Should You Hire Fat People?


Before the headline-reading-only-trolls kill me for an inappropriate concept let me assure you of three things: 1) I make no recommendation, 2) Physical appearance is part of the “presentation” that job candidates or hired workers make and it surely matters, and, 3) I know my prospects should certainly hire me and I ain’t any kind of skinny! So what’s the point? It is a extremely useful to understand both what hiring managers do with physical and superficial impressions, where that comes from and to recognize what your appearance conveys about you?

Like race, creed and orientation, physical appearance should not be a discriminating point in either hiring or advancement of workers. Some allowed exceptions on the physical are made for positions like modeling (and surely you don’t hire a skinny person to be a plus size model). Physical fitness can also be a job requirement should agility and mobility be essential to the job–you aren’t hiring a big person to do a cave dive rescue! Instead, let’s consider the two fundamental sides of perception of physical appearance; how you are seen and how you see yourself–and while breadth of size is an example here the process is relevant to any physical characteristic or perception.

To no one’s surprise managers, hiring or promoting, like everyone else, carry personal biases that may be severe or miniscule. Size is not always one, I’d hope it’s restricted to a minority. But superficial characteristics have been statistically validated: men make more money than women, tall men make more than short men, and, yes, physically fit or attractive people do better professionally than the slovenly. That’s fact, that’s reality and no doubt it’s well explained–but not here.

Diversity, let’s remember, is a fairly recent professional concept. People are often more comfortable with people like themselves. That can go for education, attitudes, politics, experience or appearance. Many of these traits are mitigated by the job responsibilities. If your job is to code web pages from home then who’s likely to care about anything but the final product and schedule and communication, etc.? The larger, more variable evaluation, comes when a job is viewed by the manager as a reflection of the department, company or themselves internally or client facing.

Extra pounds can be made irrelevant in presentation through grooming, a positive and energetic attitude, education, intelligence and, of course, a positive track record of professional performance. Consider a hypothetical and suppose two job candidates seem to be equally qualified, does the superficial become a tie breaker? That may come down to how a manager translates and projects how appearance and performance are related. It can be due to experience with others in the past, or it may be influenced by the manager’s own superficial circumstances or it may simply be personal beliefs (or bias).

One may feel fat people are more likely to be lazy (or more jolly), unhealthy people will be out sick more often, be less energetic, less productive. Or even work in the reverse, I’ve been directly told by a manager that he wanted someone without a lot of outside life prospects because it kept their employee more attached to their desk. Lower self esteem means less demands for compensation, recognition or reward and he matched those desires to certain appearance.

Self-esteem is by far the most important projection a candidate can make. Who is anxious to hire a person that seems to feel poorly about themselves? Of course that extends beyond fat or fit, self-confidence (without arrogance) is a critical characteristic and those who make a poor showing of that usually find commensurate opportunities. Happiness presented is far more appearing than misery, polite more than rude and so on. The lesson being that while your Body Mass Index may be a challenge to change in the present, who you are inside can undoubtedly be displayed on any physical canvas, and you may have more control over that than you think…and you might want to work on that as hard as any job search or work assignment!

The final consideration about appearance belongs to each of us. With America at 50% overweight and 30% technically obese this is not an infrequent consideration. There’s blame in our culture for food value perceptions, portion size and our food industry’s penchant for creating addictive, desirable tasting packaged junk to make us unhealthy, but all of us need to care about what our mirrors say back to us before we have any thought to present our most fit face. Not what it says about our size, what it says about our character.

If your appearance, however presented, messages that there are “issues” defining your personal happiness, confidence, energy, trust, productivity, joy, sensitivity, then that is more likely to be your defining predictor of success whether in hiring or advancement. The message is really to make sure you feel good about what is inside you and the outside will show it. Everyone who is overweight has their reasons why but it is ultimately not how they look or how they eat that defines how they are perceived but how well they have found happiness in the body they occupy. Happy people after all not only get hired more, they live longer and are far more likely to consider their life a success, and that’s the real goal.

©2018 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For more thoughts on BUSINESS THERAPY follow Tom here or on LinkedIn, Twitter @TomFoxTrainer, or

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