How to Insert Your Healthy Lifestyle into a Job Interview

Posted on August 6, 2013

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MarathonMedalInto today’s health-conscious workplace a quickly growing number of employers are considering the health of job candidates. Therefore, there are ample reasons why job applicants should include their physical activity on their resume and tout their physical health in the interview.

Laws are in place to protect potential employees from discrimination based on race, sex, religion, political affiliation, national origin and genetics. Protection from discrimination is also provided for candidates with disabilities through the Americans With Disabilities Act, (ADA). However, a myth of the ADA is that it protects people who are overweight. Obesity is not necessarily a protected class under the ADA though “morbid obesity” may be included and state laws may limit discrimination based on weight.

Earlier this year Citizens Medical Center, a hospital in Victoria, Texas, came under fire over for its controversial hiring policy in which they turned away job applicants who were obese. In this instance there was a measuring standard—anyone with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or higher was removed from consideration for employment. Similarly, many employers today refuse to hire smokers.

Employers Would Rather Hire “health”

While attorneys, HR professionals and human rights activists can debate the legalities of these practices, the job applicant needs to be aware of how poor health can put them at a disadvantage in securing a job regardless of the company’s written hiring policies –and regardless of national and state laws. “Sorry Ms. Applicant, there were ‘more qualified’ candidates for the position.” The simple truth is employers are increasingly desiring a healthier workforce. They would rather hire “health” than hire a candidate who may drive their insurance costs up.

If employers want healthy employees who will help keep medical costs down and drive up productivity and profitability, how can an applicant exhibit health in the interview? Before we answer that question it is critical to know that the candidate should never give the Hiring Manager reason to suspect poor health. Therefore, the candidate needs to know where to hold their tongue.

3 Don’ts in the Job Interview

  1. Don’t focus on asking about health benefits. I hear this often when interviewing. Sometimes the very first question asked is “Does the job come with health insurance?” This question causes the Hiring Manager to wonder why she is so eager to get insurance. Is she sick? Is a family member ill? I recommend not asking that question until well into the interviewing process or until after a job offer is in hand. If you appear eager for health insurance, recruiters will often conclude there is a significant health issue lurking.
  2. Don’t mention sick family members. I remember a candidate I interviewed for a marketing position. Almost immediately he began sharing about his infant twin sons who were very seriously ill. Unknowingly he was shouting, “If you hire me your medical premiums are going to skyrocket!” Furthermore, though HR managers know they can’t delve into family medical history, (GINA), they can snoop as a candidate thoughtlessly discloses family illnesses. Candidates should be careful about casual conversation about parents or siblings who have died of cancer, or who have diabetes or who are recovering from a stroke—those genes often travel down the family tree and hiring managers know it.
  3. Unless they ask, don’t say you are a smoker. Don’t ask about smoke breaks or “Where are the designated smoking areas?” If you are going to identify yourself as a smoker you might as well confess to murdering your manager at your last job. If anything about you says “I smoke,” you have severely limited your sphere of job opportunities.

Refraining from saying the wrong things may not be enough to project health. Therefore, we need to know what we can say that will help us when interviewing with health-conscious hiring managers.

There are a fortunate few people who seem to have a healthy aura to them—they look “the picture of health.” But what about the rest of us? What about those of us who may not be blessed with perfect genes, but who make consistent effort in taking care of ourselves through a disciplined lifestyle of exercise and wise choices in our daily diet?

Job candidates who look “healthy” have an advantage over those of us who may lack a positive physical impression. However, our looks don’t always tell the truth. Some people look healthy because they are healthy. Others, who are unhealthy, will appear healthy. And sadly, some of us who are healthy don’t look like it. Therefore, if our appearance doesn’t project health, what can we do in an interview to correct the perception?

The Hard Question

First, the applicant needs to ask the question, “Do I look unhealthy because I AM unhealthy?” He may need to be honest and admit his unhealthy appearance is a result of his sedentary lifestyle and a lack of self-control in his eating. If this is the case, his first step is to change his lifestyle and get help for his lack of self-control in his diet. Like a new divorcee wanting to get a date or find a new spouse, the job applicant will want to improve his physical appearance.

Many job applicants are healthy and are engaging in activities that will continue to promote good health. The problem is you don’t notice it by merely looking at them as they sit across a conference room table. Therefore, let’s look at how to tout your physical health in an interview?

How to Tout Your Physical Health in an Interview

  1. If you are regularly engaged in physical exercise, say it. The mother of all interviews questions is, “Tell me about yourself.” Take this opportunity to slip in a comment about your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. “I enjoy running and enter three 10Ks each year.” “I hike a 50 mile portion of the Appalachian trail every year.” “I play in a men’s basketball league at the Rec Center.” “A highlight of my week is my Zumba class at the gym on Saturdays.” Say something to let the interviewers know you are physically active.
  2. Share how your health makes you a dependable employee. If you have only missed three days of work due to illness in the past five years, say it—shout it! Employers crave dependable employees. Even better, they crave dependable and healthy employees.
  3. Don’t be too humble in glorying in your physical accomplishments. Another popular interview question is “What is an accomplishment for which you are particularly proud? ” Or similarly, “What goal did you set and achieve?” Here is another open door to share your commitment to health. “When I turned forty I determined to run a marathon and I did it; I’m training for another one in three months.” “In memory of my mom I wanted to walk in the Komen 3-Day. I didn’t know if I could walk the 60 miles, but I did it and now I walk 20 miles a week.” If the employer is looking for a job related goal, you can preface the answer she is looking for by saying something like, “Well, I am very proud of reaching the bronze level in fit points at the YMCA, but if you are looking for something in my work history, I am most proud of…”
  4. Dress in a way that helps you look fit. You could wear your Peachtree Road Race 10K t-shirt to the interview, but that might lower your score in another key area of the interview. No matter what your body type, proper fitting clothes help the candidate look healthier. For those of us who have a little more to love than we would like it is important to think about clothing with strategically slenderizing styles that can camouflage or conceal our extra weight. There is more to this than simply wearing black. Women should stay away from bright oversized prints and loose and baggy clothing. Overweight men should refrain from wearing shirts with horizontal stripes. Furthermore, properly fitting clothes means that the candidate should also stay away from tight clothing which will only draw attention to flab.

We never may know exactly what the Hiring Manager is looking for in an interview. Yet, if they are looking for “health” we can be prepared.

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See also: Three Powerful Reasons to Include Physical Exercise on Your Resume

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