I work at one of the largest organizational consulting firms in the US as a recruiter. Starting last year and more recently, I've seen a push in hiring managers wanting to hire what they call "diverse" candidates. Generally speaking, diverse in this context has come to include African American candidates, Indian candidates, Hispanic candidates, female candidates.. basically, everyone except white guys.

Now, as an Asian American female, I recognize and have experienced reasons for why these hiring practices have come into place. Many companies are pushing for equality in the workplace, which I think is great.. However, I can't deny that I feel morally icky about leaving a qualified candidate in the candidacy pool because of what essentially comes down to their gender and skin color. The nature of my hiring is that candidates aren't always applying to specific roles, but to a candidate pool for considering to multiple roles in their field. In this case, we don't actually decline them, they just stay in the pool.. sometimes for months, until another HM decides to screen them.

I brought this up with my coworkers and sort of got laughed at. With the political climate here, it's difficult to have conversations about these things without it going the wrong way, even though my intentions are good.

What am I to do in a situation like this? I'm stuck between "I really don't like this" and "I really need this job right now and don't want to be fired".

EDIT: I understand some teams can benefit from diversity. I didn't mean to imply with my post that we end up hiring someone who isn't qualified. I should have made it clearer that there are many many applicants who are both "diverse" AND qualified. Those are by no means mutually exclusive, obviously. However, there have been instances where we've hired for diversity over qualifications - that is to say that the selected applicant was qualified, just less so than another applicant. Those are the instances I have issues with and were the inspiration for this post.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 3:14
  • I won't edit the post to fix this since you're quoting the manager's word choice, but an individual person can't be diverse. In order for something to have a great deal of variety, there needs to be more than one. Your candidacy pool of multiple people can be diverse but the term you should be using for individuals is "underrepresented minority" or URM.
    – BSMP
    Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 19:27

19 Answers 19


First, there is no such thing as a diverse candidate. A person is not diverse. A team may be more diverse if it hires a candidate that is different from its current members in one or more ways, and the team may well be improved by becoming more diverse. When you call a person diverse, you other them, and you ignore the genuine benefits their differences bring to the team.

Second, when you say that "qualified" candidates are "left behind" I wonder if you mean the people who are hired are not qualified? If they are qualified, is it better to always hire the qualified white men and leave the qualified not-white not-men in the pool unhired? Some qualified people will always be left behind. There isn't a rule that white men get the jobs first and not-white not-men only get hired if they're spectacularly better than the "default" choices.

Third, I would drill in a little more on "qualified." You are a recruiting firm. So one aspect of qualified is specific skills and experience that all recruiters have. But another aspect is "friends and contacts in the X community" where X is some community that the current members of the team are disconnected from. That could be Ivy League colleges. Or it could be HBCU. Or it could be entire countries you want to recruit from, yet have no team members who know the place or the languages. Making your team more diverse is a genuine benefit brought by people who are not like the current members of the team, and a real reason to prefer the "different" candidate over the "default" candidate when their paper qualifications (education, years of experience, awards, etc) are identical.

I've told you these three things to help you understand why something is happening that you feel may be wrong. But you can also ask those who are doing the hiring why it is happening. Not tell them it's wrong and not to do it, but ASK why and what the positives are. You're a RECRUITER! You should know this sort of thing. You may have clients that want a more diverse team, want to hire people who are not like everyone they already have. And you will need to know how to do this sensitively and carefully. Not hiring any old random person who isn't any good but "ticks a box". Finding someone who is good AND brings a difference to the team. It's going to be an important skill, and someone in your organization should be able to help you learn and understand it.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 3:18
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    I think this is a great answer, but it focuses a lot on an idea that I didn't (intend to) make. I've edited my question to better clarify my concerns and would like to hear your thoughts.
    – hk88
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 4:40
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    You say: "Finding someone who is good AND brings a difference to the team". How does that rank against "Finding someone who is great BUT brings no difference to the team". That's the position I'm in. I realize the benefits of diversity, but it's coming at the expense of throwing out great candidates in the screening process. I want to fill positions with the best candidate for the role. That's my goal. I don't want to base these things off color, at least not so early in the process. If it came down to the situations you describe, then sure. But it's not really getting to that point.
    – hk88
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 4:43
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    I am losing patience with arguing with people who think I said things I didn't, and also with false dichotomies. You can set aside "tie goes to the white guy" without adopting "in case of a tie, never choose the white guy". You can stop assuming the jobs belong to the white men unless thoroughly and decisively proven otherwise without making a rule that we don't hire white men. You can say "these candidates are both 8/10 on paper, and this one is not like the rest of the team so may some day produce knowledge of a domain we didn't think of" without only hiring someone for their race. Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 11:54
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    @csstudent1418 please stop pinging me. I never said I judged anyone solely and only by their skin colour, nor that a white man couldn't have a different background from other white men. I am done being patronizingly lectured about things I've actually done (hire other people, run a business, face discriminations in the workplace, help other people be more inclusive) by people who I am willing to bet haven't done these things but have theories. I know my stuff. I have NO MORE NEED of your advice on this. Go tell someone else. Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 18:11

