You should have just as much of a chance getting hired as anyone else. Unfortunately, if you’re overweight, you might not find that this is the case.
Years of research have determined that obesity can prevent you from getting hired. Simply put, it can be harder to get a job when you’re overweight.
Look at why overweight job discrimination even exists. Most of us assume that the discrimination happens because a hiring manager doesn’t like what they see. That’s not always the case.
As long as you’re qualified, your appearance should have nothing to do with whether you get hired for a job. But, getting a job interview when you’re overweight can be easier said than done.
Am I Too Overweight to Get a Job?
This guide will focus on being overweight and how that can affect your job opportunities. We’ll also cover why employers might discriminate against you.
As you’re physically capable of meeting the demands of a job, you’re never ‘too fat’ to work. Unfortunately, discrimination comes in many forms.
Who is Considered Obese?
Obesity is defined as a person who has a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30. The NHLBI has provided an easy-to-use calculator that can assist with this determination.
This is a measurement that has been in practice for many years. Unfortunately, it also has many flaws. For example, an incredibly fit person with a lot of muscle could easily have a high BMI, but after looking at them, no one would dare to call them obese.
With that in mind, there isn’t a concrete definition of obesity because everyone is different based on their unique height and weight.
So, it’s up to individuals to make determinations in their own mind. When it comes to employers and hiring managers, each person might have their own idea of what being ‘too overweight’ looks like.
Does Being Fat Affect the Way Employers See You?
We all stereotype issues, and that’s why some people find it hard to get hired with piercings and tattoos, for example. Most of the time, it’s done without even realizing it. The interviewing you probably won’t look at you and think you shouldn’t be hired just because you’re fat.
But, the stereotypes that go along with being fat are what start to creep into an employer’s mind.
Some of these stereotypes include:
- Laziness: Perhaps the main stereotype that larger people face is that they’re lazy. When an employer is interviewing an overweight person for a position, it’s easy to assume their weight issue is caused by laziness. There are so many reasons people struggle with obesity. Laziness doesn’t necessarily have to be one of them. In fact, many people who are considered obese (by BMI standards) regularly exercise. But, even if they didn’t that has nothing to do with their ability to work, be productive, and do a good job.
- Limited mobility: Some jobs demand specific physical characteristics. Perhaps you want to apply for a job that would have you on your feet all day, or doing a lot of walking, heavy lifting, etc. Some employers can be quick to assume that because you’re overweight, you can’t handle the physical demands. Again, this isn’t true for all people who are obese. After all, if you’re applying for a job, you probably already know most of what will be expected of you. You know your strengths and limits better than anyone else.
- Unhealthy: It’s easy for people to assume that just because someone is overweight, it means they’re unhealthy. The truth is, many people who are ‘fat’ by a scale’s standards are perfectly healthy. They eat nutritious food, don’t have any health conditions, and don’t present any liability to a workplace.
- Negative body image: Some employers think that because of how a person looks, they may give off a negative image to customers, clients, patients, etc. This type of judgment is frowned upon, but it, unfortunately, happens regularly.
Do Overweight People Earn Less Money?
It’s not uncommon for obesity to result in a lower salary. If an employer assumes that you’re going to be lazy or not get the job done properly, they’re less likely to pay you a fair wage.
This isn’t just an assumption – these are facts!
So many studies have been done in regards to hiring issues and salary discrimination of obese people.
- Example: A Swedish study on this topic found that men who are overweight at the age of 18 will grow up earning about 16% less than their fit counterparts.
But, is it strictly the employer’s fault that obese people seem to earn more money? Not always. One thing to keep in mind is how people can view themselves when they’re overweight.
If you’re unhappy with the way you look, it can lead to a lack of self-confidence. Some people who are overweight have a lot of confidence and aren’t at all. Others have a hard time dealing with the issue.
For those people who are unhappy about their size, finding a job can be difficult for personal reasons. A lack of self-confidence can make you feel like you don’t deserve a high-paying job or you wouldn’t get one even if you interviewed for it. So, some people struggling with their weight don’t apply for jobs that pay well.
