How to Style Long Hair for Job Interviews

long-hair-interviewWhat’s the best way to style your long hair for a job interview if you’re a woman in your early 20s? Could wearing it down make you look too young? Reader D wonders:

How should a 20-year-old style her long, straight hair for the interview process for a management consulting job? Is wearing it down and straight too young/collegiate? Is styling it with a curling iron too beauty-pageant/date-y? Just how conservative is the corporate culture of the big three consulting firms? Must hair be pulled back? Interview wardrobe all taken care of, and nails are neat and well-groomed, but what about long hair?

We’ve frequently discussed workplace hair, from whether long hair makes you look young, to whether ponytails at the office are acceptable, to what easy, maintainable hair looks like, to work-appropriate up-dos. We’ve also talked about what your hair says about you at work.

For this post I was going to find a bunch of YouTube tutorials and pictures of women with interview-appropriate updos, half-updos, and long hair. But… here’s the thing: so many of those look totally pageant-y, and on a young woman it’s going to look even more like you’re playing dress up. So here’s my answer:  for an interview, your hair should be neat, recently trimmed, and not something you play with. Ultimately, the hairstyle should be forgettable. I mean that in two ways: first, it should be forgettable for you —  once you do your hair and leave your house, you should be able to forget your hair and focus 100% on the interview(s). No touching, no smoothing, no combing — no thoughts of “ow, these bobbypins are sucking my will to live and” (Ahem. Personally I hate bobbypins.) Secondly, though, your hair should really be forgettable for your interviewer as well, because you want them to notice your resume and your qualifications and your smarts — not your hair.

This is going to look a bit different for every person — just reading through the comments on our last ponytail post some women noted that their hair felt “scraggly” if it was down, others felt like it looked “scraped back” in a ponytail. So, for my $.02, here’s my list of options for how to wear your hair for interviews:

  • Hair, down, is fine. If you find yourself touching your hair, smoothing it, re-parting it, whatever — then think about pulling it back. If your hair is super voluminous and it takes a bit of effort to maintain a neat look throughout the day, I’d suggest just pulling it back.
  • A ponytail is fine — but it can’t look pageant or cheerleader at all. I’d suggest you think LOW ponytail, if only because I think people associate higher ponytails with cheerleaders — plus I often find them uncomfortable to wear for long days. I’d suggest taking the time to find an easy, comfortable way to make it look a SMIDGE more polished with one or more of the following ideas:
    • wrapping a piece of hair around the ponytail to cover the elastic
    • putting a sedate, professional hair accessory to hide the elastic (or using an elastic with a barrette or cuff built in) — I think the look above looks great because the barrette nearly matches her hair, and the hair looks very neat. The barrette pictured is $60 — Nordstrom has a ton of beautiful ones; I always think of J.Crew for this also — but your drugstore is fine as well.  Look for ones that match your hair, don’t sparkle, and are comfortable to wear. Some quality brands worth the money include L. Erickson, Ficcare, and France Lux.
    • making a hole in your hair just above the elastic and then pulling your ponytail through that hole — sort of like the beginning of a Gibson roll
    • Twisting the hair around your face to give it a bit of volume before pulling it back, as illustrated in the YouTube video I linked to in our last ponytail post
    • Adding a bit of height on top of your head, either by teasing it or using a product like a BumpIt (or Jean at ExtraPetite‘s beloved velcro bump) — but be careful here; it’s very easy to suddenly feel like you’ve got Sarah Palin hair.
  • Long hair, pulled into a half up-do so it’s out of your face — see notes above.
  • An up-do — if this is the easiest for you to do, that’s fine too. Just make it neat, comfortable to wear, and not too high — the fashion blogger’s topknot or a messy bun (whether on purpose or not) is not likely to win you any fans. Note that readers have loved Goody Spin Pins in the past (particularly for curly hair).

Like this article? Please feel free to pin it for future reference!


