She's qualified, but she smells bad!
March 27, 2007 1:58 PM   Subscribe

Help me not smell like smoke on my job interview!

Yes, I am well aware that I should quit, and I'm also well aware that I just shouldn't smoke before my interview.

However, my interview is going to be very long, and will happen later in the day, and I will be nervous. I would much rather not be thinking about how badly I want to smoke throughout the whole thing. Unfortunately I won't be able to quickly change clothes before my interview.

I know the regular tricks, breath mints, wash hands, apply hand lotion, remove jacket and any other items of clothing that can be easily removed.

Anybody else got any other tips that I'm not thinking of? I'm a girl, if it helps. And I'm posting this anonymously in case any of my coworkers who read this site happen upon this.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Nicotine gum
posted by milarepa at 2:02 PM on March 27, 2007

Nicotine patch is definitely the way to go.

Seriously, you can't just not smoke for a couple of hours? That worries me.
posted by ZackTM at 2:09 PM on March 27, 2007

I dunno. If you're qualified, capable and willing to work the fact that you smoke shouldn't really be an issue. I mean, unless you're talking with the American Lung Association or something.

Given your anonymous posting, it sounds like you're a furtive smoker anyway. If your coworkers don't already know, chances are you've gotten pretty good at covering it up. Perhaps you don't smell as strongly of smoke as you think? Try to relax and see if you can avoid smoking for an hour or two before you actually sit down for the interview. As soon as it's over you can head outside and puff away.

And then, if you'll pardon the sermon, you should quit. It's bad stuff! If Obama can do it, so can you.
posted by aladfar at 2:09 PM on March 27, 2007

You really can't hide it. I always asked my coworkers to be upfront with me about my smoky smell - there was never a time they couldn't smell it, no matter what I did.

The only time they noticed a change in smell was this past Monday - they were impressed that I found a way to nix the smoke smell. I quit smoking the Friday before.

I'm not telling you to quit (and screw anyone who tells you to quit - you'll do it IF and WHEN you are ready to). Either brace yourself for no smokes or just accept that you are going to smell smoky to non-smokers no matter what.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 2:15 PM on March 27, 2007

Only smoke outside, not in a car or your house; roll up your sleeves while smoking, because you can get the smoke off your skin but not your clothes; wear your hair up and hold the cigarette away from you while smoking.

Or nicotine gum works for me in situations like this. Just try it the day before because if you're not used to it it can make you sick. You don't sound like too heavy a smoker so do the 2mg rather than the 4mg. The lozenges work, too, never tried the patch.

Whatever you do don't overcompensate with perfume or smelly lotions. Just wash your hands, arms, and face thoroughly before the interview and pop a breath mint.

You'll be fine.
posted by otio at 2:22 PM on March 27, 2007

There's no secret. If you smoke in your house, you'll need to make sure your suit hasn't been in the house once it's been dry cleaned. Your skin and hair will give off residual odor for a few days as well. If it's an issue, you are going to have to quit for several days. Depending on your age, it won't matter, since anyone with more than five to ten years of regular tobacco use is easily discernible as a smoker if someone is looking for signs.
posted by docpops at 2:24 PM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Not smoking for a couple hours beforehand isn't going to be enough. Buy a new outfit to wear to the interview, and keep it somewhere you don't smoke - like at someone else's house. Don't smoke in it the day of the interview.

My ex BF smoked ONE cigar a day, outside, usually when I wasn't around. After I moved out, I noticed all my clothes had a faint cigar odor to them.
posted by clh at 2:26 PM on March 27, 2007

As a non smoker I can tell even when another non smoker has walked through a smoky room. There is no way to mask it, and dousing perfume or deoderant over the smell of smoke just makes it more sickly. If you can't stop smoking at least be as confident as possible and try and get the smell off your mind.
posted by fire&wings at 2:28 PM on March 27, 2007