A combination of discrimination and a lack of confidence are the main reasons why overweight people don’t usually earn as much money. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help with both issues.
Overweight Job Discrimination
Discrimination isn’t just frowned upon in the workplace. Often, it’s illegal and can lead to the place of employment coming under fire. But, weight discrimination seems to be one of the only socially-acceptable forms of discrimination still on the table today.
- Fact: Race, age, and gender are all huge issues. But, only the state of Michigan and six other cities in the U.S. have laws that are connected to weight discrimination.
Weight discrimination (sometimes called fat shaming) goes far beyond just stereotyping what an employee could/couldn’t do in a job. Overweight people are often considered stupid, slower, slobs, or prone to accidents or breaking things.
It’s one thing to make assumptions like these based on a person’s appearance. But, the workplace can be a harsh environment for someone who struggles with too much weight.
According to another study, this kind of discrimination went up 66% from the 1990s to the mid-2000s. Unfortunately, there currently isn’t much that can be done to stop this kind of hostile environment.
Are Overweight Women Discriminated More on the Job?
Female discrimination in the workplace is a hot topic that has been talked about for years.
It’s claimed that women still make less money than men. But, it can be even harder for women who are considered obese. Not only do these women tend to make less than their ‘thin’ counterparts, but they often have fewer chances for success, too.
According to a study by Michigan State University, only 5%-22% of top female CEOs of companies in the United States are considered overweight. This was determined by a BMI of over 30. That percentage is drastic enough to assume it’s not a coincidence.
Women have many ‘glass ceilings’ to crack because of their gender. But, even women with good jobs who could eventually gain more power will have a harder time reaching their career potential if they are overweight. Women are likely to be paid less and earn fewer promotions if they are considered fat.
What Are the Best Jobs for Overweight People?
There are many possible reasons for being overweight.
Sometimes it’s hereditary; sometimes it’s a condition that slows down your metabolism. Other times, you may have an injury or health condition that causes you to gain weight or makes it hard to lose.
If you’re someone who is overweight due to a lack of exercise and overeating, a lifestyle change may be the best way to get your dream job. It’ll also boost your self-esteem and help to lower your blood pressure. But, if your struggles with weight are due to an underlying condition, you don’t need to feel lost. Some jobs are well-suited for people who are overweight.
Keep these careers and tips in mind the next time you’re applying for something new:
- Jobs that are sedentary: If you can’t do a lot of physical activity, you might want to consider a sedentary job that allows you to be at a desk most of the day. You may even have a better chance of getting hired at one of these jobs since the employer won’t have to worry about how much you can move or any physical demands.
- Work from home jobs: If you need a job with no physical demands, you might have more luck working from home. Telecommuting or remote jobs are great because they allow you to work with either a phone or your computer. Thanks to technology, jobs like this are more popular than ever. You can find remote jobs in industries from healthcare to online teaching.
What to Look for in the Workplace
If you do get called in for a job interview somewhere, it’s essential to protect yourself from discrimination. Just because someone may not be upfront with discriminatory comments doesn’t mean the culture doesn’t exist in a particular workplace.
If you have the chance, look at the environment of the place you’re interviewing. Are there any overweight people in management positions? Are there any overweight people at all? Does diversity among employees seem to matter?
Most importantly, it should feel like a safe place where issues are talked about as they come up. No office, medical facility, factory, etc., is immune from all types of discrimination.
Sometimes, it’s just one or two people who can change the environment. The difference rests in the workplaces that are open to talking about such things and working out possible solutions.
Which Career is the Hardest for Overweight People?
A New York Times article from 2010 cited research and interviews that suggested the healthcare industry is one of the most prejudices against obese people.
Unfortunately, the stereotypes that tend to linger for overweight people seem to be even greater in the healthcare industry. Employers may feel uncomfortable hiring someone who ‘looks’ unhealthy.
Many jobs in the medical field demand that you’re on your feet most of the day. It’s easy for employers to think someone who is overweight wouldn’t have the stamina to get through a shift.
