Cut for Success? What Your Hairstyle Says About You


Interview suit dry-cleaned? Check. Shoes shined? Check. Mohawk perfectly sculpted with extra pomade?

Hold on a second there, cowboy. This is a job interview, where you’re supposed to strut your experience, not your feathers!

“Research says we make our assessments of others in the first 15 seconds we meet them,” says John McKee, founder of the Business Success Coach Web site and author of Career Wisdom: 101 Proven Strategies to Ensure Career Success. “Within those first critical moments,” he says, “you’re being judged based on how you look, not what you say.”

And how you look doesn’t just include your clothes and your hygiene but how you fashion your locks. McKee says it may have something to do with the fact that women make up a majority of the hiring force today, and “women are much more conscious and concerned about grooming, especially when it comes to hair.” But experts agree that you can infer a lot about a person — including how you think they’re going to function as an employee — based on how they fashion their coif.

“The truth is, how others perceive us, whether it’s true or not, fundamentally determines how they treat us, especially in the workplace,” says Dr. Rob Yeung, a London-based psychologist and author of Confidence: The Key to Achieving Your Professional Best. “Looking the part is the difference between getting a job or not, or moving ahead as opposed to getting landlocked.”

So, how do you know if you look the part? Here’s what your hairstyle really says about you.

Side Part
Popular in: Finance, politics, insurance.

Says: Serious and business-minded. You’re a hard worker who wants to get ahead.

Why: It’s on the conservative and simple side, but it still shows that you put some effort into your grooming routine. It’s also a classic look that will never go out of style, because it conveys a sense of class and importance. “There’s a secret among HR people: that you’re more likely to get a promotion if you look like you’ve already made it,” says McKee.

“Take a cue from the hairstyles of the people one level above your current role,” concludes McKee. Chances are you’ll see lots of side parts.

Buzz Cut
Popular in: Medicine, professional sports, the Army.

Says: Confident and masculine. You care about appearance, but you’re too busy to spend too much time on your hair.

Why: There’s a reason this look is favored by the military. It’s not just extremely low maintenance, leaving time for more important business (or battles, as the case may be), but it’s a bold statement that shows you “want to look like you’re part of the team and move up the ranks,” says McKee.

Faux Hawk
Popular in: Fashion, photography, hipsterdom.

Says: Creative and extroverted. You’re concerned about standing out from the crowd.

Why: It’s an edgy look that conveys a lot of confidence and personal style. That said, it’s also just breaking over into mainstream, so if you work in an environment where everyone else is sporting side parts, you’re going to attract a lot of attention. If, however, you work in a creative field where suits are optional (and even tattoos are acceptable), wear your faux hawk with pride. “If your appearance syncs with the rest of the workplace, it gives the impression that you’re able to handle the technical skills,” says McKee.

Textured Bed Head
Popular in: Hollywood, media, public relations.

Says: Trendy and detail-oriented. You care about the little things.

Why: It’s a look that requires a fair amount of time to create and maintain, so it shows that you put a lot of effort into keeping up your appearance. “People in positions of power, especially recruiters, like to see that a potential employee takes care of himself and keeps up with trends,” says McKee. Plus, “when you look good, you feel good and have more confidence,” says Yeung.

Caesar Cut
Popular in: Law, theater, gladiator rings.

Says: Intuitive and savvy. Concerned about looking perfectly pulled together.

Why: You have more important things on your morning agenda than spending hours styling your hair, but you still want to look like you take pride in your appearance, and more importantly, that you mean business. This look is great for guys of all ages, but it’s an especially good style for guys who are just entering the workforce. “Younger people want to believe people will hire them based on competence and not appearance,” says McKee, “but unfortunately, that’s not the case. You do have to give up some of your identity if you want to be part of the team and move up the ranks.”

Jessica Lothstein is a freelance writer and former editor at Best Life magazine. She writes on a range of subjects, including grooming and fashion.

Cover image: Mike Mays

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