The Fitting Process: Getting a Formal Job at a Luxury Hotel in Vietnam

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Jacinto Cuvi and Kimsa Maradan (equal authorship)
University of California Press
Sociology of Development


Amid a general trend toward the informalization of employment, the globalizing sector of high-end hospitality services creates a limited number of formal employment opportunities for manual workers in specific locations with large pools of potential recruits. This paper examines the hiring criteria and recruitment process for waiting staff positions at an international luxury hotel in coastal Vietnam. Data collected through interviews and observation suggest that particularly young, taller-than-average, fair-complexioned candidates with foreign-language skills and the financial resources to compensate local brokers through traditional gift-giving rituals are more likely to get formal jobs. Aspiring formal employees perform work on their bodies and outfit to meet these requirements—a process we call “fitting.” The paper makes a contribution to the sociology of labor markets and to the understanding of access to formal employment in the context of globalization.


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