If a candidate is very hairy on the chest and back, should they just shave right down every day to below their collar line?

Recruiting Animal

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.

Got a question you'd like answered in this weekly forum? Submit it here.

Views: 294

Comment by Joshua Letourneau on April 16, 2008 at 8:39am
Hi, Claudia :) I was moved by your comment to shave "below the wrist lines". This is a new spin - do you mean to shave your arms all the way down to your wrists, so as to show off gorrilla hands with clean shaven arms? :) And this leads me to think . . . would the hairy hands and offset shaven arms provide a subconscious "black glove" effect? (circa O.J.?) I don't know about you, but the last time I sent a candidate into the interview wearing black gloves and a surgical mask, they were turned down :)

Comment by Recruiting Animal on April 16, 2008 at 10:12am
Don't anyone say that Dr Faust isn't willing to get right down in the weeds to answer the intimate questions of everyday life -- just like Cosmo, I assume. Because, really, Josh didn't say that he was only shaving male candidates. Women have these problems too. My hunch, however, is that this is more of a Boomer issue since Gen Y people appear to favour no body hair. (Uggh)
Comment by Joshua Letourneau on April 16, 2008 at 10:37am
Animal, if you met a candidate with clean shaven arms (like with a Mach-3, down to the meat) . . . but they had hairy hands . . . what would cross your mind?
We need to request and commission a neuroscience project that gauges brain activity during an encounter like this.
Which leads me to ask: If you are in favor of "hairy grips", does this change the usual interviewing attire? (like color of tie and/or what kind of watch would emphasize the hairiness of the grips themselves? Would a cowboy tie work better? Would a leather vest under the wool suit be appropriate? Should you self-tan the grips? Should use oil the outside of the grips up so as to add some additional sheen and shine?)
Comment by Slouch on April 16, 2008 at 10:38am
it's not that Josh, it's that a hairy animal needs a hairy mate. does that make sense?
Comment by Joshua Letourneau on April 16, 2008 at 11:01am
I don't know. I've seen a show about a Hippo fall in love with an Orangutang on the Animal Channel :) And what about diversity? Aren't we trying to move beyond the "just like me" hiring manager phenomenon? :)
P.S. Yes, I spelled Orangutang incorrectly because I lost a 4th grade spelling bee for spelling it wrong, so this is my way of telling the judges where they can stick the trophy :) For any of you who actually care, this is the correct spelling: Orangutan.
Comment by Joshua Letourneau on April 16, 2008 at 11:02am

Comment by Joshua Letourneau on April 16, 2008 at 12:54pm
I'm pretty sure everyone here is joking - since our job is so serious, we all need a laugh sometimes. I hope that nobody would 'really' shave a candidate's head - we were just having a little fun :)
Comment by Slouch on April 16, 2008 at 12:56pm
Karen, you can see the humor here right? You can see that we are having fun right? can you not see it?
Comment by Recruiting Animal on April 16, 2008 at 1:12pm
I wasn't joking.
Comment by Amitai Givertz on April 16, 2008 at 1:18pm
Adding to Karen's points, Josh your photo-comment is unambiguous in its specism. That saddens me. It's not funny. We're all primates, you know.

Karen, you tell 'em. Getting sued ain't no monkey-business.


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