Interviewers Shocked When Interviewee Is Not What They Expect

By Lindsey Novak

July 11, 2007 5 min read

Q: I am an African American woman who has risen through the years to department management level at a couple of large corporations. I have not joined any outside organizations or groups and my name is a plain, typical American name. When people see my resume, no one would know my race or ethnic background. I wanted to switch to a small to mid-sized company, so I began sending resumes. When I went in for an interview for a job I had every qualification to do, I saw the shock in their faces when they met me. I know they were not expecting someone of color. I was interviewed by a couple of people at the company, and although I answered everything correctly and appropriately, I knew I was not going to get the job. I know there are people who look for prejudice when they interview, but I am not one of them. I have always remained positive in any job search, but when shock registers on people's faces at the same time, you know exactly what it is about. It was so obvious I didn't know if I should have said something. I didn't. I just let it go, saying to myself that there was nothing I could do to change their minds about me. Should I have addressed it?

A: If a job candidate could address the subject in a non-threatening way, it might clear the air for a more legitimate interview. If a comment sounds defensive, however, it would reflect negatively on you, even though they were in the wrong. It might also serve to make you feel worse than you did because of their reaction. Unfortunately, humans are what they are, and prejudice will always exist in some form. You called the situation correctly when your gut told you they would not hire you, so it's likely there was nothing you could have said or done to change their attitudes in that short time.

It will help you to learn about others' experiences in the corporate world. Jessica Faye Carter, an experienced corporate lawyer and financial services professional shares her experiences in the corporate world in her book "Double Outsiders: How Women of Color Can Succeed in Corporate America." A study showed that to advance in their careers, women of color needed to have a mentor or sponsor, perform far above expectations, communicate successfully and be able to receive high-visibility assignments. Carter reminds women of color that the original rules that govern corporate America were not intended for them. She recommends using those rules, but adjusting them to make them more effective. Also, consider attending and networking at conferences for women of color. Carter lists a myriad of resources: business, professional and civic organizations; Internet resources; additional reading and leadership development programs and conferences.

Getting Through to Analytical Types

Q: Often people who are smart think they are superior to others. I grew up around engineers and work with accountant types. Sadly, these professions are made up of analytical people with great technical skills, but who also have a disdain for people they consider stupid. Their attitude does not lead to good relationships, and then they wonder why they did not get promoted. The problem is that people who fall into this category are the ones who don't know they need help. Truly intelligent people will look into self-help books and ways to round out their skill sets. How do we get through to them?

A: Some personality types can never be reached. Self-awareness and self-improvement has to begin from within the person. You can leave articles and books laying around for the person to see, but you can't make a person read. And although reading self-help books is a start, it doesn't mean that the information will be understood and applied. Be patient with these analytical types, and drop information bits on them methodically and slowly.

Please send your questions to: Lindsey Novak, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd. Suite 700, Los Angeles, Calif. 90045. E-mail her at LindseyNovak@yahoo.com, or visit her Web site at www.lindseynovak.com. To find out more about Lindsey Novak and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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