Thought for the Day--May 7, 2011: NOTICE: "Unattractive, Old, and Fat People Need Not Apply..."

Beauty is a short-lived tyranny.
Most of us have been bestowed with very ordinary physical attributes, but if you are to believe Madison Avenue, everyone ought to look like media Gods and Goddesses, no larger than size 2 (flirting with obesity!), and no older than 25 (beginning of crone-dom!).

But for most jobs, physical beauty does not need to be part of the job description; if an employer is looking for someone to dig ditches, prune trees, build web sites, then an employee's looks should not matter at all--only his or her reliability and ability to do the job well. These characteristics are not always apparent during the job interview, which is why many companies have a 90-day probationary period, so the natural corporate impulse is to hire the most attractive applicant.

It's all about common sense: if you are looking to hire a model to help sell your clothing line, then looks and size would matter, especially if your target consumers are coat hangers or wannabe coat hangers (a ridiculous size 0--will the next impossible size be -2?).

However, when applying for jobs, most people seek more traditional positions.

But all too often, job applicants are rejected for these specious reasons, and these reasons only: not attractive enough (too "ugly"), too old, or too fat. Due to legal reasons, a prospective employer won't tell you directly why you weren't hired, but there are certain code phrases tossed about, which may offer some clues:
--"We feel that you would not be a good fit for our company."
At this point, how would you know? We have known each other for an hour.
--"We feel that you don't have the qualities that would contribute to the success of our company."
The real message: "Not attractive, young, or thin enough, maybe all three."
--"We feel that you don't fit our corporate image."
The real message: Again, "not attractive, young, or thin enough, maybe all three."
--"You are over-qualified."
All too often, the real message: "You are too old."

Yes, older people often do apply for jobs that don't match their educational credentials, but, often, they apply after they have retired from high-powered jobs and are seeking work in a less-stressful area.
Employers need to keep this truism in mind:
Outer beauty is transitory (and all too often shallow), but superficiality and stupidity are forever, and a pretty face and perfect figure CAN disguise a lot of stupidity, past the 90-day probationary period.
Yes, if the employee will be expected to do a lot of physical outside work, then an employer would seek to hire someone who would be physically fit and love the outdoors.

But for a company to reject someone out-of-hand because he or she doesn't have the "right looks" is extremely limiting and says more about the prospective employer and less about the applicant.

A true story: just after college, I worked in Tech Services of a college library. Jean (not her real name), a work study student, applied for an opening in our office. She was drop-dead gorgeous and perfectly and professionally dressed, and my boss fell all over her and hired her on the spot. For days, it was Jean this and Jean that, and how she would be a perfect employee and maybe they would hire after she graduated. Well, Jean soon proved that she was highly unreliable, showing up late or not at all (and not calling in). Even then, my boss continued making excuses for her.

Eventually, my boss wised up; she fired Jean.

Jean had used her good looks and professional demeanor to snag the job, but she squandered the opportunity...

If only my boss had realized that a pretty package can hold nothing but filler and air, she would have investigated Jean's work history before hiring her--that even if you're hiring someone for a public service area, a highly competent clean-cut employee with less-than-average looks should win hands down over someone who is drop-dead gorgeous but less competent or reliable.

So how can you improve your chances of snagging that job, despite the superficial strikes against you?
--Even if you lack traditional physical beauty, act like you are beautiful.
If you take a close look at Barbra Streisand and Meryl Streep's facial features, they are not "beautiful" in a stereotypical sense. However, they both act beautiful, as if no one ever gave them that nonsense memo. Both work regularly in their fields, and both, long after they are dead, are likely to stand the test of time.
--For the job interview, dress for success.
Invest in a good traditional interview suit, even if the job involves flipping burgers at a fast-food joint. You never know when burger flipping might morph into a managerial or even an ownership possibility.

Don't assume that the job is so beneath you that you don't have to dress to impress the interviewer; keep in mind that he or she may hold your professional future in his/her hands.

And if you look like a slob, you are likely to be dismissed as one.
--Get rid of or hide the obvious tattoos (makeup) and body piercings (removal) before going to the job interview--unless, of course, if you are applying at a tattoo or body piercing shop.
Quite frankly, I don't see the beauty in such bodily mutilations, and neither will many prospective employers, so it's better to hide such markings.
--While you can't do much about being older, you can demonstrate some spark and energy. If you can look a bit younger (makeup and hair coloring), then do so; interviewers are not allowed to ask your age, so strive to look younger.

Damn right!!!

But one's got to do what's necessary.
--This last piece of advice may be difficult to hear (and I don't like offering it), but if you are overweight, work on losing some of your excess weight and getting healthier. However, don't decide that you must lose it overnight; the idea is to be glowing and healthy, and starving people are neither glowing or healthy.
If you need a job right away, start where you are right now. I offer you the same advice as I would give anyone else: dress the part for your job interview. Be crisp and professional.

Also, act like a thin person, confident and empowered, even if you don't feel like it. You need to convince the interviewer that you are so much more than just being an overweight person.

I know someone who, despite her excess weight, is very successful in life. She's very saucy and confident and allows nothing to stand in her way. She is always well-dressed, wearing current styles. Moreover, her professional dress is, well, professional.
The kumbaya version: Job interviews would be blind, and job applicants would be hired solely on the basis of their credentials, past job history, and recommendations from former employers and/or others in their profession.

However, this is the reality: you will be judged by the way you look and how you present yourself.

But with a little effort, you can still game the system to your advantage.

Good luck, my CF.


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