Acing the Interview: Through a Black Woman's Eyes

What do you wear to a job interview? I like to keep it simple: a pair of black pants, some black loafers and a white top that would be sheer any other day. Sometimes I’ll whip out a black dress if I’m feeling a little fancy, but that’s a rarity. I have one black blazer that I only wear when it’s cold out or when I’m terribly nervous. Occasionally I’ll don a pair of pointy flats that I can’t tolerate for longer than an hour. I like dressing up for interviews. I look at myself in the mirror a little sideways, because there’s always these initial 20 seconds of not recognizing the person looking back at me. But once that’s passed, I can appreciate who I’ve become. A simple workwear outfit has transformed me into a business woman, a woman who wears red lipstick and gets shit done. I never feel like myself in these clothes, but that’s what I love about it. It’s a little bit like Halloween, where I get to dress up as the person I’ve always wanted to be.

My makeup is always soft. I’m normally a believer in doing the absolute most, so I’ve been known to wear red smoky eyes and bright blue glitter and strange colored lipsticks. But I like doing something natural for interviews, something that brings out my best features even more than my resume. I’ll always do a matte brown eye with barely-there contouring, a soft pink blush for that “Please hire me” flush and a matte nude lip that says “I’m confident in my qualifications for this position”. It’s important that your makeup and your outfit send the same message: that you are the best candidate they’ve ever seen.

What do you do with your hair? I have a ton of hair, the kind of hair that people see from miles away. It accounts for at least 5% of my body weight and has this amazing ability to be long and wide and fucking curly all at once. If you squint, it’s three different colors and frankly, it can probably be seen from one of those news helicopters that hovers over Union Square. In the beginning of college, I used to just wear my hair as it was to job interviews. I was too consumed with studying potential questions, practicing my answers and rereading my cover letter a hundred times. The only thought I gave my appearance was if I looked presentable and if I had anything in my teeth. I was new to it all, wearing slacks and answering questions about my work ethic across conference room tables. But I quickly discovered the root cause of those curious stares I received from interviewers. I’m a fast learner and I realized that my natural, black hair didn’t belong there.  

So my interview style is always a bun. It’s the kind of bun that snatches my edges and my kitchen to the point that I can’t even shake my head yes or no. It’s the kind of bun that’s so tight, it’s impossible to tell how much hair I really have. It’s the kind of bun that tricks people into believing that I am manageable, easy to contain and easy to control. But that’s what I like about interviews, it’s a game of pretend. Here’s what I have done and what I will continue to do: I wear the bun, the blazer and the nude lipstick. I comply with the expectations, let them think that my hair is straight as a bone and make them fall in love with me. Let’s say I get the job and suddenly, it’s my first day. I walk into that office a different woman, with my hair out and my head high. So just focus on getting hired, getting the job and getting that delicious first paycheck. Then force them to accept you and your natural hair entirely as you are.