men with long hair at job interviews, I almost hit a coworker with my car, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Men with long hair and interviews

My husband is agonizing over whether or not he must cut his hair in order to get a new job.

He was laid off recently due to a reorganization and cutbacks. He works in accounting, which is typically a more conservative field, but had been working for the last few years at a small, laid-back company. He had very short, professional hair when he started working at his last job, but decided to grow it out while he was there (there were other men with long hair, women with untraditional colors, very casual dress etc.) He had wanted to grow it out forever, and it is now to his shoulders and when he was at work he would usually wear it pulled back in a neat, low bun.

He has started the process of applying for jobs and has a few interviews scheduled. Since we’re financially secure for now, he has the luxury of being somewhat choosy and he is applying mostly to companies that seem to have a more laid-back environment (like the accounting departments at local restaurants, art schools, etc.).

Most of our friends say that he will need to cut his hair in order to get a job. That sounds so retro to me! He is in his 30s, and is well spoken and handsome with clean, smooth hair and a very nice professional wardrobe (and a great resume). I think as long as he pulls his hair back neatly for interviews that he will look professional enough. Our friends think that my perspective is skewed because I’ve always worked in creative industries. So, do you think that a man has a better chance of getting a job with short hair? Is it possible for him to look polished with long hair? Will interviewers see him as some sort of unreliable dirty biker because of his hair?

Totally depends on the type of company he’s applying to and the geographic area. There are definitely still places that aren’t cool with long hair on men, and accounting is indeed a conservative field (although that may not matter if he’s applying for in-house accountant jobs rather than at accounting firms). In general, his prospects will probably be broader in that field with shorter hair, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t places that won’t care.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I almost hit a coworker with my car

I was backing out of a spot and almost hit somebody, and was so freaked out that it didn’t occur to me to get out and say something. Then I saw them at a meeting, and afterwards, I realized who it was. Of course, I want to apologize. How should I approach this?

Be direct! “I’m so sorry — I think I may have almost hit you when I was backing out of a space yesterday. I should have stopped at the time, and I wanted to apologize now.”

3. Offering to work for less to offset a lack of experience

I am out of work and have been job searching for several months. I’ve had a handful of interviews, but no offers. I’ve found a position that I’d very much like to apply for, but I’m lacking some key experience (related to activist organizing). I genuinely think I could succeed at this job with a bit of a learning curve.

The job pays far more than I expect to make at this point in my career, nearly twice as much as most other positions I’m applying for. Would it be appropriate to mention in my cover letter that I would take a pay cut to offset my lack of experience? Or am I better off letting this one pass me by?

If they’ve listed the experience as one of only a few key must-haves and you don’t have it, you’re probably not a strong candidate for the job. If it’s one in a long list of qualifications, it’s possible that you’d be plausible if you’re strong in other areas, and in that case I’d still apply. But don’t offer to take a pay cut; they (hopefully) want the best person for the job, not the cheapest. And if they do think your experience would warrant a lower salary, you should let them bring that up.

4. Company offered me a job without checking references

I applied to an opening with a company, one where a family member of mine had a personal connection with someone very high up in that organization. My family member connected with that person and got me an interview. The process continued on normally from there and they have extended a job offer … without asking for references.

They did not ask for references from me at any point and did not say that the offer is contingent on good references. This puzzles me and makes me a little nervous. My family member waved off my concerns, says that their connection knows them really well and probably fast-tracked my application without references since family member vouched for me.

I want to accept the offer but should I be concerned with this? Should I offer or ask about references? I don’t fear my references saying something bad and the offer being withdrawn so I don’t mind giving them. Is it normal for vouching from a personal connection to override references?

They should be concerned with it because it’s a bad way to hire (especially if they’re just relying on the word of a family member), but I don’t think you need to worry too much about it. Some companies don’t check references. It’s weird and they should, but not everyone does.

If you’ve done your due diligence on them and are otherwise convinced that they have their act together, I wouldn’t let this give you significant pause.

5. Writing “yup” in work emails

My boss is frequently cc’d on emails to outside tech support people because he helped create many of the systems I am working with. (Also, he apparently needs to know *everything* that goes on.) Today, and once or twice previously, he called after I sent an email to one of the support people I am working with, and told me that I should never use the word “yup” (or a similar casual word) in an email. Is he out of line or am I just being a bit too sensitive?

In the vast, vast majority of work cultures, “yup” (or “yep” or so forth) is perfectly fine. I suppose it’s possible that your office culture is so formal and uptight that “yup” is truly out of place, but there’s a better chance that your boss is just weird in this way. That said, he’s asked you not to use it in work emails, so it makes sense to stop using it in work emails. It’s not a big enough thing to expend capital pushing back on.

{ 460 comments… read them below }

  1. Jeanne*

    #1, I think he should keep his long hair. It sounds like it is neat and clean and that’s what matters. I believe the only way some stereotypes and types of discrimination will end is if we say no. Why should he have to have short hair? Why should a woman have to wear a skirt to an interview? In many fields we can now wear pants to an interview and no one blinks. Some women had to start. Your husband is pushing back against an old, irrelevant standard.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      True, although the reality is that this won’t fly everywhere.

      But I think he should try keeping his hair for now and only even entertain the idea of changing it – other than in a way he really wants – if he’s not having any luck finding a job.

      1. Aveline*

        “True, although the reality is that this won’t fly everywhere.”

        If it’s possible to do so, Long Hair Husband could drive by the offices where he is interviewing 2-3 days ahead of time at lunchtime and see if the male employees who already work there all have short hair.

        I once had a friend with a wickedly awesome massive Afro who wanted to keep it, but she was worried about getting hired. She went by the company at noon and saw 3-4 African American employees with dreds, Afros, etc. and then decided she’d be fine.

        1. OP#1*

          OP#1 here. This is a great idea and along those lines he has also been checking company websites for staff photos.

          1. Michele*

            The website photos are interesting. They represent the company’s projected culture, but not necessarily the department that he would be interviewing in. They are influential in deciding if I want to send a resume. I remember looking at one company’s site, and they hit all of the progressive buttons–a deaf scientist teaching her coworkers sign language, a man talking about the great benefits he and his husband received. Yeah, I sent in a resume.

            1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

              I keep telling my managers that our website photos are probably driving away potential hires, because the headshots are pretty much the same exact demographic (it’s all white males). Gosh, I wonder why we aren’t attracting any diverse talent?

              1. NPO Queen*

                If it were me, I probably wouldn’t apply. As a black woman, I wouldn’t want to be the first and only in two different categories (black and woman). That’s way too much subtle pressure added on top of the job.

                1. K.*

                  Ditto, as a fellow Black woman. It’s exhausting to be the only one in either category, let alone both.

              2. Lemon Zinger*

                I wouldn’t apply to work at a place that only showed pictures of white males. I value workplace diversity quite highly.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  @KaraLynn then it’s on them to change their image and their public branding – this isn’t the fault of minorities who are turned off by the prospect of being the first/only [category] employee at that company. It’s not a catch-22, either. If a company makes an effort to show that they value diversity, there are many who would be more willing to give them a try, but the fact that they’re not even making that effort is a huge turn-off. Maybe you didn’t mean it that way, but it very much sounded like you were expecting the minority applicants to be the ones to reach out, and that’s really something where the onus should be on the organization.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @KaraLynn: Wow. How is it the fault of people who value diversity that a company has failed to make any effort at embracing/recruiting a diverse staff or at projecting that diversity in its communications with the public?

                  It’s on companies to address their diversity problems, and it’s not the responsibility of prospective employees who are (1) women, people of color, and other “diverse” groups, or (2) allies who identify with “the majority” who value diversity in the workplace.

                  Maybe you’re not arguing this, but it sounds like you’re blaming people who don’t even work at a company for that company’s tone-deaf communications and failure to recruit.

                3. KaraLynn*

                  Who said anything about fault? And I don’t see how they can change their image – hire some actors maybe?

                4. CheeryO*

                  How is it tone-deaf to have photos of the staff on the company website, though? How should a company demonstrate that they value diversity if they happen to have a homogeneous staff? This is a genuine question, I’m not being snarky.

                  Literally only one woman had ever worked in my department before me, and she retired years ago. Since I started two years ago, we’ve hired two more women, but for years it was 100% white male. It’s just a white male-dominated industry. That’s starting to turn around thanks to better outreach and some really great new programs at the local colleges, but you can’t fault a company for not hiring candidates that don’t exist. (Not saying that’s the case all or even most of the time, but it’s a possibility.)

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  CheeryO, I’d argue that if they have an all-white staff or almost all-white staff, they really don’t value diversity. Not enough to do the things that really matter, like the hard work of figuring out how to recruit people of color and — crucially — make their workplace one where they’ll want to be. They might give lip service to it, but their actions tell a different story.

                  I’ve never found the “candidates don’t exist” argument to hold up. They exist. There’s a reason they might not be flocking to a particularly company though. (And some of those reasons can feel fairly subtle and be hard for white managers to figure out.)

                6. Anna*

                  “Candidates that don’t exist” is well known code for “we’re not interested in doing the work to find those candidates and hire them.”

                7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @KaraLynn, in response to a comment stating that if a company’s website had photos of staff that only showed white men, and that that would make them unlikely to join that company, you called the situation a Catch-22, which suggests that the company can do nothing to fix their diversity problem, which also suggests that it’s applicants’ fault that they avoid organizations that fail to prioritize diversity. But it sounds like I totally misunderstood what you meant. Can you clarify what the 2 awful choices in the “Catch 22” include?

                  @CheeryO, I work in a white-male-dominated field, and I have many friends that are in even “whiter, maker” industries than mine. Candidates exist. Companies like to pretend that they’re passive players in the hiring market when often their hiring practices exacerbate the structural racism/sexism, etc., that exists in society. They’re not. You can change your candidate pool by investing in mentorship programs, literally changing how your job description is written, investing in internship and outreach, building relationships with high schools and college programs, and proactively building a culture of inclusion and diversity.

                  My current employer was composed of all white, straight, men from 1966-1990, in part because “candidates didn’t exist.” As of 2008, we’re 25% LGBT, 55% people of color, and 48% female, and 33% people with disabilities (and of course intersections of all of that). Our executive leadership is comprised of a man of color and a woman of color. The leadership on programmatic and other committees reflects the diversity of the staff. Our reputation and political cache has increased exponentially since 2008. Similar organizations in our sector remain overwhelmingly white, straight, and male.

                  Diversity is possible; it takes a commitment to implementing that value, which requires introspection, research and a proactive and non-tokenizing culture. It requires looking at roadblocks and figuring out how to address them, not seeing the roadblock and going, “well, we tried.”

                8. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

                  Alison, I would LOVE if you would do a column about hiring more diverse candidates. I can’t get through to my managers how important this is.

                9. Retail HR Guy*

                  For big cities? Sure, no excuse for a lack of diversity. But there are still many smaller communities that just don’t have very many non-whites at all, and it can be very true that candidates don’t exist.

                10. Female in a male job.*

                  @Princess Consuela Banana Hammock
                  “You called the situation a Catch-22, which suggests that the company can do nothing to fix their diversity problem, which also suggests that it’s applicants’ fault that they avoid organizations that fail to prioritize diversity.”

                  This does not follow. The catch-22: They have no diverse employees to have pictures of on their website, so diverse employees are turned off by the company and don’t want to work there, so they still don’t have diverse employees to take pictures of to put on their website.

                  The “blame” or “fault” is still on the company– they could do other things to attract and encourage diversity. But the employee pictures are a hard thing to fix, because of the catch-22.

                  “Can you clarify what the 2 awful choices in the “Catch 22” include?”
                  “Catch-22” does not have the same colloquial definition as “Sophie’s choice.” You seem to be confusing the two.

                11. Ted Mosby*

                  @PrincessConsuelaBanana Hammock then why did you randomly accuse Kara Lynn of implying there were two awful choices here? That’s not what catch 22 means.

                  Kara Lynn didn’t say ANYTHING about the candidates being at fault. I’m really not sure why everyone is pouncing on her. It’s hard to attract diversity if people look at your company and don’t see any, and it’s hard to change what people see when they look at your company if you can’t attract diversity.

                12. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Ted, because that’s how her comment read when evaluated in response to the preceding comment. Which is also why I asked for greater clarification. And I appreciate that clarification, because it makes it clear that I (and others) misread her comment, and I’m sorry for the confusion and any role I played in misrepresenting the intention of her comment.

                  I’m going to leave this here.

                13. KaraLynn*

                  Ted – thanks for defending me. I thought my comment was straightforward. So many people are commenting that they wouldn’t work for a company that doesn’t show gender/racial/age diversity – and yet that can never change if *someone* doesn’t jump into the pool and do it. I can understand individuals not wanting to be that one, but I also wanted to point out that the situation will never change without someone making a choice to change it.

              3. Michele*

                As someone who has been the only woman in a room more times than I can count, that would be very off-putting.

                1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

                  It’s extremely off-putting. I almost didn’t apply there myself because of it. And I’ve told management that again and again. They keep saying they want a diverse company, “but we never get diverse applicants” — and I say “well maybe that’s because this place isn’t diverse” and around and around we go. They keep acting like it’s not THEIR fault they only hire white dudes.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Same. Don’t apply to organizations where I’m the only woman or woman of color. I’ve been that person before. It’s not worth it.

            2. Tris Prior*

              Linkedin can be useful for this too, if he can get names of people who work there – like maybe from a staff directory on a website. When I got my current job and found out who I’d be interviewing with (4 managers), I looked them up on Linkedin. As I have somewhat of an “alternative” appearance I was pleased to see that one had pink streaks in her hair and one had gauged ears.

              1. Anonymoose*

                Don’t forget Facebook too! If their FB isn’t private you might be able to discern if their long-haired photos are recent (although, yes, they could *all* be #TBT photos, but that would be really silly).

          2. Rebecca in Dallas*

            That’s a great idea!

            I agree with what others have said, I don’t think twice about men with long hair as long as it’s neatly groomed. BUT I know some industries are pretty conservative and not everyone has the luxury of being picky about whether they will work for those companies or not.

          3. BF50*

            One thing to watch out for is some companies have different cultures and levels of formality depending on department. My company has no dress code, but the accounting and marketing and HR generally keep to business casual, while the engineers all wear jeans and tshirts. Actually, accounting and finance are on the casual side of that and HR in the middle and marketing skews almost to business formal.

            That said, a man with long hair wouldn’t look at all out of place in any department. Some of that is geographic and some is company specific.

            Lots of tech companies can also be more casual, so I wouldn’t just limit applications to creative companies.

            1. Risha*

              I laughed when I saw a former employer show up on a Top Tattoo Friendly Businesses list. Maybe in the warehouses, I suppose, but they were pretty formal elsewhere else and I had to wear long sleeves everyday to cover my tattoo. Men weren’t even allowed to have a beard.

      2. aebhel*

        Agreed; it sounds like OP’s husband is in a position to push back on this particular stereotype, as he’s not desperate for A Job, Any Job. If he’s got the option of being a little more picky about his choice of employers, there’s no harm in keeping his hair as it is, at least for now.

        In my area, even in a lot of pretty sober, professional jobs, a man with long hair would get little more than a double take (assuming it’s well-cared for, which it sounds like is the case here). So this isn’t just a field-specific thing, it’s also about the area.

    2. AJ*

      I agree with Jeanne. Also, does he really want to work for a company that would disapprove of long hair? Prob not, AND he can afford to be picky right now! I think it’s a really good litmus test for his preferred company culture actually. I think if it’s acceptable for women to have short hair, it should be acceptable for men to have long hair – as long as they are held to the same grooming/styling expectations as women. I feel like a lot of men (maybe not in offices, and not your husband as you said he takes good care of it) get away with dirty/messy/etc hair just because they’re guys, when if the exact same hair were on a woman, she’d be judged for it.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I was going to say this. Given that OP indicates that her husband can be choosy, then it seems like his hair (if he’s really attached to keeping it long) are kind of a helpful litmus test regarding the level of (dress/attire) formality in his office and whether that’s what he wants in a workplace.

        1. Mimi*


          I work in a very formal office in one of those not actuallumy government but mostly people think we are government because we are a regulator places and men will long hair as long as its tidy would be fine. I am one of those women who has brightly coloured unusual hair and have never had issues with employment. If a company thinks my hair impacts on my capability/performance its not somewhere I would wsny to work.

          The caveat to this is that my role is not public facing. Public facing roles may be stricter about this.

        2. ancolie*

          Agreed. Heck, when I worked in IT at a financial services company (a more typically laid-back type of job, but in a more typically VERY conservative industry), I worked with a guy who not only had hair about a foot long, but had a beard that was about 8″ past his face. His hair was pulled back into a low ponytail and his beard was in a braid (unless he wanted his “formal” style — his words — which was two braids :D).

        3. shep*

          Yes, this. My partner has long hair, which he always ties back at work. It’s always incredibly neat and clean and very nice-looking (and WAY healthier than my over-processed hair). When he was hired many years prior, I believe it was short, but no one’s ever put up a stink about him having long hair.

          So as Princess Consuela says, I think it’s a great litmus test for office culture to keep his hair long during interviews. If he cut it for said interviews, but then wanted to grow it out again, he may encounter some push-back. My partner was lucky, but OP’s husband may find it a ridiculous, overbearing rule if that were to be the case.

          I’m a woman so I feel like I have a little more latitude to wear my hair whatever length I want, but if I were required to keep it a certain length by my workplace, you can bet I’d be looking for something new. Maybe not in a rush, but I’d certainly be active about my search.

      2. DArcy*

        While I agree with you in general, I feel obligated to point out that there are cases where not having long hair is a bona fide occupational requirement — police, security, firefighting, and emergency medicine come to mind. So it’s not *always* just a company culture thing.

        1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

          I’ve seen plenty of folks in all those job categories with long hair.
          They keep it up and tucked away but it’s still long.

          1. Karen D*

            Yep. One of my friends from college is a detective in a good-sized city police department. He successfully challenged his departmental rules that required short hair on male officers (it wasn’t really much of a challenge, he just raised the issue and they said “Oh. OK.”) Now the rules are gender neutral: As a plainclothes detective, he can basically wear it any way he wants as long as it’s clean, neat and a natural color. Patrol officers (male and female) must keep their long hair confined in a braid, bun or ponytail.

