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Your Health: Through the Employer Lens

By: Melissa Suey

By Melissa Suey
Part two in a series of two articles

Last month we talked about ways to combat stress while in a job search. Next, we will explore this from a different view - that of the potential employer.

We all know it's important to take care of ourselves so we can live long, happy lives, but have you ever thought about how projecting a healthy (or unhealthy) image can affect a potential employer's perspective of you?

It may not be something many will admit, but a recruiter-friend (who shall remain nameless) said to me recently, "I don't know if people looking for a job realize that employers are not just looking at their qualifications... we are also assessing whether or not they appear to be a potential liability."

The Perceptions of Poor Health

I asked her to explain what she meant by 'liability' and she explained, "Well, as a recruiter or hiring manager, when I'm meeting with candidates at an interview or job fair, I am constantly picking up all sorts of information.

"Everything becomes a data point, including how healthy the candidate appears to be," said my friend. "Just as we all create opinions based on the first impression someone makes on us... as a recruiter, in the back of my mind I am assessing on many levels, including: Do they look healthy? Do they look like they take care of themselves? Or does it look like they could cost my client in sick days and disability claims right out of the gate? Of course some medical issues are unavoidable, but clients count on me to bring them candidates that are going to be assets to their organization, not liabilities."

Shocking Data

Like it or not, your perceived health (or lack thereof) is something potential employers consider. In 2007, a survey released by Personnel Today showed 93 percent of HR professionals said they would hire a 'normal weight' candidate rather than an obese one who was identically qualified. As outrageous as this data finding may seem, taking steps toward improving your health (as much as you realistically can) can work in your favor in many areas of your life, including a job search.

Posture, Stress and Sleep

Of course, weight is only one factor that plays into how healthy you appear to be. There are other ways people can appear unhealthy in an interview: slumped shoulders from poor posture or dark circles under the eyes from lack of sleep, for example.

Self-care Tips

"A lot of people feel pressure these days, especially if you are unhappy with your job or looking for work. The body is impacted by stress chemically, emotionally and physically," says Sara Littlefield, DC, of Back on Track Wellness in South Portland, Maine.

"We meet new patients every day that come in looking worn out and they aren't taking good care of themselves. When you are dealing with more stressors in your life, it is that much more important that you practice good self-care. Of course, eating well, getting enough rest (eight hours a night, preferably), and exercising are critical. Other simple changes that can make a positive impact on your health are reducing caffeine and sugar consumption and increasing water intake."

Getting Healthier for Your Success

If after considering all the obvious reasons why it is important to take care of yourself, and you still aren't making your health a priority, it might be time to think about it from the employer's point of view. If the qualifications were the same between two candidates, would you want to hire the candidate who comes to the interview looking tired and worn out with shoulders hunched? Or would you want to hire the candidate who shows up bright-eyed, with a positive outlook, standing straight and appearing healthy and confident? Which one would you choose to hire?

Which one will you to choose to be?


Melissa Suey is a career and leadership coach and trainer who specializes in helping people find and stay engaged in work that is meaningful to them. Melissa is Manager of Talent Management for Delhaize America, Hannaford's parent company and has consulted for JobsInTheUS.com and the Maine Department of Labor. She completed her professional coach training with the highly acclaimed Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael, California. Melissa is a member of the International Coach Federation and is past Vice President of Operations for the American Society for Training and Development, Maine Chapter.