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Racial discrimination and the job application process

What's it like applying for a job when you aren't a white male?

It depends. First you have to get to an interview -- but that is far less likely to happen if you happen to have a name that doesn't "sound" white.

Assuming you can make it that far, how you have to behave in order to get a job may depend a lot on your gender and race.

Men of color need to be cautious about being too forward. Perceived aggression can make white interviewers unconsciously nervous -- nixing their chances at getting hired. They also need to impress their interviewers quickly, because applicants of color typically get shorter interviews than white job applicants.

Impressing the interviewer may be hard, however. Typically, applicants of color can be dismissed for things like having taken longer to get their degrees (something that happens if you aren't able to afford college easily) and not having internships at the right companies (many of which are handed out through family and friends in the right places).

Women applicants of color may have even more hoops that they need to jump through. While white males are lauded for being curious "go-getters," Asian women are viewed with suspicion if they exhibit any of the same traits. Latinas and African-American women run the risk being labelled "unfeminine" for being assertive. Latinas are also seen as overly-emotional or dramatic -- so they need to worry if they're presenting themselves with too much passion in an interview. For either, asking too many questions in an interview -- something job candidates should be doing -- might be the end of their chances.

Finally, there's the hurdle of matching the "company culture." For many people involved in the hiring process, that means hiring someone that reminds them of themselves...which is a problem if all the people doing the hiring are white males.

Unfortunately, studies continue to show that workplace discrimination based on race is still very much alive -- it's just that it's harder to spot when it happens one-on-one inside an interview room. It's often more apparent when a newly-hired employee of color actually makes it through all the hurdles -- only to face bias on the job.

That's why it's important to document all your experiences with racial prejudice at work -- just in case legal action becomes necessary.

Source: CNNMoney, "Working while brown: What discrimination looks like now," Tanzina Vega, accessed Feb. 15, 2018

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