Worst Thing to Do on a Job Interview

I had a chat the other day with a couple of HR recruiters at my company, trying to figure out how they perceive candidates and what they look for during job interviews in candidates. I work at a consulting company and a significant part of my job is meeting potential clients and being “interviewed”. I like to think I’m pretty good at interviews but I always want to improve. By identifying what the person across the desk is looking for/at I can be more conscious of my behavior and do even better.

The conversation was extremely interesting and informative. I will try to cover more tips and tricks in the future but first I want to share what is probably the most important tip I have. I asked: “What is the worst thing a candidate can do? What can dramatically reduce his/her chances?”

“Personal Hygiene and Bad Body / Oral Odor”

This was the unanimous and decisive answer they all gave me. Apparently there is quite a high percentage of candidates that show up to job interviews, unaware of their appearance and bodily odor. A few stories about candidates showing up sweaty (dripping…) after riding their bicycle to the interview with noticeable sweat stains under their arm pits. Others showed up in a shirt that seems to not have been changed for a week, and a few just reeked of sweat or cigarettes.

Despite being professional and politically correct the person interviewing you is first and foremost a person with biases, appeals and repulsions. Some are more sensitive than others to smells and looks but they all agree that sitting in a small room with such a candidate is something they want to get over with ASAP and not see ever again…

How to Avoid

Obviously, if you have a hint of self awareness you will do your best show up decent to a job interview. Some will wear a suite, others will buy a new gown, but this may not be enough sometimes, especially in the summer when the interview is after 10 am and the pressure, and “journey” to the office take their toll.

Here are some tips on how to make sure you are judged by your skills, ability, experience and personality and not by your tendency to sweat and produce harsh bodily odor:

#1 Always take a clean and wrinkle free shirt

I always have a fresh spare shirt in my car for any possible scenario, just in case I spill coffee or get a food stain. This is doubly important if you have an important meeting. You should be able to change in the restroom or in your car before going into the interview.

#2 Splash a little cologne / perfume

before going in, plash a little colon / perfume. Use gentle scent and not too much! A breath mint can do wonders :)

#3 Deodorant

Apply antiperspirant deodorant. Interviews are stressful and people tend to perspire before / during them. This will make you feel much more comfortable!

#4 Try to schedule the interview in the morning

Researches show that we are at our highest cognitive capabilities in the morning. Another bonus is that you can take a shower and still be fresh for the interview, and not carry around the scent and stains of a full day of activity…

#5 Take a ride

Try to avoid riding bicycle or walking a long distance to the interview. It’s well worth taking a ride or a taxi.

#6 Eat a light snack

Eating a light snack can increase your blood sugar levels and elevate your energies. It will also reduce your mouth PH level which will reduce bad breath.

#7 Take a look in the mirror

Especially if you just had a light snack (#6) — make sure you don’t have anything in your teeth, and everything is in place.

So to sum it up — the worst thing you can do at a job interview is to show up sweaty / smelly / with poor hygiene. This will, without a doubt, decrease your chances of dazzling the person interviewing you with your knowledge, experience and expertise.