Cause every firm is crazy about a sharp dressed [fat] man.
November 23, 2010 2:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm a BIG guy looking to switch jobs and am very nervous about interviews, particularly first impressions. Maybe you can help.

Like I said, I'm a very large guy (6'3" and around 400lbs). Like NFL defensive end big except instead of crushing quarterbacks I crush data sets (I'm a statistician/analyst). I'm looking to change jobs but am incredibly nervous about making a good first impression. I know I can't completely "hide" my extra weight but I am considering using a gridle to minimize some of it. Other than having my suits tailored and using a girdle what else can I do to not look so "large" (i.e. slobbish)? Do girdles work with giant bellies or should I just accept that I'm going to look like Matt Foley explaining Tobit models? If they do work, have you found long term success with them? I'm just trying to do everything I can to have potential employers consider my talents before judging my presentation.

Most of my extra weight is in my stomach and I have a long torso. In the past I've let my stomach hang over my pants but am now going to go for the Oliver Hardy look (including suspenders). My suits are dark and, like most king size clothing, are not top quality material, but do fit pretty well. I've looked for a good quality suit in my size but haven't found any in size 62 Long better than the ones I currently have. If money wasn't an issue I would have one made by a local tailor but I'm short on funds right now.

Just in case it's not clear from the above I'm curious if any large men have used a girdle to minimize their stomachs and if it was a short term fix or a long term solution. I'm also interested in what I can to look as professional as possible when interviewing with firms while possessing the physique of Boss Hogg.
posted by playertobenamedlater to Work & Money (32 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm also interested in what I can to look as professional as possible when interviewing with firms while possessing the physique of Boss Hogg.

Confidence is key, do not get overly hung up on your appearance. You should aim to be comfortable, confident and at ease with yourself rather than 1/2 an inch slimmer by way of some awkward and alien clothing contraption.

If you have a suit that fits, and that you know, go with it.
posted by fire&wings at 2:51 PM on November 23, 2010

Confidence and good tailoring will really help. Be very well groomed - hair all in order, everything well-pressed, NOT sweaty and you'll be fine. It's really not the size that's of issue, it's the presentation. Look how great John Goodman looks in his tux!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:54 PM on November 23, 2010

You'll look awkward wearing a girdle that you're not used to wearing that any small boost of image you might get from it would be cancelled out by that.

Plus, do you really want to be hired by a company that is a dick about your weight?
posted by inturnaround at 2:55 PM on November 23, 2010

Best answer: I am a large woman. I know how it feels to worry if your appearance is going to keep others from giving you the credit you deserve through the hiring process.

I think that the best thing you can do is be comfortable. You cannot control what other people think of you or assume about you. Some people out there are going to be discriminatory no matter what you do. Shapewear, like girdles, is extremely uncomfortable. Do you intend to wear a girdle for the life of your time with this company? I would hope you wouldn't do that to yourself. The small difference that it would make in your appearance is not worth the hassle. You deserve to be comfortable and happy in the work place. Present yourself as you are. The best thing you can do is wear appropriate clothing that you like and then leave it at that. Focus more on what you say and presenting yourself with confidence. Your weight shouldn't be any of their business.

Good luck!
posted by delicate_dahlias at 2:56 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

My old systems guy was a big dude who wore suspenders and he really did rock it. That sort of detail really does make it look like you are put together and pretty suave. Even if you aren't. He wasn't, but he looked it.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:05 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Look how great John Goodman looks in his tux!

True, I'm about his size and he looks really good there. It might be time for a new suit!
posted by playertobenamedlater at 3:06 PM on November 23, 2010

If you can't get a suit made for you, take your current suits to a tailor and see what they can do with them. At the very least, you can get your old suits sharpened up a bit. Your profile says you live in DC, so I can almost guarantee you can find a tailor specifically catering toward big dudes.
posted by griphus at 3:13 PM on November 23, 2010

If you're not used to wearing a girdle I think it'll be a horrible idea. Not only will it be tight and weird but it'll also be hot which won't help you look calm composed and put together.
Go for well groomed and confident. Good luck.
posted by oneear at 3:18 PM on November 23, 2010

Yeah, suit tailored, shirt that fits (collar not too loose or tight, and is long enough), sharp tie, nice neat hair and a big, hearty handshake and I think you'll be way more confident than if you were wearing Spanx (oh lord jesus such discomfort).
posted by tristeza at 3:20 PM on November 23, 2010

