my mom says coloring my hair is unprofessional, candidates who apply for too many jobs, and more

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

1. My mom says coloring my hair is unprofessional

I am still a student in college. I have a question regarding personal appearance in a professional setting. I’ve been dying my hair for a few years now, but the color looks natural. The only thing that doesn’t is that my roots eventually start to show. Even then, it’s close enough to my natural hair color that most people don’t notice. My mom is convinced that it is unprofessional and, since I am going to graduate and enter the workforce soon, I will need to go to a salon and start dying my hair back to its natural color. Is my mom right about this? Even though it’s a natural color and pretty close to my own, would I need to dye it back to its original color?

Also, she’s a bit concerned about piercings. I have a couple of piercings now. How many would be considered unprofessional? Mine are currently limited to double piercings in my ear lobes and a daith. She’s concerned that this looks “rebellious” and “unprofessional.” Since piercings are more common these days, is it really unprofessional?

It is 100% not an issue that you dye your hair a natural hair color that happens not to be your own. Many other people in your office are also likely to color their own hair as well. It can be more of an issue if you’re doing a color that doesn’t appear in nature (although even that is changing quickly), but that doesn’t sound like the case here. Because this is such a normal thing and not something that would register on anyone’s professionalism meter, I suspect your mom just may not like you coloring your hair, period.

Piercings can be more of an issue in some offices. The vast majority of offices won’t have an issue with double piercings in your ear lobes — that became mainstream a long time ago — but the daith piercing could be an issue in more conservative offices or more conservative fields. To play it safe, I’d take it out for interviews while you’re at the start of your career and/or until you have a better feel for where it’ll be fine and where it might not be … but it’s likely to be fine in more places than it’s not.

2. My boss is a Scientologist and I think she’ll freak out when I resign

I work in the communications field. I’ve been working for my company for several years and I’ve worked my way up to hold a high position in the company. But now, after years of ridiculous Scientology teachings and verbal abuse from my Scientologist boss, I’ve decided to resign. There have been too many incidents for me to recount in one email, but the straw that broke the camel’s back is when my boss told me and my coworkers that we were being rewarded with continued industry/management training. I’m always up for learning how to be better at my job. But when we showed up for training, we were put through several Scientology courses. Just as an example, one of the training exercises was sitting in chairs directly across from each other with our knees almost touching; we had to stare into each other’s eyes without flinching or laughing or reacting in anyway. We were expected to hold this position until the instructor told us to stop or we felt we got a “win.” Two of my coworkers who were paired up together had to do this for an hour … an hour!

My mind is made up about resigning and I’ve already got another job offer but my concerns are (1) my boss will likely flip out (I’m the only one at the company qualified to do what I do and there are no replacements lined up; the company will be hurting with my departure) and (2) I work remotely. Should I ask my boss for an in-person meeting or is it okay to resign via phone or email? I know an in-person meeting is the professional thing to do, but I honestly do not care about burning a bridge with this employer.

Because you work remotely, it’s fine to resign by phone. If you worked in the same location as your boss, I’d tell you to suck it up and do it in-person, but when you’re remote, you don’t need to make a special trip in to resign. Don’t use email though — this is something to do in a conversation.

If your boss flips out … well, so be it. You can just keep repeating things like “I’m looking forward to doing what I can to help with a smooth transition during the next two weeks” and “let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like me to do during my notice period” and (if needed) “this was too good of an opportunity for me to pass up.” If she gets out of control, you can use the advice here, but at least you’ll have the advantage of being remote.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Can I tell candidates to narrow down the number of jobs they’re interested in?

I’m hiring for roles across a variety of teams at my company. I often get applicants who apply to a huge number of our open roles at once. The most I’ve ever seen is in the dozens. These people presumably want to indicate that they’re open to a variety of roles and responsibilities, but for someone trying to assess their suitability for any particular role, it’s truly overwhelming. People who may be qualified for a single position throw me for a loop when they apply to 17 of them, because I don’t know what they’re actually interested in.

The worst is when someone comes to us through a professional referral, and I have an obligation to at least schedule a phone screen with them. I want to talk to them about the position they have the best chance of getting, but if they tell me they’re equally interested in several positions, how can I accurately assess which one they’re a good match for? I have to feel like they really do have a preference, but it can be really hard to get that information out of them.

Is it fair for me to make someone pick one (or two to three, max) roles that they really, truly want, and then not consider them for the rest? Or do I really have to consider them for each open position we have in case they end up being a match? How should I communicate this to them in a way that they’ll actually answer appropriately? And how do I make that assessment on my end, when I have a surplus of information?

Sometimes you can assess pretty quick from a scan of someone’s resume which jobs they’d be best suited for and can just funnel them into those tracks. Other times, you can’t but the initial stages of the process are similar enough across jobs that you can just get them into your process and figure it out as you go. And other times, the company is big enough that if someone applies for 17 jobs, it’s easy enough to just consider them separately for each of those 17 jobs (and different people may be doing the screening for each, which makes it easier). But if none of those things are true in your case, it’s reasonable to say to the candidate, “It’s easier on our end if you narrow down your interest to no more than two positions here at once. Will you review the job postings and let me know which two you’re most interested in?”

Keep in mind, though, that sometimes people really don’t have much of a preference, especially (a) at early stages before they’ve learned more about each job, (b) if the positions are relatively entry-level and they don’t have a ton of experience to help them judge, and/or (c) the positions seem pretty similar from the outside. And while of course their preferences matter, what matters more on your end is what they’re actually most qualified for. So to whatever extent you can, try to narrow it down on your end based on what you think they’d be the strongest candidate for. And it’s fine for you to say, “You’re probably a stronger candidate for X than you are for Y or Z, so let’s focus on that during our call.”

4. Should I talk to my boss about my frustration with a work project?

I just got back from a work trip where we ran into a number of complicated and frustrating problems. My boss is aware of all these problems (and helped us work through many of them), and I know we’re going to have a productive team debrief and improve our processes so we do things better in the future. But I’m worried that since I tried very hard to keep a positive attitude and level-headed demenaor throughout (and I think I succeeded!), my boss might not really grasp how frustrating, exhausting, and demoralizing I found the whole experience. I’m not sure if this is an appropriate thing to raise during a larger team debrief, so I’m debating giving him a quick phone call to just let him know how I’m feeling (I work remotely and we don’t have regular check-ins).

Maybe-relevant details:
– I have a good relationship with him and I feel very comfortable raising problems with him directly.
– I know the company is happy with my work and wants to retain me.
– We’re restructuring in a direction such that I shouldn’t have to go on these trips in the future anyway.
– If I did go through another trip like this, it would have me job hunting.

On one hand, I feel like my job satisfaction is business relevant and he would want to know about something frustrating me. On the other, if showing emotions is unprofessional, is talking specifically about your emotions also unprofessional? Would it be more appropriate to raise this as part of a general whole-team debrief? Or should I leave my feelings out of it and just stick to laying out the actual problems and my proposed changes? Should I just assume he knows from being involved that everyone was stressed and not enjoying it? If I should say something, what should I say? “I was trying to keep a positive attitude in all our communications last week so you may not have realized how stressed I was. We need to make a lot of process changes for this to be sustainable in the future”?

This is similar to what I tell managers when an employee messes up: If the person knows they messed up, is taking it seriously, and is ensuring it won’t happen in the future, there’s not much left for you to do. They already know, and they’re on it.

It’s the same thing here. Your boss is aware of the problems and planning a debrief to figure out how to avoid them in the future. At that debrief, if you get the sense that people aren’t taking the problems seriously enough or if the proposed solutions don’t feel sufficient, then you’d have a reason to speak up and underscore the need to take additional action. But so far, he seems to get it and there aren’t indications that you need to reinforce that it was frustrating. (And if you do anyway, he’s likely to think, “No kidding — that’s why we’re meeting to fix this.”)

5. Pasting the job description in tiny white font at the end of your resume

Someone I follow on Twitter posted today saying that he learned of the following resume hack: copy/paste a job description, make it super tiny (2.5 pt) and change the font to white, then post it in the footer of a resume to somehow get past a sorting algorithm. Is this a real tactic, or is embedding keywords from the job description into your resume (if relevant) just as effective?

Definitely do not do that. Many/most online application systems will strip out that formatting and render the text into normal-sized black text, and it will look like you inexplicably and sloppily pasted the entire job description at the bottom of your resume.

The other version of this gimmick that often gets passed around is to just paste keywords from the job description in white font at the bottom of your resume so that human eyes won’t see it but automated screening will — which again ignores that the system is likely to render it in normal text, and you will look like you’re trying to game the system and don’t trust the employer to assess your qualifications correctly on their own.

{ 373 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I’m in a stodgy field, and I have seven ear piercings, a nose piercing, and I first started out with a tongue piercing (which I camouflaged at work with a tongue-colored ball for the top of the bar—I ultimately got rid of it when I got my first job with the federal government). A fair number of my female colleagues have more visible piercings (although nothing on the face/lip except discreet nose studs).

    In many fields, your daith piercing will be fine—especially if you wear fairly simple/small jewelry that doesn’t draw too much attention to the piercing. If you’re concerned, you can always take your jewelry out for interviews or for the first week or so until you get a better feel for the dress code culture at your office.

    1. Katastrophreak*

      I’ve heard a tongue piercing working for the DoD for nearly 10 years. A daith is likely fine.

      I’ve also worked with people with bubble gum pink hair, full double sleeves, and many other things.

      Not the accountants, though. Accountants and lawyers are still pretty traditional in attire.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Hehe. Pink haired accountant here.

        But, I’m not in public any more. Being able to have pink hair was one of my conditions for accepting this industry job.

      2. BF50*

        Our controller sometimes puts blue streaks in her dark hair. It’s a bit more subtle than pink, but still. Our previous controller had multiple tattoos that were not always covered. She is also a woman, which may or may not make it even less mainstream than a half sleeve on a man.

        For regular accountants at my firm, pink hair would probably fly, but I’d be surprised to see that in management. A daith piercing would probably not even be noticed.

        However we just interviewed a new assistant controller, and I know he’s coming from a much more conservative area of the country. He was a bit shocked when we assured him that we aren’t joking about flip flop Friday and yes, people do wear jeans and t-shirts on random Tuesdays, despite the fact that most of the people he met happened to be wearing jackets on a Monday.

        My choice of jacket was largely driven by laundry day, which I did not mention to my potential future boss.

        1. Geillis D*

          Public practice accountant here. A colleague wears blue/green/silver streaks in her hair, has several visible tattoos, and still manages to look 100% professional. The partners are all very clean-cut, however my former boss had a shirt that looked typically conservative from afar but had a tiny skull pattern.

      3. Tiny Soprano*

        I wasn’t an accountant (I was the only receptionist at the head office of a global firm), but I had pink hair too. Everyone including the CEO thought it was great.

      4. TardyTardis*

        At Old ExJob, we had accountants with tats and piercings, though they didn’t see the public much and dressed appropriately.

    2. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

      Especially if you wear your hair down, I can’t see a daith piercing being a big deal. (Especially if it’s more similar to this than this.) I think that piercings like that look more extreme in conjunction with others. If you have a daith and a tragus and a conch and a barbell, in addition to 2 lobe piercings, it looks more notable. But just the daith on its own, especially with a discreet piece of jewellery? I don’t think it’ll draw much attention.

      1. Smithy*

        I came here to say this. Provided you invest in some subtle jewelry, if you wear your hair down this will suffice for most work places provided they’re not super conservative.

        I have eleven piercings across both ears – and with three in the cartalage and another four being quite small studs, they’re just not nearly as noticeable as the idea of “eleven piercings” might bring to mind. Or how my mother interprets it.

        I treat the piercings a bit like arm tattoos. If I’m meeting with a particularly conservative external audience – I wear my hair down. Otherwise I don’t think about and have never received any notice.

      2. Elemeno P.*

        I thought this as well. I have an undercut and just wear my hair down for meetings. A daith won’t even register in most places.

        1. Loud Noises*

          I managed to sneak in an undercut in what is one of the most carefully scrutinized and regulated dress codes around. Still proud of myself for my one rebellious moment. Growing it out was a pain though.

      3. the_scientist*

        I was going to suggest this- subtle jewelry in the daith piercing + hair down for the interview should be completely OK in all but the most conservative industries. I work in the public sector and I have 5 lobe piercings and a helix piercing, and I’ve wanted a rook piercing for years now (I”m 30, ftr). I might just go and get it done after my wedding this fall! Many of my colleagues also have small visible tattoos, and it’s really not an issue. Gauged ears or large, noticeable jewelry are a bit less professional IMO but a daith piercing with subtle jewelry probably won’t even register.

        1. Bigglesworth*

          I think the hair down idea works in most contexts. Although not in LW’s position, I have postponed getting a triple cartilage piercing because 1) I’m in Law school, and 2) I have a pixie cut. Wearing my hair down is…well…normal. It doesn’t hide anything.

        2. Lau*

          Not for profit director with an undercut, rainbow hair, tongue bar and a dozen assorted ear piercings here.

          I stopped taking anything out, or disguising the undercut, about 3 years ago because it’s a liberal industry and tbh, I’d rather not get hired and have to stick with it.

          Generally, it’s getting a lot more normal now we *cringe* millennials are become managers and leaders and we just don’t care

      4. Lady Whackamole*

        I agree – your hair length might render your ear piercings invisible. I gauged my ears up to 7/16″ and most people had no idea (I let it shrink back to a 2G because the jewelry costs less). I used to have an industrial, and now have a conch and upper cartilage piercings as well as a nose ring. I interviewed for my current job with purple hair. I do try to cover my tattoos until I’ve proven my worth (LOL) but honestly, fewer people notice than you would think.

        I work in a regular office in the Midwest – not in the arts or anything edgy – and I’m in my late 50s.

      5. GlitsyGus*

        Agreed. I would just put in a thin, simple, silver or gold hoop and wear my hair down. Even in conservative offices that would be fine most of the time.

    3. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

      The “discreet nose stud” is the 2010s equivalent of a second lobe piercing, in my opinion. Not as common as the single lobe piercing, but still inside the bounds of normal and professional in nearly every environment. I first got my nose pierced when I was in college, in 2001, and at the time, it was a more rebellious act. It closed over and I re-pierced it in 2014, and by that time, I was well behind lots of my 40-something and 50-something colleagues and acquaintances in getting it done.

      1. grey*

        Hilariously? Sadly? At 22 I got a second ear piercing because I’d wanted one since I was in my teens. My incredibly conservative workplace had no issue with it; but I had to take a part time second job in retail. Despite the fact that I only wore tiny earrings (still do), I wasn’t allowed to wear the 2nd set. I was working so much I just let the holes grow in.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          A friend of a friend was in nursing school back in the mid-80’s. (Stopping to do math. Yup, mid-80’s.) They put a rule in that each student could wear only ONE pair of earrings. She wanted a 2nd piercing in one of her ears; the original piercings were fine to leave unfilled because she’d had them since childhood, so she did the obvious: she wore 2 earrings in a single ear and left the other ear plain.

          This was back in the day when nurses wore all-white, and probably still wore dresses and silly hats too.

          1. TardyTardis*

            I like the Bajoran earring set myself, but I can see that in nursing it could be Problematic to have something an upset patient could grab.

    4. StructEngGirl*

      Daith piercings are actually becoming slightly more common, even in conservative fields, as many people have found that they help reduce incidence of migraine. Also, the double lobe piercing is not that unusual, so unless you are going into an extremely conservative field and you don’t wear multiple pairs of giant earrings, you should be fine.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I find them to be super common—it’s not like OP is trying to cover up an industrial or gauges (I like both, but they’re more noticeable). The double lobe has become incredibly common, and I think the “small nose stud” has become so ubiquitous that it’s even more accepted than the late-90s/early-oos belly button piercing fad.

      2. No Mas Pantalones*

        Exactly. I’ve worked in all sorts of conservative fields. I now work in the c-suite of a petro-chem company which is pretty stodgy. I’ve had a rook piercing for 24 years. No employer has ever commented on it.

      3. grey*

        Oh, I should have kept reading before making a new comment. I made that point too about daith/migraines. I’ve been incredibly surprised by the number of older *and* conservative people who have gotten them. But they claim relief, so even more get them.