        2. Rebooting*

          There are plenty of women police officers, security guards, firefighters, and emergency doctors who have long hair.

          1. michelenyc*

            I have a friend that is NYPD and she is required to pin her hair completely up when on duty.

            1. Anna*

              Right, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have long hair. It just means she has to make sure it can’t become a leverage point. That’s not the same thing as not allowed to have it.

          2. Chinook*

            Yes, but if you have long hair (male or female) in any safety occupation, it is in your best interest to keep it off your shoulder and out of your face otherwise it can become a weapon to use against you because they hair can be both a great hand hold or an awesome way to pick up some type of icky thing like a virus, bacteria or human fluid. Also, it can interfere with seal around a face mask that is used to keep either oxygen in or bad gases out.

            Basically, the only first responders with loose, long hair are on tv because they know the risks.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          There are very few jobs that require short hair as a condition of employment required to perform one’s duties, and there have been numerous religious and race discrimination lawsuits over short-hair requirements that are not reasonably connected to a legitimate business purpose. Usually the requirement is that a person keep their hair neat and/or pinned back, which is not the same thing as having short hair.

          And it’s even less relevant in accounting, where the length of your hair has literally nothing to do with your ability to do your job.

          1. ancolie*

            For some reason, your last paragraph made me picture someone whose long hair improved their ability to do their job because each tendril can actually move on their own and do things.

            Person is typing on their computer, while two tresses are collating and stapling handouts, another is watering the African violet, one is sharpening a pencil, one is crunching numbers with a huge calculator while another jots down each answer…

        4. boys shouldn't look like girls*

          I am the only female at my company. I work with 6 men. They are customer facing in steel mills, refineries and power plants. They do dirty, very dangerous work. We require them to be clean shaven for respirator fit and they must have short hair as well. Why? Because we want to look like professionals.

          1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

            Your name should be “Boys shouldn’t look like my old-fashioned, Western-centric of what girls should look like”. Native American/First Nations men have long hair, Sikh men have long hair, in history Western/European men often wore their hair long. So technically ‘old-fashioned’ means from between 1800 and roughly 1960.

            I’m a ‘girl’ and I have short hair; does that mean any man with short hair looks like a girl now? ;P

      3. Tammy*

        Yes, this. When I was looking for a job four years ago, I decided to be transparent about who I am – a transgender woman with sometimes-colored hair who has tattoos and rides a motorcycle. I decided I have a great track record in my career and if a company wants to look at what I bring to the table and decide that THOSE are valid reasons not to hire me, the company is probably going to be a poor fit for me anyway. I’ve been here 4 years, and am now a mid-level manager (with a ton of trust and credibility with my leadership) so clearly I made the right call.

        Obviously, if you’re in a place in your career where you don’t have that track record (or if you’re desperate to find a job) there may be a little bit of a different calculus, but I still bias strongly in favor of being authentic.

        1. Anon in AZ*

          I’m right there with you on this. All my previous work experience was either in uniform or in front of students – so fun hair color was never even an option.
          Now, I’m not customer facing, but our written dress code is ambiguous. I made the mistake of going for permission instead of forgiveness. My manager said no but only because the dress code wasn’t clear, not for any personal or work-related reason. The kicker is when I met a long-distance co-worker. She is nearly 60, but her hair is dark purple (supermarket DIY haircolor rather than quality “alternative” color, so somehow that’s ok?)
          By now it feels really petty to me to bring up the “All these other people do it, why can’t I?” argument.
          All that to say the next job I seek, if I can’t dress like me, I’ll pass.

          1. Filmgal*

            As my mom used to say, “Either they’ll like you how you are, or you don’t want to work there.”

            Do you really want to work for a company that’s going to have a problem with something as stupid as hair color? I don’t. That’s some petty shit that I don’t tolerate.

      4. Chinook*

        I agree and even apply this rule about men needing to treat their long hair the same as women in the most conservative environment – church altar servers. I tell the boys that, if the girls have to keep it up and off their face in a neat manner, so do they (and then point them to hair elastics we always keep around). I have verbally fought with a couple of older individuals who insisted the boys cut their hair and they have yet to come up with a convincing argument to why boys need to have short hair when girls don’t that can also equally apply to all hair types (because I am also not telling those with thicker hair types to straighten them or have them braided in certain ways).

        Frankly, as long as the hair is kept out of everyone’s face, doesn’t interfere with their work, and doesn’t look like they just rolled out of bed, why does it matter?

      5. BF50*

        One of our finance guys cuts his hair once a year. That’s apparently his thing. So we get two weeks of super clean cut and professional and about a month of him looking really scruffy.

    3. Blossom*

      I’m shocked that there are apparently some fields where women can’t wear trousers (pants) to an interview! I’ve never heard of this (I’m in the UK, maybe it’s regional?). It wouldn’t occur to me at all that trousers would appear less professional to some people; if anything, they seem more conservative to me.
      Re: the long hair, I wouldn’t expect it to be an issue unless it was a super blue chip, corporate, old money culture – and even then, I’d expect it to be more of an unconscious prejudice than a “you can’t work here until you cut your hair”. But my view is a bit pointless as I don’t know his region and milieu.

      1. London Calling*

        Women wearing trousers to work in the UK was a bit of a no-no in the 70s and 80s, especially in the City banks, but I have always worn them since the mid 90s, even to interviews – in fact, I don’t actually own any skirts – and no-one has ever said anything

        1. Jaded*

          I was an accountant in the UK in the early 2000s, and the sole female partner of the firm was the only woman in the firm “allowed” to wear trousers. From memory, the law had recently changed to forbid sexist prohibitions on clothing(?), but unofficial trouser-bans for women were still a very real thing. I wore trousers anyway, which is probably part of why I never fitted in in that company.

          I heard similar stories a few years later when I worked in education, from Big Four auditors who enjoyed doing our audits because they got to wear trousers while on campus, so long as they only did so on days when a senior manager wouldn’t be there.

          My advice to the LW’s husband is to keep his long hair and spend a bit longer looking for the right job. I gave up my nose piercing for my career, such as it was, and I wish I’d kept the stud instead.

        1. Fellow Moomin fan*

          If your interviewer knows whether you’re wearing pants (in the UK sense) or not, there’s something wrong with that interview… :-)

          1. SometimesALurker*

            I’m now reminded of Alison’s (very good) response to the person who has breasts but has difficulty wearing bras, which was (paraphrased so I don’t have to dig it up) “You don’t have to wear a bra, but other people shouldn’t be able to tell you’re not wearing a bra.”

      2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        One of the things I’ve learned on this site is that in the US interview clothes are way more formal than what I’m used to in my country, so maybe it’s a US vs Europe difference. If I followed AAM’s advice on interview attire I would look very odd here. I have never worked as a recruiter but I’ve seen lots of other applicants on my way to and from interviews and also in group interviews. I tend to be dressed more formally than most though it’s nothing like the stuff I read on this blog! I don’t have experience on jobs where people actually wear suits every day, though.

        1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          I have never worn a suit to an interview and I work in finance which is notoriously conservative for dress. I think the larger cities and east coast area is more formal than we are here in the midwest though.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think this really depends on your industry, the company, region, etc. There are lots of places where showing up to an interview in a suit would look exceedingly odd.

      3. Lablizard*

        Some places consider pants shirts too informal for an interview. It never made sense to me since they are suits.

      4. Natalie*

        It’s not trousers/pants generally, but pant suits vs skirt suits. The pant suit is a relatively new development, so as is common with conservative-ness (in dress) the older style of a skirt suit is considered more conservative.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s not a requirement in most fields in most places. But some places are extremely conservative about their expectations re: women’s attire. The dress/skirt-suit is considered uniformly more formal in the U.S., in part because of the whole “women shouldn’t wear trousers in public—being able to distinguish their legs is indecent!” thing from the 60s/70s (which still exists at some private schools).

        In most parts of the country for most positions in law (which is notoriously conservative in terms of dress standards), it would be fine for a woman to wear a pant-suit (not sure what that’s called in the UK?) or a skirt/dress-suit. However, in some regions, the more formal version (skirt/dress) matters. When I interview on the coast, no one cares what kind of suit I’m wearing as long as it’s put together. When I interview in the more conservative part of the state, there’s a strong preference for dress/skirt-suits (don’t even get me started on the judges who still bar women attorneys from the courtroom unless they’re wearing a skirt/dress and pantyhose—I’ve appeared before several, and every time I seethe).

        1. Karen D*

          Several years back, a reporter (not one who covered courts) from the local newspaper was on jury duty and just happened to end up up in the pool for one of those judges. They ended up having to send a second prosecutor down and she – not expecting to appear in Judge Archaic’s court – had worn trousers that day. He remarked in front of the whole courtroom (including the potential jurors) that he knew she hadn’t planned to be there so he was going to let her slide, but not to come into his courtroom dressed like that again.

          Publicity ensued. :D Now, I’m totally NOT suggesting you arrange to have a reporter there the next time you have to appear before one of those judges, but … well …

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I wish that worked, here. One of those judges retired, but one is still around. He’s been in the news for this kind of nonsense, but locally, his conduct is considered reasonable (it’s way more conservative than the rest of the state—they still refer to women as “lady attorneys,” and I’m frequently asked to get someone coffee or yelled at for “sitting in the attorney’s seat”).

            Our remaining knuckle-dragged Is a federal judge (life tenure), and recording in the courtroom is forbidden, so the only way to highlight what he does is for attorneys (who appear before him) to complain to the press and the judicial council, which almost no one will do because they don’t want to jeopardize their clients’ cases in front of that judge. And now that we don’t really have a courthouse beat reporter, sunshine seems pretty unlikely :(

        2. Blossom*

          I find the “being able to distinguish their legs” concept fascinating, as it’s hardly as if the typical skirt suit comes down to the ankles! In fact, my work skirts and dresses are typically above the knee, sometimes well above the knee (though I wear tights most of the year round) – and that’s not unusual, at least not in offices I’ve worked at. If anything, I feel I’m “getting away with” a far sexier style of dress than a woman in a trouser-suit. Quite bizarre that a pair of black trousers can be considered less decent than a skirt, tights and heels (assuming both to be complemented with a matching jacket and blouse).

          That said – almost all British schools have uniforms, and although trousers for girls were allowed at most (not all) schools when I was a pupil in the 90s, it was a relatively recent change at some schools, and there must have been a time well within living memory when trousers were just not a part of school uniform for girls. I think more for reasons of gender norms and school uniform lagging far behind changes in fashion, though who knows? Anyway, in my day, trousers were a totally normal and widespread uniform choice for girls – skirts were also worn, largely by the more fashion-conscious girls who would push the limits of shortness and tightness. Definitely not the “decent” choice! :-)

    4. Thistle*

      UK based here. Perhaps it’s different in the US but a bun would be viewed very differently from a straight ponytail. A ponytail might get a raised eyebrow but that’s it. A bun on a man would be unusual outside of design industries. In finance you get more latitude to express yourself once you have proved yourself in a role. Perhaps an old fashioned ponytail would be best for interviews.

      1. Lady Jay*

        Huh. I rather like the “man bun” look and consider it much more professional than a ponytail. I’m in the US, and I think here that “ponytail” will signal “biker dude” much more than a tidy bun.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Yeah, that is not true at all where I live (Texas). A pony tail may get an eyebrow, but a man-bun is … perceived a little differently.

          1. Kathleen Adams*

            Oh, it’s the same here in Indiana. Shoulder-length hair pulled neatly back = mildly quirky. Man bun = in-your-face quirky or even eccentric and not necessarily in a good way.

            I am originally from California, though, and of course it would be more acceptable there than it is here in the conservative Midwest. But even in California, I am fairly confident that a man-bun would be considered more out there than shoulder-length hair in a tidy pony tail.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

              I would agree that a ponytail would be a more conservative choice for an interview than a bun. Midwest city, here.

            2. Jadelyn*

              Lifelong Californian here and I agree with your assessment – man-buns aren’t particularly unusual, but a man with a ponytail is just a dude with long hair, while a man with a bun, nine times out of ten, is a particular type of self-important, insufferable hipster bro.

              1. sunny-dee*

                I wasn’t certain if I could say “hipster douchebag” or not, but … yeah, that’s it. ;) Particularly in a traditionally more conservative industry, that’s not necessarily the best vibe. Like, that would be fine in Austin, but in Dallas it would count against you and in a smaller place like Sherman, you could get escorted out of the building. (j/k)

                It REALLY depends on where you are. (I think the fact that the husband had been years into his professional career before he found a place where this was okay may indicate that it’s not going to be okay in their area, but the times, they are a changing, so who knows.)

                1. Cascadian*

                  It really does depend on region. In most of Cascadia man buns are just another hair style, esp for younger men.

                2. Anna*

                  I wouldn’t be too sure it’s just another hairstyle in the PNW. There are plenty of eye rolls that accompany any discussion of topknots on men where I live.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I’m in California. Man-buns are not considered more “out there” than pony tails, especially in large, coastal cities (i.e., not Fresno, Sacramento or Bakersfield). They’re just seen as a sign of someone either being (1) a Santa Cruz hippie, or (2) a Bay Area/LA hipster. But no one, from what I can tell, thinks one is more/less “professional” or “formal” than the other.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            I’m in Texas, and I wouldn’t raise any eyebrows at a bun on a man (I hate the term “man bun”–it’s a bun, no matter who it’s on). I much prefer them to ponytails.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            But isn’t the man-bun issue in those areas not about formality, but rather, perceived politics? That is, that man-bun wearers are more hippie, or hipster, or “progressive” than men with ponytails?

        2. AnotherAlison*

          I think it’s all about the total package with long hair for men. Shoulder-length hair in a ponytail on a younger guy =allow me to professionally pull my hair back. Midback-length hair in a ponytail on someone over 50=biker dude. The manbun isn’t well received where I live, among the non-hipsters, but I think the low-neck version wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows.

          Ultimately, if your husband looks like Chris Hemsworth or Keanu Reeves, this is going to go over a lot better than if he looks like Pauly Shore.

        3. azvlr*

          I’m fan of the man bun, precisely because they challenge gender stereotypes. People are really uncomfortable seeing “girl” hair on a man and I love that!
          Plus, a stereotype of my own – in my experience, men who bother this much with their hair are generally well-groomed and rather nice to look at.

          1. ancolie*

            Ditto! I love how they look and really, there’s no reason a bun should be “gendered” in the first place.

            And agreed it’s a higher probability that the bun-wearer actually maintains his longer hair. I’ve seen soooooo many dudes with ponytails of ratty, dull, split-ended hair that’s never been within 10′ of hair conditioner or a trim.

          2. Connie-Lynne*

            I just want folks to quit gendering the hairstyle. I don’t wear a ladybun, I wear a bun, and so do men.

        4. Lady Julian*

          I *do* think regional differences are fun! It’s interesting to hear what’s professional & not around the world.

          I’m actually in the Midwest, teaching at a community college within a conservative area. My male students will occasionally wear buns, but I’ve never seen somebody wear a ponytail. Perhaps it’s a generational thing as much as a regional thing?

        5. Blossom*

          Me too – and I’m in the UK. A ponytail seems a bit more scruffy or hippyish than a man-bun. But I’m sure a lot depends on styling and on hair type.

          (no offence intended to male pony-tail wearers – I’m just trying to channel my darkest prejudices!)

      2. Thlayli*

        Yeah the bun threw me too. Where I live man ponytail = normal if a little unusual. Man bun = what are you a premiership footballer?

        [note I don’t actually think your husband is a premiership footballer, that’s just what pops into my head when I see a man bun. I have no problems with people wearing their hair any way they like, that’s just the unavoidable image I get].

        1. Violet Fox*

          Yeah, man with a ponytail isn’t that horribly unusual here either, and man bun = hipster who lives in that part of the city, but also not US. It isn’t something that people would register as a big deal either way really.

        2. Parenthetically*

          Oh, that’s funny, love it! I can see it now you’ve mentioned something, but I’d naturally think more like Lady Jay that a suited man with a man bun = professional but a bit cool and hipster, but a suited man in a ponytail = currently wearing the only clothes he has that aren’t motorcycle leathers.

        3. Windchime*

          I’m in Seattle and it’s not unusual at all to see men wearing their long hair in a bun. It’s more common than a ponytail here. It’s not usually sleek and perfect, though; it’s normally a bit of a “messy” bun but it would still be perfectly acceptable for a man to show up for an interview with long hair in a bun. Several guys at work have ponytails. (I work in the IT department for a university, but we are not on campus).

          (Off topic: Sometimes I ride the bus with a man who has amazing dreadlocks that go down to his waist. He keeps them off his face with a wide, stretchy band that matches his hair color. He looks great.)

          1. paul*

            It’s the messy part that throws me. Like, I think buns generally are kind of silly but w/e, it isn’t my head or my hair. But a lot of the ones I see around here are frequently on people that don’t look put together–full on untrimmed beard going every which way, maybe with food in it, hair that doesn’t look like it’s seen soap in a while, etc. *That* throws me off.

      3. Jessesgirl72*

        The man bun is becoming a thing in the US, but I wonder at the LW’s husband too, because whenever I hear it mentioned in the media, it’s always with derision.

          1. Emi.*

            High man buns are different from low buns on men, though. The high man bun is all “look at me and my cool topknot!” but the low bun in the letter sounds more like “Yes, I have long hair but I put it out of the way.”

            1. Whats In A Name*

              Yes! I feel the same way….the top knot man bun is way different than the bun OP is referencing, which I think sounds fine for an interview in a conservative industry. I am a woman with long hair and would never wear a top knot to an interview in a conservative field. That’s just me, though.

            2. Detective Amy Santiago*

              That’s fair. I probably haven’t even noticed the latter because it’s so unobtrusive.

            3. OP#1*

              Yes, Emi. has it exactly right. My husband isn’t a fan of the “cool” messy topknot buns on men either and his is just pulled back low and out of the way.

