Is racial bias hurting your job hunt?

Last updated: March 1, 2024
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Janice Reed
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Is racial bias hurting your job hunt?
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Though the ill effects of systemic racism are front and center in the news media these days, the truth is, racial bias isn't new for jobseekers. A study done three years ago notes that racism in the hiring process is still an issue, and in fact, it indicates that hiring discrimination has not declined against African Americans in 25 years. “Since 1989, whites receive on average 36% more callbacks than African Americans, and 24% more callbacks than Latinos,” the researchers from Northwestern University, Harvard, and the Institute for Social Research in Norway concluded in the study.

So what does racial bias look like?

Racial biases are the attitudes and stereotypes that influence how we engage with other people from whom we may be different. Though racial biases may be implicit, they do inform our actions—and this can be seen when one is active in the job market, even if it seems tough to pinpoint.

We asked Boston-based Human Resources professional Dee Green how she would define racial bias in the employment world. “Well, it is many things,” she notes, “not just one thing. It can be seen in an individual’s own preferences for certain hairstyles, types of attire, and other things that they may feel more or less comfortable with based on how close it is to their own experience or frame of reference.”

Research has shown that racial bias can also be seen in the way hiring managers screen applicants—from their names to their voices. Further, as this report notes, job candidates who “whiten” their resumes and applications — which means deleting any reference to their race from job application materials — have a greater success rate of passing initial screenings.

Though we all have biases, the problem arises when those biases collect to form stereotypes against different racial and ethnic groups.

Keep in mind that when you are interviewing for a job, you are also interviewing the employer to see if it will be a good fit for you. If someone says something that makes you uncomfortable in an interview or during the job screening process, it is well within your rights to ask questions or request a clarification. If you don’t receive a job for which you are well-qualified and you suspect it is due to racial bias, request feedback on your application or interview and document any responses.

What are steps you can take to find a workplace that will welcome your whole self at work?

The short answer: do your homework. Brad Blake, Chief Client Officer at Media Cause, recommends that job seekers look at the diversity and inclusion policies of the workplaces to which they apply to get a sense of how welcoming an environment might be. Diversity and inclusion policies are a company's mission, strategies, and practices to support a diverse and inclusive workplace.

“Unfortunately, some interviews can be testing for whether or not a person is a “cultural fit”...this can mean that interviewers are looking for people who are “like them,” Blake says. He suggests that job seekers pay attention during interviews to see if hiring managers seem interested in the value their unique perspective can bring to a role. “We changed the questions we ask candidates and the questions we ask each other when assessing a candidacy around if they would be a “cultural add” versus a “cultural fit,” he adds.

Dee Green agrees, “Research the company, look at the leadership and the diversity of that group. Are there Black and Brown people in decision making roles or do they seem to be in lower level positions? Is there opportunity for advancement?” These are things that both experts agree on—don’t forget that you are interviewing prospective employers too.

So where can you go to find information on an employer’s diversity and inclusion policies?

Usually this information is posted on their website--and there are also lists online that highlight companies that are defining themselves by their commitment to this issue. And also: when in doubt, ask!


Keep the discussion going...

...share your thoughts or story on bias at work in the comments below.

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Araceli Tan
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Rn Ll at Biatriz Home Health

Racial bias is hurting my job. I have been an object of jealousy, object of hatered among my black bosses. I have been the object of retaliation for something I don’t know about. Everytime I have a black boss I lost my job. That is not my goal. I want my promotion. I worked hard for it. For bringing a dead man back to life, I should have been promoted but instead my darked skin boss tried to get rid of me. I was admired by the most debonair looking co worker that looks classy and expensive looking. But I am hated for it. I cannot keep my job. Then after almost 10 years I got invited to worked Jackson South ICU and they accepted me and I was on orientation but while on orientation one of my ugly black boss instigated for recruiter to ask me to resign. I did nothing wrong as I am still under orientation. I was asked to resign. It is not an easy pill to swallow then shortly after than another Araceli was declared dead among one of the nurses in the same company. I don’t know if it is the corona virus taint, or is it something else. I don’t know what to think but I am offended and I have resentment. Find me something I cannot refused and something I can keep for the rest of a lifetime. I am not too young to be insulted for the reasons other than the fact that I am Asian minority and I am not black. The blacks never have a problem like I do

3y
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Michael Evatt
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Yes , because I'm white. I had to set back for years watching "people of color get promoted to office jobs which they had absolutely no experience, while I'm doing 90 percent of the work. So why don't you explain that to me ?!!!!

