What do you do about candidates whose only flaw is bad personal hygiene?

The other day I wrote another in our ongoing series of Egregiously Bad Candidates blog posts, where we – as recruiters – get to laugh about some of the more hilarious stories of candidates who just don’t get it.

One of the comments on that post was about candidates who keep on applying for jobs at your company, even though they keep getting turned down. Specifically, why do these candidates keep applying, when it’s ‘obvious’ you don’t want them?

Except, I don’t think it’s always so obvious. (In fact, I’ve blogged about this before.) These poor candidates keep getting rejected, but without concrete – or constructive – feedback, they take our polite rejection (“It just isn’t a fit right now, but we’ll keep your resume on file…”) at face value, and figure it’s just a matter of time before it is a ‘good fit’.

The one that makes me cringe most often is the candidate with bad personal hygiene. You know the one: he’s (and, let’s face it, it’s almost always a ‘he’) got a decent resume and would even be a decent interview – if only you weren’t gasping for air after 10 minutes in a closed room with him.

You know that all the guy needs is a bar of Irish Spring, a box of lemon-fresh Tide (because you just know that his whole wardrobe, and probably all his sheets, need a serious, um, freshening up), and a can of AXE deodorant spray, and he’d increase his chances of getting a job about 1000 percent.

So why don’t you tell him?

I mean, I’ve had recruiters tell me what to wear to an interview (“It’s a fairly formal office, so wear stockings”), how to do my hair (“You might want to consider dyeing your hair – I know they’ll think that white-blond, super-short style is a little too fashion-forward”), and even advise me on shoe selection (“They have a dress code, so don’t wear open-toed shoes, even if they’re Christian Dior”). I don’t take offense at this – both the recruiter and I have a vested interest in me putting my best foot forward, as it were. I’ve also declined interviews at companies which have draconian dress codes, such as the cosmetics firm which didn’t allow women to wear pants of any kind, because I probably wouldn’t have liked it there much anyway.

So why are we so reluctant to tell people that they need a shower?

To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t a legislative or regulatory prohibition on this in Canada – I don’t think ‘body odor’ or ‘personal hygiene’ is protected under the Human Rights Code. And I know that some US states have odd rules, but I’m pretty sure that hygiene isn’t one of them.

I keep thinking about what my mother – a high school teacher – used to say: “If I don’t take these kids aside after class and talk to them about taking a shower every day and using deodorant, the other kids are going to make fun of them. Which is much worse than the momentary embarrassment s/he feels when I talk to them about it.”

Some of these poor candidates are going to go on being unemployed for months. Surely we owe it to them to give them a heads’ up?

Source: ERE.net