I would be remiss if I didn’t address during this #90DaysToMyDreamJob challenge the unique issues a diverse candidate faces in the job hunting process.
What do I mean when I write ‘diverse’?
Its definition has certainly changed throughout the decades, but most companies today would agree a diverse candidate is anyone who falls in one or more of the following categories: Women, African Americans, Hispanics, Individuals with Disabilities and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Individuals.
There are certainly more people that come from different cultural and religious backgrounds that add to our understanding of the human experience, but they aren’t as represented in company diversity employee groups as the ones mentioned earlier.
Perhaps some assume that falling into diverse categories buoys a candidate’s confidence in applying since companies frequently claim their commitment to diversity and their denial of discriminatory hiring practices. But as a job candidate who is a self-coined ‘triple whammy’ of the corporate diversity world: I am a woman, I am Hispanic (on my mother’s side hence the Italian last name) and I have a physical disability that’s highly visible, I’ll admit that what I feel when I apply isn’t boosted confidence. What I experience instead is a subtle sense of paranoia.
Just a few days ago I wrote about an idea of handing out my photo to Hiring Managers to get the attention of my targeted employers in Phoenix, AZ and one of my dear cousins left this thoughtful response on my blog, ‘… it's NOT a good idea to include photos anywhere in the process. Reasons vary, but include gender bias, skin color bias, facial expression impact, reverse discrimination possibilities, etc.’ When I read the comment the paranoid thoughts that have plagued me not only during the last few months of this job hunting process, but also throughout my entire career came flooding back. In this highly visible and hyper-connected world that we live in today, the concern isn’t so much anymore, ‘What if they find out all these things about me before I apply?’, but rather, ‘How will they evaluate me knowing already that I’m a woman, I’m Hispanic and I have a disability?’
I have worked alongside HR employees for nine years and within HR for the last four years of my career. I’ve seen Recruiters and Hiring Managers actively dismiss candidates based on what they assume a candidate with a disability can or can’t do and avoid candidates (either consciously or subconsciously) with too ‘ethnic’ names. These are just a few of the discriminatory practices that exist.
Why do companies still do this despite their claims that they don’t?
The reason comes down simply to fear. Fear of the unfamiliar, fear of the unknown. We like and trust that which we know. It’s no surprise then that hiring and firing decisions often involve a team of lawyers to guide the process (the bigger the company the bigger the legal team), but this approach only perpetuates the fear.
What will ease the minds of both potential employee and employer? It’s certainly not a hush-hush and litigious attitude, but rather an openness and transparency to the hiring process. Honest (often difficult) conversations about company needs in relation to applicants’ abilities and unique perspectives will be what get us to truly diverse workplaces.
Some employers understand this, while most others don’t.
Here’s hoping that this #90DaysToMyDreamJob challenge leads me to those that do.