How to Make a First Impression That Doesn’t Stink

April 30th, 2013 | Articles, Interviewing | No Comments »


Imagine that you have an interview today. You know that you want to make a good impression the very millisecond that you walk through the door, so you break out your professional best. You pick something that shows you take the opportunity seriously: an ensemble that is ironed, pressed, polished, & free of any trace stains. You even grab a bottle of your favorite perfume or cologne, spritzing on the fragrance to give you added appeal. Or do you?

Most people realize that their smell directly affects the way others perceive them. In general, they practice hygiene well enough to avoid reeking like fermenting wetlands or the mile radius surrounding a herd of water buffalo. Yet overcompensating in the opposite direction is not the right answer either.

One man’s treasure…

Interviews are unpredictable enough without throwing the hiring manager’s sense of smell into the mix. What one person imagines to be a pleasant smell, may be the equivalent smell of an active sulfur vent to another. The last thing you want is to walk into your interview, make a good visual first impression with your choice of clothes, and then smash that impression to smithereens by entering smelling range.

And smells are aggressive. You can’t simply focus on another aspect of that person as you could with his or her appearance. Smells can be invasive in ways that a paisley, three-piece suit could never be. Sure, hiring managers are physically capable of pinching their nostrils closed to alleviate the stench but that’s crossing a social line that most are unwilling to cross – they don’t find you to be contemptuous, they just want you to stop corroding their nose hairs.

Don’t overpower your hard work

Worst of all, if a hiring manager doesn’t like your smell, you probably won’t hear about it. Your responses may be perfectly crafted to address the company’s values & culture. Your wit may allow you to overcome any tough interview questions. Your proactive line of questioning may even give you control of the interview but if your smell looms in the background like a nuisance or at worst, a reminder of an old rival or lapsed love, you’re going to lose the job to a candidate who didn’t offend with every whiff.

A solution: clean & simple

Ultimately, how a job seeker smells is the one choice that hiring managers should never consciously notice. A neutral odor is the best option. You are not trying to assault or seduce the hiring manager (hopefully), so your smell shouldn’t really be on his or her mind.

So, skip the designer fragrances. Even avoid any musky or fruity body washes with strong scents. Just smell clean and you will make a first impression that doesn’t choke out all of your incredible qualities.

by James Walsh

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