Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Advice for Sweaty-Palmed Job Seekers

Did you know that most job seekers, and yes, even some recruiters, have sweaty palms? Gretchen Ledgard, who spent six years working as a technical recruiter for Microsoft, gave Sweaty Palm Diaries some free advice for those of us who dread those interview handshakes. The Japanese bow might not be an option for American job seekers, but as Gretchen reveals, the sweaty palms aren't as tragic as you might think!

While at Microsoft, Gretchen co-founded and managed a popular weblog that was named recruiting.com’s Best Blog for Job Seekers in 2005. Now she and Zoe Goldring have their own company, JobSyntax, that links software engineers with employers. Gretchen's most recent honor is the "Sweaty Palm Diaries" Golden Tiara, awarded to those who display exemplary grooviness to people with hyperhidrosis.

Tiara: I thought it was very brave that you, while working as a Microsoft recruiter, revealed on your blog that you have palmar hyperhidrosis. Your disclosure triggered many reader responses, including some from those who have the condition themselves...did the reactions surprise you? Are you glad that you wrote that blog entry?

Gretchen: Yes, the reaction totally surprised me. First, I should say that I’ve never seen a doctor about my condition or been formally diagnosed, but I suppose it’s just one of those things you know you have. (-: I wrote the entry partially to be funny and partially to expose misconceptions about recruiters, like we all love to talk and we all shake hands. I had no idea so many people would identify with my problem!

How did you choose to go into recruiting--it's a career in which handshakes play such an important role! For me, that would have been very scary! Too bad we can’t bow like Japanese businesspeople.
Honestly, it never even occurred to me before I took the job. And once I became a recruiter and routinely shook people’s hands, I realized that because of interviewees’ nervousness, their hands were often more sweaty than mine. I guess nerves are the great equalizer. (-:

Have others ever reacted negatively to your sweaty palms, and if so, what are some of the more effective ways you have handled it? And have you ever felt that the condition made it more difficult to succeed professionally?

The people who have overtly reacted negatively have usually been in my personal life, not my professional life. Perhaps people just don’t say something out of professional courtesy. (-: I do often get the ‘wow, your hands are cold!’ line, and I matter-of-factly respond, ‘Yes, they are usually always cold. Damp, too.’
If the condition has affected me personally, it’s probably been by my own actions. Often when I’m in a networking situation, I’ll hang back for fear of having to shake hands. I’ll also try to do a casual wave to avoid the handshake, and I suppose this can come across as not being forceful enough. But I can’t point to anything specific that negatively impacted my career.

Putting on your recruiter hat for a moment…You have two equally qualified, professional, and personable candidates. One has sweaty palms. Would you--or would recruiters who are not aware of the medical condition--consider this to be a major weakness and opt for the candidate with dry palms?

I think it depends on the role. I have always recruited software engineers, and this group isn’t the most put-together bunch. An engineer with sweaty palms wouldn’t even compare to some of the interviewees I’ve encountered. If you are dealing with a good technical recruiter, I don’t think sweaty palms would harm a candidate’s chances. However, I can’t speak for recruiters for other fields, such as sales and human resources. If the job requires a lot of in-person networking and relationship building, sweaty palms could be considered a negative factor.

What advice would you give to a job seeker who has hyperhidrosis and is afraid to shake hands? What if the Drysol doesn’t work, and he can’t afford (or opts not) to do the more expensive treatments?

My secret friend has always been a pocket of tissues to soak up the moisture. Tricks aside, my advice would be to have confidence. Most of the job seekers I’ve met have sweaty palms. An interview setting is a great time to play on level ground.

What if you’re a job candidate with obviously sweaty hands? Should you say something--perhaps a humorous one-liner? I find people who don’t take themselves too seriously to be seriously charming...would this work in a job interview? Or is humor during a job interview too risky? Would it be best to pretend the obvious is not happening?
I agree that humor may not be the best approach. I would be very matter-of-fact about the condition. If it’s something a job seeker is worried about prior to the interview and she has a good rapport with her recruiter, she could explain the condition and ask for advice. In some cases, the recruiter could prepare interviewers. If someone does say something or give a funny second glance, a job seeker could state, ‘I’m so happy to be here today, and I want you to know I’m not nervous. I tend to always have sweaty palms.’

Do you have anything you’d like to say to the many teenagers out there who suffer from hyperhidrosis? Is it true that things get easier after high school?
Yes, things do get easier. I would encourage teenagers to research and explain the condition to others. I find people often make fun of things they don’t understand, but when they are educated on a topic, they are very supportive.


sunil said...

i would be interested to know if anyone out there had advice for job seeking people with FACIAL HH. i have facial and palmar, and it's the facial that concerns me the most!

Tiara said...

Hi Sunil, for some reason my response was not posted. Hope you're still online! Facial HH seems like an even bigger bummer than palmar...harder to hide. For situation-specific facial HH, I hear that some doctors are prescribing oral anticholinergic agents such as Robinul or Ditropan. I suggest that you go to www.sweathelp.org to find a doctor that is familiar with HH issues and treatments. Best of luck, and keep us posted! And remember what Gretchen said--most jobseekers are sweaty and nervous, and so are many recruiters.