By Lisa Johnson Mandell

With the job market being more competitive than ever and holiday goodies being as tempting as they are, some people are deciding to postpone their job search until they get back down to their ideal weight. They point to the statistics that indicate overweight people earn less and are overlooked for jobs and promotions in favor of those who are thinner, and they don’t want employers to perceive them as expensive health risks.

“I’m human – all things being equal, I will hire the more fit-looking job candidate over the one who looks extremely overweight,” says Jonathan Seymour, a small business owner from Long Island. “I’ve seen the numbers that say how much more overweight people can cost an employer in terms of health insurance costs and absenteeism.

But the fact of the matter is that all things are seldom equal. I’ll hire the person with the best credentials and the most experience every time, no matter what they weigh. As it so happens, all my employees seem to be overweight – I think I’m the only one who works out. But we get an amazing amount of good work done, and that’s what’s important.”.

That may be true, but according to a study done by Timothy A. Judge of the University of Florida, women weighing 25 pounds less than the group norm earned an average $15,572 a year more than heavier women. However, the study found that men who weighed 25 or more pounds less than average were penalized, earning almost $8,500 less than their beefier colleagues. That trend tapered off when their weight hit the obese level. The numbers show that grossly overweight people of both genders earn less than their fitter counterparts.

You snooze, you lose, no matter how much you weigh

Still, waiting until you can be considered fit and trim is no excuse to put off your job search. “If we all waited until we’ve reached our ideal weight, no one would be on the job market or start their own business,” says Janet Powers, whose Diva Toolbox organization helps people start up and excel in the working world. “Does anyone, anywhere, ever feel physically perfect?” she asks.

It’s estimated that 190 million Americans are overweight. If they all stopped applying themselves professionally until they lost the extra pounds, the entire economy would be incapacitated.

Lynae Remondino, who was told she would not be considered for a behind-the-scenes position at Weight Watchers because she was still too heavy – even after she’d lost 118 lbs., admits this. “If we feed into this mentality that we must fit a certain mold to be hired for a job, then we are only encouraging companies to base their hiring decisions on anything other than someone’s knowledge, skills, behaviors and/or abilities to perform the job,” she says.

“You should start to lose weight the minute you decide YOU want to,” she adds. “To intentionally wait to find a job until you reach a weight loss goal is destructive because losing weight is a process, and your motivation shouldn’t be dictated by someone or something else; you have to want it, especially if you hope to maintain it long-term for a healthier lifestyle.”

Is it how you feel or how you look?

“Many women think they have to “release” the extra weight to feel accepted by their lovers, peers or colleagues,” says Chantal Boudreau, a Certified Master Practitioner in Neuro-linguistic Programming. “Many have been scorned and called names because of their size at home, school and in the work place. Once some women have babies, they choose to be ‘stay home moms’ instead of returning to work and facing even more humiliations and rejection.”

Regardless of weight, it’s considered a luxury these days for one parent to stay at home with the children while the other goes out to work. Some estimates report that almost one in five Americans are looking for work. Why let a little thing like weight hold you back when you might have the exact qualifications needed for a certain position? If you’re lucky enough to score a callback, or even an interview, there are plenty of ways to make yourself look slimmer and more put together instantly.

Remondino suggests getting a haircut/color or blowout that not only makes you look better, but gives you new-found energy and confidence. You want to bring attention up to your eyes and face, so people will listen to the message you’re sending, rather than evaluating the shape you’re in.

Color specialist Jill Kirsch advises people to wear the right accent color near the face to bring out out the eyes and define the jaw line. This applies to both men and women. Tie, shirt and/or scarf or dress color can make a surprising difference. See what shades work best for you, according to your hair color, at

Quick tricks to trim your appearance

Charla Krupp, author of “How to Never Look Fat Again: Over 1,000 Ways to Dress Thinner-Without Dieting!” Has a number of dress suggestions that will divert attention from your body. If you want to look thinner immediately, she suggests:

* Wear dark colors, but not necessarily black. Jewel tones such as purple, burgundy and cobalt work well.

* If a woman must wear stockings, make them opaque black. Black boots, well polished and not scuffed, are another option. For men, socks that are lighter or darker than your pants will chop up your long, lean-looking line – wear socks that blend.

* Shapewear helps almost every woman. Black bike short types keep you from feeling like you’re compressed into a girdle.

* Women should also wear a good, supportive bra to “lift the girls up!”

* The highest heel you can stand will help you look taller and slimmer. If you’re used to flats, try a kitten heel.

* A great bag or briefcase, not overstuffed, can hide your tummy and divert attention from your body.

* A great necklace, scarf or necktie keeps the attention above the shoulders.

* Even if the work environment is casual, no cargo pants for men or women. The pockets add the illusion of pounds.

In the vast majority of situations, your weight will not be the make or break factor in whether or not you get the job. But your confidence level could be. If you’re worried about not looking your best, chances are your insecurity will show through. It’s not necessary to wait until after you lose that extra weight to try to find a job, but it is important to look as good as you know you can. These days, you have to make the most of every advantage you’ve got.