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Hip-hop causing big job flop?

Etiquette consultant says culture not the style in the workplace

Erick Johnson | 4/17/2014, 9 a.m.

The bold pinstripe suit with a flower in the breast pocket is too much for a job interview. And unless you’re Jay Z, get rid of the Tom Ford bow tie and white jacket. No high fives, but a nice firm handshake will do.

It’s the type of behavior that may prevent thousands of Black college graduates from

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Rose Hedgemond

starting new careers in a competitive job market, according Rose Hedgemond, a business etiquette consultant.

Hedgemond believes there is a growing misconception among job applicants, especially Blacks who are accepting hip-hop as the new style of business etiquette in America’s offices and board rooms. She is busy nowadays keeping it real with sobering, but helpful talks with students and young professionals as they start new careers in South Florida.

As Chief Executive Officer of Avenues of Excellence, a North Miami firm specializing in social and business etiquette, Hedgemond’s business is growing as more colleges and organizations seek her help in turning educated, flip-flop-wearing college graduates into well-groomed, business savvy professionals. She trains job applicants and professionals on how to dress, speak and interact in corporate America.

Her clients learn about the traditional standards of business etiquette through counseling, training programs and seminars.

Once dedicated to proper manners and office decorum, business etiquette today is being challenged by the music, fashion and social appeal of hip-hop moguls such as Jay Z, Sean Combs and Russell Simmons. Millions of young Black professionals admire the businessmen for their success, cool style and charisma. But Hedgemond believes Blacks are imitating these artists during interviews, a practice that may damage their chances of landing the job.

So Hedgemond travels across town preaching the traditional gospel of business etiquette to job applicants and thousands of college students in South Florida who will graduate this spring before they embark on new careers.

But many of these graduates are from poor backgrounds and possess swagger and aggressive traits they acquired from a hip-hop culture, according to Hedgemond. While not necessarily bad, these qualities should not appear in interviews with employers who have traditional, conservative standards.

“Hip-hop culture is a form of entertainment that does not belong in the interview or office,” Hedgemond said. “Once you have a level of net worth like Jay Z or Russell Simmons, then hip-hop behavior is fine because it’s your product and business.”

Black applicants influenced by hip-hop can make simple, but critical mistakes that may cost them the job, Hedgemond said.

One problem is business attire. Hedgemond said today’s job applicants are wearing colors and flashy styles of their favorite hip-hop artists on interviews and business meetings. She said the traditional black, navy or gray suits are still the preferred styles for interviews in the mainstream workplace.

Even among young entrepreneurs starting their own business, Hedgemond said the standard remains the same.

“You don’t want to bring too much attention to yourself,” she said. “You don’t want your clothes to be a distraction.”

Hedgemond said job applicants might appear unattractive to an employer if they appear overconfident or speak in a monotone voice.

“An interview is like a symphony,” Hedgemond said. “You don’t want a single tone because it’s boring and a turnoff. You should have a combination of tones by using your voice like an instrument.”

In the end, Hedgemond said the best advice for applicants is to simply stay calm throughout the interview.