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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

December 17, 2019
Question

Is it ok to wear perfume or cologne for a job interview?

answer
Julie Q. Brush

There are a few qualities about a candidate that stand out as distinct and memorable for an employer during – and after an interview. These qualities include a candidate’s handshake, eye contact, speech style and…fragrance.

Scores of professionals, women and men alike wear fragrance as part of their daily grooming routine. Whether it’s in the office, at home or out on the town, “smelling good” is associated with good stature, status, wealth, formality, attractiveness and self-esteem (to name a few). It can make us feel pretty, seductive, handsome or rugged and evoke positive feelings and memories. Given this powerful effect, the attachment between people and their perfumes is sky high.

But is it ok for a candidate to wear perfume or cologne for a job interview?

As a general rule, candidates should avoid wearing fragrances for job interviews. This recommendation does not rise to the level of an Interview Commandment, however it should be strongly considered given the risks and potential outcomes involved.

It may seem odd that a simple desire to smell good during an interview could compromise a candidacy. But it can. A human being’s sense of smell is the most sensitive of the senses. And research has demonstrated that – smell – is the sense most often linked to our emotional memories – good and bad. So even if your personal fragrance brings you enjoyment, you cannot predict how an interviewer will react. And if that reaction is negative, it will damage your candidacy. Because like the limp or bone-crushing handshake…people remember an unpleasant scent.

Equally offensive is a fragrance that is applied too liberally or emanates too strongly. So even if you live by the “A Little Dab’ll Do Ya” motto, your definition of “a little” could be another’s definition of a lot. In addition, a person’s sense of smell heightens and dulls at different times of the day and month. So bad timing could prove fatal.

For men who wear aftershave for its antiseptic or astringent effects, I recommend purchasing an unscented variety to use before future interviews. For others who are attached to their fragrance and would feel too uncomfortable without it, build up your resistance by going without a day or two a week so you feel more at ease come interview time.

We’ve all been there at one point or another: A meeting or interview with a person whose perfume/cologne knocked our socks off…literally. What impression did it make? And how long did that impression last? Chances are…it was not positive. This is not to suggest that you’ll be DOA if you wear perfume or cologne to an interview. But in a competitive interview situation where it’s critical for a candidate to make the very best first impression, the risks far outweigh the rewards.

So as you tidy up your personal presentation for your next interview, skip the finishing touches and opt for fragrance free. And you’ll increase the likelihood of walking out of your interview with the sweet smell of success.

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Comments

M C, Attorney , No

I only disagree with this article to the extent that it doesn't say it is an Interview Commandment not to wear fragrance. I think it 100% should be. I can't tell you how many times I have allergic reactions to people's perfumes just sharing a train car with them. My eyes water, I sneeze, and I generally feel miserable until they leave (or I do) and the air is cleared. It doesn't just have to smell bad to someone to be a problem!

David Boundy, ,

Think like a lawyer. Is fragrance ever going to tip a close case in your favor? No. Is fragrance ever going to tip a close case against you? Yes. Imagine one of your interviewers is allergic to fragrances. Will this person want to commit to having you walking down his/her hallway for years? Will this person think highly of your ability to put yourself in the frame of reference of clients?

Lass Evans, VP, Deputy General Counsel, Fortune 500 Company

I agree with Julie. I've interviewed hundreds of lawyers and those who wore perfume or cologne that was too strong or unpleasant smelling distracted me. It's not worth the risk, so don't take the chance.

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