            4. Kathleen Adams*

              I have to say that I’ve never even seen a man-bun worn low (I’ll have to keep my eye open for one), so for me it would be just as quirky/look at ME-ish as a high top-knot.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I wouldn’t think of that as quirky. It’s not quirky on women–a low bun is more formal, especially one that’s very neat. I’d probably think it was pretty smooth (as in cool).

                1. sunny-dee*

                  Yeah but it is also a traditionally female hairstyle. Having a buzzed haircut isn’t a thing for guys, but it’s very unusual (and therefore noticeable) on women.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                They look great and are not at all quirky—they’re way less obtrusive than top-knot-style man-buns. I would almost bet money that you’ve seen a low man-bun but not noticed/realized it.

            5. Kiki*

              Men with topknots have become a completely normal sight where I live over the past couple years. They’re so common that I just recognize them as a gender neutral hairstyle and don’t even bat an eye.

              1. Anna*

                It’s possible you live in a similar area to me, but there’s definitely a specific look that frequently accompanies a top knot. It often includes a beard and where I am, also bare feet. :)

            6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Totally agreed. If it’s sleek and low, the man-bun can look really good on some guys. The top-knot just makes me think the person has shaved the bottom of their head and wants to go play rec soccer later.

          2. I used to be Murphy*

            But why? I am currently sitting at my work computer with my long (female) hair in a top knot. Why can’t a man wear the same thing?

            1. Sarah*

              They can! It’s just a question of whether it’s the hill you want to die on when the stakes are getting a job.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              It’s about the aesthetic of what you’re conveying, not about whether it’s “ok” or not to wear a top-knot because of your gender.

            3. D.A.R.N.*

              I think it has more to do with the identity politics associated with the high buns for men than the low buns do (see upthread where people are pointing out the connotation with hipsters)

        1. TL -*

          Can’t they just be buns? Hairstyles don’t have to be gendered.

          Either way, as long as his hair is neat and clean – men with long hair who have not learned to appreciate trims and conditioner make me sad – and he has the luxury of being picky, I think he’s got a pretty good chance of finding a job.

          1. Stop That Goat*

            Eh, it’s ‘hip’ to make fun of hipsters.

            Neat and clean is exactly right. That makes a world of difference regardless of where your bun resides.

            1. Michele*

              Yeah. To me, making fun of hipsters is like criticizing someone for being a Millennial. You might was well be shaking your fist and yelling “get off my lawn!” Every generation develops their own style, and every older generation thinks it is stupid.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  Me too – and the pretentiousness is what I’m making fun of more than the hipsterness anyway.

              1. Emi.*

                Hipster isn’t a generational thing, though, at least not how we use it around here (where it has strong connotations of “crunchy yuppies who are about to price me out of the housing market”).

                1. Anna*

                  Where I live, hipster connotes a WHOLE underwater iceberg of meaning, including gentrification and crunchy yuppies. Pretentiousness, snobbery, and general lack of awareness tend to be included. This is not particular to any one generation. I have known hipsters across the age spectrum.

                2. Michele*

                  Huh. Around here, hipsters are all Millenials. Otherwise, they are just the eccentric old dude.

          2. Sled dog mama*

            I think the distinction comes from the fact that many women who wear their hair in a bun have enough to wrap around itself and create a sizable bun where many of the men who wear their hair long don’t have as much hair so it’s less of a bun and more of pulling halfway through the rubber band on a ponytail.
            I know that when I wore my hair short (at or just below my shoulders) pulling it up into a “bun” looked very different than it does now that my hair is halfway down my back and it takes several wraps, pins and usually hairspray to keep it in a bun.
            To me, at least, man bun evokes this sort of difference which also causes me to note that hair may fall out of the man bun easier but it much easier to fix if hair does fall out.

            1. TL -*

              I have my hair up in a folded over ponytail as I type this (and I’m a woman.) I have enough hair to do a ballet bun but I’ve done the lazy version for years before man buns were a thing. If I recall correctly, it was a very popular style in high school too.

              1. Sled dog mama*

                But my point, which I admit I did not make clearly was that the two look different which may lead to people feeling the need to have a distinction.

                I recall the hairstyle being very popular in high school as well, I also recall girls having to redo it at least once an hour (classes were an hour and I recall lots of girls having to redo their hair during class).

                1. ancolie*

                  Redoing hair during class almost always seemed more out of boredom than necessity. But I guess it could be where it feels like it’s slipping before it looks obvious.

            2. Martin Crane*

              I agree. I would not generally refer to that style as a bun on a woman, but that is exactly what I imagine when people reference a man bun.

      4. MWKate*

        Agreed. Neatly tied back is one thing, and I think would be fine in a lot of industries. Man bun is a little different. I wouldn’t say husband needs to cut his hair but I would certainly go with a simple low ponytail as opposed to a bun.

      5. Holly*

        It also depends “where” the bun is located. When I think of the hipster “man-bun,” I think of a messy bun piled on top of the head – which would be kind of ridiculous looking for an accounting interview at all but the most hip of places. However, I think what the LW is talking about is a low, smooth bun pinned to the nap of the neck, which can look professional and edgy at the same time. Writing this made me realize I’ve never seen a man wear a bun in back-middle of the head, which is where women often pin buns, so I guess the back-middle is considered ultra-feminine. Style and dress can be so weird

    5. Tempest*

      M’eh. I currently work for a company where visible tats, unnatural hair colours, piercings beyond earlobe etc don’t fly.

      We work with very old guard prim and proper customers and it would make them uncomfortable. We’re all about making them comfortable, so I just deal with the fact I can’t have purple hair even though I’d like to.

      I think these things will gradually become the norm as the generations who think they are normal age, but in some settings you’ve just got to work with what’s good for the clients. I would think public facing old guard industries like law and commercial accounting will be among the last to change. This gent has a job that doesn’t care about his long hair now and I’m sure he can find another one, but it might exclude him from some jobs.

      1. Audiophile*

        I’ve worked at a few conservative places. It’s funny, I have a tattoo on my arm that most people rarely notice. But I know if I wore a dress or skirt, people would certainly comment on my tattoo on my leg.

        I love both, but wouldn’t fathom wearing a dress or skirt without leggings or tights on an interview.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          My job has an explicit dress code that says most of the time we are business casual, and you can have whatever tattoos and piercings you want, BUT if you are in a role that requires business formal sometimes, in business formal, you are expected to have no visible tattoos and only one earring in each ear at most. I actually think that’s a great way to do it (because our business formal occasions are SUPER conservative, but it really doesn’t matter the rest of the time).

          1. KellyK*

            I agree; that’s an excellent way to do it. Do unnatural hair colors fall into the same category? Obviously hiding or redyeing purple hair is more work than covering a tattoo or taking out piercings, but if you’re only rarely in business formal mode, it could be doable. (I’ve done purple tips for a steampunk event, then cut them off when I got back to work.)

          2. MegaMoose, Esq*

            I haven’t seen it explicitly spelled out in a dress code, but I think this is how a lot of attorneys around my generation (late millennial) operate. To KellyK’s question, though, unnatural hair colors is pretty rare in our region/field. Got to pass for the conservative clients!

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              More to the OP’s point, I don’t know any male attorneys with long hair, either, but we’re generally even more conservative than accountants.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I do! But they’re in Seattle and SF, and even then, in somewhat more “relaxed” firms than the usual bigs in biglaw.

          3. Salamander*

            I’ve been working for myself for several years, and recently worked up the nerve to dye my hair burgundy. I picked it because it’s close to my natural color (brown), so I can camouflage it. I can pin it up, and it just looks like I’ve dyed my hair auburn. Especially when I’m indoors and it’s close to my head with hairspray on it, nobody notices. If it was necessary, I can color over it easily. If I were to do a more dramatic color in the future (green, I’m lookin’ at you), I’d just do the ends so I can hide them.

            But I think if I were looking for a job with someone else, I’d dye it back to brown. I’m not that super-attached to it.

            1. Tempest*

              I start a new job in a few weeks which is much more laid back and smart casual where jeans are the daily wear. I’m guessing they’re a lot more ok with the above, but where I am now is business smart dress and it most deff does not.

          4. Anna*

            We have a weird mixed bag where I work, because we’re teaching professionalism to young adults and part of that is modeling professionalism. So, no piercings that aren’t ears, no “unnatural” hair colors, but tattoos are less of a problem. My boss has one around her ankle that she shows off, I got one on my right ring finger last year that barely raised an eyebrow. However, the one time I got red “faery hair” (colored silk strands that are tied to the shaft of piece of hair and stay in until that stand of hair falls out) it was A Very Big Deal.

      2. brightstar*

        I also work at a conservative place (no casual Fridays) and would love to dye my hair purple. But that isn’t allowed, nor is a man having long hair (judging from the fact that no male employee here has long hair).

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I would haaaaaaaaate that. I have quite long blonde hair and I like to put a streak of pink, purple, or blue hair chalk in it every once in a while (it washes out). It’s not in any way shocking or edgy. I also like to wear it loose and curled sometimes and I absolutely refuse to cut it because of my age, especially into that dog-butt can-I-speak-to-your-manager haircut. (Not the smooth graduated bob; the spiky one that looks like two different hairdos stuck together.)

        I think you’re right about those industries being the last to change, though. Along with anything faith-based; they tend to be really conservative.

      4. aebhel*

        It really depends, though. I’m a woman with a crew cut and some very large, colorful, visible tattoos, and I’m a librarian who works with a public comprised mostly of conservative retirees. Nobody’s ever given me a hard time about it. I’ve gotten lots of compliments on my tattoos from little old ladies, actually.

        I mean, sure, librarians tend to fall a bit more into the crunchy/eccentric stereotype than lawyers or accountants, but I do think this is something that’s gradually shifting.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Like Alison said, it totally depends on industry, and also on the culture of the company itself. I have an accounting degree, and when I started working after college back in the Dark Ages (the early 90’s), my first job was for an oil and gas company that was very old school. It was a big deal when they finally agreed to start casual Fridays. Then I worked at a dot-com start up, and no one gave a crap what anyone wore or looked like. A couple years later I did some consulting for MBNA Bank, and they were so stodgy that not only was formal business attire required every day, the only thing close to casual that they would do was “country club casual” as a special treat — and even then, jeans were not allowed.

        And even though there are some industries that are more conservative than others — and accounting is definitely one of those — you can still find places that don’t care about stuff like that. One of my friends from college has his own CPA firm. He’s gay, with a bit of a hipster vibe. He lives downtown, so he hasn’t owned a car in a few years and bikes everywhere, and is some kind of yoga guru — I’ve seen a few of pictures of him on Facebook doing these insane, unbelievably difficult poses. So he would not bat an eyelash at hiring a guy with long hair, or someone with tattoos, blue hair, or whatever. As long as you can do the job, that’s all he cares about.

        He has a diverse range of clients, and it hasn’t slowed him down. He took over the accounting duties for my husband’s business, a machine shop. The previous accountant had really screwed up something with the payroll taxes, and dragged his feet about fixing it and filing amended returns. I gave my husband his number, and he and his boss met with him, and hired him on the spot, because they could tell he really knew his sh*t. They been his clients for about 10 years, and they absolutely love him. And you’d be hard pressed to find people from more opposite ends of the spectrum — the traditional, old-school guys who are more “blue collar,” and the gay, hipster, yogi. LOL.

        1. Chinook*

          “(the early 90’s), my first job was for an oil and gas company that was very old school. It was a big deal when they finally agreed to start casual Fridays. ”

          I have to laugh at that because I am with an oil pipeline company and most of our staff have worked their way up from the field, so suit and tie is something they evolve somewhat reluctantly to having to wear and casual Friday is what everyone would prefer to have all week because everyone prefers to wear jeans. It is so noticeably a part of the culture that the last time we saw our VP in a full suit in our lobby, employees all noticed and were trying to figure out if he was meeting with a government regulator, if the Prime Minister was in town for announcement on our project, or if we were being sold (and we are not a gossipy bunch).

          I honestly though all oil & gas companies had this same blue collar vibe to them, even in head office.

          1. fairyfreak*

            Nah, field offices definitely get more slack. I was with oil and gas (accounting, even) for 14 years. The corporate headquarters only went to business causal the year after I started. Even then, casual Friday with jeans was not a guarantee. We had to donate to charity to get it in one of the departments I worked in. Colored hair wasn’t really a culture fit, but I did see some long hair on guys.

      2. Meg Murry*

        I think it makes a big difference whether the accounting department is probably the most conservative department at the company (along with maybe legal and HR) like an accounting department in a creative industry, vs the accounting department in a more formal industry like investment banking.

        That said, I think most people who have a good track record can get away with 1-2 things outside of the standard professional “box” without coming off as too quirky – but not much more than that. So long hair on a man that is neatly pulled back with an otherwise neat and interview appropriate attire would probably be fine. Man bun + vintage suit + bow tie + waxed mustache + big hipster glasses + ride up on his single speed bike + talk about his hobbies of collecting vinyl and canning his own pickles = way too much. I think it’s not unlike the other questions Alison has received about things like women who don’t wear makeup, etc – it’s generally ok at all but the most conservative places, as long as everything else is neat and professional.

        There is also a difference between the men’s hairstyle of “I have long hair on purpose and I keep it well taken care of” vs the scraggly “I haven’t bothered to get a haircut in a year and I pull it back with a hair elastic when it gets in my way” look. So I’d recommend he get a trim if it’s been a while to neaten up any scraggly ends, but I don’t think he needs to go all the way back to a short conservative look – especially if he’s going to want to grow it out again, because that has more potential to look sloppy in the in between stages before it gets long enough to pull back.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Lol. . .I’m nodding my head at this because one of my coworkers recently left after about 2.5 years here, and he encountered the problem of taking his quirkiness too far. We’re an engineering & construction firm, which puts us pretty far to the right on the spectrum of conservative, but definitely less formal than banking. My coworker wore bowties every day, skinny pants, small jackets, big glasses. . .he had the total hipster package but he wanted to be in sales. Mgmt said he needed to change his look, but he wasn’t on board with that. Hopefully his new place is a better fit.

        2. Anna Pigeon*

          Oh lord yes on the sloppy growing out thing. I grew out my hair over the last year, and even with every 4 week appointments with a talented stylist there were some super awkward months.

          1. Emi.*

            And make sure it’s a real hair elastic, not a rubber band! Every time I see a man with his hair in a rubber band off a bundle of carrots, I want to cry.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              Ug, that’s like nails on a chalkboard just thinking about it. I don’t have any particular feelings about how other people style their hair, but seeing hair pulled back with a rubber band makes me cringe, and if you’ve got hair long enough to put in a ponytail and want it to look nice, you need to use shampoo and conditioner, not that all-in-one stuff my bald husband uses.

              1. Cathy*

                My husband used to have hair almost long enough he could sit on it; he always wore it in a braid because he worked in a machine shop and couldn’t have a ‘loose’ ponytail. It annoyed me no end that his hair was always soft, shiny, and had no split ends – and he washed it with a bar of Ivory soap. I can’t begin to think what my hair would be like if I treated it like that!

                1. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  Oh wow, that’s some excellent hair genetics at work there. I would save so much money if I could get away with that!

        3. Natalie*

          So true that the accounting department (and legal department, if the company has one) will probably be the most formal. I work in an office with an extremely casual dress culture but in accounting we do typical business casual.

          That said, there’s lots of in house accounting, so I’m sure he can find plenty of places where a ponytail will be okay.

        4. Anonymizing for this*

          I have a friend who has an unusual job for a very well known national bank. He works in the financial part of the bank doing stuff that I cannot understand (think quantum mechanics but applied to finance). He has VERY long hair he wears in a low bun or ponytail or just hanging out down his back, and frequently a kilt and t-shirt to work. It’s about how highly needed your particular skillset is, too. :)

      3. Ktelzbeth*

        I taught my long, curly haired husband to do a French twist with a claw clip and it’s now his favorite style when his neck gets hot and sticky. That gets some double takes, but he generally only does it socializing with people we know. Professionally, he got a job with a major national bank in a non-customer facing department wearing his hair in a low ponytail (and had facial hair at the time!).

      4. Newlywed*

        My husband has layered shoulder-length hair that he wears pulled back into a low bun, or just loose, depending on the occasion. He keeps it routinely clean and trimmed, which I think is one of the big issues people have with some man buns (that look like messy/like they haven’t been washed in days). He also has facial hair, but again, he keeps that trimmed and well-groomed, so it doesn’t look scraggly (I think it’s very flattering on him).

        Now, my stand-in father in law (long story) has had a well kept short beard for years. He works at a golf course and they told him after he’d been working there for several months that he had to shave his beard if he wanted to keep the job…apparently the owner was a really uptight German man who associated all facial hair with untrustworthiness and my father in law missed the facial hair talk when they hired him (the Manager’s words, not mine). Last I heard he was researching if there were any religious precedents for keeping facial hair on the job…

        bottom line, I feel like as long as the hairstyle is clean and well groomed, people need to get over their weird prejudices and associations with different hairstyles…wouldn’t that be nice.

    6. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

      I feel the same way about my hair. I’m a butch NB lesbian, and I have the opposite problem- my hair is short enough that I worry it affects my prospects! It’s weird how that cuts both ways.

      I also just wish I could be out at work so people would use “they” as my pronoun, but law is a very conservative field; my state just installed its FIRST gay judge last year.

      1. Jadelyn*

        You have my sympathies! I’ve been wrangling with my VP to be allowed to change all the him/her he/she crap in our employee handbook and job descriptions to “they” instead, and I’ve mostly won at this point. He doesn’t know that I care about this not just as an activist in general, but because I prefer “they” pronouns for myself – it’s just not worth the hassle to come out right now tbh.

    7. neeko*

      In this particular case, sure. OP stated that they are comfortable enough to be a little choosy so that probably also means comfortable enough to push back a bit. But that is pretty unreasonable to suggest that everyone is in the financial position to do that.

    8. Anna Pigeon*

      I work in accounting for a conservative company in a conservative industry, however it’s unlikely neatly styled hair would raise an eyebrow.

      I would also lean toward ponytail rather than bun for an interview in our office. A low pony feels more classic whereas a man bun feels more trendy.

