Should you wear perfume to a job interview? That’s a question many women have asked themselves.
While perfume can (and often does!) help you stand out, since people so often remember scents, it can also do more bad than good. Perfume doesn’t just bother some people. It can also be dangerous and pose a threat if your interviewer has allergies, asthma or other sensitivities.
“Anything that gives perfume an odor is very likely going to be an allergen,” Dr. Heather Patisaul, a biologist at North Carolina State University, explained to TIME. “Look at your perfume bottle and read the ingredients. It reads like a chemistry book.”
And that’s just the ingredients that are clearly listed. Trade-secret laws protect cosmetic companies from revealing the specific formulas behind their products, so oftentimes, there’s no way of knowing for sure what all goes into your favorite scent. Moreover, even if you do know your perfume’s full ingredient list, it’s unlikely you’d have the opportunity to inquiry about a hiring manager’s allergies prior to the interview anyway.
Bearing this in mind, it’s easy to see how playing it safe by skipping out on perfume altogether makes sense for a job interview. But if you’re someone who feels incomplete or even less confident without their signature scent, that can be easier said than done. That’s why an anonymous FGB’er took to the FGB Community to get other women’s thoughts on the matter.
“I read recently that people can be sensitive to perfumes and it’s risky to wear them, but smelling good is such a positive in my book and I feel like I’ve worn perfume to every single interview I’ve gone on,” she wrote. “Is it really bad to wear perfume in a job interview?”
1. It’s OK to wear perfume if you don’t overdo it.
You can wear perfume so long as you don’t douse yourself in it, according to some FGB’ers.
“I think wearing two spritz is fine — if we’re talking perfume, not mist — so as not to nauseate or distract anyone in the room,” said an anonymous FGB’er.
That said, keep in mind that “overdoing it” is subjective.
“You may be surprised how much a few sprays can linger or smell, especially since we tend not to notice it as much on ourselves,” said FGB’er MJP. “I’m allergic and very sensitive to artificial scents, including perfume/cologne, candles and air fresheners. I can usually avoid them when needed but struggle if in a room with that scent for an extended period of time. Considering how often interviews take place in rooms with poor air-flow, it’s a tough place to be if allergic to the person sitting next to you.”
MJP says that if you feel like you can’t go without your perfume, try your best to go lightly on it and don’t spray it immediately before the interview.
2. Whether or not you should wear perfume depends on the job environment.
Some interviewers might care more than others about your perfume, depending on the specific job environment.
“I had a friend who interned as a writing fellow at a prison and was told not to wear any scents during her visits, so I guess it also depends on the environment you’re going to work in,” said one anonymous FGB’er.
3. Just try to smell clean (i.e. take a shower!).
“Please don’t wear any fragrance, as some people’s bodies cannot handle it,” said FGB’er MdlR. “Smell clean. That’s good enough.”
Even if people can handle perfume, they may not want to.
“I am a job searcher for over three years; I do not have asthma but do not appreciate perfume by the interviewer when I show up for an interview,” said FGB’er Losusky. “In my opinion, two places women should not wear perfume are 1. job interviews and 2. visiting patients in a hospital.”