“A CEO, two career coaches, and a content guy get into a friendly debate about grey hair” – is not the start to a lame joke.
It’s what just happened here in Ivy Exec’s HQ.
Yes – it is ironic that none of those four individuals have grey hair, and that the average of their ages hovers somewhere in the 30s. But when it comes to Ivy Exec’s community, we like to discuss and address the trends job seekers face – including those who are concerned with ageism being a factor counting against them.
How did this conversation start? Well, the content guy (yours truly) and one of the career coaches (Nii Ato Bentsi-Enchill) struck up conversation about an online class on ageism. Specifically, the best way for senior job seekers to present themselves at the interview.
It is often suggested that older job seekers should take action to make themselves look (and feel) younger, including brushing out grey hair with a dye. Sure, if done tastefully and in moderation, it might make you look 5 years younger. But are you being true to yourself – and the interviewer? Enter second career coach (Lilly-Marie Lamar) and CEO (Elena Bajic), and suddenly we were all going back and forth about the best way to show up to an interview.
Here are some of the points and counter points about hiding your age at the interview. And while there may not be a heads or tails answer to the question, you may walk away with a few ideas to help you feel confident.
Should You Dye Grey Hair Before an Interview?
Look Younger in the Interview
There is the case that you will appear younger to the interviewer by dyeing your hair and removing grey. However, it is hard to fool an interviewer on your true age. Although they can’t (legally) ask you questions about how old you are, they can get rough estimates from your resume and work history. And if the interviewer is under the impression that you are actively trying to hold your age back, it can make them wonder why you are on guard. In an ideal world, your age wouldn’t matter. Unfortunately, there are people out there with biases.
Being Authentic in the Interview
You always want to show your true self during the interview, because you feel the most comfortable when you are being you, not when you are trying to be someone else. Trying to hide who you really are can ruin your interview. You may find that your mind is concentrating on your physical appearance and how your age is coming across to the interviewer – instead of how to convey your value to the company. On the other hand, as Bentsi-Enchill suggested, dyeing your hair can help quiet that inner dialogue in your head. It may allow you to focus on the interview if you feel confident in the way you look.
Show Confidence in the Interview
People often go to great lengths to make themselves look and feel younger. Just watch this CNBC interview featuring Elena Bajic on the topic of plastic surgery to stay young at work. Bajic points out that it is all about feeling confident, which sometimes can be achieved by picking up a new suit before an interview, or heading to the gym the morning of the interview to boost your energy.
And yes, dyeing your hair can also boost your confidence and help you feel younger.
But on the other hand, when it comes to feeling confident you want to rely on your skills, experiences, industry knowledge, and accomplishments. So as Lamar mentioned in our conversation, “Look your best, not your youngest.”
Beyond your physical appearance, young energy can be more enticing than looking young. Being excited to interview and having enthusiasm for the opportunity has the ability to wash out concerns of age.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Collectively, we agreed that you should do what it takes for you to feel comfortable, authentic, and confident. You have developed a stellar career – if you can use that to give you confidence during the interview, you might not need to think about your physical appearance.
If dyeing your hair helps achieve that confidence – do so, but only so that you can focus on your interview. Don’t do it for the interviewer’s benefit.
Last but not least – if you don’t get a job at a company because of your age – the initial sting of not getting the job may last for a while. But in the long run (and if financial security is not an issue), you probably don’t want to work at an organization that has biases towards older employees.
What are your thoughts? Join in the conversation and share your stories or feedback in the comments section below!