Dude, wear what you find comfortable! Don't start squeezing your fabulous self into a pinchback suit from the get-go -- the people interviewing will notice your discomfort and they might subconsciously wonder, "Hmm, how is this guy going to react in a real bind if he looks so ill-at-ease now?" You have so much to offer to a potential employer, and that's what actually matters, not some interviewer's tacky and stupid preconceived notion about you. If anything, just rock the juxtaposition you create. Be proud of who you are. Get yourself a great, well-tailored new suit and go into that interview like the badass you know you can be. Rock it! :)
posted by patronuscharms at 3:21 PM on November 23, 2010

Here's what matters at a job interview: confidence, and all the things you can do for the company. So dress in well-fitting clothes -- even if that means it doesn't "hide" your body, because often attempts to hide end up looking sloppy -- sit up straight, make eye contact, and go in there knowing that you're the best person for the job, so it doesn't matter what you look like, and in fact you look pretty darn good today anyway.

In that sense, you need do nothing more than every other applicant who ever applied for a job, ever. Honestly.
posted by davejay at 3:22 PM on November 23, 2010

Confidence is one big part of it. Another is grooming. I've had co-workers who stunk and I hated them with a vengeance. The fat is irrelevant.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:24 PM on November 23, 2010

I am a pretty thin guy, so this answer is based only on doing way too much academic research on interviews and first impressions.

Unless you're filling out forms or solving technical problems, interviews have pretty much nothing to do with actual qualifications or the job. They're primary about being happy and comfortable so that the interviewer is happy and comfortable as well. If you're uncomfortable because you're wearing a girdle, the interview probably won't go well because that discomfort will ruin the relationship building that occurs when people are happy around one another.

I'd do three things to prep for the interview.

1. Convince yourself that you are going to really like the person interviewing you. Liking is contagious. If you go into an interview and act like the person behind the desk is an old friend, they're going to start thinking about you as an old friend. Humans are social animals, so you might as well use our natural inclination to like people who like us to your advantage.

2. Do whatever you can to forget the years and years of hateful messages you've heard about being big. A female friend once pointed me to this blog and remarked to me how good all the guys looked because they were confident about their looks.

3. Maybe go shopping and find some interviewing clothes that make you feel good. Doesn't have to be a whole new suit, but maybe suspenders or a tie that you really like. The better you feel, the better the interview will go.

Good luck! I'm pretty sure anybody who wants to talk Tobit models is not going to care one bit about whether you wear a size 40 or size 62 jacket. Tobit models are just that awesome :).
posted by eisenkr at 3:29 PM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Big guy here. I've found that, beyond dressing well, energy is key. If you're the fat guy that comes across as lazy in your work ... well, you're not exactly breaking the stereotype, are you?

But if you're NFL defensive end size ... and you show energy and positivity and forthrightness, then you're coming across as "manly" and "powerful."

Oliver Hardy could dance. John Goodman talks about weight loss here, but he's still a big guy and has energy.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:50 PM on November 23, 2010

I've worn shapewear (not a full-on girdle) to interviews, and if you've never done this (as it appears), then don't do it for this! Plus, it is pretty warm and very humid here in DC (my apartment conditions suggest that the upcoming holiday is July 4th, not November's Thanksgiving).

So I agree with the above advice to be super-well groomed and neat. Maybe a nice haircut and starch in your shirt would be good, too. Make sure your shoes look nice!

And if you can, read Sweaty Palms, by Anthony Medley. It's a great book that points out that confidence and enthusiasm are key in job interviews. It really helped me a lot over the years, and I luuurrrvvv my new job. You should be able to find it in a library.
posted by jgirl at 4:00 PM on November 23, 2010

Ditch the girdle idea. Especially for jobs that are seen as "nerdy", playing to stereotype may actually help, e.g. the standard old-school UNIX admin look with belly, suspenders, and a large but well kempt beard. Keep cool, get a good night's sleep, and prepare a list of well-informed questions that show you know your shit and have done some research on the company.

Two things that are instant killers:
1) Appearing to be batshit insane, hateful, an addict, a monomaniac, or vengeful
2) Stinking or having a personal habit that is so distasteful nobody would want to share their cubicle with you

If you're a cool, relaxed guy who knows his stuff and gets work done, your weight will be not be an issue.
posted by benzenedream at 4:28 PM on November 23, 2010

I'm an epidemiologist. I'm so grateful when I have access to a good statistician that s/he could be covered in orange fur and hang from the chandeliers and I wouldn't bat an eye. I might bring in some bananas if I thought it'd make him/her feel more at home.