      4. Jennifer Thneed*

        > as many people have found that they help reduce incidence of migraine

        IS THAT RIGHT??? My wife is a migraine sufferer. (Her mother is too, but my MIL is super not good with needles. My wife has had ear and other body piercings before.)

        I do remember wondering once what all the ear piercing was doing to people’s acupuncture points.

    5. Totally Minnie*

      I work for local government in a public facing department, and no one I’ve worked with would bat an eye at hair dyed a color found in nature or a few ear piercings. In fact, several of my coworkers have piercings that are much more visible, and upper management seems fine with it. Shoot, I even had pink hair for a few weeks this summer, and my boss thought it was fun.

      I think OP1 will be just fine.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Same here – we have a few people with candy-colored hair in our government office and no one cares.

      2. Breda*

        Honestly, at least half the blondes you see in the world are actually brunettes. I’m guessing the OP’s hair is dyed something like black or red, judging by her mother’s objection, but that is still likely to go unnoticed, and even if someone recognizes the signs, they won’t care.

        1. New Job So Much Better*

          When you reach a certain age, it’s considered unprofessional if you don’t color your hair. And grey can settle in at any age….

          1. Zombeyonce*

            Wait, people in the workplace with gray hair are considered unprofessional? That’s the first I’ve heard of that opinion.

              1. Zombeyonce*

                I can understand that they might look older and thus subject to more ageist practices, but gray hair making them unprofessional? That seems ludicrous and I’ve never heard of that before.

                1. Jennifer Thneed*

                  There are some sub-cultures where part of being a fully-adult lady includes not showing any grey. They probably also include mandatory full make-up? In those sub-cultures, I am the biggest freak alive.

                  I’m fully grey, fairly light grey to white, and my wife prefers I dye it so I don’t look washed out. She doesn’t much care what color. I use henna, the brighter the better. I don’t *want* people to think I have red hair. I *want* them to think I use henna because I’m cool and edgy. Or something. Also my mom is a redhead so I feel I have the right. Or something.

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          Also root shadows are quite popular at the moment, so a bit of regrowth doesn’t look as egregious as it did ten years ago.

    6. Ruth (UK)*

      I have various ear piercing including 2 lobe piercings per ear, outside cartilage 3 times in total and my rook pierced in one ear.

      They’ve never been an issue for me though my parents hate them and say they’ll cause me problems. My parents worked as highschool teachers and highschool/teaching in the UK tends to have a more conservative dress code sometimes because all schools have uniforms for the students (except some private schools) and jewelry policies etc so the teachers often have to conform to a similar dress code.

      In other words, there are some jobs it might be a problem but normally they won’t be.

      I think it’s wildly unlikely the hair will be an issue even in the most conservative fields. As said, only if you went green or something.

    7. Veritable Cornucopia*

      I have hot pink and purple streaks in my hair, 6 holes in one ear but only 2 in the other (3 along the top of my cartilage + 3 in my lobes vs 2 in my lobes), and a tattoo on my shoulder blade that’s visible in warmer weather.

      When I entered my last year of university (the year I’d be starting my internships and making professional connections), all my friends and family told me I’d have to go back to a natural hair colour. My advisor told me that I didn’t have to, that my hair will likely make me stand out (in a good way) and that any places that had a problem with it likely wouldn’t be the kind of work environment I’d enjoy anyways.

      She was right. I’m now further ahead in my career than some of my peers from university. While yes, obviously I’m a good worker and well-skilled and got here through my own merits, I’m pretty sure my hair helped, because it made me more memorable and visible to everyone above me, making the few moments we interacted stand out. It also made for quick identifier for colleagues.

      To this day, random acquaintances and total strangers will take one look at me and be like, “When are you going to grow up? Don’t you want a real job??” Honey, I make 60K a year and I’m still technically very new in my field. I think I’m going alright haha

      1. Mrs. B*

        “any places that had a problem with it likely wouldn’t be the kind of work environment I’d enjoy anyways.” This is such a good point! I’ve been around long enough to remember when women who dyed their hair red were seen as “bohemian”, now it’s common to see a literal rainbow of hair colors on women and men! In my work environment (public service) I’ve certainly seen a shift in the culture.

      2. Canonical23*

        I love your advisor’s advice – I have an undercut (and a few tattoos) and I’ve dyed the top every color under the sun and it’s definitely made me stand out occasionally in my field (libraries) but I’ve never had any trouble with it. I recently went through about a year of job searching and the few places that seemed a little off-put by my behavior also had a variety of workplace culture practices that I wasn’t particularly excited about. Conservative standards towards dress and appearance do not exist in a vacuum when it comes to workplace environments!

      3. Tammy*

        Totally agree with the “any places that had a problem with it likely wouldn’t be the kind of work environment I’d enjoy anyway” sentiment. When I applied for my first job at my current company, I had a visible tattoo and was very open about the fact that I’m a transgender woman. I reasoned that if the company was bothered by those things, I didn’t want to work there.

        As a result of that decision, my final interview (with the CEO!) has become the stuff of legend at this company – he calls it the most memorable job interview he’s ever done, and his wife told me he came home that day raving about how “I met the most amazing woman today and we have to find a spot for her here”. Six years later, I’m a Senior Manager, I have a tremendous amount of respect and credibility all through my organization, I have a lunch with our President/COO soon to talk about my ambitions to become an executive and what it would take to get me there – oh, and I have more tattoos and my hair is usually brightly colored.

        I’m actually thinking very hard right now about getting more deliberate and consistent with the magenta hair, and making it part of my personal branding. (Limor Fried, CEO of Adafruit Industries, inspires me in a number of ways :-) )

      4. Bigglesworth*

        That’s awesome!!! I’be been told to tone down my style choices – both at my previous job and now in law school. If it wasn’t for the fact that interviews are coming up, I’d be back to having white hair, Smurf blue bangs, rocking my triple piercings (with most likely some additions to the cartilage in One ear). That said, I’m personally not willing to risk not having a job over my personal taste. I’m looking at nonprofits and such, so I’m hoping for more leeway once i get settled in a job.

      5. suburbanite*

        I love this! I have a side-cut and a lot of piercings (including a nostril stud and septum ring) but they’re VERY subtle, all in rose gold.

        When I interviewed for my current job, I didn’t change my hair or take piercings any out — partly because it’s a giant pain in the ass, and partly because they’re a part of my everyday look, and any workplace where the culture doesn’t accept that isn’t one I’d like to be a part of.

        My now boss later told me that not only did she notice them immediately (most people don’t because the rose gold is close to my skin color), but she loved that I had visible facial piercings and a shaved head because it made me stand out, and she thought it meant I am not someone who bends to societal norms. Since I started working here (a professional, non-profit STEM society) almost two years ago, I’ve added a tragus and conch piercing — and no one has batted an eye. I’m advancing in my career, make good money, and I am happy knowing that my personal style isn’t a barrier to my success.

    8. Sapphire*

      I work in marketing, and I have a small wrist tattoo, a tragus piercing and a small nose stud, and my hair is dark magenta (I work in a large Midwestern city). I think the conventions around body modifications in a professional setting are changing to a certain extent, and unless you have multiple facial piercings, it shouldn’t be a problem. I interviewed with all those body mods and got the job.

    9. Lynca*

      I work with people that have gauges, multiple visible tattoos including full sleeves, non-natural hair colors, and I even have a double lobe piercing. I also have dyed my hair natural colors when I feel like it. The field I am in can be conservative if you’re extensively client facing but nothing you describe would be an issue.

      1. Quickbeam*

        I get more heat for NOT dying my white hair. No one would blink about hair dye in my very conservative industry. Sleeves or lots of visible facial piercings would be problematic.

    10. Tardigrade*

      Non-ear piercings, visible tattoos, and hair colors not found in nature are frowned on or outright forbidden in the dress codes everywhere I’ve worked in the southeastern US (even in urban areas). So I would suggest OP to consider whether she’s in a more conservative part of the country as well.

      /wishes for pink and purple hair/

      1. Oculus Rex*

        Though the OP is asking about hair that is dyed a natural colour and ear piercings, which it sounds like would be fine under those policies too.

        1. Tardigrade*

          True, but after I jealously read so many previous comments about pink hair and whatnot, I wanted to point out that the whatnot is not necessarily acceptable everywhere. But hair dyed a color found in nature is absolutely fine, even in this conservative part of the world.

      2. she was a fast machine*

        This is definitely true. The south tends to run more conservative; I worked for a quasi-gov workforce org and the dress code was truly ridiculous – in 2013 women had to wear “stockings” (yep, exact word) under any skirts. Even floor-length ones. There was a whole page about grooming and personal hygiene. All staff had to wear closed-toed shoes, but there was an additional paragraph about the height of heels women were to wear. Pants with pockets on the rear were not allowed as that was not professional. Oh, and we got paid at max $10/hr.

        So yeah, while this isn’t super common, nobody seemed to blink at these ridiculous rules straight from the 60s, so I have to think it might not be so uncommon in the south.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          I work in NC and would blink very hard at those rules. As in total deal breaker. I think I’ll stay in the tech industry.

        2. Tardigrade*

          Wow, I haven’t personally experienced a dress code that strict, but I have heard of employers who have them.

          1. CupcakeCounter*

            My company had that code for quite a while but toned it down a few years before I started (I’ve been here about 6 years and people still talk about it as somewhat recent). Now we wear jeans everyday. They have to look nice and we can’t wear t-shirts or super casual tops or flip flops but definitely a complete 180 from suits and pantyhose.
            Its a trucking company so the original dress code was very odd for the industry.

          2. MatKnifeNinja*

            My sister has with the closed toed shoes and nylon requirements. The old hospital I worked at heavily strong arms against things like bright pink hair/more than just earings and nose piercings.

            They dont’t say much, but you’ll never get a promotion or even a lateral transfer.

            My doctor friend left this particular hospital a few months after years of evaluations HEAVILY dinging him on rounding with clean blue jeans, and a tee shirt covered up with a lab coat. He’s an internal medicine guy.

            He got shit every year about a dress code that wasn’t written. Now, there is a dress code for doctors, which corporate decided to implement a month ago. Think doctor photo stock pictures.

            So…the anything goes looks wise is a huge YMMV. I live in the Midwest.

            1. the_scientist*

              Wow, that’s intense! I know an emerg doc who has full sleeves and small gauged ear piercings. He doesn’t necessarily hide them while working and he’s also a fairly prominent researcher and certainly doesn’t hide them while presenting at conferences etc.

              1. MatKnifeNinja*

                For profit hospital, in a moneyed conservative-ish area.

                Guy is an excellent doctor. Beyond brilliant.

                Their loss.

        3. GreyjoyGardens*

          Ahahaha – I’m in California, and one workplace had “street clothes and shoes only; you cannot wear a swimsuit, pajamas, bathrobes, or bedroom slippers to work” in its employee handbook.

          IME a lot of workplaces have a “no flip flops” rule but that is more about safety (turned ankles, stubbed toes, etc.) than decorum.

          1. CupcakeCounter*

            We have no flip flops for the safety thing too (and the noise factor). Jokes on them…I have plantar fasciitis and the best shoes for them have a wooden sole so I make a LOT of noise. The women in heels have more turned ankles than the flip flop crew.

          1. Natalie*

            They’re almost certainly only thinking of patch pockets (think of the typical rear pockets on jeans), which do generally read as more casual than slit pockets that are typical on suit pants.

          2. Tiny Soprano*

            I’m trying to remember the last time I saw even a man’s suit without back pockets (at least of the welt or button variety) and I’m coming up blank. I guess it’s No Pants Day at that workplace?

        4. Annie Moose*

          Pants with pockets on the rear are unprofessional?? Every pair of work pants I own has pockets on the rear, and they’re all from Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, etc.! Where do you even buy dress pants without pockets on the rear?

          (the only rear-pocketless pants I own are yoga pants…)

        5. Jadelyn*

          Heel heights? As in, required to wear a minimum heel height? Or prohibited from wearing heels above a certain height?

          Also, stockings??? Do you have to show your garter belt so they know it’s real stockings and not (gasp) pantyhose? Good lord. When did they last update their dress code, 1965?

          Not only would I not put up with that for $10/hr, I’m not sure there’s any amount of money that could compel me to work at a place with that kind of dress code. Where would you even buy pants that don’t have back pockets?

          1. whingedrinking*

            Oddly enough, the only pants without rear pockets that I’ve owned have been really low quality, like probably the cheapest ones you could get at H&M. I wore them when I worked at Starbucks and hated them because they were staticky polyester; fine for food service, but not what I’d think of as very professional looking.

        6. Zombeyonce*

          When I started my first office job 15 years ago, I was shocked that the dress code required stocking for women year-round. In central California. Where A/C use caused brownouts all summer because it was so hot. And you were even supposed to wear those knee-high stockings under pants so your oh-so-scandalous ankles were covered with sheer material.

          I got my fellow female office mates together and we all told the GM we weren’t going to wear stockings anymore, summer or otherwise. It took a year or so, but he got the dress code changed. But we were all so adamant that we managed to avoid write-ups for not wearing them until it was no longer a rule.

        7. Loose Seal*

          My sister’s bank has specifics about the top-stitching on pants. You can’t have top-stitching that’s a different color than the fabric and you can’t have more than one line of top-stitching on each seam.

          I think they were having issues with people wearing slacks like corduroys that were actually closer to being jeans except for the fabric. So they, of course, went completely overboard with the description of what non-jeans look like. And you better believe that two of the women in HR go around to check!

          And they have to wear stockings if they wear a skirt or dress. Otherwise, trouser socks are ok but knee-high stockings are better if your job causes you to sit where a client might catch sight of your sock-clad ankle!

      3. Kittymommy*

        Definitely check but this is very subjective. I work in a high level office of local government (South, very red area), do a lot of representing-on-behalf type of meetings and have a nose stud. It took about 6 months for anyone to notice and then the only questions I got we’re about sneezing.

      4. Dr. Pepper*

        Yes, know your area. In the extremely liberal city I used to live, pink hair, tattoos, multiple piercings, etc were not considered very exciting. Mostly because so many people had one or the other, it was just how people looked. Yes, in the more conservative places you probably wouldn’t see them as much, or at least not all on one person, but small, tasteful jewelry, unnaturally colored hair, or small visible tattoos really weren’t a big deal. Go to a more conservative area, though, and that all changes.

        So I guess know your audience applies here.

        1. Chalupa Batman*

          And it can vary within an organization. I’m in higher ed in a moderately conservative area, and in my heavily student facing role, looking a little edgy can be a plus (students open up more easily than if you don’t look so much like The Man). However, I’ve definitely considered how it could impact my mobility that I have an unusual hairstyle and frequently visible tattoos. The lab assistant can have gauged ears and bright pink hair here, but the vice chancellor, not so much. I’m very careful to demonstrate that I know the unspoken rules for my organization when it comes to appearance-on days when I have big events or meetings there’s a visible difference in makeup, clothing choices, and hairstyle than when I’m working with students all day.

        2. aebhel*

          Yeah, I’m in a relatively conservative area of NY, but it’s still NY. I have a public-facing professional civil service job and several large, colorful, visible tattoos and I used to shave my head; it’s never been an issue.

        3. Zombeyonce*

          I live in Portland and my company just recently removed the ban on unnaturally colored hair, visible tattoos, and facial piercings. Luckily, my boss thought all this was ridiculous so I never got in trouble for any of it (when I had the trifecta) and managed to make it through years of working there until they changed the rules. I’m amazed the rules lasted as long as they did, considering the liberal culture here surrounding dress.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’ve worked in the southeast and in a conservative part of California, and in law, which is pretty damn conservative. Dyeing your hair natural colors is totally ok, and ear piercings were fine (including tragus/rook/daith/orbital) as long as your jewelry was discreet—both issues that OP is concerned about.

        I will say that my nose piercing was also fine, although pre-college it would not have been (I worked for a conservative retailer in high school). I suspect I get more leeway on my nose piercing, however, because people assume it’s cultural/religious because of my race/ethnicity.

      6. Ginger*

        Yes, I’m in the southeast too and would love to color my hair mauve or purple. I’m the HR Director, and I know it would be really frowned upon by my bosses if I did it. However, the HR Director at one of our branches in Colorado has short bright pink hair and no one thinks twice about it.

      7. Courageous cat*

        Hmm, I’ve lived in the southeast my whole life and never run into this. I think it’s really industry-dependent (like banking and other business-y fields are probably not a go), and also helps if you’re in a big city rather than a suburb/rural area.