    9. voluptuousfire*

      I hope he keeps it. Long hair on men is fantastic, IMO. :)

      A few years back, I saw a very dapper and handsome long haired man in the financial district in Manhattan. He had on a well cut suit with his hair tied into a knot at the nape of his neck and a well trimmed beard. I definitely did a double take as he walked by. :grins:

      If he feels he has to compromise, maybe he should cut it– but not fully. If it’s mid back, maybe trim it to shoulder length?

    10. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      yeah, “pushing back against an old, irrelevant standard.”

      The important question is – “Do you want the job, or don’cha?”

      If he wants that job, he may have to conform to what that company practices. While you may consider it an old, irrelevant standard, the employer may not.

      And that’s what counts, if you’re seeking employment.

    11. Jenn*

      I’ve worked in a state agency accounting department for 13 years. Our culture is getting a lot more open. We currently have many staff members with visible tattoos and at least one with untraditionally colored hair. However, we don’t generally work with the public so the situation may be different. I do a lot of recruiting and I wouldn’t have a problem with hiring a man with long hair if his experience and personality fit our needs. Also cleanliness may be a factor. If it is well-groomed then it shouldn’t be a problem. It is hard enough finding good help to let hair length get in the way!

  2. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 It’s totally understandable to be tempted to ask this. But, all other things aside, if you did ask and they agreed then how might you feel once actually in the job?

    If a type of skill or experience is essential, they should hire for that, or hire someone with the potential to develop it and provide them with the training or support needed to do so.

    Good luck with your job hunt!

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Relatedly, would you really want to work for an employer who would hire someone with less experience simply because they could underpay them? That’s not a great sign—it indicates the company cares about its money more than it does about the delivery of high-quality services. (I don’t say that to insult you, OP—it’s just that less/no experience almost always guarantee lower-quality results.)

      I’m not sure what the relationship is between the role and “activist organizing,” but if it involves training/organizing (or train the trainers) work, then you absolutely need political/community/issue-area organizing experience. Many groups hire entry-level organizers, but I would raise my eyebrows at an organization that would trade experience for salary savings (which are not really cost savings when compared to the impact on output/effectiveness).

  3. gsa*


    I responded with “yeah baby” more than twice. Que Austin Powers… Regardless, if your boss says don’t, then don’t.


    1. Kathleen Adams*

      In an email, I kind of expect a teensy bit more formality than in a text, so “Yup” or “Yep” would probably annoy me slightly. Context is everything, of course, so there are times that it wouldn’t bother me at all (e.g., if it’s funny), but generally speaking, I think “yes” is better. I mean, why not? It’s the same number of letters and everything! :-)

      But in any case, if the boss doesn’t like it, it needs to goooooo.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, I think there are contexts where a “yep” or “yup” would be too informal or curt. But in other cases it’s completely fine. Regardless, the boss said stop, so don’t do it.

        1. Lemon Zinger*

          Absolutely! I work in higher ed and we use informal language when messaging, calling, or emailing one another. But when we contact students, we are careful to use more formal language because we need to set good examples for them.

          1. Chalupa Batman*

            Same. My supervisor probably knows exactly when I’m copying a student or copy and pasting an e-mail into a student record (which students can view) because I call her by her formal title and use full sentences.

      2. Anna*

        I sent an email earlier this week that had some standard information for a couple of coworkers and let them know they could make a decision about what they wanted to do. I ended that sentence with the word: I CARE NOT. Because I didn’t and I don’t like to be too stuffy with my coworkers.

        I wouldn’t even consider doing that with an outside partner.

      3. Newlywed*

        Email has gone the way of being more conversational than formal, and I’m glad of that. I actually think that email that sounds too formal makes the sender look like an out of touch dinosaur (at least in my industry). But I think people still need to understand that just as there are different levels of relationship in conversation, those relationships should also be reflected in email. Someone I’ve never spoken to before, or an outside vendor or client contact? I’m going to err on the side of being very polite and friendly and not use any slang. People I see on a daily basis? we send one sentence conversational phrases back and forth to each other. The CEO? I probably wouldn’t say “yep” but I would to most of my coworkers. I also try to mirror people’s email style…if a vendor contact likes brevity, I cut out most of the pleasantries and keep it short, etc.

  4. Jessica*

    #1, following on from what Jeanne said, I would argue (and I don’t mean this judgmentally toward your husband, but more like it’s what I would say to myself if I were he) that he actually SHOULD keep his hair how he wants it for the interviews. Many people are caught in the trap of feeling they have to look more conservative and traditional-gender-roley, or hide other things about themselves, at interviews because they desperately need the job and the livelihood. Your husband is lucky enough to be in a not-so-desperate position right now, and therefore he should use the opportunity to strike a small blow for a better world. If not him, then who? If not now, then when?

    1. No, please*

      This has been my husbands approach. He’s been able to always find work with his long hair in a ponytail and a well-groomed beard. No one ever calls him a biker or a hipster, although he appears younger than he is. He has a client facing role.

    2. mf*

      Also, if he wants to keep it long (or grow it out again when he gets a new job), then showing up to an interview with short hair might set the wrong expectations for his new employer.

    3. SansaStark*

      I was thinking the same thing. Interviews are two-way streets. Would he want to work for a culture that would deny an awesome candidate because of their appearance? If a good culture fit is important to him, maybe this is a good way to weed out a bad fit.

  5. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 I think your boss missed the memo about how tone of voice is different on email. In person, ‘yup’ potentially seems overly casual. In an email, ‘yes’ can sound really abrupt so using ‘yup’ or ‘yep’ can soften it. In general, more formal language that would be fine in person can come off very rudely or stiffly by email – and more casual language can be needed as a signal about tone.

    So while you probably need to grit your teeth on this, know that you are right and he is wrong / operating off of norms that don’t apply to email in quite the same way.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I totally disagree with your first paragraph. IMO “yup” doesn’t belong in business email unless you’re trying to write as you speak for a particular reason. And I don’t think a “yes” is too abrupt. You don’t have to write formally but that’s too informal for many tastes. Plus confusingly looking like a typo instead of a word like “yeah” would obviously be.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Well obviously it depends on context and on the rest of your message, but I’ve certainly seen emails in which ‘yes’ comes off as abrupt.

        Business-appropriate communication doesn’t always mean using the most formal language.

        1. MWKate*

          I agree. Answering a question with “Yes, that sounds fine, etc etc” sounds fine. If I got an email that just had “Yes.” I would see that as kind of abrupt. I think the key is not to let the “Yes.” or “No.” be the only communication, because you run the risk of sounding very terse.

        2. paul*

          Agreed. I’ve responded to more than a few emails with “Yup, seen it, working on it” or “Yup, no problem will start working on it”

      2. Admin Assistant*

        It 100% depends on the office/industry — I could email “yep” to my Executive Director and no one would bat an eyelash. I could probably email “sure f***ing thing!” to my Deputy Director and she wouldn’t bat an eyelash. But my office is extremely casual.

      3. LBK*

        It completely depends on context and who you’re writing to. I have plenty of coworkers that if I were just emailing them one-on-one, “yep” would be completely fine and “yes” would read a little stuffy for the nature of our relationship. I usually start conversations out more formal but as an exchange evolves, it usually gets more casual.

    2. RAM*

      I’d kinda say the opposite. A “yup” in person is generally fine (especially if it’s a casual back-and-forth conversation), but in an email it doesn’t look very professional. And it could also be part of a bigger picture the boss is seeing of casual/informal behavior.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I’m starting to think geography is a factor here – I’m British and these things may sound different to me as a result.

        1. Little Whinging*

          I’m British too and “yup” would read as excessively casual, bordering on rude, anywhere I’ve ever worked. So maybe less about geography and more about field and organisational culture.

          1. EE*

            How would you feel about the Brit I work with who frequently enda an e-mail with “thanks hombres”?

            1. Emi.*

              As long as they only do it in emails to multiple men! (Someone once wrote to Miss Manners about her friend who insisted that it’s “grammatically correct” to begin all business correspondence with “Gentlemen,” even if you know you’re sending it to one woman and you know her name.)

              1. bridget*

                … what? Did this person have any idea what the definition of “grammar” is? (hint – it doesn’t actually change based on whether your correspondence is business-related or not).

            2. the gold digger*

              I am a woman and getting an email with a “thanks hombres” would just make me laugh. :)

              (Unless it was from a jerk who was intending to offend. But right now, I work with really nice people so I would assume good intentions.)

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I would probably more taken aback by a “yup” than a “yes.” Just because, imo, there’s an inherent sarcasm with “yep/yup” that isn’t blunted unless you include more than a “yup.” I also just find “yup” to be really abrupt in written emails (it’s totally fine in person). That said, I think this varies based on the recipient and the workplace—it doesn’t need to be inherently abrupt, even if that’s how I read it.

      Regardless, OP#5, just listen to your boss. My ex-boss used to love to write “sweet!” in response to everything, which was charming the first time and annoying thereafter. Everyone has something that annoys them, and this is honestly a very small thing that’s an “easy win”/low-hanging-fruit for you to change. It might be annoying, but arguing over whether it’s formal/informal is not the hill to die upon.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Yep, geography is likely a factor as I’ve said above. The sarcasm you mention isn’t there for me.

        1. Blossom*

          Hmm, it is for me, and I’m a Brit too! Well, sarcasm may be too strong a word, but a written “yup” looks very casual and, depending on context and relationship, potentially flippant. And potentially absolutely fine, between friendly colleagues.

          1. Yorick*

            I’m American and I agree, “yup” seems flippant. I hate seeing it anywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone verbally say “yup.”

            1. MWKate*

              Maybe this is regional? I’ve certainly heard it where I live (upper Midwest) though it’s thrown in there with a lot of yeahs and yeps and u-huhs.

              1. NPO Queen*

                I am also upper Midwest and my boss used “yep” once with me in an email. I thought he was mad at me for the rest of the day, but in reality he was answering emails in a meeting and was just being very curt. He says it in conversations all the time though.

                I grew up in the South though, and “yep” would never fly because were very formal in the companies I worked for.

      2. Hannah*

        Totally agree. OP, listen to your boss. Having a boss who will see a behavior that needs correction and call it out right away is a good thing. That means your boss cares about helping you develop. I get it, but try not to be annoyed that your boss wants to be copied on emails, and is critical of your word choice, because honestly it sounds like he is helping you. Lots of commenters here are confirming that “yup” is not appropriate. It is too informal for email, and usually it has a more sarcastic or angry tone to it.

        1. jennielf*

          I am the OP and yes, I *was* getting too informal in my emails.
          Before I got this job 3 months ago, I was a stay at home mom for 4 years. I had gotten out of the practice of writing more formal emails, so this was a wake up call and (after the initial ego sting) I checked more of the standard emails my company sends. And, I have tightened my email formality in response. We are a small, laid-back, fairly casual company, but I was getting *too* informal.
          So I appreciate the advice everyone. Verbally, I say yup or yep a lot (I tend to be quite casual in my speech patterns). Emails need to be more formal especially outside the company. Regionally, my parents are from midwest, I grew up in Atlanta, but I am now living in CO…so…I think it is just a verbal thing I need to be more mindful of.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            OP, it sounds like you’re handling it exactly the right way. And I hear you—when I moved from one part of my industry (small nonprofit) to another (government), I had to do a total rehaul on the formality of my emails. The good thing is that your boss flagged it, you’re now on the same page, and you’ve been able to course correct. That’s fantastic.

            Did he also critique you about using it when you’re speaking? Because I wouldn’t find it too informal in conversation, just in writing.

            1. jennielf*

              Only in email. I’m 95% positive I’ve used it in conversation with him before.

              I gotta be honest though, I don’t think I’ve *ever* used yup in a angry way before. Its just another casual way of stating an affirmative position. But I can understand why others would see it that way.

              This is an absolutely fascinating conversation. :)

      3. One of the Annes*

        Agree that “yup” sounds sarcastic in email. When I see it as an emailed response, I hear, “Of course, you dumbass.”

        1. LQ*

          I sometimes use it for just this reason.

          Are they really asking us to move the mountain by the weekend?

          (Though the dumbass in this case is not the question asker.)

        2. Lissa*

          Me too! Interesting to read that some people see it as the exact opposite. It’s like the “K” vs “KK” thing in texts, whereas the single “K” means you’re mad. :)

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Thank you! This is exactly the tone I read it in (absent greater context).

          Of course, it doesn’t offend me at all when someone’s speaking, unless their tone conveys “you dumbass.” It doesn’t really offend me in writing, but I often have to double-check because my initial reaction is to feel miffed.

      4. Kyrielle*

        Interesting! I don’t use it in business communications, but for me, “Yup” and “Yep” are casual, friendly forms of ‘yes’ with no sarcasm attached. Both verbally and written. I would find it slightly *less* abrupt than a “Yes” floating about by itself, because the use of yup/yep imparts a ‘friendly’ tone when I read it, whereas ‘yes’ doesn’t imply a tone.

    4. Al Lo*

      For whatever reason, “yep” feels friendlier/less abrupt than “yup” I don’t know why. In any case, my go-to is often “Got it” or “can do” (depending on context) when “yes” would seem too abrupt and “yep” feels too casual.

      1. Hard Boiled*

        I agree that yup and yep have a different tone.

        Years ago, I had a boss who wasn’t a native speaker of English, though she learned it as a child, so you could barely tell. She asked me about this very issue and I advised her that she could use “yep” internally in our casual office if it’s embedded in a larger context, but should avoid it externally and should steer away from “yup.”

        Context is actually really important:

        “Do you you know if the new program will be ready next month?”
        “Yep! I just spoke to the designers, and they say they say they should have it for us next week.”

        Not fine:
        “I’m going to need more time on that report, sorry. Something urgent came up yesterday. Is next week okay?”
        “Yup, thanks for letting me know.” –> kind of conveys disappointment in a way “yes” wouldn’t, which could be desirable in this context, but should be intentional if used!

        1. Sami*

          Agree. There’s a difference between yep and yup. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but yup makes my skin crawl. Could just be me though. :)

          Try to think of it as the word “moist”. Most people hate it but there’s a few who don’t mind.

          1. Mimi*

            Good usage of yep!

            I agree those examples explain it really well.

            Yup though makes me think of the sound dogs make when injured. Like if you accidentally step on their tail and they let out that noise. Thats yup. I hate yup.

        2. Kyrielle*

          Huh, wow. To me they don’t at all, and your second example doesn’t convey disappointment to me _at all_.

          (Oregon, for anyone tracking regional stuff.)

          I’m going to continue to avoid yep/yup in business emails. Formerly it was because it felt too informal – now it’s because I’m aware of how very many ways it can be read that I didn’t intend nor realize!

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Yeah, there is just no difference to me at all either between those two examples. I use “yup” – though actually, only in person or in text, never by email (my email tends to the more…formal but friendly, if that makes sense as style). I don’t think I have ever typed yep.

            This may be regional (I am in New England – near Boston, so I also say “wicked” to mean “very” and have heard people say out loud “wicked pissah,” so every single thing I say about language should probably be taken with several large grains of salt).

          2. Kyrielle*

            Actually, to clarify, your second one tells me you’re feeling cheerful and calm about it. I would find that message reassuring that I wasn’t causing you any inconvenience at all.

        3. SarahTheEntwife*

          This whole thread is fascinating! Both “yep” and “yup” read as friendly and informal though not inappropriately so for intra-office emails (i.e., I wouldn’t use it with a sensitive customer email, but I use them all the time with my coworkers and direct supervisor, and might even with a customer I knew well and wasn’t demanding money from at the moment). Massachusetts here, with influence from Maryland and possibly Pennsylvania.

      2. Mookie*

        Agree on yep/yup tonal distinctions. “Yup” gets my back up, even when I know it’s meant benignly. I’ll take “aye” or “sure thing!” over “yup.” “Alrighty” makes me see red, especially, and I don’t know why, when it’s lacking a punctuation mark.

        This reminds me of the “no worries” and “no problem” discussion, several months (years?) back, where assuring someone that fulfilling their request will not be problem might come across as rude, like a slightly snarky pre-emptive “you’re welcome” when no one expressed gratitude but you think they ought to have.

        1. Emmie*

          Aye for me (Mexican / Tejano) is more informal, and can read derogatory. Ayeeeeeeeeee = general irritation, irritation (jokingly), f-you, really?????, etc….. I’m not saying your interpretation is wrong. Culturally, these things may have different meanings that people do not yet know about :)

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Could it be because you’re reading it as “ayyy” instead “aye” like “aye aye, mate”? If someone sent me “aye,” it would read quasi-Scottish/sailor to me. But “ay” or “ayyyy” is definitely irritation/frustration/Jesus H. Christ.

    5. Librarian of the North*

      I agree that sometimes “yes” seems abrupt. It sounds strange but there have definitely been times that a co-worker has asked me a question (did you do “x”) and just “yes” sounded… offended or even angry. I am a fan of the yep, with an “e”. However, it sounds like the OP used it with people who don’t work for the organization and I would never use it with a client or outside connection.

      1. Blue*

        I think that’s the key thing. When writing to anyone outside my office, I keep my tone pretty formal. But I have no problem using “yep” in emails with people I work with pretty closely and with whom I have a more familiar working relationship.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        Yeah, what I was thinking was an exchange like:

        “Did I screw this up?”
        “__, but I’ll fix it.”
        Yes <- formal: I'm not happy.
        Yeah <- less formal; it's no big deal.

    6. Shel*

      You know, I’ve never really thought about this, but it’s totally true. I only use “yep” in informal emails to people I know fairly well, but they’re also the only ones I would be sending potentially abrupt one-line emails. With other people, there are enough words around the “yes” that it doesn’t feel harsh.

      1. Tuckerman*

        For an informal email to a colleague, “Are you out of the Excel doc?” “Yep!”
        Whereas when I respond to my boss (with whom I also have somewhat of an informal relationship) I’d adopt a slightly more formal tone, “Yes. It’s all yours!”

    7. sheepla*

      Yep or Yup in email would be totally, totally inappropriate in my office, even internally. Definitely a know your office culture thing (and now you know because your boss told you).

