New study shows that your weight could determine your job

If you feel you are stuck in the wrong job then you can blame you weight. A report titled “Subtle Increases in BMI within a Healthy Weight Range Still Reduce Womens Employment Chances in the Service Sector” conducted by Dennis Nickson, Andrew R. Timming, Daniel R and David I. Perrett and published in the medical journal PLOS ONE shows that your weight could determine you being hired. They use Body Mass Index (BMI) as a measure of the weight of the individual.

The study was simple,the eight faces spanned a range BMIs (female faces: mean BMI = 18.85 kg/m2, SD = 0.87, range: 17.81–19.95 kg/m2; male faces: mean BMI = 23.23, SD = 2.83, range: 20.90–27.36 kg/m2). Note that both averages are within a normal, healthy BMI range. The faces selected were Caucasian, in order to remove bias for race. Also selecting faces in the healthy BMI range would remove the argument that hiring managers give for not selecting heavier candidates on the basis of their health. 

Body Mass Index is a often disputed measure of amount of tissue mass in an individual. It is is a value derived from the mass (weight) and height of an individual. The BMI is defined as the body mass divided by the square of the body height, and is universally expressed in units of kg/m2, resulting from mass in kilograms and height in metres.

These pictures were shown to 120 individuals (60 men and 60 women). They were informed that all candidates were equally qualified. The ratings were between 1 (highly unlikely to hire) to 7 (highly likely to hire). All other characteristics being constant, it was realized that people like to hire candidates with lower BMI. 



(Graph shows the rating for customer facing vs backend roles Source: Subtle Increases in BMI within a Healthy Weight Range Still Reduce Womens Employment Chances in the Service Sector”)

These are some of the key interpretations from the study according to me

  1. The organizations have a preference for certain types of candidates. Most hiring managers try to select candidates with template in mind and most of it has to do with physical appearance of the candidate. This is more prevalent in industries like hospitality, fashion, retail among others
  2. Though qualification and experience do matter, the physical appearance would swing the job in the candidates favor if all other factors are constant.
  3. Having a higher BMI (even within healthy BMI range) makes it difficult for women to get employed. Though it makes it difficult for men as well, the impact on women is higher.
  4. Customer facing roles are given to individuals with lesser BMI. Individuals that don’t fit the bill, are more likely to be considered for back-end invisible roles

It is no wonder that the fitness industry is where it is today, fueled by the industries need for candidates. Another aspect that I came across in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink is that 30 % of Fortune 500 CEO’s were tall standing at 6 feet 2 inches or more. Also they earn more according to Columbia Professor Sheena Iyengar most CEO’s earn 2.5 % more per inch. 

So physical attributes continue to determine your corporate performance. This research goes on to prove that if you do want to progress then along with work, you may have to invest in fitting the right look. 

Would love to her your feedback on this very disturbing finding. 


(Image sources: Subtle Increases in BMI within a Healthy Weight Range Still Reduce Womens Employment Chances in the Service Sector” by Dennis Nickson, Andrew R. Timming, Daniel R and David I. Perrett  )

Dr. Vikram Venkateswaran

Management Thinker, Marketer, Healthcare Professional Communicator and Ideation exponent

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