I read once in a Michael Connelly book that all odors are particulate. So don't let the smoke sit on you, or on your skin. Maybe smoke outside, or in a moving vehicle or something. If you have long hair, tie it back, or wear something over it while you're smoking, or both. And leave the hand-knit sweater at home--you need stiff leather or vinyl or something. Will you be driving to the interview? Open the windows. Is there a drive-through carwash near the interview site? You see where I'm going with this. I also read once in a Straight Dope column that most air fresheners work by either numbing the olfactory nerve or overwhelming it with another scent. So consider a little perfume or essential oil or something. Not too much, though--if you come in to the interview looking windblown, wearing a babuskha, carrying a box of Altoids and a bottle of Febreze, and reeking of patchouli, the interviewer will probably think that you're high.
posted by box at 2:31 PM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Given your anonymous posting, it sounds like you're a furtive smoker anyway. If your coworkers don't already know, chances are you've gotten pretty good at covering it up. Perhaps you don't smell as strongly of smoke as you think?

For what it's worthy, I assumed it was the 'interviewing for a new job' she didn't want her current co-workers to know about, not the smoking.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:36 PM on March 27, 2007

If you're being interviewed by males, worry less. They tend as a group to be much less sensitive to stink than females.
posted by Listener at 2:37 PM on March 27, 2007

I'm with those who say there's not really much you can do to mitigate the smell.

When I smoked, I told myself that other people couldn't really smell it; but with a non-smoking nose, I now know I was totally deluding myself.

So either go ahead and smoke, and screw 'em if they don't like it (they'll find out soon enough anyway) -- or do the gum or the patch.

if you come in to the interview looking windblown, wearing a babuskha, carrying a box of Altoids and a bottle of Febreze, and reeking of patchouli, the interviewer will probably think that you're high.

LOL! True that.
posted by ottereroticist at 2:39 PM on March 27, 2007

Yep, don't worry about it. You already smell like smoke, even when you don't smoke. You just don't know it. The day of, keep it down by smoking outside with your jacket off and the cigarette downwind. Stay outside for a while to delouse, then go brush your teeth.

Best you can do about it.
posted by middleclasstool at 2:40 PM on March 27, 2007

There's always Febreze, although you will replace the smoke odor with an obvious Febreze odor.
posted by grouse at 2:41 PM on March 27, 2007

I can't tell if you're worried about being judged for your smoking, or that the smell will make you want to smoke.

If you're worried about the former, don't be. Smoking's pretty gross, but a lot of people still do it. I've interviewed many people for employment, and the only personal habit-revealing smell that sent up red flags for me was booze. Besides, even if you are, as aladfar suggests, a furtive smoker, would you really want to have to hide it from your new employer indefinitely? I've been there, and I can tell you its starts to suck fast.

If it's the latter, well, you need to buck up. Once employed, unless this is a fast food job, you generally will not be able to go out and smoke every 15 minutes without raising the hackles of your colleagues and supervisors.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:43 PM on March 27, 2007

Contrary to what aladfar suggests, smokers actually have a much worse sense of smell and taste--so you probably smell worse than you think.

Sounds like you know all the tricks I can think of (Which are not many).
posted by gramcracker at 2:53 PM on March 27, 2007

I know/knew the feeling well. I found lozenges to be the most effective replacement nicotine source. Smoke in the breeze (so it blows away from you) and don't hold your cigarette close to you except when you are inhaling.
posted by b33j at 2:57 PM on March 27, 2007

M.C. Lo-Carb!, I would assume by the title that it is the former and not the latter.
posted by Monday at 3:06 PM on March 27, 2007

Right, then.

I am a dolt.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:37 PM on March 27, 2007

Many tips have been given already. I'd suggest a drive in a car with open windows, to air-out.

To all the wondering folk about the OPs concern...maybe it's not cigarettes they smoke...?
posted by nomisxid at 3:39 PM on March 27, 2007

Chances are if you smoke (especially if you do so in your house, in your car, or while wearing clothing), people will be able to smell it. That stuff seems to pervade everything with it's smell and a lot of people are very sensitive and aware of it.

