Midwest City native Laura Redmon once went on an interview for a job that she, within minutes, knew she wasn’t going to get.
“I could tell by the questions the interviewer was asking — and the way he kept repeating them — that I was out, and it had to do with my weight,” she said.
Redmon, who’s 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds, was looking to move from the private to public sector in the same line of work she’d done for the previous 20 years: manufacturing airplane engine parts.
“The interviewer, who was a small man, kept asking me if I could work on my knees and in tight spaces on an airplane,” Redmon said. “He looked at me like I was a couch potato, but I was in good health, extremely active and very busy with three sons still at home,” she said.
A few months later, Redmon was called back for another interview, this time with five area supervisors.
She subsequently was hired as a sandblaster and promoted a year later to machine tool operator, where she worked six years until her retirement.
Redmon’s experience doesn’t surprise human resources experts, who say biases and first impressions are inherent in everybody.
Studies show the top five are attractiveness, height, weight, charisma and educational background — from unnecessarily requiring a college degree and scoffing at degrees earned from online programs to favoring degrees earned from Ivy League schools or from hirers’ alma maters.
Oklahoma City human resources professional Gayla Sherry said one of her clients used to approximate and record the bust, waist and hip measurements of the women he interviewed for clerical positions — until she trained him not to. “He said it helped him remember the applicants when he was ready to make a decision,” Sherry said.
“The ability to put aside biases when interviewing is a learned skill,” she said.
Using a structured process to focus on job requirements, she said, not only helps employers hire the best person for the job, but also avoid lawsuits alleging discrimination based on race, gender, age, national origin, religion or disability, which are all protected categories under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Elaine Turner, an attorney with Hall Estill in Oklahoma City, said it’s permissible to consider applicants’ educational backgrounds and, though hard to objectify, charisma — as long as the standards are applied equally to all candidates.
“Charisma can be a very important quality for sales personnel,” she said, “but I’d caution against using it as selection criteria when it comes to hiring for positions that don’t have much contact with customers or the public.”
Similarly, outside of television reporters, models and other jobs where good looks are a bona fide occupational qualification, employers should avoid using attractiveness as criteria, Turner said.