    11. MeowMeow*

      I worked in the legal feed for eight years, and part of that time included a Very Fancy and Conservative Law Firm. I’m in the Management Consulting field now. No one will care about the piercings – I have a rook, conch, and orbital. No one has ever said anything. I’ve always been Support Staff side, but I saw plenty of attorneys with tattoos and piercings when I was at the Fancy Firm. Management Consulting seems more relaxed.

      I’m crossing my fingers that I can do non-natural colored hair at some point – some of my friends in more relaxed workplaces can do this. My sister works in government, and got hired with pink hair (which she attempted to hide in the interview, but was still noticed).

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        There are so many attorneys with sleeves, or with back-of-the-neck tattoos. As long as we cover them up when in court, visiting jail, or with clients, I’ve never seen anyone lose a job or be reprimanded for having their tattoo.

    12. Kheldarson*

      I work for my state government and my HR person does rainbow hair now and then. Nobody cares too much unless you’re public facing.

    13. RabbitRabbit*

      I think the “color found in nature” hair dye would only be an issue if you were letting dramatic roots show on the regular, then you might look unkempt. But considering it’s close to her own hair color that wouldn’t be an issue.

      1. Baby Fishmouth*

        +1 – the only reason I stopped dying my hair after university was because I couldn’t afford the regular upkeep anymore, and would rather my natural colour than the unkempt half-grown out look (my last dye job was back to my natural colour). I’d say that’s the only thing to be wary of; otherwise, OP, you do you!

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        The one time I’ve found roots distracting was a dental hygienist. And that was because I had the impression that looking forward in the mirror she thought the inch of grey roots were imperceptible and the reddish brown looked natural, but a few inches away while she cleaned my teeth the roots were literally in my face. A few inches of a different color I would read as “my hairstyle,” and the last time my blood pressure was read the tech was in her 20s with grey hair streaked with purple (I complimented her on it and she explained that the purple had been an accident)–all by way of saying that I think roots are only a problem if the impression is that you think they aren’t visible.

      3. GreyjoyGardens*

        I also think that one issue is that, specifically, “blonde hair with an inch of dark roots” can be read as unkempt or declasse, like chipped nail polish. The solution to that if regular upkeep is too expensive (and it really does add up, says this unnatural blonde!) is to pick a shade that blends in enough with your natural hair color that the roots aren’t so noticeable. A darker blonde as an all-over color with lighter highlights is one way.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I once dyed my blonde hair black and it looked really weird when the roots were showing, but these days I often use a bit of that spray – in hair lightener in the summer to make my hair look a bit more, well, summery. It’s visible when it grows out but I doubt anyone has ever really noticed “blonde with slightly darker bits”. I’m imagining the OP is doing something similar, but if it’s a natural colour similar to their own hair I don’t think anyone would even notice.

        2. Jadelyn*

          I don’t know about that – ombre is a thing these days, and I’ve seen people who do a darker roots-to-lighter ends type of look deliberately.

          1. Zombeyonce*

            Yes, it’s definitely a trend to have 1-2 inches of roots showing, especially when the rest is dyed blonde.

          2. TardyTardis*

            Darker roots with light hair is what they did with Narcissa in the Harry Potter movies, though to be honest I didn’t like the look that much–she was supposed to be Lucius’ female clone in the books, at least that’s how I read her.

      4. mark132*

        I think when the grown out roots are rather short it’s distracting. I actually think it can look really cool when they are 3-4 inches long.

    14. Smarty Boots*

      Get a nice hair cut, but don’t worry about the color.
      Small, tasteful ear jewelry is fine. Or take it out for interviews if you’re concerned.

    15. Saradactyl*

      The only thing that would concern me about the idea of taking it out would be that the daith tends to be pretty tricky to remove, as I understand it. It’s harder to get to and the jewelry is typically curved, so it’s not as simple as removing a stud from her earlobe and putting it back in. Maybe she could have a pro insert a very nondescript and small barbell specifically made for the daith while she’s interviewing? That would cost money, but it might not cost as much as ruining your jewelry or piercing by trying to take it out on your own.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Yeah in my last show one of the actors had to take out a similar (but not the same) piercing, and after a three show run I tried to help him put it back in but it was too late. Too hard to get it back in. He was going to have to see a piercer to re-do it.

    16. Just Another Techie*

      I’m also in a stodgy field, in a somewhat stodgy part of the country, but right now my hair is a brilliant red/pink/yellow colormelt. Next weekend I’m going to my stylist to switch to a more sedate magenta and burnt orange for the autumn.

      Questions of what sorts of hairstyles, hair colors, and body modifications are so SO dependent on field, region, and even specific office. And even then, it’s going to depend on what kind of standing your have in your office. When I first started in my field I kept my tattoos completely covered and limited my hair colors to the occasional small, semi-hidden streak of bright color. Now that I’m more senior and have a well established reputation, I’m a lot more chill about wearing cap sleeves, which might reveal the edges of my shoulder piece, and don’t censor my hair choices at all.

    17. Project Mangler*

      I agree. I’ve had a daith piercing for 20 years with a pretty big circular barbell, and most people at work don’t even notice it. Especially if you wear your hair down. On the rare occasion that someone notices they are frequently more intrigued than offended.

    18. sam*

      I work in one of the stodgiest industries out there (legal department of a financial services/insurance company), and 90% of the women here dye their hair some sort of “natural” color. Other than the week or two after having our hair done, WE ALL have roots showing our actually natural color.

      My hair grows so fast and my roots get so out of control, that at one point (right before I was due to get mine done), the hipster girl in the coffee shop downstairs actually complimented me on the “cool ombre effect” that I had going on with my hair. [insert laughing/crying face emoji]

      1. Decima Dewey*

        I’m a librarian. I’ve worked with librarians with sleeve tattoos, ear gauges, hair in colors not found in nature (at least not on human heads). My grandboss has several tattoos. Any librarian wearing a bun would probably be a guy.

    19. AKchic*

      I work as a gov’t contractor and I have 11 ear piercings. And they aren’t even (I make a point of that). I will be getting two more when I have things more calmed down. Its been on my to-do list for a while.
      My hair has been all sorts of colors.

      I agree with Alison that I think its the mother’s disapproval coming through rather than practical employment advice. My mother does the same thing, and we work together. She has *always* done this. We do not have the same fashion sense. To be perfectly honest, because we look so much alike, and because she is who she is and dressed us alike when I was a child (oh, the 80’s sucked) and treated me like a life-sized Barbie doll for so long, she takes any independent thought that rejects her fashion choices as a personal rejection and judgement against her (she was raised by a narcissistic mother, so much baggage).
      Since we work together, it has manifested in “fun” ways. The “you can’t wear that. That’s inappropriate” or “that isn’t professional” or “that’s not business wear” and my favorite… “Jack won’t approve of that outfit. It’s not XCompany P&P compliant”. Everything I wear is fine. Just not what *she* would wear.

      Breathe, OP1. Moms can be interesting critters when they don’t approve of something, and if there are um… other factors (I’m not going to go further there). Stay strong. Smile, and remember the phrase “Your opinion has been noted, thank you” and be done with it.

    20. moql*

      I do want to push back on all the people saying piercings havent been a problem for them. This is highly location dependent, so just because its been fine for most commentators doesn’t mean your mom doesn’t have a point. In my very laid back field in a conservative town you could have a daith and no one would blink… if you were entry level. No one judges that kind of thing on people who plan to stay where they are their whole career (normal for my field) but you would be auto-tracked into that if you don’t look their version of neat and professional. Look at how the managers in your field and area dress and take queues from them, not random commentators 2000 miles from you.

      I’m not saying this is okay, I do think it shouldn’t matter at all, just that in some places it will make a difference.

    21. anycat*

      i have a daith, a tragus, a forward helix, a rook, and a nose piercing. i also have 5 tattoos, only one of which is visible and i’m in corporate HR. :) so all is gravy.

    22. nym*

      I am in a relatively conservative area and field, and I have sixteen ear piercings (seven on one side, nine on the other – three in each lobe and the rest marching up through the cartilage above). I wear a matching set of gold-ball studs of graduated sizes in 14 of the holes, and the bottom hole on each side is reserved for “regular earrings”.

      No one has ever complained about the professionalism or how they look. A couple of times it’s come up in conversation with coworkers and the discussion has usually been “omg those are awesome, you have HOW MANY?!” or “woah, I never noticed those before, have you had them all this time?”

      I’ve had them all for over a decade by now, much longer than I’ve known any of the current crop of coworkers. OP, my mom had the same reaction as yours did when I got my second set of holes back in the nineties (and still brings it up every year or two when I get new body art), and I’m glad to say she was wrong then and she’s still wrong. There’s some great suggestions here about ways to minimize your daith if you’re self-conscious about how it will be perceived, but you do you and don’t worry too hard about it!

    23. Nerdy Library Clerk*

      I work at a public library in a western state. Hair color, piercings, and tattoos aren’t even covered in the written dress code. The general interpretation of that is that, since they’re not covered, anything goes. Some staff members look close to what might be the stereotypical image of a librarian, others…do not.

      But I can well imagine there are parts of the country where library employees with wild colored hair, assorted piercings, and visible tattoos would not fly. (Though I’m pretty sure natural hair colors – even if they’re not *your* natural hair color – are fine even then.)

    24. BekaAnne*

      I can’t even imagine taking out my daith piercing without a piercer and that little tool to open a ring and ball capture. I just cover mine with my hair.

      I got it for pain management (horrid stress headaches) and it is just a stainless steel ring, low key and easy to hide with my hair down.

    25. Prod Coor*

      Yes! I love all the comments supporting folks with crazy looks!

      Op #1, your mom’s opinions are outdated af. I’ve had teal/green/blue/purple hair for 4 years, and 3 of those have been with my office job. I have a nose piercing and visible tattoos. While I’m not really client facing and work in the theater/events industry (which is arguably pretty relaxed about things like that), I personally believe if someone can’t take you seriously in a professional setting just because your chosen hair/jewelry/body modifications, then they aren’t worth knowing or working for. ESPECIALLY with your hair being a natural looking color!

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Assuming OP#2’s boss is not the “head boss,” I would love to know what higher management thinks of her introduction of Scientology to a secular company.

    1. Topcat*

      It sounds like a legal issue to me. Forcing employees to undergo religious courses?

      It’s absolutely bizarre.

      1. Clorinda*

        Completely this. Imagine if they were all forced to memorize and say a particular prayer. This is no different.

      2. Kim, Ranavain*

        I’m guessing it’s a gray area at best, but Scientology (and ultimately I’m sure other religions too) has an entire business philosophy and practice built from it. Much the same way that managers might adopt Holacracy or Reality-Based Management or any other subset of management style, there are management practices that are affiliated with/stem from scientologist practices but are implemented secularly (there’s nothing inherently religious, for instance, about making your employees stare at each other for an hour. It’s weird and probably pointless, but it probably would stand up to legal attack. I mean, I’m sure there are scientologist lawyers who have put in a lot of work to ensure that’s the case.)

        I had a friend who worked at an optometrist office that used scientologist management methodologies. Ultimately, it was weird and she left, though it was never going to be a career track job anyway, but there were facets of it she really enjoyed.

        1. Susan*

          I’m not sure this would stand up legally as Scientology is classified as a religious organization (they blackmailed the IRS into gaining this status for tax purposes).

          So this is no different then teaching a Christian Management Methodologies course at your work place which is a shockingly big no-no.

    2. LW #2*

      It’s a small company so my boss IS the head boss. Unfortunately, there’s no real recourse other than resigning. Trust me when I say, complaining would’ve done no good!

      1. Tardigrade*

        Is there some kind of Scientology rhetoric you can use to to resign? You might as well use that unwanted training to your advantage. ;)

        1. Isabel Kunkle*

          Would be so tempted to get another job and submit a resignation letter full of Scientology speak:

          “Sorry, but it’s become “clear” that I need to move on with my career, and so I’m crossing the “Bridge to Freedom” and taking another job…”

      2. AKchic*

        Maybe contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation to see if they have any resources for you in case your boss tries to retaliate?

      3. Noah*

        OP: please talk to a lawyer first. It sounds like your boss may be closely tied to Scientology, which may mean there are risks you’re not picking up on because they can be dangerous both legally and physically. If you have any indication that your boss is any more than just another person being abused by Scientology, protect yourself first, don’t just walk out the door.

    3. Isabelle*

      I have so many questions about this! Do HR and the boss’s boss know this is going on? Are the courses paid for by the company and if so, are they aware who is running these courses? Maybe the higher ups are also scientologists and they are encouraging this?
      OP2 should leave a detailed Glassdoor review to save someone else from this nightmare.

      1. LW #2*

        Hi! We have no HR department. My boss is the head boss and makes all decisions regarding training and it’s paid for using company funds (to my knowledge).

        1. Number Ninja*

          You may want to take a look at Tony Ortega’s blog for more information on what your boss has you doing.
          I think the staring thing they had you do is called “Bull Baiting”.

          In any case, I’d get the HELL out of there. This is not going to get any better.

        1. Isabel Kunkle*

          Yeeees. I avoided applying to one place because a Glassdoor review was like “…owned by Scientologists, don’t go there,” and I was like DAMN SKIPPY NOT GOING THERE.

    4. AsItIs*

      I’ve watched those Leah Remini documentaries. Sounds like you’re living one. If you’ve done one of its courses I think you’re counted in the roll. O_O

      If she flips, she flips. Remember she’s not coming from the kind of place most people come from. And doing it remotely means she can’t isolate you or get other people to get into the ‘action’ so to speak.

    5. Groovymarlin*

      Yes, this letter just baffled me. Is this legal, to force your employees to undergo religious training? What a nightmare.

  3. JS*

    OP#5 That’s why you ideally should revise your resume for every job you submit to. That way you will be able to throw in their keywords/buzzwords that are relevant. If your qualifications matches you should be able to easily sub out words, restructure simple sentences, etc. Or even take out points that aren’t exactly relevant to the job and replace with with ones that are.

    1. Triplestep*

      What’s worked for me is pasting the job posting into a word cloud generator, and making sure the most frequently used words are in my resume already. Typically they are if I’m bothering to apply, but occasionally the job posting will use synonyms or industry terms I don’t use, and then I can then just selectively work them in. There are plenty of word could generators online, but I use wordclouds dot com because it will generate a list of frequently used words rather than just simply the graphic cloud.

      1. Triplestep*

        Yep, learned that one on Linkedin Job Seekers message boards. It’s a feature of a paid account, but if you get the free month you can learn a lot before it starts to get repetitive, then cancel. Of course there’s a lot of garbage advice over there as well but occasionally you get something good!

    2. Totally Minnie*

      This. I have my “master resume” that has the entirety of my work experience, and for every job I apply to, I make whatever changes make sense for that particular position.

      1. Judy (since 2010)*

        In my field there are lots of different ways to say the same thing. If the job posting says “experience with ARM processors” and my resume lists “experience with CORTEX processors” (a sub-type of ARM processors) or “experience with Atmel SAM4” (a specific ARM CORTEX processor), I might be screened out. I just verify that my experiences use the language in the job description. I believe it helps get past any initial screen before the hiring manager sees it.

        1. Essess*

          Agree with this! A lot of times, the resumes are screened by an HR person who as no clue about the technical terms to know which ones are equivalent. I was contacted once by an HR person for a position where they wanted someone strong in “core Java”. I have formal certifications in java, and also in EJBs, and had worked in Java development for about 20 years. After our skype interview where I told her about all my experience, she told me that I wasn’t qualified. I was very confused by that since everything that I’d talked about fell under the primary Java areas. I later got a call from the actual manager for the position. They explained that in my whole interview where I talked about all the different java applications I’d worked on, I didn’t use the words “core Java” so the interviewer didn’t understand that everything I’d explained to her was exactly what they wanted and they had to force the HR person to go back and put me at the top of their interview list.

          1. Lynn Whitehat*

            I have so many stories like this. SO MANY. Seriously, why is tech recruiting so bad? Why is this allowed to go on?

