If a candidate is very hairy on the chest and back, should they just shave right down every day to below their collar line?
This question actually came up on last week's radio show with a hilarious response by guest recruiter Joshua Letourneau...check out my music list for the audio clip, provided for your listening pleasure courtesy of the host himself. Thanks, Animal!
Dear Recruiting Animal,
This is an interesting question because one person’s preference is another person’s turn-off, and personal hygiene is -- well, personal. I'm glad you brought it up, though.
I used to think that hair had nothing to do with hiring decisions, until I had a candidate whose toupee slid down the back of his neck in the final interview due to excessive sweating. He did not get the job offer. Neither did the candidate who shaved and waxed his head until it was shiny, because the hiring manager had a distinct bias against bald men (something to do with a messy divorce, I later discovered). Chemistry is funny that way.
But before you begin stocking disposable razors in your bottom desk drawer, take a moment to look at the bigger picture of the match you are trying to make. How diverse is the environment you want to place the candidate in? Is it a more casual or formal dress code? Is the hiring manager a stickler for details, or more strategic in focus? These can give you some hints about whether or not you're proposing a good match.
On the candidate side, this is another time to watch carefully for trends of similar behavior. Are teeth unbrushed? Does clothing look stained or slept in? Is there a pervasive odor from all of that hair? People grow long hair for lots of reasons (self-expression, medical conditions, forgetfulness, laziness)...regardless, we're not talking about hair growth here, but one’s personal choice to keep it under control.
A good rule of thumb for personal appearance is that if a problem can be fixed easily (like spinach in your teeth, or hair that can be trimmed), you mention it to the person. And if it can't, you leave it alone. If you absolutely must have The Chat
with a candidate about personal hygiene, here's a tip: be direct, and be respectful. The classic outline for an intervention goes something like this:
This is what I see. You've got a lot of body hair.
This is how it makes me feel. I'm concerned that this will draw more negative than positive attention to you in the competition for this job.
This is what I want. It's my job to present you with opportunities for which you can be a top contender. I know this employer pretty well, and recommend that you keep your hair trimmed below the collar and wrist lines if you'd like to be considered seriously.
And here are the consequences if you choose differently. Of course, it's up to you to trim or not. If it's important to you to keep the body hair, then maybe this isn't the right opportunity for you. Let's move on and look for something in a more diverse environment where the hair won't be a distraction.
And if pervasive odor is part of the problem, you might consider having the conversation over the phone.
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