Seriously, you are who you are. You have a very desirable skillset. You shouldn't have to work somewhere that judges your work based on your BMI. If you present yourself as you are at an interview, and you get the impression the hiring personnel are more concerned with your waistline than your CV, treat it as a strike against them.
posted by gingerest at 4:51 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Confidence: Use your weight. Like an advantage.
posted by ovvl at 5:04 PM on November 23, 2010

Grooming and attitude are more important than weight. And your tailor is your best friend. It is very worth it to have clothes altered so they fit just right.
posted by analog at 5:14 PM on November 23, 2010

Nthing the confidence trumps all message - go to that interview in a smart, comfortable suit knowing that most people couldn't give a jot about your height/weight/eye color/whatever - they just want to hire a skilled, competent team player who'll do a great job!

And as inturnaround said, if it is an issue "do you really want to be hired by a company that is a dick about your weight"?

If you still have lingering thoughts on the girdle idea, go watch the Ricky Gervais' girdle episode :-)

Best of luck at the interview!
posted by ceri richard at 5:18 PM on November 23, 2010

Don't rush to the interview so that you seem red in the face and stressed and flustered (and that goes for anyone, at any weight). Don't have more than one neat bag and make sure it's well organized -- no papers flying out and don't be digging around for stuff. Be perfectly groomed. Wear very nice shoes that have a spit shine, and no run-down heels. Don't slouch, don't try to downsize yourself by slumping, or thinking small. Forget the girdle but take the money you would have spent on it and make sure your jacket and pants are tailored perfectly. Don't make the mistake of wearing clothes that are too big. Make sure your collar fits. Make sure your socks come up your calf -- no skin showing when you sit. By the way, you may be the only one who notices all this stuff, but it will all equal "pulled together" and you will feel you are putting your best foot forward. Good luck, I hope you report back!
posted by thinkpiece at 5:29 PM on November 23, 2010

I've interviewed a number of bigger guys for jobs, and in my opinion, it's not an issue, and I've never heard under-the-breath comments from other interviewers, either (and I used to hear a lot of them about a lot of candidates!). A few suggestions:

1 - As mentioned, a well fitted suit is key. Go to a place that specializes in big and tall, and let them help you. It's worth it.

2 - Don't get sloppy - your top button on your shirt needs to be buttoned closed. I remember a candidate once who didn't, and it drove me nuts.

3 - Don't call attention to your size. You won't be funny, and you'll just make your interviewer uncomfortable.

4 - Figure out what you want to wear to the interview, and wear it out a few places ahead of time. You'll see people react positively to you, and you'll know it's the right choice. It's a great way to build some self confidence in what you're wearing, and know that it all fits right and you're comfortable in it ahead of time.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:36 PM on November 23, 2010

The first hand shake is quite telling too. If you are nervous etc it will be sweaty. I tend to arrive early to an interview, and spend 5 minutes or so before the interview airing my hand (keep the hand open and swinging/airing). That way that hand shake is dry and confident. When I interview people, it is rather unpleasant when they are very sweaty, even if they mean well.

Of course, in Asia, it is generally bowing and not hand shakes...
posted by lundman at 6:06 PM on November 23, 2010

Wear a girdle if it will make you feel more confident, but understand that either you will have to wear it every day to work for the rest of your life (or until you quit), or people will be looking at you with puzzlement, knowing that something changed, but unable to figure out exactly what.

You know what? Seriously, just go for it. You are a really big guy. You can't hide that, so don't try. Buy whatever outfit makes you feel confident, and be confident. Stand up straight - honestly straight, no slouching! Shoulders back.

Act as though you are a worthy human being who belongs there and deserves the job. Which you totally are, and do!

