Race matters in hiring. Employers hire based on race, age, and religion despite the laws that are meant to prohibit unfairness or discrimination. This Supreme Court debate from 2003 in retrospect, had little affect on the ways that race still matters today to many hiring managers. I read this and say, this is the longest marathon of issues in race relations that affect minorities:
Today, the national policy of nondiscrimination is firmly rooted in the law. In addition, it generally is agreed that equal opportunity has increased dramatically in America, including in employment. Blacks and other people of color now work in virtually every field, and opportunities are increasing at every level.
Yet significant work remains to be done. Charges alleging race discrimination in
employment accounted for 35.5 percent of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) 2005 charge receipts, making race still the most-alleged basis of employment discrimination under Federal law. In addition, several private studies conducted in the early 2000s provide telling evidence that race discrimination in employment persists.
A 2003 study in Milwaukee found that whites with a criminal record received job callbacks at a rate more than three times that of blacks with the same criminal record, and even at a rate higher than blacks without a criminal record. A 2003 study in California found that temporary agencies preferred white applicants three to one over African American applicants. And, a 2002 study in Boston and Chicago found that résumés of persons with names common among whites were 50 percent more likely to generate a request for an interview than equally impressive résumés of persons with names common among blacks.
Civil Rights Law and Hiring Practices. (2009). Supreme Court Debates, 12(7), 6.
There are ways that employers can subtly discriminate in other ways, sometimes under a grin. Sometimes, a “Cheshire grin.”
First, let’s discuss the “Cheshire Cat Grin” that I have received in the past. It is the smile the receptionist offers upon your arrival for an interview. The smile that is to put you at ease. The smile that says…”Welcome.”
It says two other things:
- The person hopes to smile enough to disappear, like the Cheshire Cat from Alice and Wonderland. It’s obvious he or she does not want to be at work.
- The same smile is given an employer (receptionist, HR manager, gopher) found out that you are not who you sound like. I have seen this smile given when a woman named “Charlie” with a low “C” voice (she probably sings contralto). More times I have seen the “Cheshire Grin” given when an Asian-American, Latino American, or African-American has a name like, um, uh, “Mark.”
- Oh, you’re Mark! Wow! Okay!
I have a diverse set of clients in the past three years who came to me because their strategies were not working. Out of the changes we made to their resume and interview style, we used two simple strategies to apply for jobs and on his or her resume:
- Modify the name on the resume (ex. from “Latoya” to “Lynn”, “Miguel” to “Michael”)
- Remove the address and zip (area can determine culture or color)
- Remove social, political, or service organizations that traditionally are one race
- Any cultural identifiable associations with sports (once remove a client’s college tournament “Sweet 16” appearance)
- I wouldn’t mention this if it did not make a difference in my client obtaining more interviews and being hired. Appalled? Shocked? It’s better to get mad, and become strategically shrewd.
Many people are uncomfortable talking about race but it’s real. Race matters in hiring, no matter how polite, no matter how big the smile, and regardless whether you are told that you are “well-spoken.” It’s not as if an Asian-American cheated, or gamed the system. It is taking race out of the decision. That is all.
Perhaps fewer decision makers racially profile today than 1980. It is relevant on all levels of professional positions, and ranges throughout retail sales positions. It is unavoidable.
Despite of what anyone could gather from this post, standing out in the right way is not a bad thing. As scrutiny from Human Resource professionals apply towards age, experience, and education, don’t believe for a moment subtle details that indicate race wouldn’t matter. Many employers would rather hire the employed than the unemployed.
I wish all of us would have the “Cheshire Grin” power, and appear/disappear at will. Grin and our race, gender, culture, or accent would disappear so it wouldn’t matter.
But race matters, and there’s nothing you or I can do about it.
Feel free to tell me if I’m out of my mind, or that this is a fair assessment. You can also cry uncle or foul in the comment section.