Bias & The Job Search: What can you do as a visible minority
There’s no easy way to say this.
For visible minorities, hiring bias is a tale almost as old as time itself. It’s no secret that minorities around the world are prone to getting the shorter hand of the stick with regard to job availability, job quality, work wages and professional growth opportunities. It’s a sad reality for many minorities around the world, and a problem that need fixing.
As with most problems though, the fixing process begins with acknowledging first that there is in fact a problem. Truth be told, the root cause of this discrepancy is complex and hard to tie into one thing, but we do know that it is systemic, often deeply rooted or unconscious, and closely linked to our biases.
We all have biases, implicit as well as conscious biases, and both of these have the potential to be equally damaging. Race, gender, appearance, social status, and the list goes on. On racial bias for instance, an article on The Conversation highlights that whites are more likely to become friends with racial minorities just because they perceive to have looser ties with their race. The less culturally inclined the minority is, the more likely they are to fit into the world in which they are a minority; in essence, it is more of a survival tactic to be less of whom you truly are. Something that simple can be the difference maker between a racial minority getting the job or being rejected. This is partly what manifests itself when you see a lot of racial minorities begin to adopt more generic Caucasian names like John, Ben, e.t.c. Not adhering to this unspoken rule in the working world could lead to rejection from recruiters, wide wage margins between employees with the same job descriptions, and much more - and your first name is just one of these biases.
Can humanity ever completely do away with bias? Unfortunately, no. However, something can be done about hiring bias specifically, and it all comes down to a company’s leadership and the initiatives they put in place to combat this very real problem in the hiring process. We’ll be discussing some of the common biases in today’s article.
Implicit bias has to do with the biases and beliefs we subconsciously operate with, whether we realize it or not. This happens because as humans, we’re constantly in an endless flow of information, so in order to quickly understand things, our minds create shortcuts to quickly process information and filter the important from the non-important. If left unchecked, this can lead to implicit bias.
There are a multitude of unconscious biases that have the potential to come into play in the hiring process. Gail Tolstoi-Miller, in her TEDx talk, shared a story of a highly qualified lady who got rejected because of a gut feeling the recruiter had, which upon further revelation had to do with the fact that she was “wearing white pumps after Labor Day, and nobody wears white pumps after Labor Day”. The fact remains that the onus is on the recruiters and companies to tackle the issue of unconscious bias by intentionally training recruiters, providing road maps and cues to help recruiters keep their biases top of mind during the hiring process, as well as enforcing company-wide inclusion policies that would give everyone a fair chance. One article suggests recruiters have a list of all the unconscious biases they may have before them while they work through applications and interviews, to help further keep them top of mind in their decision-making process.
Unlike implicit bias, this kind of bias is more intentional and ominous, as people in this category are fully aware of their bias and are often unwilling to change it. As such, this cannot be excused. One article is not enough to unpack every form of conscious bias, but one of the most common conscious biases is the gender bias. According to a study by Phys.org, women are 30% less likely to be called for a job interview than their male counterparts. Furthermore, the study revealed that women who had children were 23.5% less likely to be called for an interview than men in the same boat. With regards to compensation, PayScale in 2020 revealed that women make only $0.81 for every dollar that a man makes.
It appears at least statistically, that employers are likely to present women with lower salary offers than their male colleagues. This is quite sad, a reality that one too many people encounter and suffer in their job searches and career paths. Again, the responsibility rests on the company leadership to ensure that this kind of bias is front and center in the hiring process, and that there are initiatives put in place to support women and ensure this isn’t perpetuated across company culture.
How to not get hired unfairly
You may not be able to directly influence a recruiter’s decisions, and point out all their potential biases. You can however learn to identify where an opportunity is truly worth it or not. Here are some tips that may help to refine your job search.
Observe a company’s inclusion policy before applying.
Before applying for a job, it may be worth the effort taking the time to research the company’s inclusion policy. Determine for yourself if they are an organization at least conscious of the issues that these various biases can pose, and are taking steps to curb them. Observe the company leadership and intentionally look for diversity.
A lack of leadership variety and minority inclusion just might be an indication that the growth opportunity for minorities is minimal in that organization. It may not be worth the effort in chasing a career opportunity in an organization that’s not keen on your growth.
Observe the company’s staff.
Another step that will be useful is LinkedIn's feature to research the actual staff in the organization, and pay attention for minorities. Observe the roles the minorities (if any) undertake. You could go the extra but risky mile to reach out to an employee within the organization that fits your minority group, and try to build a relationship and seek insight as to what the inclusion policy.
Read company reviews online.
This is not the ultimate litmus test and should be taken with a pinch of salt, but as the saying goes, there’s usually no smoke without fire. To be fair, a study from Fractl polling over 1000 ex-employees who left company reviews has shown that disgruntled employees are the ones most likely to share their experience. However, if upon your research you only find negative reviews, that is not a good sign.
Use a skill-based job platform.
One major reason these biases exist is because the traditional hiring system of resumes and interviews is flawed. A way to get around the flaws and avoid a lot of these biases is to go the route of a skill-based job platform like Geekbidz.
On this platform, employers will only have the option to hire you based on your skills and competencies, and not on how you look, or your gender or any of those things. This trend is the future of hiring, and you may find great success using this model.
These are some tips that could be helpful in avoiding potentially toxic situations, and getting fair pay for your labor. Are there any other tips you’d like everyone to consider? Please share in the comments below.