If you’ve been looking for a job for a long time, when that first interview comes along (or that second round of interviews), it’s easy to feel so eager to just get employment that you overlook some parts of the hiring process that don’t quite sit right with you. A lot of people have been there. You feel so powerless, as it seems the hiring party holds your fate in their hands, and you, quite frankly, need a paycheck, so you put on those rose-colored glasses and brush off that one odd question the interviewer asked you. You tell yourself it’s okay that the company is requiring you to do one project for free “as a sample” before hiring you. But…maybe it isn’t okay.
Unfortunately, women and particularly Black women often feel even more pressure to remain silent in the face of injustices during the hiring process. Research has found that hiring parties show biases towards women, and most specifically Black women, tending to rank Black women as less employable than their male, non-Black competition with the same resumes and experience. Sadly, this probably isn’t news to many reading this, and it’s a reality that many have in their minds when they go into the interview process.
We spoke to Dr. Keita Joy, a success coach who works with companies and individuals on building confidence and pursuing goals, about how Black women should be aware of their rights in the interviewing and recruitment process.
Don’t act like you need it
Even though it can be incredibly difficult to act like you don’t need a job when you do need a job, there’s a fine line between being grateful for the opportunity and desperate for it. But you must walk it. “Desperation can deter your destiny,” says Dr. Joy. “They [potential employers] sniff out your weakness and prey on that. They sell you the hype dream [saying] ‘if you just do this, this, and that [the job is yours].’” But “this, this, and that” may be things they don’t have the right to ask you to do.
Learn what you can ahead of time
Dr. Joy encourages prospective hires to reach out to others who have worked for the company in the past to gain insight on the company. “Find out who has worked there in the past. Look them up. Find any information.” One disgruntled ex-employee may not be enough to go on, but if several former employees state the same issues, that’s something to think about.
The company publishes information
“Survey the land ahead of time as much as possible,” advises Dr. Joy. “Go to the company website. Any way you can get some inside intel. Look at company policies before interviews. Know what they stand for. When they can tell that you’re extremely knowledgeable about their company prior to doing a full depth interview, they’re saying ‘Oh I have to be careful what I tell her because I don’t know what she knows.’”
Showing insight also shows respect
Learning as much as you can about a company before an interview isn’t just about protecting yourself; it’s also about showing a potential employer that you care about their company. “Always let your future employer know that you know a lot about them,” says Dr. Joy.
Choosing jobs wisely
It’s easy to feel that one should want a job because others would be happy to have it or others would be impressed by it. It’s also common to do something for a company in order to get a job that doesn’t quite feel fair or right, but you do it anyway because the company requires it. But Dr. Joy says “You have to do a cost analysis for yourself. Often women make decisions based on other people’s standards. Don’t make decisions based on the company’s standards. Make decisions based on your standards.”
Know your wills and won’ts
Before even walking into an interview, Dr. Joy says, “[Ask yourself] How much are you willing to do for free? What are your limits? What are your boundaries? If you wait for the company to make boundaries for you, that’s a sure way to feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated. Go in with clear ideas of your boundaries and what you’re willing to do for this job.”
You know your life
Even if you know you like what a company stands for, knowing what you hope to get out of a job there, and what else matters in your life, will help you enforce boundaries. “Know clearly where you see yourself moving. How much entry-level work are you willing to do? You should know ahead of time. You know your life. You know how many hours you can commit to staying late. A lot of things you can figure out ahead of time before you have conversations with employers,” says Dr. Joy.
Nothing is permanent
If you’re willing to work late hours and weekends, and do entry-level tasks for a while but not forever, it’s important to state that upfront so you aren’t stuck in a situation with which you aren’t happy. “And bringing that up is a great tell of seeing how open they [the employer] are to listening to your needs,” notes Dr. Joy, saying it’s okay to state early, “After this first quarter, I’d like to have a conversation about moving away from that [the initial working terms].”
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
“If someone is asking you to do something that you feel may be unethical, ask ‘What is the purpose and intent for this? Can you please provide me with a website or a link where I can access the memorandum or policy on this for more clarification?’ Whatever they’re asking you for, they need to be held accountable,” says Dr. Joy.
If they’re legitimate, they’ll answer
“We can get scared as women to ask questions,” states Dr. Joy. “If something doesn’t feel right, ask a question. You don’t have to stop at one question. They shouldn’t just be telling you to do stuff and they don’t have data to support it.” As an important reminder, companies who prioritize diversity tend to see higher returns than those who don’t, so don’t let employers make you feel it’s you who needs them, when it’s actually them who need you.