That being said, I only find it unpleasant right after you've actually just smoked a cigarette, when there's that charred, ashy smell. I think otherwise it smells kind of pleasant. I would advise that you do what others are saying and use nicorette gum or a patch, except do it for as long as possible (preferably several days or something) beforehand, so that you can limit your exposure. I wouldn't try to cover up the smell, 'cause then you'll just smell like cigarettes and whatever you try to cover up their smell with.

I would focus on being confident and totally kicking the interview's ass. Honestly, the smoking (especially if the smell is really strong) might make a bad or less good first impression, but in my limited experience, those are far less important than just clicking with the interviewers and overall doing well.

Good luck!
posted by !Jim at 3:54 PM on March 27, 2007

It sounds a little crazy, but...

My mom worked at a place where her boss smoked 5 packs a day (probably 2-3 of them in the office). When she would leave, or after I'd visit her to take her to lunch, and we needed to go somewhere immediately, we rubbed fabric softener sheets (specifically Bounce) over our hair. It's certainly not perfect and not nearly as good as a shower, but it at least helps it in your hair.

You could also have someone stand back a bit and spray Febreze at your clothes, lightly.

They will still be able to tell either that you are a smoker or are around one regularly, but you won't stink as strongly.
posted by IndigoRain at 5:09 PM on March 27, 2007

Your car probably has the smell, too. Towels might help, cleaning the car might help, but probably not enough.
posted by amtho at 5:23 PM on March 27, 2007

If it's cold outside, do not go outside to smoke, but try to do it indoors under a kitchen stove fan or similar. In the cold, smoke condenses on clothes and skin and make them smell a lot worse.

In the same vein, you can make your clothes smell much less by leaving them in a warm place (eg on a radiator) for some time. To substitute cigarettes, try a patch and use under-the-tongue pills as a complement. Try them out a few days in advance, so you don't overdose at the interview.
posted by springload at 5:24 PM on March 27, 2007

Please use mouthwash or regular gum before the interview. I have a coworker who manages to cover up all the other nasty smoking smells just fine, but has the Worst Breath Imaginable. I couldn't figure it out for a long time, until I saw her furtively smoking and everything clicked.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 5:51 PM on March 27, 2007

Truly nothing can kill it entirely. If a patch, gum or lozenges won't do it, I found (when I was still a pathetic addict) that the best bet was coverage - if you are wearing a hat, gloves, and an overcoat, and can leave them behind and brush your teeth or at least swallow a few listerine strips or something, the smell will be minimized. Go as long as possible before smoking the day off and smoke as few as possible.
posted by nanojath at 5:51 PM on March 27, 2007

The smoke smell stays on: clothes, hair, skin, breath.
Cover/change the clothes.
As far as the hair goes, I'd suggest a hat. If facial hair, soap and water- same for skin. Nothing perfumey, just a clean smell.
For breath, I recommend Halls cough drops, especially the mentho-lyptus. They might explain the cough, too.
posted by MtDewd at 5:51 PM on March 27, 2007

FWIW I used to smoke two to five cigarettes a day. I smoked outside of school and drink a cup of tea and then go back inside. I was caught only a couple of times by the ciggie smell. After I quit, I mentioned to someone that it had been six months since I had a cigarette. Her response was "Congratulations - what you smoked?" and someone else at the table said, "You smoked?" These were people I saw almost daily. For a couple of months after I had friends coming up and saying, When did you smoke? How did you hide it from us? I seemed to smoke without getting caught - but I was careful, borderline neurotic about it. I stood outside after smoking and I hang up my coat straightaway in the locker.
posted by philfromhavelock at 6:08 PM on March 27, 2007

Put a plastic bag on your smoking hand whilst you smoke.
posted by Kwantsar at 7:08 PM on March 27, 2007

Dude, unless you absolutely fucking reek, is someone really not going to hire you because of it? The only people that reek nowadays (now that smoking is outlawed in most public places) are those that habitually smoke in their cars and homes. If you do that you should stop on general principle. Forget your health. Interviewers aren't the only ones that don't want to smell that. Your friends don't, significant others don't, people in elevators don't, your dentist doesn't, and neither do I. So, get a handle on that regardless of the interview. But, if you're the type who washes regularly (body, clothes, hair, mouth) and uses soap and lotion/perfume AND mints/gum, I'm sure you won't smell badly enough to ward off a potential employer.