            1. Jadelyn*

              This is why there are dedicated tech recruiters and recruiting firms out there, and I wish more companies would use them rather than making their non-tech HR/recruiters try to do tech recruiting. Tech is a field that can be labyrinthine and dense with jargon, so for a non-tech recruiter being asked to recruit for tech positions it’s hard to know not just what specific key words to look for, but also what synonyms and adjacent terms would fill the requirements in question. I do better than some of my colleagues on this because I’m very techy and have worked in tech support before, so I can get a pretty good feel for what we’re looking for before I start looking at resumes or talking to candidates, but if we hired for more IT folks than just one or two replacements every couple years (which is a low enough volume that I can take care of it myself), I’d push for us to outsource to a tech recruiter rather than let my boss ( who is unbelievably un-tech-savvy) get involved in recruiting for our IT team.

              Part of the issue, though, isn’t on HR – it’s on the hiring managers who tend to just assume that we know what their jargon means and will be able to interpret correctly. Some of us can. Most of us can’t. And there really, really, REALLY needs to be a dialogue between the hiring manager and recruiter at the start of the process, or you’re going to end up with these kinds of miscommunications and disqualifications of good candidates over misunderstandings. Ideally the recruiter will reach out to start that conversation, but if they don’t, the hiring manager bears some responsibility for doing so as well.

  4. Katherine Spiers*

    Oh wow OP #2, if I didn’t work for the same company in college I will eat my hat. Your boss is not taken seriously by anyone in your industry. Hang up on this person when they freak out on you, they are not worth any of your emotions and there will be no professional repercussions.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This boss is definitely not the only one sending people to Scientology training courses and pretending it’s work-related. I’ve had a number of letters about it. (Which I note because we shouldn’t tell the OP there will be no professional repercussions for hanging up on her boss, as there very well may be.)

      1. Topcat*

        Surely it’s illegal to do that?

        Is this unique to Scientology or have you had reports of it for other religions?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nope, just Scientology. They have a bunch of management training and other work training courses. It would be illegal if the courses were overtly religious, but they’re allegedly not.

          1. MassMatt*

            A frustrating feature of Scientology is this morphing back and forth between religion and self-help “technology”. When it comes to paying taxes, it’s a religion. When it comes to getting contracts for management training or addiction treatment, it’s secular “technology”.

            It’s like new Shimmer—it’s a floor wax AND a dessert topping!

          2. Alldogsarepuppies*

            I could be wrong, but I have the impression that in these classes the Scientologist that refers gets a kickback for each person they get to sign up. So if the boss uses company money to pay for the classes and the the Church of Scientology cuts him a check….is that allowed legally. In an essence on could argue that boss is forcing his employees to earn him money unrelated to their position and to no benefit to themselves.

              1. alldogsarepuppies*

                The amount the US doesn’t care about employees is absurd. Am I understanding correctly that essential my boss could make it part of my employment that I also join his MLM scheme if he so chooses? That’s bananas.

                1. Kim, Ranavain*

                  In some states I believe that you could make a case that that fundamentally changed the nature of your employment and that you quit as a result, and get unemployment. It’s still legal and there’s no legal penalty for the employer, but there is a recognition within some state unemployment laws that this is a point of exploitation for workers.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  You have to remember that the starting point for “is it legal?” questions in the U.S. is “is there a specific law that has been passed against it?” There aren’t really broad worker protections that lay out a vision of what work should and should not be, and how employers may and may not act. There are only individual laws that have been passed prohibiting specific acts.

          3. Red 5*

            There are quite a few fascinating articles out there about how bringing in Scientology “management principles” and training was part of the downfall of Neopets of all things, if anybody wants to read more about how these things wiggle into non-religious companies.

        2. LW #2*

          Yep, agreed with Allison. This is a common thing among Scientology-run companies apparently. And the training is marketed as secular and from my own experience, it’s not illegal though it is inadvisable and could (and has) opened companies up to lawsuits.

        3. Slartibartfast*

          I have experienced similar, non Scientology affiliated behavior, but it was a small business and an owner who thought it was protected under his religious freedom to set policy based on scripture. He read from the Bible in staff meetings (I pushed back on that and shut it down but it cost me professionally) and expected female staff to act according to his religious norms (be meek, humble and quiet if you want to be considered for leadership positions, “do it for Jesus” if you had a legit issue with unreasonable expectations). Also morale/team building exercises that were poorly adapted from Bible study and obviously meant for children (respect your elders was the usual theme). I was able to put up with it for quite some time because he was off site and I only had to deal with him directly in staff meetings a few times per year, and the rest of the team was legit awesome sauce, but it’s still 40% of the reason why I am gone. So yes it happens, but it’s not as structured or large as Scientology, so it’s harder to notice. I have seen it enough on this site to feel safe posting this with a minimal feeling of risk of ‘outing’ myself.

          1. Dr. Pepper*

            Anyone who is extreme/fanatical about their religion (doesn’t matter what it is), tends to believe it is their duty to truly “live by the gospel” and to convert others. In their mind, it’s the Right Thing To Do, and in fact if they don’t do so, they are committing some sort of infraction. Give them essentially absolute power over others (i.e. being the owner of a company), and they run rampant.

            Honestly I find these people very tiresome.

            1. Lynn*

              Jews don’t proselytize. A Jewish “convert” is someone who converted from Judaism to another religion. Someone who converted to Judaism is just a Jew.

              1. Noah*

                Members of Chabad-Lubavitch most certainly do proselytize. But other orthodox Jews, and conservative and reform and reconstitution and pretty much every other kind of Jew, do not.

                1. Anononon*

                  My experience with them is very limited, but I always got the impression that they “proselytized” to other, less strict, Jews, and not necessarily to gentiles. I feel like that makes some type of difference, but I’m not sure what.

          2. AKchic*

            Yep. I see it a *lot* with small business owners here in Alaska too. Many of them go to the same church, or their church supports that particular church… and I am banned from their property. They won’t even say the reason other than “moral turpitude”.

              1. AKchic*

                I am. I know why I’m banned. They know why I’m banned. They just won’t admit the real reason. Moral turpitude indeed…

        4. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

          Actually, it’s fairly common in most religions. There are issues with evangelical Christians high up in the US Air Force pushing their agenda, a gentleman in Oregon got fired for not attending Bible classes, judges who demanded church as part of a defendant’s release and so on.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Not to be That Guy, but the guy in Oregon was fired for not attending Bible study, which was explicitly religious, and not remotely related to his work. It wasn’t in any way a “management class”.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Whether or not there are professional repercussions may very well depend on where LW#2 lives. If she’s in Clearwater, FL or LA, there very well could be because there are a lot of Scientologists in those areas.

        Also, Scientologists can be absolutely bananacrackers so it would be in her best interests to disengage with the least amount of drama possible.

    2. Susan K*

      A lot of things at my company are kind of toxic, but sometimes it’s good to remember that at least my boss isn’t trying to convert people to Scientology.

      I’ve read that Scientology courses mix in some actual good advice to make people think, “Wow, this Scientology stuff really works.” (Obviously, the staring contests are not in the “actual good advice” category.)

      1. Nea*

        Am I the only one who would tolerate the staring for about 90 seconds before declaring that I felt a win and stopping?

        1. Harper the Other One*

          I’m not sure I’d wait as long as 90 seconds! They have no way to verify anything, so lock eyes and then immediately declare yourself (or the other person) victorious.

          Although that does raise the awful spectre of them deciding the “winner” has some great gift and therefore ESPECIALLY needs more of Scientology’s guidance…

        2. Lance*

          Never mind 90 seconds, I, and I’m sure many others, wouldn’t be able to last near that long. Sitting knee-to-knee, forced to maintain eye contact? I’d probably run, almost immediately.

          1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

            A boyfriend and I once got a couple of Scientology books and tried a bunch of the stuff, just for a lark. We couldn’t make it more than 15 seconds staring into each others’ eyes without cracking up. Needless to say, we did not got very far down the path to being “clear”.

        3. MLB*

          I wouldn’t last 1 second. When I heard what they expected us to do, I’d walk out. I’d work 5 part time jobs before I’d subject myself to anything remotely related to Scientology.

          1. JeanB in NC*

            I would walk out now, too, but when I was in my 20s? Maybe not. I didn’t have a good handle on what was appropriate and I didn’t have the confidence to push back.

        4. Dr. Pepper*

          I too would probably arbitrarily declare myself either the winner or loser, depending on who I was partnered with, just to end the charade as quickly as possible. I’d love to say I’d have to guts to walk out, but honestly I’m not so sure.

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        Anything that generates a large following, like Co$, does do *some* good. If it was all crazy and awful, who would join? Or continue to pony up the enormous amount of cash required to “advance” through the levels? This is part of the problem; it’s how they suck people in. There’s enough good, solid advice and self help principles there that it really truly does help people. They don’t lead with the crazypants stuff, they lead with the “hey, here’s how to feel better about yourself and the world around you” and people are like “yes! this actually works!” Theeeeeeen they start introducing the weird stuff, and only once you’re well in train. Add to that the fact that the Co$ regularly uses the technique of “lovebombing” to make prospective and new members feel extra good and included, it’s a pretty addictive formula.

        1. Anna*

          I would highly recommend listening to Oh No! Ross and Carrie about Scientology. I question whether or not it actually is doing anyone any good.

        2. Student*

          I don’t want to knock any specific religion. I do want to knock your faulty logic here, claiming that things people pay for are necessarily valuable.

          Lots of stuff that’s inherently bad and worthless still generates a big following and big cash. It may do something, but in a wholly inferior/more harmful way than other options. It may, in fact, do no good at all, or only harm people. Examples:
          -Pyramid/Ponzi schemes
          -Pet rocks
          -drinking radioactive water as an energy drink

          The silver lining in these things is so thin as to be non-existent. Some are historic, some are ongoing problems, but they all generated a tremendous following and a lot of money in their heyday. People are suckers for anything marketed as a quick fix to their problems, consequences be damned.

  5. LarsTheRealGirl*

    OP 4: it sounds like your boss is well aware of the issues, and probably understands your frustrations (and even if she doesn’t, isn’t the end result the same?)

    This sounds like you really need to be HEARD. You’d like your frustration acknowledged, validated. But this kind of emotional labor isn’t something to dump on your boss when the actionable steps are already being taken. (If this were an ongoing or persistent problem, there may be a benefit to having that conversation, but this doesn’t sound like that at all.)

    SO! This situation is perfect for “the email that never gets sent”. Write an email to your boss (DON’T put her address in the To: field – leave it blank or send it to yourself) detailing all of the issues, how you felt about them, how you want them resolved, what got you the most frustrated, how it could have been avoided, who you think let the team down, etc etc etc. Vent those frustrations in writing, and then put the email away, to be deleted at a future time. This can dramatically help to reduce some of that NEED to express the frustration.

    Good luck! I hope the process is easily and effectively fixed.

    1. The Doctor*

      It could even be a generic Word document.

      Also, make sure to write it on your home computer (or any other device NOT owned or controlled by your company). You don’t want the company IT department to find the message in an audit of your work computer.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      +1 definitely sounds like the issue *is* being handled, and OP just wants more acknowledgement for working in that stressful situation. Which is fine! And reasonable! And I totally get it!

      But in a professional setting, I don’t think you’re going to get that. Sorry. Vent to your family or friends, write that email, write to Alison (check that one off!).

    3. OP #4*

      Thanks Allison & everyone, I needed to hear that. I wrote this on my way back from the airport and the strain of staying upbeat and focused when I really just wanted to scream and then sleep for 10 hours was starting to get to me. I’ll stick with the more factual descriptions of what was going on and assume that everyone realizes that nobody likes spending 16 hour days dealing with stressful problems away from home.

      PS sorry I wasn’t around yesterday, still dealing with this whole mess

    4. TardyTardis*

      Yes, write a long “I’m depressed and so I whine” journal entry if only to yourself–you have the right to feel what you feel. Read it out loud to yourself and/or your dog/cat/goldfish/llama, too, because most of the time they will listen attentively (the fish will only listen because they think you’re going to feed them, but that’s fish for you).

      Then eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, if your diet allows.

  6. wondrous*

    OP #1 – Yup, coloring your hair a natural color shouldn’t make anyone bat an eye. Like Allison said, most places (including my former job) don’t even mind brighter colors these days.

    Your piercings shouldn’t be an issue at all since they’re really not unusual, but if you’re concerned, you can also ask in your job interviews about the dress code (I’d wait until face-to-face interviews to do so). If the interviewers don’t bring it up, I usually asked “Could you tell me a bit about your dress code policy?” or “I was wondering how your dress code policy handles piercings/tattoos/hair colors and styles.” When I was interviewing at one point I had an “alternative” hairstyle that was hidden with my hair down, but the shaved part showed when I wore it up. Thankfully the workplace I ended up in was really relaxed about everything – I could wear my hair however I wanted, I had multiple coworkers with visible tattoos, and others with facial piercings. And it wasn’t all millenials either, if your mom might have that idea! Many of them were in their late 30’s to 40’s and up.

    1. NicoleT*

      Huh. If you were older and going grey in spots, then would she consider it unprofessional to NOT dye your hair?

      1. MLB*

        Seriously. I’ve been dyeing my hair for years to cover the gray. Sounds like mom still thinks it’s the 50s.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yup. I was wondering if OP #1 was one of my siblings as I heard the exact same things from my mom about dying my brown hair a natural-looking auburn, the extra ear piercings, and one other random thing. She was convinced I was never going to get a job.

          Interestingly, by the last kid, she didn’t bat an eye at the way-less-subtle hair color, visible tattoos, and three facial piercings.

    2. Asian*

      Is “natural hair color” supposed to refer to any hair color that could naturally exist in humans, or only hair colors that could be natural for a given individual? As an East Asian, I can’t pass as natural with the same hair colors that white women could.

      1. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

        I would assume that natural hair color refers to any hair color that could naturally exist in humans. Granted, I am saying this as a white woman, so feel free to ignore my opinion, but you showed up to work with red or blonde hair, I wouldn’t consider those colors to be unnatural colors.

      2. Someone Else*

        Every policy I’ve seen on this was intended as “naturally exists in humans”. Doesn’t matter if it’s likely/probable to be the natural hair color of any one specific human, just humans in general (the usual point being no pink, purple, blue, neon, whatever).

  7. Anon for this*

    Oh, OP #2, that takes me back. I worked somewhere where upper management was dominated by Scientologists and used an L. Ron Hubbard-based management philosophy/system. And I have been in the exact same training you went to (though it was so long ago, I had forgotten about that particular one until your letter.) At least you’ll have good stories to tell!

    1. SittingDuck*

      I too worked somewhere that management was dominated by Scientologists – granted it was a school based on the educational teachings of L. Ron Hubbard. (Aside: I do think some of his educational philosophies have validity to them and the students in the school all did really well in the private (non L. Ron Hubbard related) high-schools they went to after this school)

      Part of our daily work schedule was an hour of ‘study’ time – it was sold to me when I was hired as ‘learning the philosphy of the school, and once you are done with that you can study whatever you want, we want all our staff to constantly be studying’. I thought that was great! Once i completed the first course I was excited to be able to bring in my own stuff to study -until I realized that the head of the school, who had worked there for 15 years, was still working her way through the ‘courses’ – so my own personally studying would never happen.

      The straw that broke the camels back for me was when I hit the course that tried to tell me that when you get physically ill its because there is some negative person in your life and the negative feelings they have for you are causing you to be sick. I revolted against that one and got put through the systems ringer trying to ‘fix’ my ‘misunderstanding’ of the concept (aka my denial of it and insistence that germs make people sick). I ended up staying through the summer but they no longer made me ‘study’ every day – since I had already told them I was leaving to go to grad school in the fall.

      Again – I do think the school itself was great for the kids – the educational philosophies that L. Ron Hubbard taught can be completely separated from Scientology – and it did a lot of the kids really well. Its a self-directed education system – where students work at their own pace through the material, and are taught to identify ‘barriers’ to completing their work and how to overcome those barriers so they can continue to learn. I think it teaches a lot of great self-directed skills that kids don’t always get these days (aka solve your own problems, don’t just memorize the answers to the test to get the grade)

      1. twig*

        I worked for a scientologist run company!

        The company handbook included a “no prosthelytizing at work” rule — BUT we were “strongly encouraged” to take training courses from the L Ron Hubbard School of Business management. if we were not curently working on a training, HR would periodically ask/encourage us to.

        I had no idea what scientology was when I started there (I thought it was related to christian science?)

        My VERY FIRST DAY I was sent to the training room to meet with the trainer to get started on my orientation and there were two people on the other side of the room sitting in chairs opposite each other staring at each other.

