She’s Worried about Weight Discrimination

Barbara writes:
I am a very experienced and highly qualified executive secretary with more than
20 years of experience.
I am actively seeking a new job. I am very nervous as I am 50 pounds overweight. I feel I have
everything going for me. I am dedicated knowledgeable and very likable. I have excellent
credentials and references.
Do you feel the weight will stop them from hiring me? I am presently using your website to
prepare for the questions.

The Career Doctor responds:
I have good news and bad news for you.
The bad news is that job-hunting often shares some similarities to dating — and one of those
shared attributes is the power of first impressions. I can guarantee the interviewer will make
an immediate judgment about you when s/he meets you for the interview. It won’t always be
a negative one but there are certainly negative stereotypes about overweight and obese people.
Is this a bad thing? Job-seekers ask me all the time why first impressions make such an
impact and the answer is easy — we use it as a shortcut to stereotype people into easy-to-understand
categories. And of course this stereotyping happens in many other situations besides job-hunting.
The good news is that you have the power to first minimize the impact and then overcome any
lingering negative first impressions with a powerful interview. You can minimize the impact by
wearing a professional outfit that downplays (as much as possible) your weight. The same
rules of dress-for-success apply to you as they do for ALL job-seekers. Look professional –
and no matter what your size or height or color or age — and you minimize any bias the
interviewer may have.
And then do just as you are doing. Prepare for the interview. Prepare answers to common interview questions — create stories that showcase your strengths and accomplishments — but don’t
memorize them. I suggest writing them down to help you remember them.
Finally I would also watch highlighting the more than 20 years of experience because most
career experts say focus on the last 15 years — at the very most — so that you also do not run
into age discrimination.
For additional resources check out the Interviewing Resources section
as well as this article Dress for Success.
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