    8. Doodle*

      This is a fascinating conversation because I hadn’t thought about it much. I searched my email, and a huge swath of people I interact with (including outside the company) have replied with “yep” — usually followed by something else, like “yep, we can get that over by Thursday.” Or “Yep, I will talk to X and let you know.” I use it a lot.

      Yup seems to be more of a stand alone — I don’t use it, but I’ve gotten it as a reply to a bunch of one liners, ala “can we still sign up for that conference? / Yup.”

      I think if you’re looking for a replacement (because I agree that yes seems oddly stilted/formal in an almost aggressive way) “Sure!” Or if it’s a request, “Happy to! Blah blah blah.” “Yes” in those instances seems angry to me, while “yep” conveys welcoming.

  6. Bea*

    #1 I agree strongly this depends on your location and the scale of companies he’s looking at. Since he has the luxury of taking his time and finding a fit, I don’t see a problem keeping his hair the way he’s grown it and likes it. Most places in this area don’t care but if he’s wearing a suit daily to the office they may be much more strict about his hair.

    I think the fact he wears it back will play into his favor as well. Half the time you wouldn’t even notice if it’s tied up at the base of the neck.

    #4 My current job is the first to check references that I’ve encountered. I offered them my references at the end of our interview and my now boss was like “oh right yes sure”, I don’t know that he would have cared otherwise. I wouldn’t worry so much about it but understand why it confuses you.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      I’ve never had a job check references either. They usually ask for them, but I’ve asked my bosses afterward and they never checked.

    2. Emelle*

      I am a reference for several people I worked with in the late 90s/early 00s. in 20 years I have been called one time, and they have probably had 12 job interviews between all of them.

      Also, I had a friend join the navy and he listed me and my husband as personal references for his security clearance, and we never got a call about that either.

      1. TL -*

        I was a personal reference for the husband of my best friend, when he was joining the police academy. They called. This conversation happened.

        Officer: And has he ever hit his wife?
        Me: Oh, god, no! Wife would kill him!
        Officer [laughing]: So it’s like that.

        1. D.A.R.N.*

          I’m glad to hear that people ask those questions before letting someone join the police academy!

      2. MWKate*

        It’s odd that they wouldn’t even contact you to determine security clearance.

        I had an old roommate from a study abroad program that was applying for a position at the state department (domestically not for foreign service) and I had a 20 minute meeting with an FBI agent as a reference check. Since then, all of the phone ones I’ve had to give seem relatively easy.

      3. Bea*

        What, not even for clearance?! I got long surveys for my former friend doing rotations at the VA and a friend who was interviewed for the front office of the city police station. I wonder if they had enough before you not to need to do that but usually clearance means even your dog sitter 15 yrs ago needs to vouch for you!

    3. Mike*

      Yeah, I’ve never given anyone references when looking for a job, nor asked for references from candidates I was hiring. I’m always baffled by the importance placed on references here, and can only assume it’s a thing that depends on what field you’re in.

      1. Bea*

        I was stressed out about references for the longest time. I think I only offered my current boss the list at the end of our long interview to drive home a “I want this job, these people will tell you I’m awesome” point. He called them like as soon as my butt was our the door, I know because my former boss texted me to tell me she liked him.

    4. On Fire*

      I’ve worked in both media and politics, and I don’t think my references have ever been checked – I got all my jobs through networking and having professional/personal contacts vouch for me upfront (for my first job in politics, a senator friend called a friend of his and said, “I’ve got someone who would be great for that job you’re wanting to fill.”) From there, it’s building a new/more extensive network that then supports the move to another job.

      All that to say, if the company doesn’t seem skeevy in general, I wouldn’t worry at all about the reference issue.

  7. Detective Rosa Diaz*

    For Lw #1 it sounds like your husband is applying to places he knows will be a good cultural fit, which is awesome. Whenever I worry about something minor like this (ex: wearing flats at an interview, or wearing a sweater not a blazer) I think: Would I want to work at a place that cares?

    I had a boss who didn’t hire someone because their nails were blue. I think that sort of thing is really short sighted.

    Shoulder length isn’t even very extreme!

    1. Mirax*

      Blue nail polish is one of my Signature Looks, and now I’m trying to remember every interview I’ve been on in the last few years, wondering if this is me.

      1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        I’m wearing blue nail polish right now!

        I suppose I can understand wanting to hire someone who conforms to professional norms but there are SO MANY ways to do that and still be individual. Like the nail polish, or bright lipstick, or longer hair on a man (short hair as a woman) etcetcetc.
        To want to erase that is incomprehensible to me.

        But then again, I am from a country where the Secretary of Finance had a pony tail and earring.

        1. Chinook*

          Considering one of our MPs in Alberta still wanted to show her Oiler pride while working but knew that any bright orange clothing would either mark her as a)unprofessional or b)an enemy of any Flames fan, she proudly showed pictures on her Facebook feed of her tasteful orange and blue manicure for the world to see.

      2. ThatGirl*

        I am also wearing blue nail polish right now, though I don’t recall at all if I’ve worn any to previous interviews…

      3. Risha*

        Is blue polish even considered informal/unusual these days, even in very conservative settings? Black will still probably garner you some looks, or heavy glitter or rhinestones or nail art, but I’m kind of taken aback by the idea that any other solid color is considered outre. It seems like such a 1960s sentiment.

    2. LuckyAttorney*

      I work in the legal field, which is typically conservative about dress (i had to wear a suit to take the bar, although that state is one of the few holdouts) but for an employer who is not. Recently one colleague went out and got her hair dyed irridescent red/purple and many of the women in my office liked it and bright dyed hair became a fad in my office, including among management. For some contrast a friend from law school just got a memo limiting shoe colors because the burgundy shoes she wore were unacceptable. Op’s husband would have no problem in my workplace but probably would in my friend’s.

      1. Delta Delta*

        Gasp! Burgundy shoes! She’ll never be able to interpret a statute correctly unless her shoes are black! (Says a lawyer who had purple-streaked hair for a while and appeared in court that way and nobody cared)

    3. Elemeno P.*

      “Would I want to work at a place that cares?”

      Yes! I wear one of my nicer daily work outfits to interviews. If they don’t like how I look in the interview, they won’t like how I look at any other time.

    4. Lia*

      I had a boss who did not hire an intern because the intern showed up for the interview in a polo, khakis, and worst of all, NO BELT. Normal dress code required a tie, but the boss was most upset about the lack of a belt.

      Interestingly, I wore a red suit to my interview there, and was hired — the boss even mentioned it in a positive way later!

  8. gsa*

    #2 reminds me of the Birdman and Liz. A sincre and proper apology would’ve made that situation so much better. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry”, seems to be the proper language.

    As to how to approach, do it immediately.

      1. Alice*

        Look, I think OP is great for wanting to apologize, and what I’m about to say isn’t a criticism of OP because I don’t know the details of the situation – who knows what led up to this encounter.
        But, MommyMD, I’m uncomfortable with the idea that car crashes are “accidents,” normal things that just happen and couldn’t have been prevented or foreseen. I will post some links with more info below.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          But it didn’t actually happen. The OP “almost” hit the coworker

          We also don’t know whose fault it was. The OP could have looked and no one was there, and coworker may have walked behind the already moving car- which I see all the time in parking lots!

          1. Alice*

            I agree – that’s why I said in my post I wasn’t criticizing OP and we don’t know the details. In fact I’m also not criticizing MommyMD, who used a word – “accident” – that most people would use.
            I’m just inviting people to reflect on the fact that most “accidents” are not purely “accidental” in that speeding, lack of attention, failing to use indicators, etc. are factors. I don’t know if any of these issues were at play in OP’s situation, and like you say, it doesn’t matter.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              If it doesn’t matter, it has nothing to do with what happened in the letter, and does not reflect on any substantive part of MommyMD’s comment… why are you bringing it up?

        2. Ann Furthermore*

          It depends entirely on circumstances. At my last company, parking was a huge problem after the new CEO began his reign of terror and issued an edict stating that people were no longer allowed to work from home, and that everyone had to be in the office every day. Prior to that, the company had been dealing with the office space and parking issue by encouraging managers to let people work from home when it was feasible.

          The parking situation deteriorated immediately. If you weren’t there by about 8:00 each day, you were out of luck. People started parking in handicapped spots, in the spots reserved for motorcycles, along the edges of the lot, which were supposed to be fire lines and kept clear at all times, and on the non-parking spot side of curbs and barriers. It was very difficult to navigate because there was no room to maneuver your vehicle and visibility was impaired. It was so easy to start backing out, and then suddenly have someone who was walking from the parking lot suddenly appear, who you would have seen with no problem had the lot not been full of illegally parked cars. I was surprised that there were no injuries, although there were reports of people actually coming to blows one day over the last open space in the parking lot.

          They finally realized that it was a disaster and a lawsuit waiting to happen, and rented some space from a company up the street and started using that as an overflow lot. And even then, they still tried to take the stingy way out by not having shuttle service. That is, until an employee with a knee injury had to walk from the overflow lot to the office — which was downhill — using one of those walker-type things with wheels, where you rest one knee on a padded shelf-type thing, and then push yourself along with your other foot, and had a very difficult time keeping his walking aid (or whatever it’s called) under control.

        3. Super Anon*

          Yeah, as a pedestrian who has gotten bumped by a car once and almost hit many times, I object to this. I am an anxious person who is very careful to cross at crosswalks or corners, to look both ways, to signal to drivers that I am crossing, and to be visible/visibly dressed.
          All the times I have almost been hit it has been the driver’s fault.

          The drivers in my area are very bad. They don’t use turn signals, are reluctant to stop at stop signs, etc. The police here will run special “stings” with cops pretending to be pedestrians just to catch the many bad drivers.

          When I was “bumped” by a car, I was crossing at a crosswalk at an intersection. The woman who hit me was looking sideways and then hit the pedal. She never looked to check that there wasn’t anyone in the crosswalk she and another car were stopped at. I had made eye contact with the other driver, on my side of the street, but she was too far away for me to make eye contact with her. Back then it never occurred to me that someone would drive without looking where they were going, so irresponsible!

          When she hit me it wasn’t an accident, it was careless negligence. What really irks me is that she didn’t even get out of the car to see if I was okay. She made an oops face and drove off.

          1. Super Anon*

            Edited to add: Not that it is always the driver’s fault, I just object to calling all crashes “accidents”, which simply isn’t factual. Also I meant to add that the driver who hit me drove FORWARD without looking where she was going.

  9. Lioness*

    I agree with Alison. The organization should decide if the lack of experience is a deal-breaker since the job won’t become suddenly easier with a pay cut.

    If it is something you would think you would genuinely succeed and this is in a long list of qualifications that you are otherwise strong in, then this should be what your cover letter should focus on? Without proactively asking for a pay cut.

  10. P_R*

    I think the “yup” totally depends on the industry. I work in law, and “yup”–even inter-office–would probably seem a little too casual.

    I also feel that an outright “Yes.” can feel too formal, but I just try to find work-arounds. For example, if my boss asks me a simple question, like “Did you send the __ to __?” I’ll respond “I did, it went out Thursday,” or if it’s “Can you do this?” I’ll respond “Sure.” instead of “Yes.”

    1. patricia*

      I’m also in law and use “yep” almost daily (though not “yup” for some reason). Usually mostly with my colleagues, but sometimes also with clients or other counsel if they’re people I’ve worked with often and am comfortable with. I guess maybe it’s just a “know your audience” kind of thing.

      1. P_R*

        I think you’re right. I do see people using it when I’m CC’d on emails sometimes, but it tends to be people who have more seniority–one of those things that the partner can get away with, but I try to err on the side of caution since I’m younger and lower on the totem pole.

    2. Michele*

      Same here. I always like to give some specific information in addition to the “yes” or “sure”, even if it is, “sure. I will take care of that.” It just seems more engaging.

  11. Djuna*

    #5 I once had a boss who made us run every single email that was going outside our team by him *before* sending it. He was a real stickler for email formality. Once we were sufficiently “trained” he got more hands-off, but I remember being chastised by him for something another team member sent. I pointed out that I had no control over what anyone other than me sent, and he made the poor sod he was annoyed with send all his emails through me for “approval” after that. So even though you’re annoyed by this, it could be worse.

    I noticed that your boss is saying this about emails going to people outside your company. It sounds like he thinks their communication style is more formal, or that he believes formality has to be ratcheted up a few notches on external mails in general. For many people (and in many companies), email is still considered a formal medium, or at least a touch more formal than IMs.

    Even if you’re matching your tone to theirs and often get yups from them, you may find it hard to persuade him of that – especially since he’s already brought it up more than once. Battles over style can be protracted, and are seldom worth the energy they take. We’ve officially dialled back formality and jargon on mails at work, and we’re still battling hold-outs a year later. In our case it’s worth it, but in yours? I’d just go along to get along.

      1. Djuna*

        It really wasn’t – and the manager that replaced him was totally baffled by people asking him for approval on emails. It took a while for all of us to adjust to having agency over our own communication, as weird as that sounds.

        1. Lablizard*

          I’m picturing myself as the new manager and thinking, “You want me to do what?”. Seems like such a time eater.

  12. GermanGirl*

    #4 If you feel they were asking good questions and got a good feel for you and your abilities during the interview, then don’t worry about it.

    In my country the whole reference calling is still new and unusual but that doesn’t mean we routinely make bad hiring decisions. They already know from your relative, whom they seem to trust, that you are not a scam so no need to check your employment history. And if your interview didn’t raise any concerns and they can’t think of anything else they want to ask about you, why bother calling someone?

    1. Lablizard*

      Where I am from reference checks of names submitted by an applicant are not a thing. It is who referred you and any follow up done by the employer after the interview. You would never know who they talked to.

    2. Myrin*

      Ooh, I didn’t know reference calls exist here at all (not even as a “new and unusual”) thing! I’d definitely never heard of them before starting to read AAM, but interesting to know. (Same thing goes for phone interviews, btw.)

  13. Barry Allen*

    #5 – I guess it also depends on your region as much as your work culture. I default to being formal with people I don’t know well (even coworkers) but if the person replying starts being less formal I generally pull back to that level (e.g. If they use casual language or emoticons, I generally will where appropriate).

    For what it’s worth, I live in Australia, so we’re all pretty casual here.

  14. Lilo*

    For #3: To be blunt, if a job pays way more than would be standard for you in your field and has some key requirements you don’t have, there is a good chance you simply don’t qualify for the job. Companies usually list good salaries to attract the kind of candidate they are looking for, not typically as a basis for negotiation for lower skills. I don’t think there is anything wrong with applying to this one job, with the understanding that it is never a good idea to get too attached to a single job application. BUT I would be careful about applying to too many jobs like this where there appears to be a significant gap, particularly to the same organization, because it may make you seem out of touch, have unrealistic expectations, or just resume bombing, and hurt your consideration for better matching jobs.

    1. Jwal*

      That’s what I was thinking – the salary is often a guide to the level that they’re picturing the job being at. The fact that it’s not only higher than usual but significantly higher I would say indicates that the experience is something they’re looking for.

    1. Parenthetically*

      I have used “yup” in emails and texts to probably all of my coworkers and my boss, and vice versa. There is definitely no hard and fast rule here.

      1. Allison*

        Same here, although context is everything. Casual workplace, colleague I have a good report with, and an already informal e-mail thread? Sure, why not? Stuffy workplace, e-mailing a superior on an important matter? No. It is always “yes,” never “yeah,” “yup,” or “yep.”

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I just searched my work emails for “yep” and “yup” and found hundreds of each of them, from a range of clients (way more yep’s than yup’s though). There are plenty of places where these are totally fine and normal.

        1. Hillary*

          Out of curiosity, how many times does okie-dokie appear? I’ve used it three times in the last three months (once with my favorite modifier okie-dokie artichokie). I’ve also used yeppers ten times :-)

          At my office, this kind of informality is fine with coworkers, and even with vendors that I have close relationships with. I’d never use it with a customer that I didn’t know extremely well.

      3. K.*

        Literally used it everywhere I’ve worked and am not put off by seeing it. “Yep [my preferred spelling for whatever reason], will do” has always been an ok response to a boss’s request. I had a boss who liked to reply “you betcha.” I’m not sure I’d reply to the CEO that way, but I’ve used & seen it many, many, many times.

  15. Name (required)*


    It’s awesome you have good enough family connections to see you through to an interview. However you were the person who attended the interview and did well enough for a job offer (don’t forget that one!!)

    Having said that, there is a really high chance that if / when you take the job, the word will get out that you had friends in high places and you may get judged by your colleagues in that context. It may be that in order to gain the respect of your colleagues to be, you will have to work twice as hard to gain the same respect as someone who didn’t have someone sponsor them into the company and applied on the open market. This wouldn’t be a reflection on you as a person, just how you got the job.

    It’s not fair, but then someone on the open market would probably think it wasn’t fair you got an interview and no reference checks ahead of them. It’s one of those fraught issues where the company can feel more comfortable knowing they have a person verified by someone they know and trust, but you did get a leg up here that other well qualified people without the connections you have didn’t get. This doesn’t mean you aren’t the right person for the job, but be aware, you’ll be coming with baggage an unconnected person won’t have.

    Many people get jobs through family or friend connections and there’s nothing wrong with that (as much as it’s bloody annoying if you are a random well qualified stranger who misses out). The big caution I would advise is that although you got a fast track through the interview process (and remember, you still interviewed well enough to be offered the job so it’s not all about the connections), I would be careful not to give your new colleagues any indication that you intend to rely on family connections in relation to your performance. You may be pulled up by potential new colleagues (I’ve seen this before) and taken to task in front of other employees with something along the lines of ‘you wouldn’t have got the job if it wasn’t for XXX). think about how you might respond to this if it occurs and practice a response. I’d suggest something along the lines of ‘It’s true I heard about the job from person X. Then I submitted an application like everyone else and they offered me the job. I honestly didn’t expect it and I’m stoked to be here”.

    If new colleagues push it further, then advise them that you feel an immense obligation to do person X proud given the circumstances and you are going to work hard to ensure their faith in you wasn’t misguided. Refuse any further engagement and just repeat and recycle until the message gets through. And demonstrate it through hard work etc etc

    Good luck!