        That should have been a red flag.

        1. MassMatt*

          I mixed up Scientology with Christian Science when I was a kid! I’m sure adherents of both would dislike the association, just from having a variation of “science” in their name.

  8. Eternal Admin*

    OP #1 you could explain the faith as being a medicinal piercing. My daughter has one that has eliminated her migraines. If you don’t have migraines, it could be preventative.

    1. Nonny*

      People lying about accommodations just makes it harder for the people who genuinely need those accommodations to be taken seriously down the line. Don’t do this!

      1. Julia*

        I generally agree with you on that, but a piercing is hardly something that costs the company to accommodate?

        1. TheNotoriousMCG*

          Julia – I think what Nonny was getting at is that if OP1 goes to a company where that is against the dress code and says ‘Oh well I have migraines and this helps them’ in order to keep it in during work hours, then that would be taking advantage of an accommodation. Granted, likely not one that many people will notice or care about but if one day OP forgets they said that to keep the faith and decide they don’t want it anymore and the employer notices – then that makes it more likely for the next person that employer encounters who does have a daith for that purpose to be treated with suspicion.

          Again – on the spectrum of accommodation imitation it is low on the list, but it would be on the list in some contexts.

          1. Julia*

            I figured that’s what they meant, but I also thought that even if the next person actually has one for real migraines, the company would hardly balk considering it’s such a tiny thing, plus that person could probably provide documentation.
            If anything, OP1 shouldn’t claim any medical issues she can’t provide documentation for, but a) she wasn’t going to do that anyway and b) most companies are probably really fine with a small piercing anyway.

            1. TheNotoriousMCG*

              Oh for sure. Companies are loathe to actually refuse an accommodation but it can always affect how the person requesting it in the future is treated. Your boss saying ‘How’s your migraines?’ Because they’re concerned is a lot different than them saying ‘Oh how are your ‘MIGRAINES’??’ Because they think you’re pulling one over on them like the last person.

              Again, this is on the lowest end of the spectrum for accommodations imitations but it could have an effect on how others are treated which is a net loss for society if it hypothetically happened. But we’re all in hypothetical here because OP1 really wasn’t considering it anyway.

          2. Nonny*

            Right, exactly this. It’s true they’re unlikely to ask for documentation in this case, but you’d hate to be the reason they told someone else, “Well, we allowed it before but it turned out that person was lying so now we’ll need documentation from you” or otherwise made it more arduous for a person with an actual need to get what they required. I’ve seen this happen with people lying about service animals/those fake service animal vests you can buy. It just makes it harder for people who actually have a service animal when people get in their heads that oh, some people lie, better make sure. But that’s getting off-topic, sorry!

        2. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

          Healthcare here.

          Yes it does! Many patients complain when staff caring for them have piercings outside of just one in the ear lobes as well as non-natural hair colors. This leads to decreased perception of competence in that staff so they may ask for other staff to care for them $$$, may quietly fume/mistrust their care and later not recommend our facility $$$, and may even complain about it on CAHPS lowering our score $$$.

      2. Beanie*

        Also – most accommodations have to be based in science. There’s nothing but anecdotal data to support the piercing/migraine link as it seems to be only a placebo. I’ve considered getting one myself (I understand migraines and how folks will try anything!) and may still get one just for looks. But if I tried to claim an exemption to an already rigid policy it might not go well.

      3. Genny*

        Thank you! I’ve seen the advice to lie about a medical need/accommodation or to appropriate someone else’s tragedy pop up here a couple times the last two weeks, and it’s such terrible advice. You may never experience the fallout from your actions, but your forcing the people who legitimately need accommodations to deal with the fallout. That person who needs a standing desk for a health reason has to jump through 10,000 hoops to get one because you lied about needing one for a “medical reasons”. That person who needs gluten-free food gets more skepticism about whether they really need. It’s fine to have preferences, it’s fine to find vague reasons why you may or may not need something/want to do something, it’s not okay to lie about medical conditions.

    2. ILikePeople*

      Not only is medical sharing awkward and not ideal during the interview process, that is a less common reason for piercings and might not be taken well or believed. Not to mention it’s not true for OP.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Plus, depending on the employer, they could think that’s “not a real thing” or some kind of “hippie nonsense” and then draw their own conclusions about her.

        ….anddd I say that because I have met people that made those kinds of comments.

      2. Statler von Waldorf*

        It might not be believed because no data about the efficacy and action of daith piercings are available in the scientific literature that I can find. All the “facts” on social media is anecdotal evidence. Show me a double blind study showing it’s effectiveness, then I’ll believe it. Until then, it’s woo. Fairly harmless woo, but still woo. I would definitely be less likely to hire someone who brought it up as a medical accommodation in an interview, so I strongly recommend the LW doesn’t go this route.

          1. MRK*

            Not for nothing, I have daith piercings in both ears AND suffer from migraines. Got both done well before the “daith piercings help migraines” hype. Pretty much as blind a study as one could hope for…

            There was never any noticeable change in my migraine patterns/causes/frequency due to the piercings.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              Everything I’ve read indicate that the people getting relief from migraines after getting the piercing only have it for a short time period. (About the same amount of time it generally takes for the placebo effect to wear off.) I get migraines so would love a solution like this, but it’s just not evidence-based, especially not enough for someone to claim it as an accommodation.

    3. Sybil Fawlty*

      Can you please tell me more about this? I’m a chronic migraine sufferer and have not found anything that works!

      1. Sybil Fawlty*

        Never mind, should have scrolled down! Just got excited because storms have been in my area all week and I’ve had a constant migraine. So frustrating!

  9. Hot Chocolate*

    OP #1, my partner has a daith piercing to help with migraines and you literally cannot see it unless you get to the exact right angle and really look deep in his ear (it’s the curved kind, not a circle). When he mentioned he got a new piercing to his boss, she expressed distaste, but he challenged her to find the piercing… and as she couldn’t, he’s still got it. As a bonus, he’s not taking a week off work sick, struck down by crippling migraines, every couple of months.

    When I was interviewing for my current job, which is both front-facing and with the federal government, I wore my hair a normal, conservative colour, but when I started my job, I noticed a lot of staff had facial piercings and visible tattoos. I asked my manager what her feelings were on ‘unusual’ hair colours and she said so long as I looked groomed and professional she didn’t mind. I rocked up the next week with purple hair.

    1. Angeldrac*

      Daith piercing for migraines?!
      I’m googling that one – that sounds amazing! I assuming some sort of acupuncture thingy?

      1. ILikePeople*

        I googled it after seeing it a few times here – Both the Cleveland Clinic and the American Migraine Association say it’s not scientifically proven to be effective and likely a placebo effect. One of them even quotes an acupuncturist saying that it would be difficult for a piercer to correctly place the piercing at the pressure point regardless (since they aren’t trained). Of course, even if it was placebo it could be effective.

        Though the journal article (with a case study of one) in my username seems to be a bit more charitable and offers a physiological explanation. I listened to a great podcast on the usefulness of placebos a while back, so really, placebo isn’t meant as an insult, more of a scientific term.

      2. Alexandra*

        I got my daith pierced for migraines. At one point I was getting them almost daily. I’ve had the piercing for almost a year and I’ve only had maybe 5. So even if it is a placebo effect I’ll take it!
        But more to the point, literally no one in my job has noticed it. It’s such a small piercing. I just have the little tiny barbell that it was pierced with.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      When he mentioned he got a new piercing to his boss, she expressed distaste, but he challenged her to find the piercing…

      Gotta admit, this sounds like the beginning of a p0rn movie. Or a “Dear Penthouse” letter.

  10. Chaordic One*

    OP5, even though it is a PITA, if you’re up to it and think it would help, you can rewrite your resume to include as many of the words in the advertised job description as would be honest and as would fit.

    1. Lady Blerd*

      That is the trick that candidates applying for our federal positions do. Another one is to use key phrases from the question like when it’s a standard application form such as “Are you well experienced in using Excel spreandsheets?” “Yes, I am well experienced using Excel spreadsheets […]”.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      You may have heard it called a “tragus” piercing. :)

      (At least that’s the lingo my friends and I still use.)

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Actually, now I feel silly because the daith and tragus are technically different, even though they’re located near each other. I retract my prior comment!

    2. chersy*

      Same, and now I’m curious about it, especially with the mentions of migraine (as I have been doing acupuncture to alleviate my migraines).

      1. curly sue*

        It’s a placebo thing. I’ve had a daith piercing for a long time because I liked the look, and migraines, and the one has never had an effect on the other.

    3. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      Same here. I googled a picture and…well, it’s not for me. But piercing anywhere other than earlobes kind of creeps me out.

  11. Topcat*

    The daith piercing (I had to look it up) looks really neat and inoffensive, and is the kind of thing that wouldn’t even show from most angles (let alone under long hair).

    As for dyeing your hair, I can’t see what could be an issue with using a natural colour. Consider all the older workers who dye grey hair. It might even be ageist to forbid it!

    1. Doctor Schmoctor*

      I think it’s common enough these days that people won’t even notice. If I do notice it, I will think “looks painful”, and move on.

  12. Dan*


    OP, if you’re reading, can you help us out a bit more with the nature of of your work? If you told me that people were applying for four or five jobs, I wouldn’t bat an eye. For the most part, companies that hire for my background are very large household names. Any given company could easily have a handful of jobs open that I would be qualified for and interested in. I wouldn’t be able to narrow down *from the outside* which ones I would be most interested in. I’d really need to talk to a recruiter or a hiring manager if I actually had to down select.

    What gets my attention with your question is the sheer number of jobs that people apply for, and that you can’t just quickly reject them based on their qualifications. You ask how you should assess which ones they’re qualified for: I don’t mean to be blunt, but isn’t that a core part of your actual job?

    I do think that if you truly have dozens of similar jobs for which you can’t distinguish a candidate’s qualifications, that you may want to reconsider your hiring process. For example, I work for a very large company that hires a lot of software developers. My division alone has 700 people, and for the most part, if a programmer is qualified for one department, he’s likely qualfiied for all of them. But, when we hire, we hire at the department level – I think there’s probably a dozen departments or so in my division. Here’s the rub: If they’re all hiring at the same time, there’s going to be a dozen different job reqs posted. It’s not unreasonable that someone may apply to all of them, not knowing that we use the same recruiter for the entire division. Second, there’s absolutely no way to know on the outside if one’s skills/interests are better aligned with one department over another. Job reqs are written too vaguely to convey that level of information. This is where we really would be relying on our recruiters to help figure out exactly where a candidate’s interest and skills lie. If *you* can’t figure that out, then there’s no way to realistically expect them to do that without talking to you.

    I guess that’s the long winded way of me suggesting you revamp your hiring process to centralize recruitment based on skillset. If you truly have 17 (you even say dozens in your letter) jobs where someone is a decent fit for all of them, 17 individual reqs is an aministrative nightmare on all sorts of levels. Put out a handful of different reqs based on skillset, phone screen qualified applicants, and then shop the resumes around to the appropriate manager based on that screen. The reason I suggest a handful of different ads based on skill is that at least in tech, writing reqs that capture a variety of potential skills gets confusing and a bit of a turnoff for *good* candidates. I know that if my company were to put out a req for a programmer with experience in “Java, Python, R, C, C++ and/or .Net” it would come across as if the employer had no idea how to hire tech people, or even worse, that we wouldn’t know what skills we actually wanted. (That’s actually a turnoff for good candidates.) At least if we put out a req for each programming language, we could filter based on who applied to what, and quickly see if the resume’s stated skills matched the language in the announcement.

    One final thought: Something you could do is code the job IDs based on job “family” or something. So all entry level programming jobs could be coded as A123XX or something. You could then put at the bottom of the req, “there is no need to apply to multiple jobs beginning with the latter “A” in the req ID. The same recruiter handles all of them, and will reach out to discuss the most appropriate fit.”

    1. AnonForThis*

      I had a government job (in the UK) that interviewed all entry level positions at once a few times a year. You could apply for specific hours (part-time/full-time/school-hours/etc) and customer-facing or back office but there were actually about fifty different roles being filled at once. Since most people at that level’s preference was to be employed in literally any job they knew that posting each role would result in many identical applications (in fact given the Job Centres own requirement to apply to X number of jobs a week most people would apply for all variations anyway). It really was much easier to get everyone’s qualifications and then decide what to offer them. If they’d limited people to only two it would have just resulted in rejected people coming back again on the tranch to apply for two more over and over again

      1. Flash Bristow*

        That’s a good point about the job centre. It’s a while since I signed on, but I was expected to show x adverts I’d applied for, per fortnight, or lose my benefit. And if they found a job for me, I had to apply.

        Fortunately this was before the Internet was commonplace, so they agreed I’d do my searching online and not have to show up in person twice a week to read the job boards, as my skills were in computing and their jobs were mostly manual. But I still had to print out copies of however many jobs I’d identified and let them know the outcome of my applications, every 2 weeks when I signed in.

        I guess these days it happens online, but you’re still expected to show how you’re proactively searching. If I saw 17 jobs I *could* apply to, I might not make much effort on them (at least other than the one or two I really wanted) but yes, I’d be obliged to apply. If I could only do two at a time it’d be a gift – two a week for 8 weeks, brilliant way not to stress about losing my unemployment benefit!

        1. Batty Twerp*

          We legitimately got a cover letter that explicitly stated the applicant was only applying because he had been told to by the job centre!
          I can only assume HR passed it through because they were as gob-smacked by this guy’s audacity and wanted hiring manager to confirm it was as stupid as it appeared.

          1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

            In Finland that’s a thing that happens a lot. Unemployed people get these orders to apply for a certain position or lose their benefits. Even if you know you’re not remotely qualified for the job you have to apply, and of course it doesn’t matter if you’re not interested in it. So one way to make sure you won’t be chosen is to say that you were ordered to apply. It’s being discussed to change the system so that unemployed people only needed to apply to a certain number of jobs they choose, not ones specifically ordered – it could be a real improvement if done well (but the way it’s presented now, it would just bring new problems instead of the old ones…), because both job seekers and recruiters hate the forced application system.

            1. Anonny*

              Yup, I’ve heard similar horror stories from UK Jobcentres. Like people being told to apply for minimum-wage jobs so far away they’d probably lose money in travel costs, or people receiving benefit sanctions because they didn’t apply for any jobs – the reason they weren’t applying for any jobs is because they had successfully landed a job and was just waiting for their start date.

              I dunno, maybe if more people wrote cover letters reading ‘Hi, I’m applying for this job because the Jobcentre told me to, it’s not suitable for me at all, just delete this’, maybe there’d be an outcry from the people the policymakers actually listen to.

    2. antimony*

      Whereas at the software company I work at, with similar piles of entry-level reqs, HR does a basic screening and they go straight to the hiring manager, so it’s fine if an applicant goes for multiple ones. (It will show me if someone has started interviewing with another team.) If a candidate applies to everything open whether or not it fits their background, that’s a flag, but applying to all the similar ones that someone not at the company wouldn’t know the difference between? Sure.

      Also definitely tailor your resume, don’t add white text—I almost never open the original resume, just use the captured text, unless the capture mangled it badly.

    3. kjvp*

      OP #3 here. Thanks for the response!

      I am definitely able to assess their *skills* as a fit for a particular role, and I do a lot of that — I reject hundreds of unqualified candidates based on skillset every week. However, the issue is that in addition to skillset, I need to assess someone’s *subject matter interest/familiarity* to know if they’re a good fit for the role. While the job listings do specify that we need knowledge of a particular topic, and ask candidates to specify why they want to work on that topic, people will hedge their bets and say that they’re interested in *all* the available topics in the hopes of at least getting an offer for one of them. When I reach out to highly skilled candidates and ask them to rank their subject matter preferences, at least half the time they insist they’re interested in all subjects equally. That makes it difficult to find the exact right match.

      Because these are entry-level roles, someone could plausibly have enough knowledge of a subject area but not have a ton of resume-evident experience working in that area; usually, applicants have had a one or two internships in the field, as well as college extracurriculars that are relevant. So in addition to seeing proof on the resume, I do need some information in their own words about what they want to cover. If that’s not in the cover letter but they’re otherwise highly qualified, I have to find a way to get that information out of them in a phone screen.