There are still entry-level medical jobs that can work for you no matter what your appearance may be. For starters, remote work in the medical field is always an option.
This can include things like medical transcription. Some entry-level jobs, like phlebotomy, are also great ways of getting your foot in the door of the medical industry. From there, you can gain enough experience to push past any negative stereotypes about your size.
Business and Obesity
For some business owners, not wanting to hire someone who is overweight isn’t a personal issue.
They may not have the stereotypes in mind that won’t give an obese person a fair chance. But, they’re looking out for their business. Regardless of the reason, it’s still a problem.
- Fact: Obesity-related health issues cost employers billions of dollars each year. This includes hypertension and diabetes. So, if an employer doesn’t want to hire someone because of their weight, they could be looking out for their bottom line and not want to risk spending money.
Because of the rise of obesity throughout the country, the CDC has started to work with employers. They initially developed a program called LEAN Works. It offered management strategies for obese employees to help them lose weight.
Today, the CDC still has several work/health programs in place that employers can use as resources to keep their employees as healthy as possible.
Some employers have gone one step further, offering cash incentives to employees who lose weight. This is often done in ‘contest form,’ as a weight loss competition for the office.
The best option for employers, though, is to promote a positive and healthy lifestyle for their employees. Things like free gym memberships, healthy snacks in the break rooms, etc., can create an environment that makes everyone feel welcome.
It doesn’t discriminate against people who are overweight. But, it encourages them to become and stay healthy. Finding a job that promotes this lifestyle is an excellent opportunity for someone who struggles with their weight. It’s a better emotionally-healthy environment for everyone.
How to Stop Weight Discrimination during a Job Interview
If you’re overweight, getting through a job interview can feel like a daunting task. Sometimes, it can feel like the hiring manager takes one look at you and makes up their mind, even if you’re right for the job.
Even people who aren’t overweight often struggle with the interview process. If you’re self-conscious about your appearance, it can be even worse.
Thankfully, there are a couple of things you can do before and during your interview to help it go as smoothly as possible. Weight discrimination will depend significantly on who might be interviewing you. Everyone has their own negative opinions and stereotypes.
But, you can try to reduce them by using these tips:
- Dress appropriately: It’s important to dress right for a job interview – here’s a guide on how to dress for an interview for women and men’s interview dress etiquette. But, if you’re overweight, it can be even more vital to choose what you wear wisely. Select clothes that aren’t too baggy or revealing. Don’t overcompensate by wearing loud, flashy colors or a lot of jewelry. Instead, choose darker colors with accents. The key is to look as professional as possible. Remember, one of the negative stereotypes for overweight people is that they can be lazy, or sloppy. Proving that wrong with the way you dress is a great start.
- Have the right attitude: Having the right mindset during your interview can make a big difference. If you have a lack of confidence, it will show. But, you also shouldn’t be over-confident or feel like you have a chip on your shoulder, just because you’re worried about being discriminated against. Be confident and chipper and be ready to tell your interviewer exactly why you’d be a good fit for the job.
- Do your homework: Being as prepared as possible before your interview can help you during the process. There’s a good chance your interviewer will ask you many questions. If you’ve researched the company and position beforehand, you’ll have an easier time answering them. This will help you to seem more confident and will show the employer you’re anything but lazy.
- Send a thank you note: It’s good form to send a quick thank you letter to your interviewer and anyone you may have met during the interview. This shows courtesy and keeps your name in the hiring manager’s mind.
Can You Get a Good Job if You’re Obese?
Unfortunately, being overweight can make it harder to find a good job right away. Until weight discrimination is taken more seriously in the workplace, it might always be this way.
More employers are starting to focus on the health of their employees. They may be willing to hire obese people as long as they’re committed to hard work and a healthy lifestyle.
There are things you can do to help an interview process go smoothly and prove yourself worthy of that job. That means doing the best job you can. If enough people can do that, the stereotypes can eventually change and disappear.
We hope this guide has been helpful if you’re struggling to find a job. The culture will change over time as more people choose not to accept weight discrimination in the workplace.