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And the Sign Said, "Long-Haired Freaky People Need Not Apply"

July 16, 2009
by Gwen Darling
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My role as a matchmaker between Healthcare IT job seekers and the recruiters and/or employers who seek them is always fascinating, sometimes humorous, and occasionally gut-wrenching, all rolled up into a day’s work. As you can probably imagine, I get some really thought provoking queries via email, from members of both camps. It can be a stressful time – one is seeking a new opportunity, perhaps in transition (aka unemployed), and the other is tasked with finding and securing the best possible teammate, leader, or visionary. So the questions can sometimes be . . . shall we say. . . wince-inducing. Why do you think I didn’t at least get an interview? Why in the world would this candidate lie about her degree? What do I need to do to be more competitive? And then there’s this one I received over the weekend. The hopeful Healthcare IT candidate had emailed what appeared to be a very simple question, along with two files attached to his message. “Greetings! I’m applying for a Healthcare IT position I saw on your site, and saw the option to upload a photo. I don’t have a current business photo since I’ve worked from home for the past several years - will this one be acceptable? Thanks – I’ve attached my resume, too, for your review.”

A quick scan of the resume revealed a very promising candidate. Experienced, educated, and credentialed. And I could tell from his email that he was friendly, polite, and articulate. So far, so good! Oh, yes, the simple question still needs to be answered – is this photo acceptable? I click on the attachment and up comes. . . this:

Well, okay. Not this exact photo, but one very very close to it. (I don’t want to embarrass the guy). Hmmmm. So much for a simple question.

Sure, it would be great if we all were judged solely on our talents and experience, and not by the way we looked. It would be nice if we ourselves could judge others that way, too. And I suppose in years past, IT professionals could hide out in cold basement server rooms and stay there for days until someone in Accounting, or Marketing, or HR did something really lame to illicit the “blue screen of death,” and then up would come the IT Guy. But those times? Long, long, gone. IT professionals are no longer on the periphery of a company’s success. Today, IT professionals DICTATE a company’s success. From the simple tech support position all the way up to the hospital CIO, IT professionals have now been moved to the forefront, required to interact with all facets of an organization. In other words, IT has gone (cue gasp!) mainstream.

So, what does this mean for the long-haired freaky people? Do they need not apply? That’s a tricky question. So, tricky, in fact, that I put it out there for my fellow Twitterers to answer:

Tweet: Quick question for Healthcare Informatics blog post - would you hire a male IT professional w/ extremely long hair?

Reply Tweets:

“If he doesn't have to face customers, yes. If customer facing is required certain hospitals are too conservative.”

“Depends on qualifications AND what culture does he originate from? In some of them LONG hair is the rule rather than exception.”

“Long hair if it is clean and groomed, no problem. It is what the person brings in personality and knowledge.”

“I get away with it because I work at an Indian clinic :> Our COO has longer hair than I do.”

Personally, I can see good points on both sides of this issue. I’ve known more than a few extremely inept yuppie (boy, I’m really dating myself with this post!) “professionals.” On the other hand, can a guy who looks like he’s the missing member of ZZ Top get the respect his IT talents deserve in a room full of suits? Not sure. What I do know for sure is, I can’t get this song out of my head now, and misery loves company, so here you go:

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