A reader writes:
I realize this may sound weird as I’m not in the U.S., but here goes. I’m fat. It’s a fact, it’s obvious, not that I won’t lose any weight, but heh, for now, I’ll make do with what I am.
In the meantime, I am looking for a job. The problem is I realized (too late, as I had a job back then!) that I’m more suited to either “dull” office work (that is, no phone) OR direct customer service. And that’s the part that I think causes an issue. I already missed out on an opportunity this year because all the women in the shop are always made up and look “better” than I do. In the past, I also got told at a job fair that they don’t do their uniforms “over a size 12″ (the sneer back then was quite remarkable).
Now, obviously I won’t put “fat” as a characteristic on my resume, as it would probably look quite stupid there. But I was wondering if you or your lovely readers would have ideas as to how I could bring it up at some point if, for example, I get into an email or phone discussion with a hiring manager? Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a few “luxury retail” positions open up, asking for fluent English… hence the fear of being inadequate despite having the required experience.
P.S. No worries about my self esteem. I usually laugh when I realize how big I am and the fact that I don’t “see” or “feel” it in my own body.
Don’t bring it up.
The people who are going to discriminate against you because of your weight will do so regardless — but they aren’t going to tell you that in response to an up-front disclosure, and you’ll likely just have an awkward conversation. The people who won’t discriminate against you because of your weight are going to be put off by your assumption that they would, and you’ll end up with another awkward conversation, plus probably leave them feeling vaguely uncomfortable about you (not because of your weight, but because it’s such an odd thing to bring up in a hiring conversation). And you don’t want to make people who are considering hiring you feel uncomfortable.
I suppose there’s an argument to be made that you could do this in such a disarming, charming way that someone who would otherwise be biased against you would change their mind (particularly if their bias was of the softer, less conscious variety), but in general I think this is just something that you don’t raise in the hiring process — just like any other physical feature that shouldn’t affect your ability to do the job. I think your better bet is to demonstrate how awesome you’d be at the job, let anyone who won’t hire overweight people screen you out, and help the people without that bias to recognize that you’d be a good fit. Not everyone does have that bias, after all — and you don’t want to lose sight of that.