      1. AMPG*

        I’m not really understanding why it’s an issue for someone who’s qualified and expresses an interest in multiple subjects to remain in the running for more than one role. Instead of asking candidates to express an interest in a specific subject, add a question or two that will get at their actual level of familiarity with that subject and screen accordingly. This may add time to your phone screen, but in theory it saves you time in the long run because you’re screening fewer people if you’re moving one person forward for multiple roles.

      2. Dan*

        Here’s something I’m stuck on — absent more specific detail (which I understand you may not want to provide), in the general case, I think you’re asking more from an entry level candidate than is warranted. I mean, just how much subject matter familiarity can they have that is actually relevant to employment? For that matter, how much subject matter familiarity can they have *across a variety of job postings* such that that familiarity qualifies them more for one role than another?

        And TBH, the behavior you are getting from candidates is expected. When I look back at my early days, there was a subset of jobs for which *I truly did not have a preference* (and my main goal was to get a pay check.) So I think you have to expect this, and rework your hiring process to accept it.

        BTW, I’m kinda dying to know what type of field you are hiring for such that 1) subject matter knowledge from 2) an entry level candidate is 3) important to the hiring criteria, 4) can very so much across a great number of jobs and 5) is hard to ascertain. Can you share? This combination is highly unusual. FWIW, I work in a specialized field where a minority of applicants have subject matter expertise. In my field, employers have accepted that they won’t find many technical people with that expertise, and in general, hiring processes don’t even screen for it. It drives me batty, because I have that expertise, and it’s really hard to demonstrate that in an interview that isn’t screening for it. So how do we get that expertise? There are roles designed for people on a second career who have retired as practitioners of the subject. Realistically, we only start screening for it for midlevel and senior roles.

        1. marmalade*

          BTW, I’m kinda dying to know what type of field you are hiring for such that 1) subject matter knowledge from 2) an entry level candidate is 3) important to the hiring criteria, 4) can vary so much across a great number of jobs and 5) is hard to ascertain.

          Me too! To be honest, these don’t really sound like entry-level jobs.

      3. Genny*

        I work in IR. IR programs, unless they’re regional studies, rarely delve into one area. The student may continually do projects on terrorism and East Africa because they like the topic and region. When it comes to jobs, that same student will apply to any job tangentially related to terrorism or East Africa like the Middle East or West Africa, because they just want to get a foot in the door. They may have a preference for East Africa, but are afraid it will be the kiss of death to say that to you (what if all the other candidates say East Africa and now I have to compete against 100 other people instead of 10 other people? What if the recruiter is really trying to get me to say West Africa? What if I say the wrong thing and that ends my candidacy for any of the jobs?).

        The chances of an entry level person committing to one or two areas is slim. You probably just have to accept that the power imbalance between you and a job-seeker, especially an entry level one, means you’ll never get that information from them. I’d look for other ways to sort them (I liked Dan’s idea to select the top X number of people and farm them out the hiring managers to see who is interested in which resume). It’s nice to try to match people with the things they’re most interested in, but I think your current system is creating more work for you and anxiety for your applicants without giving you much return on that investment.

  13. Dan*


    AAM writes: “…and don’t trust the employer to assess your qualifications correctly on their own.”

    This is actually a real problem in many tech fields. (The problem isn’t people not trusting recruiting, the problem is that often recruiting isn’t well versed in the tech field, and deservedly isn’t trusted by candidates.) My skill set is such that it goes by different names at different companies. Even worse, it can go by different names within different departments at the same company.

    Good recruiters are worth their weight in gold; the problem from the outside is that we have no idea who is good and who isn’t.

    1. epi*

      I agree, this is a notorious problem in technical fields. Equivalent qualifications get passed over because the reviewer doesn’t understand what they mean. Or in a related issue, the uninformed person writing the ad requires 10 years of experience in a five year old technology.

      I like some of the suggestions in this thread about making sure the normal text of your resume echoes the job description wherever possible, but it’s still not a guarantee if the person reading it doesn’t understand what the qualifications mean.

  14. Grand Mouse*

    My grandma has been dyeing her hair red (a natural red) her whole life and she has been working in conservative offices like in banking, reception at a business management firm, and an architect office. And obviously because of her age she was doing it in the workplace over 40 years ago so it’s got to be absolutely fine now!

    1. MK*

      Women in conservative environments been dying their hair since forever. I actually found this reaction on the part of the OP’s mother quite odd. Piercings used to be considered “alternative” till relatively recently, but I have never heard of anyone objecting to hair dyed in a natural color, except in extremely strict religious places.

          1. Julia*

            I don’t know if I should feel sorry or proud, because this may have been my first tea-spitting comment on AaM.
            I guess I should probably apologize.

      1. WellRed*

        Alison nailed it when she said mom probably doesn’t like OP dying her hair. It’s a mom issue, not a workplace issue.

        1. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

          Yep! Mom doesn’t like it and is just trying to find ways to justify her opinion. I have been coloring my hair since I was 12 (I have no idea what my natural color is at this point), and nobody at work has ever seemed to care whether I’m a blonde, a brunette, a redhead, or somewhere in between.

        2. Bea*

          So true. Thankfully my mom knows I don’t subscribe to bs and never tried this. BUT I only stopped dying my hair when I finally felt bad enough that my mom was upset that she may never see my natural color again.

      2. Sometimes Wallflower*

        Ha, when I was a teenager my mom claimed dyeing my hair would be a huge mistake, and she gave me the roots reason, but also told me it would ruin my hair and would be a professional image problem for years while I grew it out or whatever. 25 years later when she complimented me on my hair color (a natural color but much darker than my own) I asked her to level with me about why she never let me do it. Turns out that back then, the roots were a personal pet peeve of hers (she admitted she doesn’t even notice people’s roots anymore), and she didn’t want me staining the bathroom, my clothes, and towels with hair dye. It was mostly just a messy thing she didn’t want to deal with in her house … which I totally get as an adult, but teenage me would have almost certainly picked that hill to die on (and adult me also understands my mom not wanting to even go there back then).

        It’s often good to a) get other opinions outside the family and b) question parental motivations when they start tossing around catastrophic generalizations.

  15. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP #5 – I’m so glad you asked this because I saw the same post recently and was wondering the same thing. The version I saw had an addition that you can place the ad/keywords in a text box behind your resume so it can’t be detected or removed (I think that was the way the tip was worded). I didn’t know if it was possible and even asked a couple of tech-minded friends. They also weren’t sure but said they wouldn’t risk it. For every life hack and sneaky trick out there, someone’s figured it out and has a way to counter it.

    1. Antilles*

      Frankly, the other issue (which I’m surprised AAM didn’t mention) is that the automated screening is only, like, step 1 of 5. So EVEN IF this trick did work perfectly to get you past the initial automated screening, it doesn’t really seem too beneficial because the very next step is me-a-human reading the resumes, going “hm, I don’t see much Python experience here” (because you just snuck by with That One Magic Trick), then tossing your resume right in the trash.

      1. Someone Else*

        I thought the people who do this “trick” do it because they don’t trust/have been burned by the step 1 automated screening in the past, and consequently really only are trying to subvert that one step? Like if they don’t trust an algorithm to understand that word-you-chose is equivalent to word-they-were-looking-for and thus might screen you out. So they’re doing it to get in the hands of a human who hopefully has better reading comprehension than the bot.
        I don’t agree with the practice either way, but I didn’t think the people who did that sort of thing thought it would give then any kind of leg up if they actually do not meet the qualifications at all.

        1. Antilles*

          They may *think* that because everybody always believes they’re the perfect candidate. But I can say that my experience is that usually the best candidates never need to bother with this; their resumes usually stand out perfectly fine without the gimmicks. So even if a candidate who otherwise would get cut made it through, it doesn’t matter because he’s still going to be on my “nope, sorry” list.
          Their rationale might be more “I don’t trust the system” than “I want to sneak around qualifications”, but either way, our automated system was going to cut you for a *reason*. After all, remember that I’m the one who set the parameters for the automated screen in the first place – if you’re not good enough to impress the computer, you’re unlikely to suddenly jump off the page to me either.

        2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          That was what people were saying, at least in the posts/discussion I saw. It wasn’t about trying to get a top job with a year’s experience. It was trying to get past the unpredictable automatic screening process, which can be really ridiculous. I agree it’s not a good idea and Antilles has a good point that you still need a strong resume anyway. But the people doing it were applying for jobs they already had a shot at (or so they said).

          Side note: This discussion has made me want to hear from employers who’ve caught people trying this trick and whether they told the applicants.

  16. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP #2 – You might already know this so please forgive me if that’s the case. If you haven’t already, take security precautions in your life as well. I don’t mean to scare you, but this group goes beyond annoying and into frightening. Since you aren’t a former member and work remotely, you’ll probably just get put on mailing lists and receive literature for years. But if your boss is this extreme, it’s better to be safe than sorry. It sounds like no matter what you say, she’s going to get angry, but remain as neutral as possible so you don’t give her ammunition. Keep it simple as well and don’t fall for her pressure to reveal your next job. Don’t post anything about your job on social media, not even LinkedIn. You can also look up what former members do to protect themselves – it’s extremely unlikely you’ll have to go as far as them, but you can at least be prepared and pick up some safety tips. Good luck escaping!

    1. LW #2*

      Thanks for the advice! I have the entire company blocked on social media and all of my profiles are private, so no one will be privy to what’s happening in my life after leaving :) I’m fairly private anyway so if they somehow circumvent that, there won’t be much for them to see. Fingers crossed there are no serious repercussions

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Oh, that’s good to hear. It’s very smart to have done those things already. I’ll be the first to admit I’m paranoid, but I got involved in the protests a few years back and some of the stories from former members made me take this group more seriously than other religious groups. I hope your boss decides to write you off and not speak to you for the remaining time, and that you never have to deal with her again. Good luck with your new job, hope it’s the complete opposite of this one!

    2. I Love Thrawn*

      Speaking of mailing lists… I work for a Southern Baptist church. Somehow we got on Scientology’s mailing list. I mean, really???

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Sorry to hear that! Could it have been a prank? Signing people up for their mailing list is a popular one, unfortunately. Once people are on that list, they’re usually on it for life.

  17. stump*

    I’m just wondering where exactly OP#1’s mom’s been working (or maybe hasn’t been working???? idk) that gave her the idea that dying your hair a different natural color is somehow unprofessional. Wherever I’ve worked, or heck, just from looking at people that I know are employed in a wide variety of different fields, a good chunk of the people have dyed hair and I know that’s been the case for decades (at least as far as natural colors go). I mean, even the most conservative companies I can think of don’t care about somebody dying their hair brown or red or whatever.

    1. stump*

      Unlesssss it’s like Alison mentioned and she just doesn’t like your dying your hair. That’d be different.

      1. LadyPhoenix*

        It really does sound like mom is just sharing HER disaproval over some of LW’s choices under the guise of “helpful advice”.

    2. she was a fast machine*

      As far as I know…maybe the military? When I was in ROTC I wasn’t allowed to have my hair dyed an unnatural color, but I’d been dying for years and nobody knew it wasn’t my actual hair color.

    3. SansaStark*

      She must work/not work at the same place as my mom who told me that my long hair (just past shoulder length) was what was keeping me from finding a job in the recession.

      1. JeanB in NC*

        I used to get that sometimes but way back in the 80s – I started going grey in high school – now that it’s about 98% white, all I get is compliments.

    4. ket*

      Something people haven’t really commented on is the concern about the roots. You can certainly have “unprofessional-looking” roots if there’s a big contrast or if you’re in an industry that aims for a certain look.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        The OP says “The only thing that doesn’t is that my roots eventually start to show. Even then, it’s close enough to my natural hair color that most people don’t notice.” Doesn’t sound like it’s an issue.

    5. MK*

      It might be a number of things. Maybe she was always a stay-at-home parent and her ideas about dress codes aren’t based on expierience (though the “no dyed hair” is an odd perception to have even for someone who never worked outside the home). Maybe she is a survivor of an uber-controlling employer/manager. It could even be that she has always worked for very relaxed workplaces and she has an exxagerated idea about how strict other places are; some of my own relatives were convinced that being a lawyer meant wearing a black suit for the rest of my life.

  18. nnn*

    Something for #3’s to think about: if you ask applicants to narrow down their choices, can you do so in a way or at a point in the process that would make sure they don’t get completely eliminated from consideration for other jobs for which they might be a match?

    For example, Jane applies for jobs A through Z. You ask her to focus on two, so she picks A and B. It turns out she’s not one of the best candidates for A or B, so you don’t hire her for those roles. However, if she is one of the best candidates for X, you want to make sure she isn’t completely eliminated from consideration for X just because she picked A and B when you asked her to focus on a smaller number of jobs for your own convenience. Jane doesn’t know what your applicant pools for each job look like, so she has no way of knowing which ones she might be the best candidate for, and it’s no good for you to lose one of your best candidates for position X just because, when forced to chose, she thinks she’d like A a bit better.

    Also, if it’s a fairly regular occurrence that your company truly has a double-digit number of jobs for which the same person might plausibly be qualified, it might be worth looking at your processes. Maybe a system where candidates are approved for a general pool, and then matched with specific jobs later in the process? Maybe a system where candidates who are only interested in a small number of the available jobs are screened for those ones first, and those interested in a large number of available jobs fill in the gaps afterwards? A system where candidates rank jobs in order of preference rather than just using checkboxes?

    Also, if you want candidates to choose between a large number of jobs that they could plausibly do, it might be easier for them to choose if you give them details about the differences between the jobs – not just work, but also working conditions. “A involves more customer-facing work and B involves more physical labour, although they both have elements of each.” “Evening shifts for C tend to be busy, but you’ll always have a supervisor present. Evening shifts for D tend to be quiet, but you’ll be working alone.” This sort of thing might not be readily apparent to an outsider. If you truly want people to have a preference, give them the information they need to have a preference.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      “if you ask applicants to narrow down their choices, can you do so in a way or at a point in the process that would make sure they don’t get completely eliminated from consideration for other jobs for which they might be a match?”

      Agree. Also, are your job descriptions all clearly written to be distinct from each other? If so many applicants are applying to multiple jobs, it may be that there’s not enough information in the descriptions for them to sort out on their own which job is best.

      1. KRM*

        I found that this happened for research tech level jobs back when I was applying–the job ads would have no real information about the lab, just lists of skill sets that were needed. So I could plausibly be qualified for 18 job postings, but they could be in 18 different areas, only 3 of which I might really be interested in doing research! It would have been a better use of the center’s time to either require that the job description include research area, or to have a separate section for you to indicate any preferences you might have. That system resulted in me getting a phone call from an admin who said “This is Dr. X’s office calling” and when I said “I’m sorry, what is this in regards to?” (since I was wondering if I had gotten a doc appt switched or something she said “A research job with Dr. X at A lab–of course you people just apply to every job anyway”. I should have hung up right then, but luckily accepted another job and cancelled that interview.

    2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      I would hate it if I only could apply to one or two best jobs (in my opinion) for each company! The ones I think would be best may be the most popular ones and be very hard to get, but I’d still want to apply to them in case I would get lucky. The ones that could be more realistic to be chosen into, I may not be as enthusiastic about them but still prefer them to being unemployed and be relatively happy there. Choosing between the real dream job that is a stretch and the realistic job that isn’t quite as awesome would be an extremely difficult choice… so why not just allow people to apply to both?

    3. kjvp*

      Well, part of the issue is that we need to keep the listings distinct because there are different hiring teams for each, and while the basic skills are the same, whether or not someone gets the job will depend on their familiarity with and interest in the subject matter. This results in people saying, “Oh, I can do this basic job, and I’m interested in doing it across all 15 of these subjects!” instead of picking a few subjects they’re actually familiar with.

      But to answer your first concern: I definitely don’t disqualify people completely based on their preferences, if it seems like they’d be a good fit for something else. If they give me their top two choices and they’re not a good match for either of them, I do consider what else they’ve applied to and, if it’s still open and they’re a match, send them that way. It’s just helpful for me on the front end to know what they’re *most* interested in, because mentally it’s difficult to keep someone equally in mind for a dozen positions.

  19. Tallahassee*

    OP #1 – Hair color – Natural-looking hair dye is going to be quite common in most, if not all, office environments. Is it possible that your mom is trying to tell you that your hair doesn’t look as natural or as professional as you think? Can you get a second opinion from a trusted source – granted many friends will have a hard time telling you that your hair doesn’t look right. That’s feedback that is hard to give, even from a mom, and hard to hear.

