Personal hygiene is a very difficult and uncomfortable issue for many employers and job coaches to deal with. However, it is an important issue. It may even be the most important aspect when meeting an employer for the first time and affects your future in the workplace. The time to deal with it is sooner rather than later.
How you smell or how you present yourself affects “first impressions” and “last impressions”.
Employees and candidates who have an offensive smell or appearance are committing a social error, but may not be aware that they are or do not understand how it affects their ability to land a job or keep a job. The following is actual feedback from employers, coworkers and employment counsellors/job coaches:
- Never change their clothes – intense body odour
- Teeth look very dirty – Do they brush?
- Smell heavily of smoke and so does their resume (Resumes are thrown out)
- Bad breath
- Too strong a perfume
- Never use deodorant!
- Hair or nails are unkempt
- Nicotine stains on fingers and teeth/mouth/moustache
So, what to do with this embarrassing and uncomfortable issue? Like most issues, it needs to be discussed in person, clearly, with respect and direct eye contact. While the subject is difficult, do NOT squirm in your seat while discussing it.
Start out with something like this – “There is something that is affecting your ability to get (keep) a job and I would like your permission to discuss it with you.” Once you have permission, just state the facts without judgement. Generally, the person will understand and comply with your request for a change or they will discuss with you why they do not think it is important. Perfume and smoking is often the touchiest subject and the candidate may make a statement that they did not think it mattered as the work environment is dirty or smelly.
I had a candidate who had been searching for work for many months and the HR person in a plastic factory told me he had a very strong tobacco odour. She had an allergy so it made her uncomfortable (plus she felt it was a sign of disrespect to smoke before an interview). I discussed this with the young man and he was offended at first. However, I persisted and we came to an understanding about how it made him appear to the interviewer. This young man was not hired by the plastics factory but he WAS hired 2 weeks later by another employer. YAY! Another client opted not to change his personal hygiene and felt it was the employer’s problem, so I (as the Employer Liaison) declined to present him to the employer.
Most people appreciate an honest discussion and are even happier when they suddenly get a job or their coworkers and supervisors are friendlier to them. No one wants a “smelly” employee, so be “scentsible” and talk about it!! Don’t forget to check your own hygiene first though!
by Jill Galloway, Blogger for Agilec