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I'm applying to a multitude of jobs, and a recruiter contacted me regarding a possible interview. If they schedule the interview, I'd like to be ready for it, and give myself ample time to prepare.

I'm a bit self conscious of my looks, and have a really bad sense of fashion and how to dress. Usually it's not a big deal. Some jeans and a t-shirt work for where I currently work, and I interviewed in a suit before I started growing any facial hair.

Now disclaimer; I cannot grow a full beard. My beard looks full-ish, but never really fills out and looks patchy. Here's my dilemma, I look like I'm 11 years old if I go clean shaven, and for the positions I'm applying for, that would be a bad thing. I agree that interviewers shouldn't care about how young I look if I'm qualified, but the reality of the situation is that they will form their own opinions about my age that might affect the outcome of the hiring process.

I'm an analyst (mainly business) and my industry varies but I live and work in California, although I'm not averse to relocation should the position require it.

I was thinking I could do a sort of "5 o'clock shadow" look, which I can pull off relatively well, or even keep a close shaven look while still with hair, but that seems to be a bad idea, which leads me to my question.

What is the right amount of facial hair to sport during an interview when one can't grow a full beard/moustache and doing otherwise may prove harmful?

  • @SnWhte Both honestly. I can't grow a beard that can be nicely trimmed and will look nice, but I will look incredibly young if I go clean shaven. – Anoplexian - Reinstate Monica Mar 30 '17 at 21:01
  • Do you interact with clients or customers on a regular basis where the company puts emphasis on your appearance? – cheshire Mar 30 '17 at 21:03
  • @Paparazzi Male. – Anoplexian - Reinstate Monica Mar 30 '17 at 21:47
  • Related question (you might take a look): How can I deal with people misjudging my age? – Radu Murzea Mar 31 '17 at 8:38
  • I would think the primary concern is cleanliness and the appearance of being well groomed. This may or may not include facial hair, if it does, so long as it is well groomed, I would suspect it is fine. I'm sure there's research on this sort of thing, and the perceptions probably differ depending on if a man or woman is interviewing you, so maybe do a bit of searching for that. – pay Mar 31 '17 at 13:29
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The simple answer is you want to match your interviewer expectations. The problem is those are going to vary wildly.

At my current company, it won't matter at all unless you look totally unkempt. Most of my team has facial hair from slight beards to... ridiculous beards. However, that is because our company culture is very laid back.

Other companies (like my previous one) care more about those things as they are more conservative. Showing up with a massive beard may have reflected worse on the interviewers.

I was thinking I could do a sort of "5 o'clock shadow" look, which I can pull off relatively well

First verify that the "I can pull it off relatively well" feeling isn't just your opinion. Talk to someone else to evaluate whether it looks ok if you are wearing a suit or interview attire.

If so, it's probably ok.

I agree that interviewers shouldn't care about how young I look if I'm qualified, but the reality of the situation is that they will form their own opinions about my age that might affect the outcome of the hiring process.

You will realistically have to weigh which "problem" is worse -- appearing younger or having facial hair. I suspect that in most cases it will be better to look older with well-kept facial hair than to look too young.

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I had a good friend who had this very same problem: he looked SO young without any facial hair, and yet his was very patchy when he tried to go for a full beard. He also couldn't grow a moustache to save his life, so he compromised and went with a goatee alone. He kept it on the short side but it really transformed his face - it looked very sharp and he finally looked closer to his actual age.

So if you really do look that young without a beard, I would suggest finding a way to style the beard you do have in an attractive way. For example, is it thick enough in the right places such that a goatee and moustache would work? Goatee alone? Mutton chops? (mostly kidding but...) Anyway, the idea is to leverage the areas that grow in thicker, and shave the areas that come in patchier.

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In general, if you're worried about adding something unnecessary to some interaction in order to make a better impression, especially one in which your job is on the line, it's best to leave it out until you can be sure that it will cause the desired effect (or at least not a bad one).

Just go clean shaven. A beard could be perceived favorably, but a clean shave will definitely not be perceived unfavorably. You can start using a beard after you're hired and learn more about the office culture. If your resumé states your graduation year, then your interviewer already has a decent idea of how old you are, anyway.

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I don't think the amount of facial hair necessarily matters, rather how well kept it is. As long as it looks clean and well maintained I can't imagine it being a reason to not hire you.

The fashion trend for many men nowadays are full grown "lumberjack" beards so your five o'clock shadow should be fine, even if a little patchy.

If in a customer or client facing position, however, this may not be the case as appearance is very important in these roles and an interviewer will judge you more on your appearance than in an analyst job interview where they just want you to be be on the profession looking side unless the company culture dictates otherwise.

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Why not go to a barber?

Go there, tell him that you have an interview coming up. Tell him you want to look professional, but not clean shaven - he'll fix you up. Ask him how to get that look with your home equipment and you are set.

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    While this is a good point, I'm not sure it is a good answer to "What is the right amount of facial hair to sport during an interview when one can't grow a full beard/moustache and doing otherwise may prove harmful?". It would probably be better off as a comment than an answer, honestly. – a CVn Mar 31 '17 at 9:32
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    The barber will have a different view on "professional" to potential interviewers – HorusKol Mar 31 '17 at 13:17
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I look like I'm 11 years old if I go clean shaven

There isn't a single correct answer to this question, but one of the "right amounts" is "none".

It doesn't really matter whether you look like an 11-year-old, any more than it matters whether you look like a woman or a man.

It used to matter socially, or perhaps at school.

But at work I presume they're interviewing you for your experience, personality, knowledge, insight, ethics, cooperation, and so on.

they will form their own opinions about my age

If you're in a State or COuntry where you don't put your age on your resume (e.g. because job discrimination based on age is illegal i.e. "ageism"), then they ought to be assessing your experience and so on instead.

Isn't your age obvious anyway, if your resume includes the year when graduated from school, and started your career and so on?

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