    1. Asian*

      Exactly! Plus, natural hair color doesn’t necessarily mean it looks like a natural hair color for any given individual given their skin color / race, eyebrow colors, etc. I’m East Asian, and when the dress code says “natural hair colors only,” I’m not sure if that means I’m limited to dark brown or black hair, or if that means I can use the full gamut of hair colors that could be natural for whites. Perhaps Allison could address this point too?

        1. Asian*

          But it’s not that they’re saying “only whites can dye their hair XYZ color”- it might be saying “no one’s allowed to dye their hair,” but it’s easier for a white woman to slip under the radar with dyed blonde hair.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        That is an excellent point. Are natural hair colors those that naturally occur in the human species or just those that you look like you could have been born with?

    2. RegBarclay*

      That was what I wondered too, maybe roots are an issue or something like that?

      It can be hard to find a trusted but honest person to advise on stuff like this.

  20. Hiring Mgr*

    On #2, the whole thing sounds crazy enough that I don’t think it really matters whether you resign in person, phone, or email–i would just do whatever you feel most comfortable with. Congrats on getting out of there!

  21. What’s with today, today?*

    2. I have nothing helpful, but our veterinarian is a Scientologist and he plays promotional videos in the lobby. Oh, also, we live in Texas. It’s a trip. Now I wonder if he tries to recruit his staff…they do have to watch the videos all day on a loop.

    1. Slartibartfast*

      I can almost guarantee it. (Veterinary medicine is a small business based industry, insane bosses are unfortunately common.)

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

        Veterinarians have one of the highest suicide and burn out rates. It’s an amazingly hard job.

        1. Slartibartfast*

          That too. Insane hours, unreasonable owners, irate clients, medical knowledge, and our experience with euthanasia is a literally deadly combination. Thankfully there’s people like VetGirlOnTheRun advocating for change!

  22. LadyPhoenix*

    LW2: My foncern is that do have your private info (cause you worked there).

    I would do a phone call and an email follow up. If you do have 1 party consent, you can record the call. This is just to cover you in case your boss does something silly.

  23. Czhorat*

    For #1, can we have a rule that parents’ job advice should be disregarded? There’s so much of it that it’s far, far outdated.

    Even if your hair we’re blue or pink, nobody would care in any but the most conservative firms in the most conservative industries.

    #5 is a common thing on bad job-sratcg advice – the idea that there exists a cheat code which will get you in the door. There’s really not, and no gimmicks will sneak you on..worst case scenario is that someone notices this silliness and it ends up as a mark against your candidacy.

    1. Has annoying parents*

      I’ve found that a lot of the time, what the OP is looking for isn’t so much an answer to “is my parent giving bad advice?” as it is looking for an answer to “how do I keep my crazy parent from ruining my job prospects?”. I’ve asked Alison for advice occasionally, and my concerns have always been about preventing my parents from trying to exercise parental control over my life. Since everyone’s parental situation is different (I moved out so I don’t have to deal with Parent Angrily Staring Over My Shoulder Making Me Apply For Programming Jobs They Found, or Parent Insisting This Red Jacket They Found Would Be Perfect For Interviews And Getting Upset When I Don’t Put It On For An Interview, but I do have to deal with the fear of Parent Interacting With People Above Me In Chain Of Command And Making Them Think I Am Socially Inept), this isn’t really something that can be fixed with a blanket answer.

    2. Jennifer*

      It’s not so much their job advice always but parents tend to FREAK OUT at major life transitions. I work on a college campus and watching what the parents tell their kids as they start college is nutty. It’s a control thing for a lot of them. They are realizing that they’re slowly losing control and influence in their child’s life so some of them go batshit crazy for little bit and try to exert even more control. I don’t even know that they realize they’re doing it but for sure a mom is freaking out because her daughter is ready to enter the working world and she has no say in her child’s life anymore so she’s going Super Control as a way to regain footing.

      1. Czhorat*

        That’s fair. My kids are 11 and 7, so I’m not nearly there yet. Our older one spent two weeks at sleepaway camp this summer, which we all saw as nice practice for a few years later when she’ll be leaving the nest for real.

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        I can well believe this. I also think that normal parental worry about “will my child find a decent job?” can turn into catastrophizing: “my child will NEVER find a job and I’ll be supporting them for the rest of their lives” or even “I’ll be supporting them AND GRANDCHILDREN for the rest of their lives” and this fear and catastrophizing translates into being nagging and overbearing, offering unwanted advice, or, in the extreme, calling up a child’s boss or even the community newspaper (as one past letter writer’s parent threatened to do).

        Some worry is normal, but catastrophizing and being overbearing are not, and I think in these cases it’s the *parent* who needs to get help, which is hard when the parent comes from a generation, background or culture where We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Therapy It’s Always My Kid’s Fault.

  24. CupcakeCounter*

    Definitely don’t say anything until after the already scheduled meeting. If you strongly feel that boss didn’t address some of the issues with the trip after that meeting then give them a call. Keep it simple and straight forward and lay out the other items you feel were not addressed properly. If you have any recommendations for those areas mention those as well.
    There also might be an opportunity in the meeting to bring up one of your more serious concerns and recommendations. But Alison is right…sounds like boss knows it was a cluster and it working to improve it so give them the chance to address you concerns first.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, this. If, during the meeting, he says something alarming (like “this isn’t really a big deal”), that will be your opportunity to say “it was actually extremely stressful for me, though it may not have been obvious at the time because I was working so hard to hold it all together.”

  25. MassholeMarketer*

    OP #1: I just went through a grueling process of months after months of interviews (I’m in my first job out of college and was looking for the next step up) and I have my nose, tragus, flat, rook, helix, and double lobes pierced. The only thing I was nervous about during the interview process was the nose. Keep your hair down and you’ll be fine for interviews – no one has ever said anything about my piercings, even my nose, though I did put in a clear stud while I went for interviews.

    Also, good luck with your job search after graduating! It can be brutal but perseverance will get you very far!

  26. Temperance*

    LW1: your mom just hates that you dye your hair and have piercings and is using the workplace excuse to hide behind. Most women I know dye their hair or have done it at some point.

  27. I GOTS TO KNOW!!*

    Natural colored hair is not going to be a problem anywhere that I can think of. And so many places are easing up on the non-natural thing too. I have ombre green right now. It was fire red before. It’ll be blue next. If anyone is batting an eye, they aren’t telling me or making me change.
    Your mom is either out of touch or passive-aggressively criticizing you. Hopefully it is the former.

    1. Half-Caf Latte*

      I just learned about Peanut butter and Jelly hair, and I WANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Also, I have a high-paying/visible/leadership/corporate job.

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!!*

        OOO that’s cute!

        I am going through the elements. First was Fire, right now is Earth. next will be Water. Then Air. All of those are ombre with my natural color up top and the vibrant color at the ends. I’m finishing with Galaxy hair which will be all over.

  28. she was a fast machine*

    Op1, I work at a pretty conservative-leaning job, and I actually have a couple of coworkers who are in their 40s and 50s who have the daith piercing because they say it helps migraines. So it’s not uncommon, and if asked you might be able to use that as a reason why you have it.

  29. LQ*

    #4 I’d say to be mindful if you seemed overly positive or enthusiastic about the project compared to others and your boss starts turning to you as the Fixer of Horrible Things and that’s not the role you’re interested in. Some people love that kind of swoop in and really fix something kind of work, and people who can and are enthusiastic about that kind of work and can do it over and over are rare so finding one you want to give them all the hard need fixing projects (and hopefully reward them to match). So if your boss starts turning to you for that I think it is reasonable to say that you put on a positive face but these impossible projects aren’t super fun for you. I think this is especially reasonable if the project comes along and is outside your wheelhouse for other reasons. I like Wheelhouse projects, not falling apart collapsing projects is fine. As long as you know some wheelhouse projects will collapse.

    But if your boss is aware of your level of frustration at all then let it go, talk to friends or family about the onfireness of it and move forward.

    1. OP #4*

      That’s a good thing to think about. For me, there are other business reasons I shouldn’t be doing this type of trip in the future anyway, so I’m not too concerned about falling into the “fixer” role here (and if I was I would definitely be more vocal about not wanting to do any more!)

  30. SLR*

    Ah the old bad, out-dated parental advice. I did the same thing in college, my senior year. Bleached & then died bright purple the front of my hair. I wore headbands almost exclusively at the time, so it looked like I had purple roots & brown hair, really awesome look & I loved it. I was getting a degree in Art, concentrating in Museum Studies. I had zero idea of what I’d do after graduation months (at the time) away. Mother FLIPPED OUT. I told her I liked it, I wasn’t willing to change it, my hair was short & it would grow out, not a big deal. To her it was HUGE. She made an appointment at her salon, spent probably $1,500 there to ‘correct’ my hair. Which was still pink after all was said & done & actually looked even worse, less professional that what I originally did. This was 10+ years ago and I am still resentful of this situation. That my own judgement, for my own career path was not respected & at the age of 22 was still forced to comply against my will. Now. I work for a boutique hedge fund, I have tons of public tattoos, including on my fingers, I have purple & blue hair that changes every few months depending on what my stylist & I are feeling at the time.

    LW1, ignore your mother, do you. YOU will find out from experience what your industry’s norms are & then you can base your style decisions on that. I agree about face piercings but honestly, ONLY if you’ve got very noticeable jewelry. I don’t have any facial piercings, but I do have 7 holes in 1 ear & 3 in the other. Not once ever has any job ever said a word about that. If you do have something like nostril or eyebrow, could you get something more subtle & smaller for interviewing or day to day work wear? Best of luck in your interviews, don’t let your mom’s outdated advice panic you, times they are a changin’ :)

    1. Birch*

      Yep, parent advice is always gonna be weird. My mom has a bizarre hatred for certain nail polish colours, including pink and light teal. Don’t listen to your mom. If these tiny dress code things are a big deal, the interviewer will mention it to you. You won’t be screened out of a job you deserve because your appearance doesn’t exactly match the super conservative office norm.

    2. pcake*

      Hey, I’m a mom of adults, and for years I had platinum blonde hair with two bright fuschia sections. Not to say that fits most professional norms – unless you play in a punk rock band – but not all moms are conservative in their styles.

      Btw, my son and daughter are more conservative in their styles than I used to be, and I let them be them.

  31. peachie*

    OP1: I know this has been covered, but I doubt anyone will think anything of your piercing. I have a tragus piercing, and it honestly has never occurred to me that it would be a problem–even my mother, who similarly thinks that anything “alternative” is a liability in a professional environment and has never hid an opinion about anything, hasn’t said a word about mine. Unless you’ve got some really unusual hardware, I truly think no one’s going to give a second or even first thought to a daith piercing.

    It’s interesting to me what I’m hearing about workplace norms in different industries/parts of the country about this. I’ve had unnatural colored hair (mostly pastel, once hot pink for a second job [I had a fun second job]) for about two years and have run into less judgment than I anticipated. I was a tiny bit worried when, in my last role, I ran a conference solo for the first time since dying my hair–I was already younger than all attendees of the conference and was worried that no one would take me seriously (especially the hotel staff, who I really needed to work with me and trust that I really was the person in charge). But it went great! The attendees actually ended up loving how easy it was to pick me out in a crowd. :)

  32. Khlovia*

    #2: Isn’t it some kind of illegal to force an employee to participate in a ritual for a religion they don’t belong to? Is it okay to force a Jew to attend High Mass? Is it okay to force a Catholic to face Mecca five times a day? Is it okay to force a Moslem to attend a Hausblot, complete with pork? Is it okay to force an Asatru to keep Kosher? If not, why would it be okay to force a non-Scientologist to participate in a Scientology event? Somebody with authority, possibly governmental, needs to be asking your boss these questions.

    1. Genny*

      I imagine a business could technically require any of those the things. The employee (or perspective employee) is also free to resign (or remove themselves from consideration).

  33. Qwerty*

    OP #3 – Can you group the job advertisements? If you are regularly getting applicants applying for a dozen or more positions, then its time to reconsider your hiring process.

    For instance, if my company needs three programmers on different teams, we have one job posting. When doing the phone screen, we’ll tell the candidates about the various teams and ask if they have a preference. When they are on-site for an interview, they might meet with multiple managers if they were a possible match for multiple teams. If those managers reject them, they’ll recommend whether to fully reject the candidate or to keep them in the pool for the other open positions.

    1. kjvp*

      OP #3 here — That’s interesting! We like having separated processes because while the roles themselves are similar (most are entry level/internships) they’re on distinct teams, and we need to have team members from each assessing them based on their familiarity with the subject matter. In theory we could group them all together under the title of “teapots internship” and then separate out based on what we assess their interests to be, but really, the interest area is the determining factor for a lot of these, and we would easily get 1,000+ applicants to a general listing like that. I imagine it would take a lot of extra time and work on my part to mentally then sort those applicants by potential interest area and send them to that particular hiring manager.

      1. Qwerty*

        It sounds like you’re in a tricky spot that is common to larger companies. If the positions are for entry level and internship, then I completely understand why they are open to all the possible jobs. From their perspective, if they can only choose one and everyone wants to work on teapot lids, then they probably won’t get the job, but if no one likes working on teapot handles, then they applying to that raises their chances at a job in general.

        You mentioned in another post that they include cover letters – can you include something in the job posting like “Although you will be considered for all open Teapot Tester internships, for best results please list your top three preferences from this list” ? Something to reassure them that picking a favorite team won’t kill their chances. If managers aren’t thrilled with the bucket of candidates they are given, then they can always look through the general bucket.

        Or if you have application software with custom fields, you could do this with a textbox. (If its really customizable software I’d recommend a list of checkboxes with a limit of 3 checks). There might even be a way to set up filtering using this.

        Do you network with recruiters at other large companies in your industry? They are probably running into the same problems. My only experience is tech, which is slightly more straightforward, but I remember when applying for entry level and intern positions at tech giants like Microsoft, Google, etc was everything went through a tech recruiter or committee of programmers who performed the first round interview for all candidates. Once people passed that round they each had their own method of matching candidates to teams for the final round. The students felt more confident expressing a preference once they felt like the company was seriously considering them. On the flip side, I also had an internship at a giant that just hired a group of interns, then had the managers pick from the pool of interns without talking to them, which is one example of a bad way to do this.

        One last item (sorry this is so long, I’m brainstorming as I go), is that if your company goes to career fairs, holds recruitment events, or is any way associated with career centers, is to have those representatives saying that expressing a preference helps the candidate in the hiring process. The advice these students are typically getting is to show that they are flexible and willing to do any job and don’t realize they’d be better off with “While I’d be happy to work on any team, I’m especially excited by your work with chocolate teapots” than “I love all of your products!”

      2. AMPG*

        My question is, why bother sorting them yourself? I used to work at an organization where entry-level roles on many teams were similar and we’d get a lot of overlapping candidates. Recruitment would just move forward everyone who passed the initial screening to their respective teams, even if that meant a candidate was sent to multiple teams (we all had access to their application history and so could see what other positions they applied for). Most of the time those of us on the hiring committees could then weed out anyone who wasn’t clearly interested in our specific work before bringing them in for an interview, but there were definitely people whose interests and experience made them suitable for multiple roles, and then we’d just proceed with parallel interview processes. In some cases, it helped a hiring team become more efficient if they knew one of their top candidates was being considered by another team, since they didn’t want to miss the opportunity to make an offer. It also helped that we had a decent amount of internal movement among entry-level employees, so if your favorite candidate was hired by another team, it was still a win for the organization, and maybe they’d end up working on your team eventually anyway.

  34. Alton*

    #1: With regards to the hair dye part, I think dyed hair is extremely common, especially in natural colors. Visible roots could look unprofessional if they’re really noticeable, but otherwise, unless you’re in a field that demands an extremely polished appearance (like fashion, maybe), I doubt anyone is going to go out of their way to look at your roots or see you as unprofessional just because they can tell you dye your hair. I ride the bus with a lot of office workers, and it’s really not unusual to see women whose roots are beginning to show a little, especially since a lot of older women color their grey hair.

