Does Your Physical Health Matter in Your Job Search?


For any job search to be successful, you must take care of yourself. You must exercise and eat right. You have to be at your fighting weight. Maybe in your last job you could claim that you were simply too busy to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Even if that was true, it’s not true now.

Physical activity and a good diet are essential. Between the two of them they provide the energy and stamina to conduct an effective, prolonged job search. They also boost your self-image. When you are at your proper weight, when your posture is straight, and when you are not winded climbing a set of stairs you will feel much better about yourself. Believe me, it will be noticed by others, especially HR, and it will definitely improve your job prospects. Another aspect of getting in shape is that it becomes an area of your life in which you can take control, you make it happen, and in a job search situation where you feel like absolutely nothing is in your control, it makes you feel really good.

If you already have a good exercise regimen, stick with it. Improve it, if you can. Adapt it to your new circumstances. That might mean jettisoning the expensive fitness club membership with its high-tech treadmills and elaborate weight machines. But you can still jog around the neighborhood and do calisthenics or join an inexpensive neighborhood YMCA.

If you don’t have an exercise program, create one. Don’t hesitate to ask for help in this area too. This is not the time to hurt your back and be laid up for weeks. Concentrate on sports or activities you can do while looking for a new job. When you don’t have a job, it’s probably not a good time to take up mountain climbing or golf. Just make sure the activity is enjoyable, and not merely another task for the day.

Staying in shape is important to me. Part of the reason, admittedly, is ego, but I also want to stay healthy for as long as I can. For a lot of people, jogging is the go-to activity. It’s relatively cheap: All you need is a decent pair of shoes and you can pretty much do it anywhere.

For years, I avoided running. It seemed unduly boring, monotonous and, above all, exhausting. Then one day my workout buddies and I realized that spending all of our time working out in a basement gym meant we were missing the glorious weather and sights of San Diego. So we evolved into a running group called “The Turtles.” Our motto was “Start slow, and taper off.” We don’t care about speed. We talk while we run. We laugh a lot. And before we know it, our 5K is finished and we’re back at the gym. We even got to know our local morning show weather man who does his reports from the downtown sidewalk outside of the station. We ended up getting on TV twice a week for a morning update on our run. We became celebrities. I can’t tell you how many people would stop us and say, “Aren’t you the turtles from TV?”

It’s not a workout if you’re having fun. Keep that in mind. Make sure your exercise program is enjoyable, even something you look forward to. Dreading is not allowed.

Exercise produces obvious benefits, and surprisingly quickly. First of all, it’s a great stress reducer, which is especially valuable when your stress levels are likely to be higher than normal. You’ll have more energy and you’ll look healthier. Suits will hang better; dresses will fit the way they’re supposed to. That makes you a much more attractive job candidate. It shows that you take responsibility for your health and appearance and that you work to maximize both. Active people radiate an energy and healthfulness that employers notice almost immediately. Even if we aren’t fully conscious of the reason for the glow.

“When a job applicant first walks into an interview, I immediately size them up in terms of their general appearance,” one employer told me recently, echoing a sentiment I hear often. “I look at their clothes. That’s kind of automatic. But I also—and this is kind of subconscious—consider how they carry themselves. Are they standing straight? Are they smiling, with bright teeth and eyes? Do they walk well? If someone comes in slouched, if they’re grossly overweight, disheveled or some¬thing just presents wrong, they are immediately at a disadvantage. They might have a brilliant résumé. They might be perfect for the job. But if they look or sound or smell unhealthy, if they’re weird or somehow off-putting, I can’t help but wonder: If this is how they present themselves on a day when they’re trying to impress, what will they look like six months into the job?”

You now work hard at the gym for the sake of your appearance and health. Don’t let me know you have any bad habits, such as inappropriate use of alcohol or that you smoke. You wouldn’t show up for an interview with booze breath, so don’t show up smelling of smoke. If a candidate ever smells like smoke, they are dead on arrival. Two reasons: One, they smell so bad I question their judgment just as I would if they smelled like booze and two, smoking is an addiction that I think people need to take responsibility for. Nobody can convince me it tastes good, smells good and is not bad for your health. If your judgment is flawed enough to ignore all the warning signs about smoking, then I question your judgment in lots of areas. Of course, remember I live in California. We may be a little crazy about this health thing, especially smoking. But keep in mind “I have the gold (a salary) and I make the rules.” I will not tell you that you did not get the job because of offensive odor or habits but why give me the opportunity to pass you by when it is something you can control?