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Monday, August 02, 2010

Am I Too Fat to Get Hired?

If you're overweight, does it affect your chances of getting a new job? Of course it shouldn't, but does it?

Am I Too Fat to Get Hired?

12 comments:

evilcatbert said...

Whether it's fair or not, weight is becoming more important in interviews and hiring than ever before (not less) due to escalating health care costs. Weight issues not only add potential long term costs, they can also result in immediate costs (I read recently about the kind of additional equipment hospitals are buying to be able to handle their larger cliente.) For safety reasons, companies would need to consider investing in some larger/studier office chairs, general use chairs (employee cafe, public areas) & even bathroom fixtures as some standard fixtures aren't able to handle higher weight individuals. Given the economy, adding to hiring costs will not work in any applicant's favor when there are plenty of alternative candidates available.

James | Employee Scheduling Software said...

Unfortunately, yes, looks and superficial'ness run the world regardless how fair we may try to seem on the outside.

Any job where the employee is seen by outside may be affected by the weight issue. To be honest, it seems I see more bigger sized people working in back offices than in highly visible job positions.

Charles said...

At 400 lbs, I think this is beyond "superficialness." This might be classified as falling within the ADA (law passed in the USA - "The Americans with Disabilities Act"). Therefore, an employer will need to make a "reasonable" accomodation to fit this person in. The problem is just what is a "reasonable" accomodation? No one seems to have an exact idea. Studies have shown that Americans with disablities have had a harder time finding work since the ADA was passed. For example:

What if this person will need to travel on company business. The company has a policy of employees only flying coach in order to save money. But this person needs to fly first-class (because s/he cannot physically fit into a coach seat). Does the company pay the extra fare for the upgrade, while other employees have to suffer with coach trips? Or does the employee him/herself make up the difference (not very likely). This is just one example that I can think of (it was a real situation where I worked several years ago). I'm sure that there are many others.

fposte said...

And bnet has gone from bad to worse--though I actually have an account there and am logged in as per the top of the page, it insists that it won't post until I login. bnet, you're sludge and I'm over you.

I think the current last commenter there is a good example of what the obese face in hiring--it's somebody laboring under unexamined confirmation bias who considers overweight to be a legitimate sign of moral and professional weakness. Outside of Michigan, there's not much you can do about such bias save for combatting it as professionally as possible and make your physical presentation otherwise crisp and impeccable at the interview. And when it comes to clothing, alterations are everybody's friend (none of us have off-the-rack bodies), but it's going to be particularly worthwhile if you're trying to combat a preconception that you'll be sloppy.

Mike said...

@fposte:

I couldn't agree more. To paraphrase one of the comments for those just joining us:

"There was one time I took a chance and hired a big ol' fatty, and she was LAZY! I'm so glad I'm responsible for myself and not a lazy fatty like her!"

Then she brags about how many people look to her as a role model.

If we're going to sit here on the internet and stereotype fat people, why don't we ever mention the awesome stereotypes? Things like world class chefs and renowned opera singers?

Harris Silverman - Business Coach said...

Unfortunately, research has shown that physical appearance influences hiring decisions much more than it should.

Evil HR Lady said...

BNET should be getting better, but the registration process is, shall we say, less than ideal.

And the role model woman? Ummm, no comment.

fposte said...

Thanks, Mike; good to know I wasn't the only one shrieking at my screen :-).

RP said...

I like the idea of bringing it up in the phone interview so that they have time to think on it rationally rather than making snap judgments when they realize you're overweight. It may even give them time to realize they have large people already working for them anyway.

I don't think the OP's weight is necessarily an ADA issue; he can do the splits after all. Unless all his interviews are for jobs involving air travel that part shouldn't be a problem.

Talyssa said...

yeah that "I hired a fat person and she turned out to be a drunk, I hired another fat person that I already knew was going to be a bad fit and she turned out just as bad as I expected. Hiring fat people is always a good idea" lady just horrified me. I mean all else aside, it was just the worst logic ever. "A was Bad Thing X, B was Bad Thing Y but they both shared a common characteristic so that must be the reason. Also all people who share that characteristic must be like that."

I also liked the "well I'm skinny and its great, everyone should be skinny!" person. Yeesh.

Given that you probably have several qualified candidates applying for any given position I can imagine that being severely overweight weighs pretty heavily against them (er, no pun intended). I'm sure its LESS of an issue when there aren't so many qualified people looking for jobs, but nowadays....

Although, 400 pounds is just a number - I have a friend that is 5'10" and 290 or so and thats pretty big, I can't imagine him weighing another 100 pounds. On the other hand its a little different if you're 6'5". For 5'5" And different people carry weight differently. Its a little hard to know how big 400 really is.

KellyK said...

Mike and Talyssa, thanks for being a voice of reason. When people say that all people in X group are Y, because of 2 or 3 examples, all that shows me is that they don't like people in X group.

Mr Lear said...

This is really interesting. I have literally in the last two days blogged about the morality of what it is to be "fat" and also the interview process. Literally the only two things i have posted. Check them out.
I think the whole being large thing does affect one's ability to be hired. As does any other characteristic. People who don't value themselves will not also neccessarily value an emplyment position and may treat it with the same lack of respect no?
This is a really decent thread, i'd say more but then my blog wouldn't really serve a purpose.
http://chemical-itch.blogspot.com/