Should you or shouldn't you? Will gray hair hurt or help your job chances?


The latest Just For Men commercial -- which I just saw during a Red Sox game but can't find online -- features a man heading off to a job interview, with his daughter helping him pick out a tie. He comes back home and tells his daughter that he got the job. Of course it's a commercial so he's coy about it: "I'm going to need more ties."

Then we see the box of Just For Men, and the message is clear: If he hadn't hidden the signs of graceful aging with a grocery store hair product, he wouldn't have gotten the job.

But wasn't it just a few years ago that now infamous Enron chief financial officer Andy Fastow was dyeing his hair with gray highlights to achieve a level of gravitas, and convince people that he deserved such a powerful job in spite of his young age?

A 2005 MSNBC poll found of 2,790 users found that 63% of respondents view gray hair as an asset because it implies experience. An Associated Press article found experts to be similarly conflicted about whether gray hair is an asset or a liability in the workplace. BusinessWeek advised its readers that "If you have gray hair, a gray shirt and a gray suit will make you look, well, gray. Add some color to stand out."

I'm not smart enough (or old enough) to opine on whether gray hair will help or hurt your chances in landing a job, but my hunch is that there are hundreds of other factors that are more important. Either way, the conflicting ideas about the impact of gray hair on job prospects make the "Dye your hair, get a job" commercial seem like a tough sell. To dye or not to dye? It's a personal choice, and if you're comfortable with gray hair, more power to you: You shouldn't feel like you need to go blond to get a job.