Unless you're applying at the American Lung Association or something. Then you're effed.
posted by sneakin at 7:29 PM on March 27, 2007

If you're hoping to get this job and don't plan to quit smoking between the interview and your start date, then why misrepresent yourself? Just follow your normal smoking schedule and go in for the interview. If the smell causes a problem, then you'll probably have a problem once you get the job, so better to know that now, right? If nobody notices/cares and you get the job, then there's no problem.

posted by staggernation at 8:05 PM on March 27, 2007

Not pleasant news: You stink more than you think -- your sniffer works at about 50% capacity. You can't disguise it with mouth mints -- it's your lungs that stink. If some part of you is exposed to smoke, it will smell of it for hours.

The best you can do is smoke in a very well ventilated place (the moving car suggestion is a good one) and push the smoke away you as soon as possible.

Wash well. Don't sit close.
posted by cmiller at 8:13 PM on March 27, 2007

I can smell cigarette smoke on my hoody after simply walking past a group of smokers.

No way to hide it.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 9:11 PM on March 27, 2007

Seconding what cmiller said. You can't wash out your lungs, and any other camouflaging efforts that you perceive to be effective will be twice as noticeable to non-smokers.

Take all of the reasonable precautions, but be mindful of diminishing returns. Beyond a certain point you will be creating a different kind of smell that could be just as offensive to the interviewers, or even worse since it might consciously or unconsciously give them the impression that you are trying to hide something.

If your concern is greater than just the power of first impressions or the possibility of social ostracism, because the company's policies, image, or culture are aligned against smoking, do both the company and yourself a favor and skip the interview. You can't hide the fact that you smoke from non-smokers, and the stress of trying to maintain the deceit would just drive you to smoke more, hastening your doom.
posted by foobario at 11:44 PM on March 27, 2007

Wash your hands, wash your face, gargle, drink a big cup of green tea or water afterwards, chew some strongly minty gum to get the saliva flowing.

If you're a reasonably light smoker (5 or 6 a day) and your last smoke is two hours or so before your interview, if you don't exhale all over the interviewer when you shake hands, and assuming the other person is on the other side of a desk from you, there's little chance they'll notice unless they're hypersensitive. If you need a top-up just before going in, use nicotine gum or a Nicorette inhaler.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:48 PM on March 27, 2007

How is it that nobody has yet mentioned a smoking jacket?

"The smoking jacket became a popular accessory in Victorian times, when it was believed that the "sensitive and delicate" nostrils of ladies would be assailed by the pungent fumes of tobacco clinging to everyday clothing."

It doesn't address every bit of the problem, but some sort of smockish thing would help if you wanted to keep on with the furtive smoking.
posted by kmennie at 5:12 AM on March 28, 2007

Wear a glove on your hands and walk while smoking holding the cigarette out by your side. This will minimize the smell as much as possible. Chew some gum after.
posted by xammerboy at 6:04 AM on March 28, 2007

Also, they have nicotine lozenges now. They taste and look pretty much like a breath mint, so you don't have to sit there chewing nicotine gum during your interview, which would be bad. When you are ready to quit try wellbutrin, which is generic zyban.
posted by xammerboy at 6:06 AM on March 28, 2007

Shoot, if they don't want to hire smokers, you shouldn't be applying there.

Just go in reeking of smoke like usual (which you will, as everyone else has pointed out) and you'll find out soon enough if they can deal with it or not. You're not going to be able to cover it up anyway.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:37 PM on March 28, 2007

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