    1. Lablizard*

      It really depends on how well you are known in your field and region. For my current job, the hiring manager (someone who knew me professionally) asked me to apply and they hired me without an interview because the grand boss was my former great grandboss from two jobs prior. The main reactions by co-workers was, “So glad you took the job!” and “They poached you from Teapots Inc? Awesome!”. No one seemed to hold it against me that I was hired based on connections.

    2. Jessie the First (or second)*

      “Having said that, there is a really high chance that if / when you take the job, the word will get out that you had friends in high places and you may get judged by your colleagues in that context.”

      Networking is so very, very normal in my field. It is just not a thing anyone would think twice about. Whether it is a Big Deal in OP’s industry, we do not know, but because networking and having connections that get a person interviews is common enough in a fair number of fields, you really can’t say that there is “a really high chance” that OP will be judged for it and need to prove herself. That is not accurate advice as a blanket statement.

  16. Kate in Scotland*

    My husband has long hair (mid-back). He ties it back, but because it’s curly it’s not always super neat.
    His strategy in job interviews/formal meetings (fairly conservative field) is that he “balances out” the hair by keeping his clothes on the formal side and being meticulous about all other aspects of his appearance.
    OP1’s husband’s hair sounds like much less of an issue than my husband’s. Definitely worth at starting interviewing with it long, not least because it’s such a pain to regrow if he cuts it then finds an employer who would be fine with it.

    1. Wrench Turner*

      My hair gets super frizzy at the slightest humidity or wind. Sometimes I put in several hair ties to keep my tail together and just a little gel or something to keep the top of my head from puff balling. It’s a struggle to be this beautiful but someone has to.

    2. Parenthetically*

      I think this is the best strategy. A well-tailored suit, a crisply pressed shirt, a modern but not trendy tie, immaculate fingernails, polished shoes, clean hair and skin.

    3. Annie Moose*

      That’s a good point. I work with a guy who usually wears his hair in a bun, but we all dress professionally (we’re a bit weird–very laidback culturally, yet our dresscode is suits), and it balances out in my opinion.

      (then again, I fully confess I’m only in my mid-twenties, so I might just be more used to men having long hair)

  17. Channel Z*

    OP1: A former colleague in the pharmaceutical industry who is a windsurfer prefers his wavy hair long, but he says he cuts his hair short when he is in job hunting. I suppose this is to avoid being labeled as a hippy or surfer dude, and in the conservative area we lived this was not a compliment. I noticed some retirees who are into bikes also grew their long after they finished, maybe to avoid the biker label. This was in the early naughties, but I doubt much has changed. I think this attitude stemmed from conservative upper management, rather than office culture which was more relaxed.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I ran into something similar. At my first real adult job, I was teaching at a school that was fairly conservative, at least as far as dress code went. One of my male colleagues in another department had wild (not combed / put up in a pony tail) long hair, which I thought was kind of cool, but he told me he had to get it cut to get the job! He said he’d interviewed at multiple schools with his long hair and didn’t get a single job offer. He cut his hair short, and then he got a job almost immediately. Once he was at the school, though, he grew it out again, and nobody complained.

  18. Channel Z*

    OP5: I agree with the boss on this one. Yup sounds dismissive, like the request you’re replying to isn’t important to you. I wouldn’t like to receive Yup as a reply to anything, I would be borderline offended. If yes is too formal in your situation, maybe add something to it, like Yes, no problem or Yes, that’s the one or whatever suits the conversation.

    1. Czhorat*

      I agree; “yup” is oddly casual for business email correspondence. I may be biased in that my personal style is somewhat formal, but I don’t like emails to use the same language as casual speech.

      If your boss wants correspondence to lean more toward the formal that is their prerogative; it doesn’t cost you anything to say “yes” instead of “yup”. It’s even the same number of keystrokes.

      1. MicroManagered*

        It depends entirely on the context. I have work contacts I’d say “yep” to because “yes” would sound too formal, and I have contacts that I’d say “yes” to because “yep” sounds too informal. For an outside vendor or client, I’d probably go with “yes” until I knew them very well. At the same time, from the other info OP #5 gave (that Boss wants to be copied on everything), I think it’s possible that Boss is just a nitpicker.

        1. Czhorat*

          Written correspondence is different than verbal, and tends towards more formal.

          Deciding on the tone of professional correspondence is within the manager’s purview; “Yup” is informal enough that I’d not see this one as a nitpick. So far as copying is concerned, it depends. I’ll say that at least 80% of my official emails have *someone* in my organization copied, if not an entire project team. Depending on the nature of what you’re emailing about, it might be appropriate to keep the boss looped in.

          1. jennielf*

            I am the OP and yes, I *was* getting too informal in my emails.
            Before I got this job 3 months ago, I was a stay at home mom for 4 years. I had gotten out of the practice of writing more formal emails, so this was a wake up call and (after the initial ego sting) I checked more of the standard emails my company sends. And, I have tightened my email formality in response. We are a small, laid-back, fairly casual company, but I was getting *too* informal.
            So I appreciate the advice everyone. Verbally, I say yup or yep a lot (I tend to be quite casual in my speech patterns). Emails need to be more formal especially outside the company.
            The boss needs to be looped in on these emails because he is a) a workaholic b) built the network/web of computers that I am working with. So a little nitpick-y, but maybe necessary?

            1. Czhorat*

              It’s really not unusual to loop others in on emails. If nothing else, it makes sure someone else on your team knows what’s going on.

              Finding the right tone for the right occasion can be tricky; I tend to be a touch formal in speech as well as in writing, which isn’t always the best thing. In any event, the flexibility to be willing to change is a good thing for you to have. Good luck, and welcome back to the workforce.

  19. VivaVirago*

    #1 I’m an accountant myself, and have worked in environments where it would have been absolutely fine to have long hair, and where it really wouldn’t have been. So I agree that it depends on the workplace. For context, when I worked in a large accountancy firm, there was at least one instance where a man with longer hair were hauled up in front of one of the partners and told in no uncertain terms to keep it shorter and tidier. In this case, it wasn’t *that* long even – it could conceivably have been classed as ‘untidy’ but only if you’re adhering to gendered standards, because I doubt the style he had would have raised eyebrows on a woman. Men with long hair was just not a thing in that workplace.

    Where I work now (a large charity), I can’t think of specific instances of that, but it definitely wouldn’t be a problem. And as a hiring manager in the finance team, I wouldn’t bat an eye so long as he was presenting himself in a professional way for interview. I personally wouldn’t care if the long hair wasn’t tied back, so long as it was clean, and brushed etc, but tying back neatly is a good compromise for an interview.

    If he’s looking for a position in an environment where he can be a bit more relaxed – which it sounds like he is – then I’d keep the long hair that he likes. If an organisation doesn’t want to hire him for that reason only, then it’s probably not the right cultural fit for him at that workplace. The exception would be if he needs a job urgently and is likely to have to apply to a mix of more and less conservative workplaces, but from the letter it sounds like he can afford to be a bit more choosy at this point.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think it should ever be a thing, and I hate that it is. I have a LOT of views about this. But unfortunately the reality is that finance can be a conservative place to be. Even where I am now, I’m basically the only person in the finance team who wears jeans on a regular basis (like, y’know, everybody else in the organisation). Happily, it’s not a problem.

    1. VivaVirago*

      Whoops, that was really unclear. I was writing quickly. When I said “I can’t think of specific instances of that”, I meant “I can’t think of specific instances of men who have longer-than-usual hair”.

  20. Wrench Turner*

    I hate buns on men (and the term ‘man bun’). They almost never, ever look good. Keep your long hair in a neat ponytail with similar colored hair ties -no bright flashy things- and you’ll be fine. It’s what I do!

    As for checking references, I’ve worked a few places that didn’t. Some of those, I should have done MY homework on – a step often forgot for the hungry.

    1. Myrin*

      Well, hair styles in general are super subjective, though, and I don’t think one can say anything pertaining to them with quite as much certainty as you do in your first paragraph – I, for example, find buns on men very attractive and like them much better than ponytails (I feel that way about buns in general, no matter the person’s gender [expression]; they also appear neater to me for whatever reason). They are also very much The Thing to wear for longhaired men in my area, so there’s a lot of personal and cultural background and preference going into this.

      1. HannahS*

        Yeah. It’s also pretty rude to imply, “OP’s husband’s hairstyle doesn’t look good, so he shouldn’t wear it.” It’s so subjective; I prefer buns to ponytails, myself. Besides, the question isn’t about whether or not people like it, it’s about whether or not it’s considered unprofessional.

    2. Mookie*

      I like buns — they look impressive to me because I literally use a bowl to stencil-cut my hair on occasion, Moe Howard-style but without the bangs — and bright colors are fine on everyone if it’s otherwise in keeping with the culture. I never understand why men are discouraged from having harmless peacocking fun with fashion (ask me who my favorite Doctor is).

      Also, I’m putting in a good word for unreliable dirty bikers.

      1. Anion*

        Colin Baker, really?

        That poor man. Have you ever heard him talk about his Doctor outfit? He wanted to wear something like Christopher Eccleston wore, and they put him in the technicolor kook coat. Which actually was kind of a fun, zany outfit, but given that his Doctor was…kind of an arrogant jerk, it really didn’t work. At least IMO. (The nickname my husband and I use for his Doctor is not repeatable here, lol, but it has to do with him being a Doctor who sucks things.) His Doctor would have been excellent in a more severe outfit.

        It amuses me highly that his daughter was, as a child, best friends with Peter Davison’s daughter, and has said in interviews that she thought everybody’s dad would at some point play the Doctor. Like, it was her friend’s dad’s turn, and then her dad’s, and then she expected another friend’s dad to get the part. Isn’t that cute?

        Anyway. Sorry for the OT!

        1. Mookie*

          Hahahaha I love it!

          It is a shame Baker never got the opportunity McGann did, to collaborate on a nice wardrobe for a return visit.

          (For me, this was a trick question. In my mind, all Doctors look smart and love clothes. I will be sad to see Capaldi depart, though, because his knowledge of tailoring and couture is superlative and the careful choices he made in the initial episodes to emulate Third are pure fanboy.)

    3. Anion*

      I agree. I was going to say that for me, if I was conservative wrt dress/appearance, and hiring in a conservative field, I’d be far more likely to thumbs-up the low ponytail than the man-bun. I’m sorry, but to me “man bun” says “hipster/hippie type,” whereas low ponytail just says “Guy who likes to keep his hair long.”

      Obviously some people see it differently, but given that the ponytail on men has been around for decades (in this iteration, I mean; obviously it’s been around for centuries) and the man-bun is fairly new, I’d err on the side of ponytail–unless his hair is *really* long like, all the way down his back; then the bun might look tidier.


      1. kavm*

        So you would never hire a “hipster/hippie type” person, no matter if they were perfectly qualified for the position?

        I honestly don’t understand the big fuss. It’s hair. Different people wear it differently. There’s no reason to specifically not hire someone because they look like a hipster or hippie.

        1. Anion*

          I feel like you missed the part where I said, “If I was conservative wrt dress/appearance, and hiring in a conservative field, I’d be far more likely,” to hire the ponytail than the man-bun. I figured the “if their qualifications etc. were the same,” was clearly implied there, but I guess not, so I’ll add it here. If they were both equally qualified, I would be *more likely* to hire the ponytail than the man-bun.

          I’m pretty darn sure, though, that nowhere in those sentences does it say, “I’d never hire a ‘hipster/hippie type person, no matter if they were perfectly qualified for the position.”

          The ponytail looks/feels more professional to me, out of the two. I’m entitled to that opinion. I’m entitled to make hiring decisions based on which candidate I feel is more professional of the two. The fact that you don’t understand the big fuss doesn’t mean other people aren’t allowed to, and it doesn’t mean “They look like a hipster/hippie” is not, in fact, a perfectly valid reason not to hire someone if their professional appearance is important to you and the office you run–just as “She came to her interview in a spandex leopard-print minidress that barely covered her bottom and had a neckline cut to her navel, fishnet tights, and a pair of six-inch platform heels,” is a perfectly valid reason not to hire someone if their professional appearance is important to you and the office you run.

          As it happens, I am not particularly conservative wrt dress/appearance. But if I was, that would still be valid, and I would still be entitled to be so.

          1. Emi.*

            Me neither. Hipsters are a particular type of smug pre-trendy people, and they can be of any age.

      2. Brogrammer*

        “Man bun” isn’t the same as a bun on a man. The “man bun” is, like you mention, the sloppy hipster topknot. It’s different from a man who wears his hair in a low, neat bun which OP has clarified is how her husband wears his hair.

    4. EE*

      Similar colour to hair? But then you’re missing a chance to do what my husband does and match hair-bobbin to tie!

      1. Lizzle*

        Ooh, what a great idea!

        I think “man bun” usually refers to a flashy topknot, which is not what the OP’s husband has–he has a regular, low bun. It just happens to be on a man. To me that reads as even more conservative than a pony tail.

        1. Horse Lover*

          That’s how I read it too. I think with the topknot I’d be…not necessarily thrown off by it but–it would stand out to me more. Whereas a neat low bun wouldn’t even register.

    5. TL -*

      Seconding that hairstyles are subjective. I’ve seen plenty of men with long hair that looks fine – as long as it’s well cared for, it should read as professional when neatly styled (in a not conversation place).

      1. LiveAndLetDie*

        I agree. I think so long as his long hair is clean and the bun (or low ponytail) isn’t so loose that hair is falling out of it and making him look unkempt, he should be fine keeping his hair at whatever length he likes. I think long hair on men is only unprofessional if it isn’t clean and well-maintained–if he’s well-groomed, it should work out just fine. As long as he isn’t using the ponytail/bun to try and mask the fact that he hasn’t washed his hair in a month or something, IMO it shouldn’t be a problem.

  21. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    LW 2. Offer a quick apology to this person. Also, whenever possible, back into a parking space, it’s much safer.

    1. LiveAndLetDie*

      Or you can just make sure you’re looking before you back out of a space. Not everyone has the skill to back into a space (I’ve seen plenty of people try at my own office, and it doesn’t seem much safer to me when they’re risking dinging the car beside them all the time).

      1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

        If you can’t safely maneuver your car in reverse you probably shouldn’t be on the road at all. Backing into a space is much safer. And, not that it’s likely to happen in a work parking lot, but looking before you back out doesn’t help if a little kid is running a few steps ahead of their parent but are too short to be seen over the trunk. I saw a really close call in a Target parking lot a couple of years ago, it was terrifying.

  22. Legalchef*

    I think “yup” and “yep” are fine, depending on context and recipient. I probably wouldn’t use “yup” in response to a request from my big boss for me to do something, but if I am going back and forth with one of my supervisees trying to explain something and they say “so you mean I should do x y z?” I might say “yup, exactly!”

    Then again, I also use exclamation points sometimes and even a well-placed smiley face at times. But this is totally a “know your company thing.” After I started working here I only started using exclamation points etc after my boss did. It definitely wouldn’t fly everywhere – which means for the LW that if boss doesn’t like it, s/he shouldn’t do it.

  23. Bolt*

    2: I’ve been on the receiving end of almost getting hit a number of times; it is the hazard of walking near parked cars. Not once have I even expected the driver to get out to apologize to me… it is the kind of thing where you get miffed for a moment and then move on mentally. It would of course me different if I was knocked over by trying to move out of the way or your vehicle touched me.

    At this point you are pretty much apologizing because of your own guilt over rudeness. You can of course apologize if you wish but I would worry about making more out of a situation than necessary. It could even get ugly if this coworker isn’t entirely fond of you – suddenly it changes from some random person being careless to someone they don’t like adding fuel to the fire.

    1. NutellaNutterson*

      I agree – maybe because I’ve always lived in large cities, but getting out of your car would be super strange, and likely seen as aggressive. A wave and look of surprise is all I’d do or expect.

    2. CheeryO*

      This makes me feel validated! I had a close call with a coworker (sort of his fault – I had just backed out of a spot in a tricky location and was straightening out when he popped out from behind another car and started walking across the road without looking or stopping). I gave him the “I’m sorry!” wave and he emailed me later telling me to be more careful in the parking lot.

  24. Callalily*

    #1: Working in accounting it certainly depends on WHERE you work.

    My first employer was an uptight; everyone wears a suit; no individuality firm. My second employer was an extremely casual firm where individuality was encouraged. I can’t imagine what I’d do if I had to leave and ended up with an uptight firm… my therapeutic piercings would be the first thing to go.

    Men can pull off long hair with some work, and sometimes it requires more than a basic bun or ponytail.

    I would recommend he go to a hairdresser and see if they can show him some methods to style it so that it looks VERY professional and polished. One of my clients (in real estate) has hair past his shoulders yet found a method of putting it up so that his hair tucks underneath itself and it makes you think he has super thick hair.

    P.S. This doesn’t help but I was just thinking this was a perfect time for a mullet…

  25. Jolie*

    (Apologies for reposting comment: I had initially accidentally posted it as a reply to someone else- please feel free to delete it where it shows up as a reply) :

    Op1 : this may be controversial /may not apply to all fields (I’m doing policy research for small nonprofits and the friend who gave me this piece of advice works in publishing) but it can actually be a good thing in a job interview to look a bit different from most candidates /how the most stereotypical image of “person on job interview” looks like.

    This is because standing out from the crowd makes you memorable, while if you look exactly like everyone else it will all be a little bit of a blur I the interviewer’s head. Plus, you will feel more comfortable and confident in your skin,which will show in how you interact with the interviewer. I think this is, hands down, the best piece of advice about job interviews I ever received.

    For instance, last time I was job-hunting, my go-to job interview outfit was : red lace blouse, black classic suit jacket, red wool A-line skirt with gray flowers and black trimming, black sheer pantyhose, black heels, hair în Audrey Hepburn chignon with red bow. I did agonise about it for ages & asked probably 10 people in my field for advice, but that’s what made me feel bold, creative and confident, and I really stood out.

    So, could a distinctive hairstyle be actually an asset in a job interview?

    1. Delta Delta*

      That’s a really good point. If you show up for an interview feeling like you look good and feeling confident in your presentation, you’ll probably project well during the interview. And if things go wrong, you can always say, “hey, at least I looked sharp.”