Ladies, what are your thoughts — particularly those of you who regularly interview women in their early 20s? Have you noticed someone’s interview hair, in either a good way or a bad way? How do YOU style your hair for interviews? How would you advise your 20-year-old self to style your hair?

how to style long hair for job interviews


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  1. Good advice, but I have to say noo, not the topsy tail hairdo! It’s very As Seen on TV. And I agree with the low ponytail, but not a high one – a high one seems too casual to wear with a suit.

  2. OttLobbyist :

    No Bump-it. Heaven forbid it suddenly somehow become visible. This may be a bit regional or age-related, but a high volume pony looks very, very artificial or trying too hard to be “sophisticated”.

    • Wildkitten :

      I loved the bump in 2007 but it’s way too dated to do it now – and I’m not even very on trend.

      I do a low ponytail since my hair isn’t long enough for a gibson roll.

  3. I would add a third must to neat and forgettable: out of your face.

  4. Sydney Bristow :

    My hair is really long (almost to my waist) and really healthy. For interviews or the first day at a new place I either do half up with a nice barrette (I love French Luxe for these), low pony, or low bun using spin pins. If any of it is flowing I make sure it is either straightened or curled nicely. I dont really think a gentle large barrel curl looks pageanty. Using a lot of hairspray or going overboard on trying to add volume is what pushes it into that territory for me.

    • Yes, I agree, but I alway’s would wear my hair down for the interview b/c that is what the manageing partner and the judge like, and I have LEARNED that if you do what the people doeing the interview LIKE, you will win (or get the job). The manageing partner HATES it when I put my hair up, but when it is HOT, I do NOT care b/c I am the one sweateing when he onley like’s to look at me. He is weird, tho b/c some times he likes to see my face, then he say’s put my hair in a pony tail. So I do what he says and he is happy. The judge likes my hair down, so even in the summer that is fine by me b/c it is air condition in the court house anyway, and if I win my cases b/c of that, then YAY!!!!!

  5. S in Chicago :

    That’s $60 for a hair clip?! I lose so many in purses, gym bags, bathroom drawers. And then there are the ones that bend or break. I guess I’m just destined for Ulta or the Goody aisle at the drug store.

    • Anonymous :

      Bahahahahha! Thanks for saying this! I couldn’t get past that!

    • Lol I was thinking if I am going to a job interview I do not have $60 to spend on a hair clip! Not that I would even if I had the money, though!

  6. It is a very rare candidate who can wear her hair down and not play with it during an interview. I wouldn’t chance it.

    I think low pony tails (but not the Gibson roll thing–looks too Little House on the Prairie) are the safest and easiest hair style for an interview.

    Most ideal for long hair is probably a neat (not messy or sloppy) updo. My hair is too fine to pull off an updo, so I know it isn’t possible for some.

    If your hair cooperates better once it is curled (eg waves are smoothed out using a large barrel), then curl it but keep the styling subtle. If you have to ask whether it is too wedding-day or pageant-y, it isn’t professional enough for an interview.

  7. Sydney Bristow :


  8. I have long, curly hair, and for business-formal events (board meetings, interviews, etc) i go with a low updo.

    Similar to this (but minus the pearl hairpins!).

    • I was going to say – take a look at Kate Middleton! Obviously, she has great hair & a personal hair stylist, but she manages both long & down, up-do’s, and the half-up extraordinarily well. Personally, I have medium-long (past my shoulders, but not to my b-strap) wavy hair & have the most success with the half-up style if I want to be able to forget about it.

    • Hildegarde :

      How do you get your hair like this? It looks more complicated than just a bun.

      • I do something like that. I part off the side “wings” of my hair first. Then I make a loose/soft bun. Then I twist the side wings back to meet the bun and tuck the ends under. Another way to do this is to have two or three layers of wings, saving that top outer twist for the last layer. I do one swooping up and under to give my bun fullness and then the final twist. My flaw is I can’t get any front poof in my hair so I can mimic the look in the back but no amounting of backcombing and hairspray replicates the front.