  35. Adalind*

    OP #1 – I have had 9 piercings (4 in each ear and 1 diamond nose stud) for about 15+ years now. I have never taken them out for interviews or jobs. I also color my hair not super regularly. I currently work at a financial institution and my supervisor isn’t keen on crazy colors but loved my rose gold. ;) And do you know how many women show roots at one time or another? Lots. I constantly hear “I should go get my hair colored soon.” In all seriousness, I’ve maybe had 2 places that had a problem – 1 under the table summer job where I kept my hair down as a compromise (they noticed halfway through the job and I refused to take the nose piercing out) and 1 place I interviewed that wanted me to take it out if I got the job (I declined). Otherwise, I’ve had no issues, no comments… the climate is changing and more places are fine with it. There are exceptions of course depending on field. It sounds like your mother may just be a little out of touch with what’s acceptable. You can just tread lightly and see what the culture is of where you end up working.

  36. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Hair LW: Is your mom North Korean? Dye your hair if you like, especially if it’s a natural color! Makes no difference.

    (I make the North Korea comparison because fun fact: the emerging middle class there enjoys hair dye, but it’s not allowed at all under the regime. So some women dye it brown and then bribe family and friends to officially swear that’s their natural color).

  37. Meredith Brooks*

    LW1 – I’m curious what OP’s mom would say about my hair, which is streaked rather liberally (and naturally) with grey. I’m just wondering whether mom would tell me the exact opposite, that it’s unprofessional of me not to dye my hair so that it’s one uniform color.

  38. Bea*

    I remember having to strip the blue out of my hair when I had to change jobs about fifteen years ago. Turns out it wasn’t necessary because my next job didn’t care either. I still suggest not assuming the place you’re interviewing is that laid back but heavens no, lots of people dye their hair. I’ve seen people hiding grey hairs since my early 20s.

    It took people years to realize my ears weren’t pierced, that’s how much attention people pay to your ears.

  39. kjvp*

    Question-asker #3 here! Thank you for taking the time to answer, Allison.

    I think a big part of this is that many of the roles I’m hiring for are entry-level internships (though they’re pretty hefty six-month, paid internships that regularly lead to full-time positions, which is rare in my field), so applicants are at the start of their careers and they either 1) just want a job, any job, or 2) don’t know enough yet to know what they’ll specialize in. A lot of times I can figure that out from a phone call with them, but unfortunately it’s tougher to discern based on their relatively limited resumes and cover letters, which aren’t always written to properly convey their interests/experience. So I’m in the position of having to reach out before I actually know what I’m going to be considering someone for.

    As we’re also trying to improve recruitment of diverse candidates, I’ve been trying to give more people a shot even when their applications are a touch chaotic. I think this will probably just require some more heavy lifting on my part to determine what they’re best suited to and steer them in that direction, but then giving them a chance once we’re on the phone to convince me otherwise. Thanks again for the advice!

  40. Falling Diphthong*

    I’m not particularly tech savvy. But even I can tell that attempting to encode INVISIBLE MAGIC SPELLS in your resume is a bad idea. It’s like a modern update to the emperor having no clothes.

  41. Oxford Comma*

    OP 1: I cannot think of any field where you dyeing your hair a natural like color is going to be an issue. For that matter, depending on the field, you choosing a non-natural color like pink, blue, green, purple, etc. may be a non-issue. I can’t tell what field you’re going into so YMMV.

    As far as piercings–I’m in academia and no one would blink an eye at anything you have. I’ve got colleagues with mermaid hair, blue streaks, etc. No one cares.

  42. Joielle*

    Lawyer in the public sector here, with hair colors that have covered almost the entire rainbow over the past few years. Right now it’s a bright blue pixie cut. I do slightly more sedate colors (like navy blue or a darker purple) during our busy season when I have a ton of public-facing meetings, but even that probably isn’t necessary. Honestly, people seem to give me more deference than other women my age who are just as competent as I am. I have to wonder if the hair has something to do with it – like people assume that I must be really good at my job if they let me have bright hair.

  43. grey*

    Re: Daith piercing – since there’s a lot of anecdotal data about daith piercings helping with migraines (I say anecdotal because as far as I know there has been no research done); I’ve been shocked by the number of older/conservative individuals getting one and then encouraging others because they’ve found them to be helpful. So, I agree that taking it out might be wise; but I would be surprised if they didn’t have widespread acceptance in the next few years (especially if any researchers do decide to investigate and find that the anecdotal data has merit).

  44. Indie*

    OP1, I smell a time traveller….
    See, there WAS a time when women dying their hair a different natural colour used to raise eyebrows….. in the 19th century.
    It’s been pretty standard practice in all walks of life since the early 20th.
    Does your mother ever tell you to cover up your ankles? Or to pinch your cheeks because nice girls don’t wear makeup?
    If so, I think we have a time traveller on our hands.

  45. Yet another Kat*

    #3 – Is it possible that your application system is encouraging this behavior? I’ve had this experience when applying to large companies, that after filling out an application, the interface immediately suggests that you apply to a list of “similar” jobs in the company. I believe LinkedIn Apply (NOT the QuickApply) also does this, as do other 3rd party systems. Perhaps it’s possible to change some settings to avoid encouraging multiple applications to being with?

    1. Lucille2*

      I’ve experienced this as well from the hiring side. We have a recruiting system that may bounce a candidate’s application from one role to another. It may even be done manually by a recruiter who determines another role in the company would be a better fit after having a conversation with the candidate. The system doesn’t make it very clear when that happens.

  46. anonforthis*

    LW #1, you’re fine. I’ve been dying my hair a ‘natural’ (although not for me, obviously) color for my entire professional career and never had anyone question it. Your mom is way off base.

    Re: the daith – also 99% likely fine. A daith is a very discreet piercing and it’s not that weird to have an ear piercing somewhere other than your lobe. I would be very surprised if anyone even noticed it or commented on it, and VERY surprised if they asked you to take it out (unless you work at that office that refuses to let you wear your wedding ring because it has colored stones, hah).

  47. Lucille2*

    #1 – In college, I always held customer facing service jobs (like retail, grocery, restaurant). In those days, I faced much stricter dress codes than I do now in a professional setting. Even when I worked for a financial institution. I’ve had coworkers with pink or purple hair, full sleeve tattoos, handle bar mustaches, or nose piercings. As other commenters have mentioned, times are changing and things that were once considered highly unprofessional are becoming the norm. But they still have kind of a conservative slant, like facial jewelry should be small and somewhat discreet. Avoid tattoos that would be considered offensive to conservative coworkers or in areas that can easily be covered.

  48. Technically........*

    Just here to say that even purple, green, blue, and yellow are natural colors that show up in nature.

  49. JustaTech*

    OP2: Do you have all the HR/payroll contact information saved outside your work accounts? Since you’re remote it might be helpful to save that stuff to a non-work account in case your boss decides to cut you off immediately and then tries to not pay your last paycheck.

    Good luck!

  50. Ell*

    I work in a more-conservative side of an ad agency, I’m client-facing. and I still have a purple pixie cut. I change my hair every six weeks or so, tweaking the color based on my mood.

    It was a problem for one manager, who was incompetent in a lot of other ways and lied to me about a LOT of things. Pretty much everyone else I’ve worked with thinks it’s nice– I have a sort of quirky, colorful vibe anyway, but I’m also a very high performer and my clients all love me, so that gets me a lot of leeway with people who might think it’s “unprofessional.”

    I have never in my life heard of anyone considering “natural” dyed hair unprofessional.

  51. Oaktree*

    I have seven piercings (two in each earlobe, nostril, helix, and tragus) and work in corporate law (not a lawyer but in another department in the firm). During my interviews, I took out my nose ring and put in a stud. I also used more subtle jewelry during that phase. But soon after I started I reverted to my usual jewelry and no one ever said anything. So long as you otherwise abide by the dress code, there probably won’t be an issue. And yeah, no one cares about hair colour- many, many people dye their hair. Mostly natural colours, but one legal assistant had purple hair for a while; as far as I know, she never got a comment. It might be different if you’re in a client-facing role, though.

  52. achick88*

    To OP#2:

    I’m sorry you had a bad experience with this workplace. As a Scientologist myself I would never want anyone to feel weird or pressured into my religion. In the past I’ve actually hidden my religion from my colleagues because of the hate speech I’ve experienced, so I’m sorry that you were exposed to someone who practices my religion and wasn’t a good representation of said faith. I won’t speak to all the other “media” related comments because those aren’t my experience and I’ve found even when I do, people don’t care about my opinion.

    I wanted to comment to your concern that your boss will be angry with you: I have been in that exact same position at a workplace and just wanted to reiterate AAM: remain calm, cool, and offer to be the best help you can in your last two weeks. How your boss reacts is a reflection of them, not you, and you can only control how you respond to any pushback. At the end of the day we are in a place of business and I think sometimes bosses (and others) forget that.

  53. fyoder tchaikowicz*

    natural color? sheesh…come live in Portland. blue mohawks, facial piercings and giant tattoos are normal.

  54. blink14*

    OP#1: You are more than fine with a natural hair dye color! The one thing I would think about is the upkeep – if your roots are very obvious and you let them grow out quite a bit, that might be a situation where you want to do regular root touch ups. It can come off as “messy” or “not put together” to not have regular color maintenance.

    In terms of piercings, I have over a dozen ear piercings – lobe, helix, rook, conch, and tragus. I wear stainless steel and titanium hoops in all but one, which has a stud. I’ve never had an issue with my ear piercings, and I’ve worked in some very conservative environments. I would however stay away from facial piercings – obviously more noticeable but they can also leave visible scarring that you might regret as you get older. If you plan to take your daith out for interviews, you should visit your piercer to make sure you can get it out (depending on your jewelry), and if it is healed enough to take out. I can tell you from experience that even with my oldest helix piercings, I’ve had to have the holes tapered to get the rings back in sometimes, after going for about 24 hours with them out (I take them out only for medical procedures).

    I worked in a very conservative regional level religious office setting with purple hair streaks and many ear piercings, and never had a problem. I’ve worked in less conservative environments and have had co-workers question my “choices”, but never had a problem with management. There are some industries where this kind of stuff is a total no go – finance, law, etc still tend to be very modest and conservative. Otherwise, go forward with your interviews as is and if you get any push back, maybe that company isn’t the place for you anyway. If it is a dream position, then you may want to reconsider.

  55. Working Mom Having It All*

    Granted I live in casual SoCal and work in the anything-goes entertainment industry (I’m pretty sure there are people down the hall in editing bays wearing pajamas), but I’m sitting at my desk in a cubicle in corporate America with Dental and a 401 K and everything, and I have turquoise hair. I also have tattoos – though they’re on a part of the body that is seldom on display at work thanks to the sub-zero air conditioning – and see a lot of people with visible tattoos at work.

    Daith piercings are also so ubiquitous here as to be a non-issue. I couldn’t even tell you whether or how many people at my company have them. The facial piercings I think would be more of an issue, especially during the hiring process when you want to give the best first impression and may not know the company culture with regard to this stuff, would be stretched ear piercings, septum piercings, or other very obvious facial piercings like a cheer piercing, labaret, bridge, or the like. Those are all still closely associated with underground alt “freak” culture and not really mainstream enough for corporate America. Though I think in the right workplace, worn in the right way, a septum piercing would be fine.

  56. ArtK*

    LW#5: Here’s One Weird Trick That (Almost) Always Works!

    Try customizing your resume to the job description, by putting the keywords directly into your resume text! Relate the keywords to what you’ve actually accomplished. That way, you’ll not only get past the automated filters, but you’ll make it easier on the hiring manager to evaluate!

  57. marmalade*

    #3 It’s time to look at your hiring processes, either by making the postings more specific, or hiring for a pool. And, since you’ve said elsewhere that subject matter interest & familiarity are key to hiring, you need to emphasise that in the job ads. Why not add a statement like this to the listing: “We advertise a range of different internships in the Half-Yearly Internship Programme, and we understand that candidates may be interested in multiple positions. However, subject matter interest and familiarity are key to our recruitment process, so please focus on an area/department that is of specific interest to you.”
    I would also be tempted to add something like, “We prefer that you apply for just a single position*. Please do not apply for no more than four internships – if you do, all applications will be automatically rejected.”

    *If that’s true. What proportion of applicants do just choose a single, strongest match to apply for?

  58. Granny K*

    OP #2: “…when my boss told me and my coworkers that we were being rewarded with continued industry/management training. I’m always up for learning how to be better at my job. But when we showed up for training, we were put through several Scientology courses.”
    Upon quitting, please mention this in your exit interview with HR, if there is one (or include it in a memo with any forms you have to sign upon leaving your job.) This is SO inappropriate I can’t stand it. I don’t care what religion it is.

    1. Someone Else*

      OP commented above that there is no HR and the higher ups in the company are Scientologists so they’re cool with it. This is very common in Scientologist-run businesses. Nothing good will come of objecting to these courses in an exit interview. OP is best off finding a new gig and resigning as calmly and matter of factly as she can.

  59. Noah*

    #2 — GO SEE A LAWYER FIRST, specifically one experienced with Scientology. It sounds like your boss may have joined her business with Scientology, which means you may be at greater risk than you are perceiving here. Seriously, talk to a lawyer first. Please.

    1. LW #2*

      I’ve reached out to meet with a lawyer soon to find out my options and ensure that I am protected. I’ll provide an update at a later date once I’ve made it through all of this. Thank you!

  60. HereKittyKitty*


    I will never forget the day my aunt did not know I was in a different room and loudly proclaimed how I would NEVER GET A REAL JOB with a side shave. I mean I was in grad school and teaching so it was whatever, but the solution would be to part your hair on the other side, right? But she very loudly proclaimed her job from 40 years ago would NEVER hire someone WITH MY HAIR. It was silly.

    Now I have green, purple, and blue hair and work in marketing, so.

  61. ErinW*

    The question of hair color is so strange to me because I’ve spent my whole working life in higher ed, where those types of rules tend to be lax-to-nonexistent. Nonnatural hair colors, piercings, tattoos, drastic haircuts–we see it all.

    Teaching might be different–I remember my college roommate getting a single piercing in her upper cartilage and saying she’d take it out for job interviews. I said, nobody could possibly get upset about a single stud in the top of your ear. But her first student teaching gig they were constantly finding fault with her clothing (she had to do things like close the topmost button on button-down shirts). That was in 2002, though.

    In present day, I also have a niece who works a non-public-facing bank job with a cherry red dye job and nobody says boo to her. So who knows?

  62. Naomi*

    Whenever I apply for an internal role at work, I have to do a personality test. To be honest, I hate doing them, but I don’t think the results have ever ruled me out for a position I wanted.

    If people are applying for multiple roles at once, something like that might be useful in determining what roles might suit them.

  63. David Evans*

    LW #2: The communication drills that you railed against doing were actually designed to give you the skills to handle situations like you’re currently worrying about with your boss. But to be fair, it sounds like she needs a good dose of them herself. She is not applying the drills (“keeping her TRs in”, as the Scientologists would say), nor is she applying other fundamental principles of her own philosophy, such as the ARC (Affinity, Reality, Communication) triangle.

    Is your boss’s company a member of WISE (World Institute for Scientology Enterprises)? You could write them a polite letter explaining that while you were taking the training courses, you noticed instances (the more specific you can be, the better) where these were not being implemented by your boss and that it was not leaving you with a good impression of either the company or Scientology (trust me, WISE will not like this).

    After you leave, don’t create antagonism. Just withdraw as quietly as you can. There might be some junk mail/calls, but don’t be tempted to make noise. They will lose interest eventually. I speak from experience.

    To the respondents criticizing Scientology itself: this is not constructive. There is a huge distinction between the philosophy itself (which I still study independently) and the current Church and its leadership (which thankfully I left behind before DM’s insanity really ramped up). My own story is too long to tell here. But if Alison has any specific questions that might help her answer such letter writers in the future I can speak from hopefully a little more authority than critical journalists and B-list celebs who were never senior staff members within the organization.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Your subtle gaslighting and negging here aren’t so subtle. I’ve met with people who escaped this organisation and the trauma will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

  64. HRM*

    I work as an HR manager and in my experience many companies are becoming increasingly less picky about dress code and personal appearance. I have several piercings myself including a nose piercing and two dermals on my chest. I also have a half sleeve on my upper arm and frequently wear shirts where it’s visible. I currently work in a manufacturing facility but have previously worked in communications and a nonprofit and no one has ever batted an eye.

  65. Will Johnson*

    I’m surprised that your advice for the person who works for a Scientologist did not include a referral to the EEOC. Requiring people to engage in religious based work is illegal.

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