Tzniut and Interviews

Post by Melissa

Lately, I’ve been on a spree of professional interviews, and every time I pick out my clothing, I go through an internal debate about what to wear and how to cover my head.  So despite the conversations I’ve been engaged in on this topic elsewhere, I thought it would be interesting to hear your thoughts as well.

In the warmer months, I don’t feel so weird about my clothing choices.  Typically I will wear a knee length pencil skirt with a shell and blazer.  Before I was dressing tzanuah (modest) this was also pretty much what I would wear on summer-time interviews.  This look doesn’t becomes out of place until you are wearing it with leggings and boots and a long down coat when it is 20’F and snowing, as happened to me this past winter.

I think the more difficult part is headcovering.  As previously stated, I will not wear a sheitel, so there goes that option for blending in.  In some of the places I’m interviewing the clientèle is lower-income people and a simple tichel may look more like a “do-rag” in those settings, even if it is tied nicely.  So I have mostly taken to wear nice crocheted snoods (as seen on me in the above photo) but even that doesn’t always feel appropriate.  I feel that it is important to cover my head in a way which I am comfortable doing if offered a position, but its hard to strike a balance of what is also interview appropriate.

I also then feel the compulsion to comment on my hair covering. So towards the end of my time asking questions I will typically say something to the effect of “I cover my hair for religious reasons.  There are a variety of ways I can do this which can be discussed if you chose to hire me.”  This never fails to feel awkward, but I sometimes feel like if I don’t say it, it is as though I have avoided the pink elephant in the room.

So I ask you, my beloved readers, what do you do (or have you seen done) which is appropriate, in all meanings of the word?  What would you wear? Would you speak up about it?

I have to add, this week I interviewed with a Jewish education and outreach program which is run by a religious person, and it was so nice to know I could wear my tichel (tied in the Urban Wrap style from Style Underground) and be accepted.  Though I have interviewed with many Jewish organizations, this was the first time my interviewer (who would also be my boss) was a religious person, and it really made such a difference in my comfort level!


4 thoughts on “Tzniut and Interviews

  1. I think that you are right in bringing it up. Not only does that give the impression that you are comfortable with the decision to dress in a way that is outside of the norm, but that you are confident in addressing questions before they become conflicts. Good characteristics in a future employee!

  2. I think that if it makes you feel better to address it then you should. I think that scarves can look elegant, and coordinate with your outfit. As such, it might be unnecessary to address it because you will still look put together. I asked someone who wears mostly hats (but owns sheitels) what she wears when she interviews. She said that she was advised that it is best to wear what you would usually wear, which I think is proper and appropriate. I realize this is prob not usually an issue for you since you only wear tichles and such, but for women who wear both I think that this was good advice.

    ps I found that video yesterday. Just need to get some scarves and then I can practice wrapping them myself. I went sheitle shopping and left feeling bad about the whole thing. I might wear them one day but not just yet! Scarves it is 🙂

    • Actually, where I work (a college), we are not allowed to discuss anything remotely connected to a candidate’s religion (or anything else outside their qualifications for the job). That not only means that I can’t ask you about your covering, but also that if you bring it up, I can’t discuss it and must redirect you to job-related topics. The Affirmative Action reasoning is that regardless of who brings it up, now I’ve got information about your religion, which I shouldn’t have because it may influence me one way or the other. It also gives you grounds to sue if you don’t get the job because now you can claim it was because of your religion. (I’m not saying you’d play that game, just that it exists and large employers are going to cover themselves from it by having standardized interviews.)

      I’ll also point out that perhaps you shouldn’t be working for any place that won’t hire a woman wearing whatever you normally wear to cover. I say this as a plain Christian (you know, kapp and dress and all that) — if we can’t work somewhere in plain dress, it’s a signal that we probably shouldn’t be working there anyway.

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