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Racial Discrimination When Interviewing

Racial Discrimination When Interviewing

December 08, 2009

A reader writes:

I have a general question regarding minorities and employers. I am an African-American female, who like many Americans is out of work and looking, which means continuously applying for jobs. I can say with full confidence that I fit the requirements, but when it comes to filling out voluntary EEOC questions that ask one’s race and sex, I hesitate.

I understand that the question is optional, but I have talked to other minorities who were greeted with mild shock when hiring managers meet them. I have been on a few interviews where I didn’t get the job, and although I can never prove it, I felt that race may have been a factor. ( Example: I had 2 previous phone interviews, the position sounded promising and when they met me in person, I could sense their shock and mild disappointment.) The majority of these positions were/are at executive levels.

This is somewhat frustrating, and I sometimes feel like I should somehow inform all employers beforehand. As much as I would like to believe that racial bias wasn’t involved, I am also aware that America has more growing to do in that area. As a female, I’m sure you might be able to relate to this type of discrimination. I am familiar with EEOC guidelines, but since there is no way to prove that a job wasn’t earned because of race, there is no way to make a case.

I guess my general question is: Is it better to let the employer know that you are a minority beforehand to save time for the both of us, or is it better to ignore the question, hope for an interview and then prove why you are a minority that would fit in? If you could give me some insight, it would mean everything.

Hmmm. If we were going to look at this strictly logically, if you think that you’re encountering hiring managers who are discriminating against you because of race, and you just want to avoid them altogether, then I suppose you could argue that you should fill out the EEOC questions in the hope of screening out companies like that.

But that doesn’t feel very good. It might be a practical answer in the very short-term, but it’s not an effective one in a larger sense, because it allows those people to go on comfortably practicing something odious.

But yet I don’t know what a good answer is. I want to say that you should write those people off as someone you don’t want to work for/with anyway, just like you’d write off people who were jerks in other ways … but this is different, because it isn’t really just jerkiness; it’s something more sinister and damaging. And I don’t want to make it easy on them.

What do others think a good answer is here?

(And also, here’s a plea for people reading this to take the opportunity to be extra aware of this kind of thing and do what we can to counteract it if we suspect it’s at work in our colleagues or ourselves.)

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