if I could cut my beard shorter. It is 11mm long. It was four inches long before I started job hunting. It sickens me that beard discrimination is a real thing. I just got out of the military and I had a beard before. Now is my beards time to shine and 11mm is too long. I told the emplyer on the phone I was actually thinking of growing it longer. He said okay well we will look at it again when I go in for training.

  35. Bearded*

    How many politicians do u see sporting the full face mane?? Case in point trust the beard

  36. bugtussle*

    Rumor has it that shaving was popularized in early western culture by wealthy Romans to appear youthful and attractive younger men, (since a homosexual tryst was considered more of a boyish act). By the time JC (Julius Caesar) became Emporer it was considered fashionable by some in the landed, educated, and “civillized” class to go beardless. The thing you need to ask yourself is, “am I a homosexually inclined Roman Noble?” If the answer is no, then keep the whiskers, roll Abe Lincoln style, and work for someone who appreciates your inherent manliness and hires you for the competent stud you are. Selah.

    1. Anonymous*

      BTW…for all my hairy “Bear” brothers out there, roll like you want to, we don’t hate!!

  37. paul*

    i have a job interview for a sales and marketing company next week .i have a full moustache ,i don,t know weather it is best shaving it of for the interview .what do you think.

    1. paul*

      i have a interview on weds for a sales and marketing company i have a moustache is it best to shave it of.

  38. paul*

    i have a job interview on weds for a sales and marketing company . i have a full grown moustache am i best shaving it of do you think .

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