Your understated yet assertive confidence and unashamed presentation of yourself will impress the interviewers. I guarantee.
posted by ErikaB at 6:14 PM on November 23, 2010

Wear new, colourful socks with your suit, that echo the colours in your tie. Maybe like blue stripes or something. NOT thick black or white sport socks. It's a nice little $15 detail that someone will probably notice when you're sitting in the waiting room, and it looks really sharp.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:51 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

In addition to all of the great advice above, if it's possible try to fit in some exercise right before your interview. Even just 20 minutes of something that makes you sweat and breathe hard. The only reason I say this is because the endorphins from hard exercise will make you feel really good. Whenever I'm going to be in a situation where I know that I will need lots of confidence and an upbeat attitude, I make sure I get in a hard workout beforehand - it never fails. Good luck!
posted by triggerfinger at 10:43 PM on November 23, 2010

I dont have specific advice on the clothing, but my best friend is 6'4, 420 pounds and never has a problem landing a job, girlfriend, etc.
He is confident, funny and a really good people person.
I think if you go in with the right attitude, weight will not be an issue.
posted by KogeLiz at 12:20 AM on November 24, 2010

Invest in a bespoke suit for interviews. It is very difficult for a big guy to find clothes that feel comfortable in and look good. A tailor-made outfit will help a lot.
posted by hworth at 6:59 AM on November 24, 2010

Consider too that (if the interview goes well), your size might distinguish you from the other people being interviewed in a way that works in your favor. Hypothetically, if the three people behind you, you, and the three people in front of you all have about an equally-impressive interview but the other 6 all look about the same, you might stick out in the mind of the interviewer. "Hmm... they all have promise, but the big guy made a really good impression." The flip side is, of course, that if the interview is a crash-and-burn it could also work against you for the same reason. But in that scenario you wouldn't expect to be considered for the job anyway, right?

Definitely dress well and in a manner that compliments, rather than apologizes for, your size. If nothing else, do this because the interviewer will almost certainly pick up on the fact that you're dressing defensively if you don't, and that will (at the least) not be a check in the plus column. Big guys look great in well-tailored suits, don't worry about it. You'll look affluent and distinguished. Ditch the girdle idea; I can't imagine those things being anything but uncomfortable (which will affect your interview) and it surely won't make enough of a difference to be worth that.

Be confident. They're going to hire you based on your abilities, not your physique, and (as others have said) if they don't, they you probably don't want to work for people that petty to begin with. Being big has a lot of negative connotations, but it has positive ones too. You can't control people focusing on the former, but you can live up the latter a bit to serve your own ends. Be jovial, be funny, be friendly. You'll leave a good impression.
posted by kryptondog at 8:24 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, thank you all for the excellent responses! I had no idea this question would generate such great responses when I posted it. I can't thank you all enough.

@jgirl - I'm going to pick up "Sweaty Palms" tonight from the library. Thanks for the recommendation.

@lundman - having ADD and GAD I tend to get very nervous before meeting interviewers and start to sweat pretty bad (particularly my hands). I'll have to give your suggestion a try, there's nothing worse than a sweaty handshake. Well, other than, of course, a weak and sweaty handshake.

@Cool Papa Bell - Very true and I'm working on getting my energy and confidence back. Between the boredom of my current job and the stress of the past year (I got very sick last summer) I haven't been my usual ball of energy and excitement. I'm sure after my first interview I'll feel more at ease and more like my old fun and energized self.

@pseudostrabismus - that is an awesome idea! When I was thinner I used to love to wear suits and do things like that. Thanks for jolting my memory and for the suggestion!

@KogeLiz - Attitude and confidence are definitely key.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 8:34 AM on November 24, 2010

Response by poster: @kryptondog - Be jovial, be funny, be friendly. You'll leave a good impression.

That's my plan ami. :)
posted by playertobenamedlater at 8:46 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Make sure to stand up straight! As a tall man, you may be used to bending over or hunching a bit to talk to shorter colleagues, or to minimize your height if you're the tallest person in the room, but it makes you look and feel less confident. Also, getting a good haircut: not just your $8 CheapCuts jobbie, but one from an experienced professional barber or stylist who will spend the time to get it right, and to make sure it's not the kind of cut where strands will flop down once they get sweaty.

I remember a professor from my undergrad years - he was a very large man, both width and height, but he was always impeccably groomed and rocked the hell out of a well-fitting double-breasted suit (blue! with gold buttons! Twenty years later and I still remember that suit!). I've read elsewhere that large men aren't supposed to wear double-breasted suits, but I think that's at least partially bunk: if you leave the jacket open, all that extra material will flap around and look odd, but if you're in a climate where you can leave it buttoned up, it can look stunning.

Note that the professor I mentioned above lived in south Texas, and I think occasionally used a nice handkerchief to dab at his brow if the air conditioning in the classroom wasn't up to snuff.
posted by telophase at 12:36 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

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