  9. I struggled with this for a long time, but I ultimately decided that I was happy with a twist held with a claw-type clip. Yes, it was actually based on Sarah Palin’s in 2008 (no bump, though) – I noticed that that seemed to really work well for her, and it is easy to do for me (as long as I start with damp hair) and seems to stay well without a lot of fuss. It definitely cuts down on the temptation to touch my hair during the interview, and I think that it’s worked well for me.

    I also use this for any other important meetings/court appearances/etc., though I rarely use it for normal days now, because it’s very hard to drive with (it bumps against the seat).

  10. AnonLawMom :

    I wear my hair down with a slight curl at the ends when I interview. It is about 4 inches past my shoulders but I never, ever touch it. I think that length is about as long as you can pull off wearing down in an interview, and I may be pushing it a bit but I am terrible at updos so on me it is the best option. I have interviewed so many women with beautiful super long gorgeously waved hair and mentally dinged them because they looked way too “on the way to a party” or something. It’s probably unfair but I think if you hair is the first thing someone notices about you in an interview, that’s a bad thing.

  11. anonymous :

    I fit the early 20s long hair description- waist length with ringlet curls. I wear it in a loose(ish) bun that’s not high but not low, but also allows the curls to peak out a bit. I wouldn’t go with anything other than an updo of some variety because hair (even if I don’t touch it, which I will) is not something I want to worry about when I’m interviewing.

  12. SuziStockbroker :

    Long-ish curly/wavy hair here.

    I do a French Twist with a Ficcare clip.

    I have a tortoise one (matches my hair), a matte silver one (matches my metal jewelr) and a black one with a silver detail.

    Very professional looking for board meetings, interviews, big client itches, etc.

    They are expensive, maybe $50, but they never go out of style, hold up a lot of hair and it takes me 2 seconds to twist my (bottom of my bra) length hair up into one, and I am not very good at stuff like that.

    • Which Ficcare clip do you use?

      • SuziStockbroker :

        The three noted above are Maximas but I also have a magenta Ficarrissimo. Not as versatile, but very pretty.

        Mine are a couple of years old, I think they have changed and there are more acetate versions now rather than the enamel or metal. Try to find the enamel or metal if possible. Nordstrom carries them still I think.

        I am laughing about my “client itches” typo above. Obviously, that should have read “client pitches”. I type too fast :)

    • What size clips do you use?

  13. I struggled with this a ton during law school, and what I finally came up with was wearing my hair how I felt most confident. My hair is dark brown and goes down to my bra strap. I feel most confident with it down and curled, similar to how Jean @ Extra Petite styles her hair (example:

    I find that I play with it much less during interviews when it’s like this. I really dislike how I look with a half up, and that style in general seems “interview-y” to me and not like one’s real self. (Of course, some people look darling like that so ymmv). I ended up getting callbacks and offers only from the firms where I wore my hair down! Of course this might be a coincidence but the hair did not hurt me there.

    • I think this is exactly right. However you normally wear it will be most comfortable and confident. Also, the people interviewing see the graduation date on the resume so it shouldn’t be a big surprise if some people look young. If they don’t want a person in their 20s then they can rule it out to a large degree based on graduation dates.

    • Yup! +1

    • I wear my hair like this too!

      • Magdeline :

        Me too, and +1 with wearing your hair in whatever style makes you the most comfortable. Also, I would never say that I wouldn’t want to work at a certain firm because of a dress code (whatever, it’s just work clothes), but I definitely wouldn’t want to work at a place that objects to my bra-strap length blonde hair because my hair stays with me outside of work too. I’m not willing to change (or try to hide) something that’s part of my appearance 100% of the time. And I love my hair!

  14. um yeah did you not see Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter Is Dead? Sue Ellen Crandall y’all

  15. I have VERY thick hair that is usually worn long (i.e. to my br* strap). For interviews, I either (1) tease the crown and do half up with a slight curl/bend at the ends so that it’s not shapeless or (2) tease the crown, curl/bend the ends and piece the hair so that it is mostly in the back. My hair is so thick that I have to give a little volume at the crown so that it can balance out how much hair is at the bottom. Note, however, that for court, I put it in a low, tight bun, because my hair will move too much otherwise with walking there, going through security, grabbing documents from my briefcase (often under the chair because of limited desk space), etc. but it’s not a look I like because it does look severe. In addition to a lot of hair, I have a lot of face, so I like to have some hair balance out the look, but don’t move my head as much in a formal interview so I wear it down (which is also my preferred style, I wear it down everyday normally).