    2. legalchef*

      I think this is true, but only to a point. You don’t want to be so memorable for what you are wearing that you aren’t memorable for how fantastic a candidate you are for the job.

      1. Jolie*

        Yeah, I kind of feel like a small detail like long hair is just the right amount of memorable. I’m not advocating light-up sneakers and a biker jacket.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I think this only works if you have impeccable taste & distinct style. I’m not really into clothes, and I’m pretty sure I would get this wrong. I live in classic styles in neutral colors anyway, so a plain boring interview suit is NBD to me.

      1. Jolie*

        I think it’s also a good idea not to wear to a job interview something that you would never ever wear at work. If that is your style and generally appropriate, by all means go for it, but if you’re not a “classic suit” kind of person and the workplace isn’t a “classic suit” kind of place, why should you do it?

        That reminds me a bit of a post on AAM some time ago, where the workplace was casual but the OP (or was it a co-worker) was wearing classical suits because that was her style/what she looked and felt best in – case in which more power to her, wear what you like as long as it’s clean and decent.

        1. Emi.*

          The problem with this is that a workplace can be “classic suit” for interviews, but not for everyday.

          1. Jolie*

            How would that even work? Can you give an example?

            I’m not advocating showing up in jeans and t-shirt even if the office is generally casual, but I can’t imagine something a little bit distinctive being judged negatively in a workplace culture that isn’t generally very straight-laced. Sounds unlikely to me

            1. Emi.*

              Hm, I think I misread your comment, so this makes less sense as a reply to it than I thought, but I thought you should generally dress one step more formally for interviews than you would for work, unless work is a suit anyway. So in an industry where people wear t-shirts to work, you should wear a polo or a nice top for interviews, and in an industry where people wear slacks and shirts, you might wear a suit, and the fact that you don’t like suits wouldn’t mean that you won’t like dressing for that job.

  26. Delta Delta*

    #4 – I feel like the reference issue depends on the situation. If the prospective hire is known in his/her industry or community (and not singling out OP, here, but generally), maybe reference checking isn’t necessary. It probably depends on the kind of job, too. If it’s for a highly-skilled or management position, reference checking is probably a good idea. If it’s for a different kind of position, maybe not necessarily so important. Also, it might be that for OP, the connection knows of OP’s work history and knows s/he will be a good fit based on knowledge they already have.

    The other thing. I worked somewhere once where the Big Boss hated the hiring process and never wanted to have to actually screen applicants and interview candidates. I think we went through probably 8 different employees over the course of about 4 years (this is at a small business of 8-10 total employees) who were all “connection-hires.” They were all ridiculous disasters in different ways. I know Big Boss never checked references because he said so, and because his attitude was “if Fergus suggested this person, she must be okay.” He once remarked that he didn’t want to let down Fergus (or whichever connection suggested the person) or burn a bridge with Fergus by not making a hire. The end result was that when Big Boss remarked that he needed to hire someone, his connections suggested employees who were not very good but who were just people they knew of who might be interested. The connections probably didn’t realize Big Boss thought the suggestions were actual endorsements. Overall productivity suffered immensely due to the turnover and morale dropped every time we had a person leave and then another get hired in this fashion.

    I DO NOT mean to say that OP will fall into that category. It’s just an observation I’ve made in a situation I was in and where things can go sideways without doing any reference checking.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      ‘Big Boss never checked references because he said so, and because his attitude was “if Fergus suggested this person, she must be okay.” ‘ Been there, done that, got the battle scars. I really do appreciate employee referrals, and am quick to point out something a lot of people don’t think about. There’s a difference between a real referral process where certain basic qualifications have to be met and candidates still have to be consistently vetted, and a casual ‘Oh, you should talk to So-and-so, they’re good people and I hear good things about them.’ Employee referrals can be outstanding hires, because the theory that an employee wouldn’t recommend someone who can’t do the job has its merits.

      However, I’ve also seen terrible hires because of what you described, Delta. Bad candidate screening, bad or absent interview process, poor culture fits, referred candidates who didn’t meet even basic qualifications or had ever done the work required – all because someone thought an employee referral should be a slam-dunk hire. They aren’t, and shouldn’t be. A good referral program makes it clear that referrals are not guaranteed a job, but will get a fair review. And this review will be as consistent and unbiased as possible, meaning there will be no unfair advantage or ‘nudge-nudge-wink-wink’ consideration for the referred candidate. If hired, the referring employee will get the stated bonus, and the candidate will go through the typical vetting process.

      I know some of my hiring managers miss the days of hiring with just a handshake, but that’s partially why we have such complicated and irritating interview processes now. Trust me on this: go through one OFCCP audit and have the auditors probe your hiring practices and employee retention, and especially why referred candidates without basic skills ‘get moved to the front of the line’ – their words, not mine – and you’ll come up with a more consistent and defendable practice, too.

  27. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Regarding #4: There are background checks, and there are reference checks, and we folks in corporate staffing see a new trend here. Because references can be cherry-picked by the candidate and subjective to the point of bias, many companies don’t conduct them anymore – my Fortune 50 employer doesn’t. These employers rely on a more targeted (and hopefully objective) interview process so they don’t get swayed by a candidate’s PR. You know, The Halo Effect and all that.

    Background checks still should be conducted, though, if only for whatever compliance is relevant. I’ve learned scary things trying to confirm work history, education, military service, and criminal backgrounds. You’d be surprised at how many offers I’ve withdrawn because people fibbed (overstated titles, sketchy or inconsistent dates of employment), and because of outright fiction (never worked for an employer or served in the military as claimed).Background checking is a more objective process that confirms what the candidate tells us on their application – a legal document, after all – about their experience, relevant history, and qualifications. They either have that master’s degree or they don’t, it’s pretty straightforward.

    Maybe the OP’s potential new employer feels the relative’s referral is endorsement enough for them. Regardless, I wouldn’t take this as a worrisome thing.

    1. Audiophile*

      I’m curious about the titles piece of the equation. Are we talking people claiming to be VPs, when they really weren’t? Or employers not confirming the title a candidate used?

      For instance, I had two back to back receptionist positions and someone in HR recommended I rename one so I wasn’t pigeonholed. I did and used it for years, since it was my longest stretch of employment, no one really batted an eye. And my references never said “Audiophile isn’t a teapot coordinator, actually she’s teapot associate.”

      When I applied for the occasional government job, I used my official job title.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Great question, and most employers don’t worry too much about small inconsistencies. Last year we hired someone whose previous title was Executive Assistant, and her employer had her listed as Senior Admin. Her title was supposed to be ExecAssist in the employer’s HR system, but never got changed. This is why we don’t automatically withdraw offers – records aren’t always updated, mistakes happen, so we investigate and apply some common sense and compassion. And we hired the Executive Assistant, no big deal. Our job was to confirm what she shared with us as factual information, and as best as we could tell, she did. Her employer dropped the ball, not her.

        You’re right on the money about people claiming elevated or fake titles, though. Individual contributors claiming the title of Project or Program Manager, team leads claiming the title of Manager, directors claiming C-level titles – these were/are not innocent mistakes and easy to check. In these cases, the candidate’s previous employers were adamant that the title we were given was not accurate, and therefore A Big Deal. When confronted, the candidate usually gave these responses:

        ‘Well, I’m already doing the work of a so I should have that title.’ Me, too, but Payroll still has my current title. So does yours.
        ‘That’s the title I’m supposed to get in my next promotion.’ Which was at least 1 year in the future.
        ‘If I were working at any other company in my field, that’s the title I would have.’ But you’re not, so you don’t.
        ‘I misunderstood, I thought I was supposed to list the title I was interviewing for.’ Funny, our application is pretty clear about what we wanted.
        ‘My boss calls me , so I thought it was my title.’ Maybe so, but you still need to confirm it.

        Even with this kind of error, I’ve seen cases where we determined the mistake wasn’t serious enough to be a serious misrepresentation, or we just gave them the benefit of the doubt. It took extra time and careful handling, but it made sense at the time. I hope this helps!

        1. LBK*

          I’m really enjoying reading your follow ups to these questions, so thanks for taking the time to respond! I get the sense that you have a good balance of structure and flexibility to account for the fact that both hiring managers and candidates are human, and neither one might operate perfectly every time. It sounds like you’ve found a good solution for trying to standardize hiring across what sounds like a huge organization, which I can imagine is quite an intricate puzzle.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Except that if you’re doing references well, you don’t rely on people the candidate cherry-picked. The better approach with references is to decide who you want to talk to and ask the candidate to put you in touch with those people — as in, “Can you connect me with your last two managers?” rather than relying on a list of people they pick.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Actually, that’s the kind of situation we’re trying to avoid. Those ‘side door’ reference checks can be very difficult to justify: when is the information actual, meaningful insight, and when is it gossip? That’s partially why we don’t do reference checks anymore, and why we come down very hard on hiring managers who do this kind of ‘reference check.’ Because we’re a global, publicly held company, we try to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, but smaller companies can be more relaxed with their reviews.

        I’ve been in staffing for over 30 years, and every decade or so SOPs change. We may well go back to checking references; for now, we’re not.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I don’t disagree with your reasoning at all! I’ve done exactly this kind of reference checking myself and was very careful: I didn’t ask questions that could be answered with a yes/no, am good at finding patterns, at dismissing sour grapes/gossip, and didn’t fall victim to The Halo Effect. I think you have to handle this kind of discussion carefully and discreetly, in fairness to the candidate first and foremost but also for your own hiring needs.

            Sorry to belabor the point, but that’s exactly why we tell our hiring managers not to make those calls to his/her network. Like candidates, hiring managers can grossly overestimate their abilities. Even when we coached them, they often took water cooler talk for fact and, frankly, just were not very good at handling this kind of discussion. After listening to hiring managers want to decline/hire because of really bad intel and, frankly, some indefensible reasons (‘My friend at ABC Co. says this person wasn’t really friendly, so forget her.’), we changed policy.

            Again, I’m not suggesting employers drop reference checking altogether. Just saying that we have valid reasons for not doing them, and that we changed our interview process to counteract it.

        1. LBK*

          If the issue is the reliability of the information you’re receiving, it’s pretty odd to me that you’d prefer to solely take the candidate’s word on everything; what makes that any more reliable? If anything I’d say the candidate is the least reliable person to ask about themselves, because they have the most to gain by lying.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            That’s a fair point, LBK, which is why I said upthread that my employer has a more targeted interview process – behavioral and competency interviews, culture fit assessments, etc. Turns out that interviewers – especially untrained, I-trust-my-gut interviewers – can be pretty unreliable, too.

            I will be the first to admit this kind of scrutiny can be daunting for a candidate, even if they have great experience. We ask targeted questions that can’t be answered with charm and personality. Candidates have to walk us through specific situations. Think PARS or STARS. But our employee retention and quality of hire have improved, because we’re making better and, yes, justifiable, decisions.

            1. LBK*

              Interesting. I’ve been in multiple departments that upped the ante on the hiring process after getting burned by bad hires, so I can appreciate exerting a high level of scrutiny – I think it’s perfectly fair and pretty necessary considering you’re trying to make the major decision to give this person a lot of your time and money and you have to make that decision in a limited timeframe.

              But that’s also why I’d want to gather as much information as I could, so references feel critical. I wouldn’t live and die by a reference’s feedback but it certainly adds a dimension to what a candidate says, in the same way that you have the candidate interview with multiple panelists so that you can get different perspectives instead of just having one hiring manager make the call.

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                I hear you – I’ve hired my own team and advised our hiring managers on building theirs, so I understand the desire to know as much as possible about a candidate. I’ve made bad hiring decisions, too, and hope I learned from my mistakes. And you’re right, it is an investment: bad hires can be quantified by lost productivity and cost to the business. Smart employers take this seriously.

                But employers have to decide what works for them, and be consistent in how they handle hiring. What works for a major defense contractor or a multinational company probably won’t work for a university or non-profit, and vice versa. Just a reality of business structures and needs.

                1. LBK*

                  For sure. I hope my comments aren’t coming off too judgmental – I’m genuinely intrigued by different views on the process. If it’s working for you (and particularly if it’s getting better results than you were getting before) then far be it from me to disagree!

          2. LBK*

            (This is mostly rhetorical, btw. It doesn’t sound like you have the authority to change this anyway, I’m just musing on the logic.)

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              No, I don’t, but my team and I were asked to be part of the discussions and policy reviews. In the end, we did what Corporate Counsel and our Compliance Lead recommended.

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                Sorry, hit ‘submit’ before I finished. Bad mouse behavior today. Meant to include that staffing does own the assessment and onboarding process, and we can build our policies as we see fit. Not sure if I made that clear, sorry. My team and I don’t make the decisions, but with over 3000 hires a year in the US, our experience and input are appreciated. My boss made the recommendations to her boss, the VP of Talent Acquistion, and they worked with Legal and Compliance. Hope that helps.

      2. Alton*

        Though I totally get the value of that, I wonder how you handle it when a candidate can’t really refer you to those people easily.

        I feel like I only got my current job because the hiring manager was pretty forgiving on this front, and I guess I must have seemed like a better fit overall compared to other people they’d interviewed. I’d worked for years at a job that had a “no reference” policy and where managers came and went every few months (I had 11 managers in 5 years. It was a very dysfunctional company). The only manager I would have trusted to give a reference was dramatically and suddenly fired, and I had no contact info for her. I was also hesitant to let people at that job know I was job hunting, and my previous jobs had been very short-term student work or family businesses. It was so stressful coming up with references.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’ve honestly never encountered it — because of LinkedIn, etc. people usually can find old managers, and I’ve actually never had a problem getting around a “no references” policy. So I can only speculate on how I’d handle it. It would depend on context, but I think I’d be pretty wary. I’d really lean on the person to come up with other people who could reliably speak to their work.

          1. Alton*

            I was able to use some former professors, but that was pretty much it. The company I spent most of my college years at was so dysfunctional that I really didn’t trust anyone, and most of my managers had barely seen or interacted with me.

    3. Lora*

      My current employer never called any of my references – they already had many of my previous colleagues on staff, so they merely had to ask their employees about me. I personally tend to do more sneaky checking of people who used to work with a candidate to see if they are good, call around the network to see what other people’s thoughts are.

  28. AdAgencyChick*

    #3, think of it from the hiring manager’s perspective. Unless she’s the owner, she’s not paying your salary out of her own pocket, so she doesn’t get a direct benefit out of paying you less.

    She does, however, get a very direct benefit out of hiring someone who is qualified and able to do the work without a lot of hand-holding: Her job gets easier. If she hires someone inexperienced who will need far more than the usual amount of training to do the job, then her job gets harder, not easier!

  29. anoncpa*

    CPA with more than twenty years of experience. Caveat-I work in the deep South in a very conservative town. I can’t imagine any of the firms I have worked with would even consider hiring a man with long hair. Do realize that facial hair on men is NOT ALLOWED. Very, very conservative.

    1. OP#1*

      The different cultural norms are so interesting! We’re in a Northeast city and he is applying mostly to in-house positions at organizations that seem like they would have a more laid-back culture.

      1. Allison*

        I live in Boston and I’ve been working at various tech companies for a few years now. Companies with laid-back cultures overall may still have departments where people are a little more buttoned up than, say, the software developers. That said, as long as his hair is neat and he’s dressed nicely, I don’t think there’ll be a problem.

    2. Chinook*

      anoncpa, how would those in such a conservative environment justify not hiring a man with long hair or facial hair for religious reasons (think Native American or Sikh)? Or is it just something that never comes up?

  30. Mockingjay*

    #1: I wouldn’t say it in an interview, but one can point out that the Founding Fathers wore queues or wigs.

    Isn’t hair length for men exactly the kind of artificial grooming standard that is foisted on women? (Excepting safety standards, which don’t apply to the jobs the OP’s husband is seeking.)

    1. Lablizard*

      It is. And it also can be a bit racist. I worked with a guy who was a Hopi and he had his hair long because it was his traditional hairstyle. The idea that he should cut it to get a job is O_o.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        That is an excellent point. Especially as a Black woman, I refuse to consider places that view my natural hair texture as inherently unprofessional. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

    2. fposte*

      It is kind of funny that we’re got plenty of women saying “I wear blue hair and blue nails! Yeah!” and also commenters saying “No man buns on men.”

      1. HannahS*

        Yeah, I’m surprised by it. I’ve heard the conflation of professional=attractive for women a bajillion times, but I’m surprised to see the “I hate/love buns on men.” It’s not the point. His goal isn’t to look appealing to his coworkers, it’s to look sufficiently professional.

      2. Michele*

        It is really dependent on the job, though. Recently, I was in an outdoor outfitting store, and a clerk with a pink streak in her hair was telling another one that she had been fired from her previous job at a hotel for dying her hair. Where I work, no one would think it is weird if I came to work with blue nails, but I would never interview that way.

        1. Addie Bundren*

          “Where I work, no one would think it is weird if I came to work with blue nails, but I would never interview that way.”

          Totally! I work in a field where people can dress with as much or as little pizzazz as they want to on a daily basis, but when an important client IS around, it’s important to look very professional. Formal interview clothes feel like saying, in a good way, “We all know I’m not going to wear this suit every day, but when you need me to look ship-shape for business reasons, I am capable of that.”

  31. Michele*

    This is a little more extreme than the OP, but one time someone I worked with ran over a coworker’s foot in the parking lot. She was OK, but understandable shaken up. The guy who ran over her (that is so odd to type) immediately owned up to it, apologized profusely, and sent her flowers. She forgave him and they both joked about it afterward. In the OP’s situation, I don’t think the flowers are necessary, but a sincere apology will turn the situation from “what an oblivious jerk” to “things happen”.

  32. Sibley*

    #1 – I’m an accountant, more specifically, an auditor. I’ve been in and out of various company’s accounting departments. As long as his hair is neat & clean, he should be ok. There aren’t enough good accountants out there, a decent place isn’t going to care about long hair if he’s qualified and otherwise professional.