4y
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Cheryl Durham
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Adjunct Professor at Ross College

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. It is imperative that we have open and honest dialogue about subjects such as this. They may make us uncomfortable but are definitely necessary. Another elephant in the room is that of nepotism.

I have never applied for anything that I didn’t think I could do. I was always taught to always put yourself in a position whereas you could choose which avenue you would take. That simple meant: arm myself with the necessary knowledge values and skills whereas there would be no question as to who or whom should be selected.

That’s a bitter pill to swallow when you are passed over when the evidence reflects you are the most qualified for a position. That’s a bitter pill to swallow when the “isms” almost undoubtedly determined who was selected. I am sure that will ascend to greater heights, in some form or another. You see, every time when it appears that the playing field is becoming a great deal more favorable the rules change.

4y
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Remone Danhi
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MSc., Logistics and Supply Chain Management ▪ BA, Business Administration, minor Computer Studies ▪ ServSafe ▪ Lean Six Sigma Certified, Yellow Belt ▪ Green Belt.

How do you get an interview in the first place when you are already at a disadvantage due to your skin colour or ethnicity. In my experience, applying for multiple jobs with more than the required education, certification and experience, the only response is a computer generated response, "...we have decided to move forward with more suitable candidates"....and in most scenarios, the same position is relisted on different job boards. Without knowing someone with executive authority, the chances of getting hired is very low...

4y
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Michael Anthony Huff
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Medical Driver at Express Courier

Although race discrimination will always exist in America no matter how many protests you have, the other type of discrimination in this country is age discrimination. Where I live in Connecticut you could be over qualified it's not going to matter especially at the state level, I have been on many interviews with the state and have been told that I would be a great fit, just to be told that they were looking for someone who more fit what they are looking for after I was told that I had excellent experience and education,

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Tamika Hubbard
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Sr Hr Operations Advisor Avp at Bank Of The West

Scott Gross your “opinion” is a clear example of the very topic being discussed.

LJ Johnson Thank you for sharing the articles to help Scott, who apparently has the ability to make a conscious decision to practice “diversity and inclusion” in his hiring practices and when an opportunity to do so, probably does not.

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LJ Johnson
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Christopher - you have to understand the study.

They posted identical resumes (experience, skills, and education), for a white and a black candidate. The only difference was the names (one typically perceived as white like "Brandon", the other stereotypically black like "Jamal". The white-sounding name was called for an interview ~38% more times than the black (for the same resume).

The Harvard study link below. https://hbr.org/2017/10/hiring-discrimination-against-black-americans-hasnt-declined-in-25-years

The study above was reproduced by PBS, resulting in the white-sounding name getting 50% more calls for an interview. Again, identical resumes.

If you're black and fortunate enough to get past the aformentioned interview hurdle, producing identical work to your white coworker is judged as inferior. Confirmed in this study. https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/hypothetical_legal_memo_demonstrates_unconscious_biases

If you want a quick funny glimpse into what it's like to be black in the workplace, check this out and pay attention to the stats - https://youtu.be/wALwzjVwM7g .

If you want to be part of the solution. First, start by reading "White Fragility" or "How To Be an Anti-Racist". Either you are anti-racist or racist - being complicit or unaware contributes to anti-black racism.

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Christopher Stadnyk
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General manager: retail, customer service, custom picture framing

Since 63% of USA is Caucasian, it statistically stands to reason that that group would receive more " call backs"...and it cant possibly be as if the call backs "others" received were to cuss at them or that employers "didnt call back" because they were in a room making jokes about their job application attempts.

What would be the accuarate statistical sources to back up your assertion about said hiring?

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Nikia Pough
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Teacher at Nurturing Center And Academy

That is wrong . You should be treated fairly . I would sue them if I were you . Or look elsewhere.

4y
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