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Racial bias in the nation’s hiring process affects African-Americans and Hispanics

Credit: Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

The current job market has been the most challenging since the Great Recession the country experienced from 2007 to 2009. Although it has been even more insecure for people of color, progress in the post-pandemic job hunt can be fruitful.

People of color often deal with biases already when it comes to filling out a job application. Employers oftentimes judge an applicant based on their name and their race they most identify with, so many African-Americans and Hispanics are being disregarded. Decades-long studies have discovered that people of color have received fewer call-backs. Applicants whose names sound ethnic receive 50 percent fewer call-backs regarding job interviews than Whites, although they may be more qualified than their White counterparts.

Research has also shown that people of color have to complete 50 percent more applications on average to get a chance for an interview compared to White applicants.

“White applicants receive 36 percent more call-backs than equally qualified African-Americans and 24 percent more call-backs than Latinos on average,” said Dane Browner, who works as a Global Recruiter for Indeed. “While employers are responsible for following implacable anti-discrimination laws and critiquing their hiring process to remove bias, there are steps you can take as a job applicant as well.”

Such biases are persistent globally and can be explicit—such as judging someone based on their name or appearance—or biases can be implicit, such as judging someone based on their association with certain socio-cultural groups.

The job searching platform Indeed recently hosted a Job Cast panel that focused on biases in the job market and racial discrimination in the hiring process, as well as what to do about it. During a recent webcast, three different panelists discussed their own experiences with biases in the job or during their hiring process and shared important tips on what to do about it.

“It definitely had an impact on my career. Initially, after graduating college and seeking out my opportunities I really believed that race – or racism—was taking place in some of the hiring decisions,” Founder and President of East Coast Executives Kenneth L. Johnson shared. “Because I just couldn’t find opportunities. But within that framework, I was able to really set out and have an impact on workplace diversity and that’s what kinda brought me here today. Where I assist companies that are interested and committed to adding diverse talent to the recruitment pipelines.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Title VII specifically – prohibits discrimination in the workforce which includes; race, color, religion, sex (orientation and gender identity), pregnancy, national origin, as well as disability. However, this didn’t stop employers from being biased towards job applicants.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been enforcing the prohibition of Title VII’s race and color discrimination and has filed, settled, as well as resolved various cases since 1964. The commission will continue to focus on eliminating biases and discrimination regarding race and color in the workforce, under the E-RACE initiative.

“About 20 years ago – I interviewed for a position and during the interview process, the hiring manager didn’t even go to the first question,” Chief Influencer and CEO of HR Interrupted, Stacey Lewis said. “Because he has made a decision that I was not a candidate based solely on how I looked. And I’ve never forgotten this experience.”

All three panelists said they experienced racism during past job searches and noted how hard it is to find a company that reflects one’s beliefs.

“As I search for companies that I want to work for, it is really important that I see individuals that look like me,” New York University Professor Gabrielle Gambrell said. “Race has significantly impacted my job search. When I search for a company, I’m looking for other Black executives. Do I see myself reflected? There have been many times where I was really interested in a role in a company, but I didn’t see myself reflected and that impacted me even continuing my search with them.”

According to Johnson, applicants have higher chances to get hired in their desired role if they make their resume shine with a professional summary, which includes an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) friendly format, as well as keywords relevant to the job description. Another key element is to add your skills and certifications and last but not least; community involvement.

“The professional summary is the top part of your resume, we call it ‘The top third of the resume,’” Johnson suggested. “You want to catch people at the professional summary. And that’s where you want to list quantifiable, actionable items where you show how you’ve added value. Remembering your summary is not much about you, as it is about how you can add value to the organization.”

Another crucial aspect of the job search is to develop your network. This can be done in various ways, such as LinkedIn groups and online communities. Once a network is established, the applicant should seek referrals. The next step is to look for inclusive employers at their company website, social media, or Indeed company pages.

“If you follow these tools,” Johnson said. “I think you’re heading in the right direction.”

The next important step is to communicate the value of diversity. For instance; helping the company to mirror the diversity of the community they serve. Also, note all languages you speak, and come in with new ideas to showcase the benefit of diverse thinking, Lewis suggested.

“There’s power that candidates have. When there are these conversations of a cultural fit or when there are conversations about diversity or belonging, candidates should – in the same respect – say ‘Is this the right place for me?’” Gambrell added. “We should not have to shrink ourselves, we should not have to be someone we are not because what happens is if we do end up getting that role and it’s not the best for us, then long-term, there’s not going to be a success.”