  33. JS*

    #4 I think reference check varies on culture and your current job status. I have had major companies in sports, entertainment and online commerce I’ve worked for not check references when I was coming directly from another job, that said they did do a background check. I think when you have a job they are more inclined not to because most people wouldn’t want to alert co-workers or managers they are looking for another job and if you have spent 2+ years at a location it might be too much hassle for the job seeker to try to hunt down former bosses and coworkers (who might not even be at old company anymore) to get a so-so quality reference from people who likely don’t remember details of working without you even if they have overall positive things to say. If you didn’t have a job currently I don’t see why they wouldn’t check reference but you did mention your connection is VERY high up so in that situation it could be a cut and dry thing where regardless you are “IN”.

  34. Erin*

    #1 – Tough call. My husband used to have long hair and chose to cut it a long time ago as he moved into more managerial positions, but I think he would have been find leaving it.

    I’d say play it safe and have him cut it, then maybe grow it out again after getting a feel for the norm at his new workplace like he did before but…you said you’re in a good place and can afford to be choosy. So maybe keep the long hair for now and see what happens.

  35. Allison*

    #3, in theory they’re looking for someone with that much experience because they feel that that’s how much experience a person needs in order to succeed in the job. They might be right, they might be wrong, but it’s their call. Jobs like this tend to get a lot of applicants and they can probably afford to be picky. If you have some experience but fall short by a year or two, apply anyway. If it’s one of the first requirements listed and you don’t have *any* experience with it, or only some but they’re looking for someone with, like, 5 years of it, there’s nothing stopping you from applying but it’s unlikely you’ll be selected, regardless of what salary you’d be willing to work for or how passionate you are about the line of work.

    I’m not doubting your ability to eventually succeed in the role after some training, but if they want someone who already has experience with that sort of work, it’s probably because they need someone who can hit the ground running. Every job involves some level of training and adjustment in the beginning, but the longer you’re in training mode, the longer they’re paying a salary to someone who isn’t really adding value yet.

  36. Blue Anne*

    #1, someday I will start my own accounting firm and we will all be less-conservative accountants. And it will be awesome.

    Until then it’s probably less of an issue if he’s applying in industry than in public. I don’t think I’ve ever met a single public accountant with any nontraditional features except the occasional tattoo in places that are easily covered.

    1. Natalie*

      I would join that firm! My accounting dream is a job where I can leave my facial piercing in and undercut visible.

  37. Beancounter Eric*

    #1 – I would say cut. Accounting IS a more conservative field, and depending upon the interviewer/workplace/job level, long hair may be perceived in a negative manner – “points-off” versus a similarly-qualified candidate with shorter hair. Ultimately, it’s is going to be a case of “see what happens”.

    For what it’s worth – 25 years in corporate Accounting, very short hair , was asked by my intro Accounting professor where I went to military school(he served with Patton) – would I have a problem with a male candidate with long hair? – if it’s kept neat, not really.

    #5 – Your boss is correct. “Yup” is way too informal for business communication….pretty much any communication.

  38. Abby*

    Peoples’ appearances in regards to hiring are ripe for bias. I don’t disagree that checking out a website for staff photos is a bad idea, but in the OP’s husband’s case, his photo might very well been taken before his hair was long and thus not a good indicator that the office culture doesn’t care. And hiring managers could appear very conservative but honestly not care about long hair on a man. My husband would be an example. He looks very straight laced, conservative, but he couldn’t care less if a qualified applicant had long hair or something similar.

    Because there are so many factors that go into hiring, it would be impossible to know if long hair is a deterrant. I tend to think just interview. When it is the right fit you will know.

    But I will say that when I was in my 20s, I deliberately didn’t mention that I had small children because I didn’t want that fact to cause someone to make a judgement about me. Finally, I got tired of it and while I didn’t deliberately bring it up, I didn’t go to any lengths to avoid it either. I decided that if a company didn’t want to hire me because I am a mom then I didn’t want to work there. But I also agree that I was fortunate that I had the freedom to do that. Not everyone can.

  39. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    #4 – I have never had one of my listed references be called and I’ve been working for 25+ years. I’ve had extensive background checks ran, but never have one of my listed references been called. I do suppose it’s possible they called employers and asked to talk to someone else though.

  40. Gail Davidson-Durst*

    #5, I would be so tempted to go the opposite way:
    Most assuredly.
    Even so.
    Very well.
    I have examined your recent missive, and must confess my entire accord with the thrust of your proposition.

    1. Amber Rose*

      I am greatly impressed by the endmost item in your proposal and shall be proceeding with its use posthaste.

  41. Argh!*

    re: #1 It’s just hair. It will grow back.

    Cutting it short for a job search gives him the flexibility and confidence to go into any situation as a credible candidate. He won’t have to worry about prejudice against long hair, and there is no prejudice against short hair.

    After landing his dream job in a firm that embraces hair length diversity, he can grow it back.

    1. shep*

      I definitely see the merit of your thought process, but regarding it just being hair, oh my goodness, I’m going to wax a little anecdotal: I’m a woman, so I know this isn’t a perfect comparison, but I had an awful haircut a few years ago. I wanted a long bob; instead, she shaved the back of my head and left a ridiculous corona of [very thick and wavy] hair around my crown. It was one of those that looked sort of cute when she took AN HOUR to dry and style it, but it was a nightmare when left in my hands.

      The only way to fix it was to get a pixie cut. I LOVE pixie cuts on other people. I HATE the way it looks on me. I have never, ever in my life wanted one. It damaged my confidence so much, and on top of that, I had some other body image issues going on. It took FOREVER for my hair to grow back, and until then, I really didn’t want to go out or be seen or have my picture taken. (I’m much more confident now! But it was tough going, that year or so.)

      Of course, it sounds like OP’s husband is a lot more sure of himself than I was, but I can totally understand the reluctance to want to alter your appearance for a substantial amount of time, especially when you know you don’t like that look for yourself.

      1. Yeah I'm Commenting!!*

        I totally agree. It may just be hair to other people but it is a big deal to me and I would never cut my hair for someone else, much less a job interview. What if I don’t get the job? Now I’ve drastically altered my appearance, for nothing. I’d much rather someone accept me the way I look and feel most comfortable.

      2. Allison*

        I had super long hair growing up. As a kid it was shoulder length, then in middle school I started growing and growing it until it covered most of my back! I adored my long hair and hated when people told me I should cut it short. The more people tried to get me to chop it off, the more I clung to it. And I really hated it when people told me how nice it would be if I donated it, and the suggestion that I was selfish for refusing to do that . . . ugh!

        People told me it was just hair, and it would grow back. Of course it grows back! But if you love your long hair, having it all cut off only to hate how you look seems absolutely awful, and you do need to endure not looking or feeling like yourself for some time. People shouldn’t be expected to take major hair decisions lightly just because others don’t mind changing things up.

        When all these comments finally died down, I eventually decided to cut my hair short, because for the first time, it was how I wanted to look, not how others wanted me to look. It felt like a big change and I cried on the way home after I first got it cut a “normal” length (I eased into the ear-length bob I’ve been getting for years now), but at least I knew it was my decision, and not something I was doing just to make others happy.

        1. Alton*

          I would actually say that hair doesn’t always grow back like you’d hope, even. I used as to have chin-length hair and remember it being very silky and manageable. After several years of having it very short, I decided to grow it out a little. I don’t know if my memory was flawed and I’d gotten used to short hair, if my hair needs different maintenance now, or if my increasing amount of gray hair is affecting the overall texture of my hair, but it was a huge pain. My hair was frizzy all the time and ridiculously thick. I suffered for a few months before getting it all chopped off again.

    2. Alton*

      Hair can be a very personal thing for a lot of people, and some people put more importance on it than others for various reasons. Long hair in men can also have cultural significance for some people (I used to have a Native American friend who was resentful of norms requiring short hair on men because in his tribe, long hair was traditional and common and he didn’t want to have to erase that part of his heritage).

      It’s also something that carries pretty big social significance for a lot of people, which is why certain settings (like the military) have strict rules to encourage conformity and why forced hair cutting has traditionally been used as a way of shaming of controlling people in some contexts.

      Personally, I see my hair as part of my body, and as long as it’s well-groomed and clean, I would seriously resent pressure to style it a particular way. I have a very visceral reaction to people’s hair being controlled or policed. For me, it would be a deal breaker in a company. For others, it wouldn’t be. This is something people have to weigh out for themselves.

  42. Katie Fay*

    I hugely agree with Alison that your geographic location plays a role. Are you SoCal? If so, his long hair is likely just fine. Boston, um, no.

    1. LBK*

      I live and work in Boston and I don’t see what the issue is with long hair…I don’t personally care for it aesthetically, but I work in a pretty conservative industry and there are a handful of men I see around the office who have longer hair, occasionally pulled into buns. It’s not that unusual.

    2. Kiki*

      Bostonian here. I work with multiple men with long hair and as far as I know nobody has given half a damn.

      1. Katie Fay*

        I think industry plays strongly; in my space (we’re a market leader) this wouldn’t fly at all (and they probably pass over good candidates because of this).

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Yes, it can be fine here in Boston – but – this applies ANYWHERE – it depends on the employer. If you don’t fit their image, they may have reservations about bringing you aboard.

      In a perfect world it wouldn’t matter -but it rubs the interviewer the wrong way – that can be the ball game.

  43. NJ Anon*

    #4 Checking references. I don’t always check references when hiring. It depends on the position. Most people are only going to use references that are positive anyway. For me, it depends on the position. So I don’t think it is a red flag in this instance.

    1. Grey*

      Let me clarify that: A preference for formal communication in the workplace does not make you uptight.

      1. JS*

        I really think it depends on the industry and the role. For example in sales and client services, while you want to be professional with the client it is all about building relationships and trust so a client that we have worked with before. We would use casual conversation when speaking with them as apart of building a familiarity in that relationship. A sales person or client services manager in that position who did not would not build a very good/familiar connection with their prospective clients and that could lose business in the future as being personable is important.

        1. JAM*

          Definitely. I work in an area where I see clients outside the office at times now. Sure thing, absolutely, happy to help, those are all phrases I use now because they know I’m not formal. If I’m sending an email on behalf of them to another party I default to formal emails, same with any introductions to legal documents so I can make sure they understand something fully. We sometimes joke about those emails we CC each other on because it’s an entirely different voice than we use with each other. As for my coworkers, these days I swear we communicate based on gifs alone. I’m in a historically stuffy field but my office is targeting a different vibe and we have to project that vibe fully.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Depends on your customers/clients. I think the people I email regularly would be put off by formality, since they send me emails that say “Hey, can you send me invoice ####? Thanks! :) ”
      Based on that, it would seem oddly uptight for my boss to enforce some kind of standard. And I would probably come across as less friendly.

      That said, when I contact international folk, my emails are super formal because I was instructed to be formal, and they (usually) respond in the same way. So that’s one example where I think it’s just an industry/culture thing rather than being uptight.

      1. Grey*

        “Hey, can you send me invoice ####? Thanks! :) ”

        To me that’s perfectly fine. It’s casual but still formal enough. I think it’s ok if your email sounds the same way you would speak in person. But, I think you cross that line when you start using alternate spellings like “yup”, “ur” or “prolly”.

        1. LBK*

          Interesting – I wouldn’t consider “yup” to be an alternate spelling of anything. It’s its own word. A casual slang word, but still a word.

          1. Grey*

            Sure, but I’d put it in the same category as “yer”. I think it’s too informal in a business setting.

            But my original point here is that I don’t think I’m being uptight (as Alison said) if want my employees to avoid words like that in correspondence.

            1. LBK*

              Huh. Never even heard that word before.

              I don’t know if uptight is the right adjective per se, although I can’t necessarily think of a better one to describe someone who insists on communicating more formally than the people around them. It definitely makes you look out of touch and/or a little cold, if nothing else.

  44. OP #3*

    Thanks, Alison, for answering my question, and thanks, everyone, for chiming in. What you all say makes sense. I think this is just another reminder of how desperate my job search is getting.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Hang in there! It’s normal to feel desperate/frustrated during a job search, but if you keep at it something is bound to come up.

    2. Lilo*

      Hang in there: you have gotten interviews so you can clear the first hurdle. It is tough out there. You couod try doing a mock interview with a friend in your field if you are concerned that’s an issue but it may just be they had someone else who was just a better fit. I know the temptation to resume bomb (frankly, I did it right out of school when I was desperate for a job and I am mortified to think back on how it must have looked). As I said above, I do not think it is necessarily bad to apply and it’s possible I may be reading the situation wrong, if it is just one if many qualifications. Hang in there! I have been there so I totally understand.

  45. Leenie*

    I find the language discussions fascinating. I never would have known that “Please advise.” would have such passionate detractors and defenders. Or that yes/yep/yup could all offend people. For me, I try to communicate with an overall tone that conveys respect (and I really do put a lot of thought into the words I write and how they’ll be received). If I happen to step on someone’s personal linguistic sore spot, I hope they know I wasn’t actually aiming for it. And the yes that gets their back up could have been the yep that gets that other guy’s back up…

  46. ScrappyCook*

    #2 as long as the person didn’t freak, an apology should be good and then drop it. I’m the PTO president and almost hit a teacher crossing the street. I can imagine the headlines from that! Then he was at the PTO meeting that night. I apologized and we joked and that was it. It really shouldn’t be a big deal.

  47. CC*

    #4 –
    I am 30 years old and have held many jobs at this point, and I have NEVER had a job check references. It’s been the case at some smaller companies and one really large one too. I’m honestly surprised that checking references isn’t slowly becoming more obsolete (or maybe it is, I dunno). What’s really the point of calling people that you’ve handpicked for your potential employer to talk to? Typically, ideally, your references are only going to be people you think will say nice things about you. And calling people you HAVEN’T chosen seems weirdly invasive to me – every person out there is going to have -someone- higher up than them who maybe just didn’t care for them for some reason.

    I guess overall I just don’t really like the whole idea of references.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Would you hire a nanny to take care of your kids every day without checking references? Most people wouldn’t, and that might help put it in context.

      1. CC*

        Definitely not, that’s a much higher stakes situation. I think there are certainly some industries in which it makes sense but in a typical office or retail job (mainly what I’ve had), I’ve never had it done to me and I haven’t done it for anyone either. Basically I’m at the point where I wouldn’t be taken aback if it happened, but I definitely wouldn’t be worried about the job if it didn’t.

        1. LBK*

          It might be more personal stakes but if you’re a manager with a budget to think about and work to get done, it’s not necessarily any higher. Pouring time and money into an employee who doesn’t end up working out can be a huge blow to a manager; it obviously doesn’t have the visceral, emotional risk of your child being harmed by someone, but hiring certainly isn’t low stakes or something to take casually.

          1. CC*

            I don’t disagree. I just don’t think A) employee-provided references are always the most useful way of gaining information about an employee and B) that it’s a sign to worry that OP didn’t get asked for their references.

    2. Grey*

      You call references because, even though they’ll confirm the applicant did a good job there, you can ask specific questions to determine if they’ll be a good fit here. No two jobs are exactly the same and a good reference check is more than “did they do a good job for you”.

    3. Erin*

      I agree and also don’t like the whole system.

      But with regards to the handpicked references – when I was hired at my current job they didn’t want to hear from my reference list, only from past managers. One of whom happened to be one of my references, and then they opted not to talk to him because they knew already he’d give me a good reference. So, a little bit of a different way to go about it that makes sense I think.

  48. Fish Microwaver*

    #5 In my workplace, We use email almost like SMS so a lot of informality and abbreviation is acceptable. However “yup” “yep” or”nope” would not be ok. “OK” “sure” “no” are fine.

  49. Cath in Canada*

    OP#2: this might not have even seemed like a big deal to your coworker. I bike to work, and the other day a guy pushing a manual forklift trolley suddenly came out from behind a parked delivery truck in the back alley behind our office. I hit my brakes and swerved slightly, he stopped abruptly as soon as he saw me, we both kind of nodded at each other, then I just continued on my way. I was going really slowly as I was about to make a turn, and didn’t think it was that close a call – not even in my top five for an average week of urban cycling – but someone who’d been driving in the opposite direction totally freaked out, yelling “oh my god he almost hit you, you could have been killed, are you OK?!” It was just a perspective thing, I guess. I’m sure your coworker would appreciate a quick apology if you’re comfortable giving one, but I doubt they’re stewing over it or anything!

  50. Catherine*

    OP #1, except that your husband is an accountant, we almost have the same husband! Mine is in a field not as conservative as accountancy, but one in which upper management is probably still unconsciously using 1980s country clubs as its paradigm for “casual,” though we do live in a major U.S. city. He really didn’t want to cut his hair, but when I asked him just now, he said he would have if he hadn’t been able to find a job eventually, because he did think it was something of a hindrance. It took him about six months of searching, though he was getting a lot of interviews. He says that he got the sense that it wasn’t necessarily that the people interviewing him cared about his hair, but that they worried that someone else in the organization might care, and they were afraid of being the person who hired the wrong person. What’s also a factor for him is that although he’s in his 30s, he looks ten years younger, and the long hair contributes to that. His real age would be apparent to anyone reading the dates in his resume carefully, but of course not everyone does that. (It occurs to me how much our unconscious biases about our own aging must play into agism. 2002? I remember that–practically yesterday! 1980? Before my time–ancient!) Anyway, my husband did find a job, has received two major promotions since, and has finally persuaded most of his coworkers that he’s not exactly the voice of Millenials since he is, in fact, an Xer. I don’t really have advice about what your husband should do, but I do have empathy for the situation!

  51. Organizer*

    OP #3, in my experience, organizing and activism work often pays shit. If it’s that much of a better salary than similar positions in the field, it means there’s likely a staff union that negotiates a standard pay scale. You’ll only undercut your potential colleagues’ hard work to win that by offering to work for less.

  52. No more nonesense*

    #5 your boss directly told you to make a very easy change. Why are you questioning this? It is very difficult to have someone who questions your every decision working for you.

    As a guide: Unless 1. you have some compelling information that your boss has not considered or is unaware of when making a decision and 2. The decision will have a substantial impact on business, just do what your boss asks you to do. If you have a slow period, that’s a good time to inquire about the reason behind decisions.

  53. Joe*

    #5 – I would be sooooo tempted to respond to boss’s email thusly: “D’oh! Sorry ’bout that!”

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