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Katherine Bindley

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Should Women Wear Engagement Rings To Interviews?

Posted: 08/18/11 10:17 AM ET

Stressing about what to wear to a big job interview? Instead of debating skirt or pants, suit or not, some hiring managers say it's the ring you should think about ditching -- your diamond engagement ring, that is.

"Please remove your giant diamond rings," wrote one contributor to a community forum on Urbanbaby.com last week, billing her post as a public service announcement. "I work at a non-profit," she continued, "and when I interview someone who is sporting a huge diamond, I immediately deduct points from that person. I talked about this with some of my colleagues today, and they feel the same way. It's just an unnecessary risk."

The poster later clarified that she has a specific reason for resenting when applicants bring their bling to an interview: She works for a non-profit that helps African women and children suffering from the effects of the conflict diamond trade.

But her post contributed to a larger conversation sparked earlier this year in a field that has no connection to the diamond industry. In June, a women who worked at the accounting firm KPMG claimed that when she inquired about how to get a salary bump following her maternity leave, she was told that she didn't need one because she had a nice engagement ring. Now, she's suing.

When it comes to the interviewing and negotiating in the work place, are women judged for and by the rings on their fingers? And if so, why exactly?

Wearing a flashy engagement ring to an interview "has got to be a personal decision," said Karen Katz, a principal with Forum, one of the largest executive search firms in New York City. "But it could be a damaging one."

Katz, who coaches candidates before interviews, said that anything that distracts from what the applicant is saying is a negative in an interview. That includes bangle bracelets that make noise when you move your hands, eye-catching costume jewelry, strong perfumes, and, potentially, a very large engagement ring.

But the KPMG lawsuit indicates there's another way in which a big ring may send -- or be seen as sending -- a strong and perhaps the wrong message.

"Unfortunately, it could be perceived as, this person doesn't really need this job," Katz said, although she argued that no employer would ever admit that. "If they've got a ring that size, they don't need this job.'"

On top of that, Katz pointed out that a big ring could be viewed by some interviewers or colleagues as an inappropriate expenditure.

In the end, she said, it all depends on who's sitting across from you.

"I wear a diamond that is not a huge one, and I wouldn't think of not wearing it," said Katz. "But years and years ago in an interview with a client, the client jumped up and said 'Oh my god, how big is that ring?' My stone is less than a carat: its all about perception."

It's obviously unfair -- no one would ever ask a man how many carats the diamond ring he bought his wife is to determine what kind of job or salary he deserves -- but the UrbanBaby thread and the KPMG suit suggest that it happens.

Still, plenty of respondents to the Urbanbaby post who also handle hiring at their companies and organizations argued that a ring has no bearing on their decision, nor should it.

"I've hired dozens of people...honestly couldn't tell you if any of them even wear diamonds or what their jewelry was. I can remember every detail of the interviews, their cover letters, and their previous experience, though," wrote one commenter.

"Where that person went to school and her work experience speaks more to me," said another.

Tell us what you think. When it comes time for a big interview, or the meeting where you plan to ask for a raise, should you leave the ring at home?

 

Follow Katherine Bindley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/katiebindley