  16. I haven’t had to deal with this dilemma myself, so I’m not sure what I’d do now that my hair is long. But when I was in law school, my facebook (lower case “f”) photo showed long hair but I cut it short before school started. I still remember one on-campus interviewer openly telling me he was pleasantly surprised when I answered his call in the waiting room because he was expecting a classmate, who was also in the room and resembled the long-haired photo of me, to pop up.

  17. Anonattorney :

    I always wear my long curly hair down, even for interviews. I often disagree with the posts about appropriate and professional ways to wear hair. I have very noticeable long, curly hair. I am also 6’0″ tall. Based on my face shape and height, I will always have long hair. Short or even shoulder-length hair looks bad on me. I have a weak-ish chin and pulled-back hair doesn’t look great either. I look my best with my hair down.

    My noticeable hair and height have served me well in my career, because I have an unforgettable look. People remember me. I have learned (with some effort) how to be comfortable being noticed (you can’t hide when you’re tall) and to turn that into a projection of confidence and power. If I were to pull my hair back or scrape down my curls, I believe it would diminish my look, and consequently my power.

    Anyway, I think it’s okay to be somewhat memorable during interviews, even if it’s based on your physical attributes. If your hair naturally is noticeable (vibrant color, interesting texture, etc.), then I say own it. But, I think it would be distracting if you spent a lot of time attempting to alter your natural hair to make it noticeable. For example – curling hair, teasing it up into hairsprayed styles, etc.

    • +1 I’m 5’11” with near “mermaid hair” and while I’m loving the long bobs that women are rocking now, I think it would take more effort to style than my long hair so there’s no point in going that route. My aunt once told me that tall girls need to balance out their height with long hair. In college I probably interviewed with “bra-strap” length hair (this is a totally new term to me but ok). My hair is naturally wavy but I’m always the least fussy with it when I straighten it. I probably put my hair behind my ear on my right side or swept it all to one side.

      Overall appearance definitely matters. I HATE how I look with my hair up or half up, so that could possibly detract from my confidence during an interview and if I look better with my hair down, I’d rather be more attractive in the interview than less so. I’m not talking pagent-y. Makeup was always low key eyeliner, mascara and bronzer so I don’t look like a dead person.

  18. Keilexandra :

    I wore my long (waist-length), stick-straight hair pulled back in a neat, low bun. Boring but safe, and since I wore my hair up frequently (albeit higher or more messily) it didn’t feel uncomfortable or formal.

  19. I have long, curly hair. For interviews I usually blow dry it straight and then curl the ends under. I almost always wear my hair down and so I feel much more comfortable with it down for interviews.

  20. I have curly hair type 2c/3a and I don’t usually wear it my devacurl styled natural way for an interview. I also won’t fully straighten it since I’ll sit there and panic about humidity. So I curl my own curly hair to loosen it up. Then I usually pin it like in the top photo here ( though my hair is less casual than the photo once I’ve curled it as my hair is longer. Frizz is always a risk so I need some of it pulled back and I don’t want to think about my hair during an interview. This is pretty much my go-to office “big meeting” hairdo too. Day to day I’ll go full head of curls and I have numerous methods of half/full updos involving bobby pins and inspiration from Game of Thrones but some days you have to appeal to the corporate gods.

  21. I have long, thick hair that is naturally curly (but looks unruly when curly). I straighten it and wear it half up. If I wore it down I would touch it all. the. time. but pulling it half up enables me to forget it. I have a thing for big hair (I should have been born in the South) so I have to make an effort to ensure I tone down the volume for conservative events such as interviews.

