Look at you. You're all ready to land the job of your dreams. You entered the building in pressed slacks, a fitted button down and a matching belt buckle — perfectly complimenting your shoes.
That second spray of cologne is subtly exiting your neck and hugging the airwaves. You’re sharp, confident, smiling big, proud of your resume and all the accolades following your name.
The interviewer meets you in the lobby and appears equally impressed. Exchanging a firm handshake and positive gestures of eagerness, you both take a seat.
“So, tell me a little about yourself.”
Deep breaths, you think before responding:
“Well, I graduated top of my class from Texas Southern University, one of the largest historical Black colleges in the country. I interned with three major fortune 500 companies before receiving my degree, followed by a very unique fellowship.
I worked a couple of years in the field before getting my master’s. I bring a total of 15 years’ experience and would love an opportunity to further this company's mission.
Silence fills the room as the interviewer appears engaged and overly friendly.
Conversations detour when you’re asked about social activities, food, movie, and music preferences. This is going better than you thought.
You’ve now engaged in an off topic 30-minute dialogue with no relevance to your skills.
What you don’t realize is that you’re being vetted – culturally and covertly discriminated against. Believe it or not, this happens all the time.
There’s some unqualified and raggedy gatekeeper purposely blocking you from being considered. Undercover, they engage in interviews while pretending to be interested. They already know who they're planning to hire. And, who they have in mind has nothing on you, your skills or work ethic. Basically, they're wasting valuable time by going through the motions.
Yes, this happens even with affirmative action. And, in today’s climate more than ever (especially in 2019). It’s time to be the most vigilant. Ask direct questions, hold interviewers accountable, and stay on topic.
Flagrantly, racial discrimination lives everywhere (in the classroom, courtroom, and most certainly, the workforce). The sad truth is many qualified applicants are not “fitting in.”
Gatekeepers are fearful and intimidate by what actually strengthens the company.
DIVERSITY is what strengthens companies!
Therefore, decoding prejudicial behavior by those in position has to be recognized IMMEDIATELY for what it is.
In this case, the interviewer was put off by the candidate’s assertiveness, education, and the mention of their historical Black college. Their choice in music and food further excluded them from being a “culture fit.”
Easily, stereotypical notions of “if they listen to this, don’t eat that or didn’t graduate from,” are perpetuated. Consequently, the candidate is viewed as a threat. Instead, the interviewer prefers and is most comfortable with a candidate possessing shared interests.
This commonality subconsciously soothes intimidation, providing a false sense of safety.
Yes, the applicant is different but also very qualified. Unbeknownst to the interviewer, they actually have lots in common. Yet, a shot at rich diversity and a unique perspective is missed.
The interviewer does not realize how marginalization and hiring individuals in a uniform capacity stifle expansion.
Likely, they don't care anyway.
Diverse companies do a much better job of appealing to top talent while respecting different ideas, perspectives, and backgrounds. This creates a stronger and more productive work environment, thus delivering better results.
In the words of the late and great Christopher Wallace, “And, if you don’t know, now you know!”
So, be on the lookout! If you ever find yourself in a similar situation (where you suspect you’re being vetted culturally) kindly stay on topic, highlight your strengths, skills, and why the diversity you bring is incomparable.
You’ve got this!