  22. Midwestern Mom :

    Great post! I coach college students on how to present themselves professionally. My advice is simple. I don’t care if it’s up or down… most importantly I want to know you did something to it. Styled it. Put some time into your appearance. I want to see your face and I don’t want you playing with your hair either.

    I tell students – at your interview you have to look your absolute best because I am asking myself, “Can I put this person in front of customers and clients. “

  23. I worked at a top 3 management consulting firm, and have long hair. While I agree with many above that you should ultimately go with whatever makes you most confident and least fidgety, if at all bearable for you, go with a bun or at least low neat ponytail. They are looking for people they can put in front of executives, and unfortunately bias for women means you need to skew a bit more serious-looking than men of same age. For interview I mean. Once you’re there, very egalitarian.

  24. I interviewed over a year ago for management consulting firms and got offers at two top firms. I have long (mid-back) length stick straight hair, and I just blew it out with a large round brush and wore it down like I always do. I never touch my hair, so that isn’t an issue for me. Clearly, you want to make sure it looks “done” so no split-ends, grown out roots, etc. and have it look styled, but your comfort is more important.

  25. snarkyatlaw :

    I’m late to this party. Sorry!
    I don’t think the style matters as much as not touching it. Even if you don’t think you touch your hair, ask friends if they see you mess with it when you’re nervous (or drinking. Nervous habits seem to surface after a glass of wine). Anecdote: I once had a series of depositions where opposing counsel (my age, with friends in common) played with her hair — including smelling it! — during her questioning, the whole week. It was incredibly distracting and unprofessional. I mentioned it to a mutual friend who later told me the attorney had no idea she was doing it.

  26. Omie Dove :

    I loved the Gibson Roll link. I never knew the name of that style. I can’t wait to try it! I have fine wavy hair that is weighed down easily so I think I look better with classic, simple styles that don’t use hair products. Also, my ponytails are never smooth and I think I look like I’m ready to climb a tree when I’m wearing a ponytail because my wavy hair doesn’t smooth together into one neat wave! I usually just do a French Twist, but I hope I can make this Gibson Roll; its so pretty!

  27. I wear my hair down. It is past my shoulders, just above the bra, healthy and out of my face. I’ve wanted to style my hair into a half up-do but I have a tendency to touch the soft hair at the back of my head when I wear one. When I wear my hair down, I don’t think much about it. Probably because I always wear it that way.

  28. I have very long hair and it becomes very difficult to manage if it gets dry. Once per week, I use the Shielo intensive Hair Mask and it has not only repaired my damage hair (which use to always tangle) but has also give them a smooth silky shine. It appears as if there has been a coating of cream on your hair which is protective layer.

  29. I like it but not on me

  30. I try to use a clear vinyl hair tie. Depending on your hair color, they tend to disappear. Also, they are very thin and can be used to hold your hair so you can do a neat up-do if you like. LOVE THE SPIN PINS!!!

    I have long (past the shoulders above the bra) straight hair. I have left it down, done a half pony and a low full pony tail. It really depends on the weather that day.

    I tend to collect static, so to keep my hair under control the half pony or full pony can be a practical choice. I’ll part my hair on the side and it looks very business like and not too severe at all.

    Also…I have been known to use a dryer sheet or static guard on my hair to control static.

  31. I felt my long, down to the middle of my back hair was sending the wrong message for a management position and wasn’t fun to maintain. So instead of worrying about it any longer I chopped it and donated it. It’s now slightly longer than chin length and with a side bang makes me look both professional and younger. I can curl it, straighten it, do the half up-do and it makes my neck look more elegant. My boyfriend loves it, and my ex boyfriend even contacted me after I posted my new profile pic on social media (ugh!) so I guess that means short hair is sexy too. I’m extremely happy with it and was ready for a change, and I like to think maybe a new wig was able to be made with the long braid I sent in that will boost a child’s self confidence. A win-win.

  32. I have a corporate interview and I have dreads, they fall to my waist. Does anyone have any ideas for hair styles? They are real dreads so taking them out would be shaving my head!