@hk88 I applaud you for having human decency left to feel "icky" about those things. You are right to feel "icky": these practices are outright illegal and violate federal equal opportunity laws, but the activists in power who push such agenda do not seem to care (and in a blue state chances are courts don't care either). As to what you can do, there is no good answer.

You can do the decent, right, moral, thing to do, but chances are it will cost you a job and possibly a career - as an example, look at what happened to the recruiter at Google raising similar concerns (https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/2/17070624/google-youtube-wilberg-recruiter-hiring-reverse-discrimination-lawsuit)

Or you can continue silently illegally discriminating - but in the end of the day we all need our jobs. In Snowden words "what will it take for you to take a match and burn you entire life to the ground?"

EDIT: I am not a lawyer, but discriminating based on race and gender violates Equal Employment Opportunity Act: https://www.eeoc.gov/employers/small-business/3-who-protected-employment-discrimination

EDIT2: Arne Wilberg v. Google case is very similar to the situation OP is in: recruiter trying to blow the whistle on illegal discriminatory practices: https://www.scribd.com/document/372802863/18-CIV-00442-ARNE-WILBERG-vs-GOOGLE-INC-et-al. It did not go well for the recruiter, but the case is interesting reading, and it does a good job of listing the laws being violated.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 3:25

Have candidates to put black on their profiles or other gender in their things.

I was in technical recruiting for my firm and my team found some people we really wanted to move through the HR politically correct quagmire.

We found the way to do it was to tell them to just lie on the profiles. The creatures in HR got to meet their diversity quota and my team got the candidates we wanted.

The diversity BS and self declaration BS means that they cant challenge how people self declare.

Just lie.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 3:32

Factors other than qualifications are considered in hiring all. the. time.

Normally it's something companies like to call "the cultural fit" and in most situations it favors people from "the majority".

Also, while hiring, getting someone who is qualified (i.e. has the hard skills necessary to do the job) is just one of the goals. There can be other goals, like making public think about your organization in a certain way, creating some dissonance and bringing on new points of view in your team. All that can lead to you your organization wanting to employ more minorities and women.

If you don't accept your company's policy just find a new job and quit.

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    Cultural fit is not necessarily discrimination. What she is being asked to do, clearly is. Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 8:08
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    This answer would be better without the last two paragraphs that add nothing.
    – Ilakoni
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 12:42
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    I don't consider it is OK to allow white male people to spend their time filling in app forms when a company have already decided to exclude them.
    – Ian
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 13:31
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    @dan-klasson Of course selection on cultural fit is discrimination. Every selection of candidates is discrimination. By definition, ranking of candidates requires discrimination on such factors as qualifications and experience. The question is what discrimination is morally and legally accepted and what isn't.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 15:17
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    @HenryM That is not my understanding of what cultural fit means. Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 14:33

An answer to this is difficult and depends on the company, country and whether it does actually have an effect on the company.

If you still fill all positions with qualified candidates in time, then there is no problem, at least from the perspective of the company. You have a position, you get someone diverse to fill it, case closed. Whether there are still qualified people in the queue or not doesn't matter, because there are no positions for them anyways. In that situation, you can't do anything about it.

If filling a position gets delayed a lot, because HR is waiting for a qualified and diverse person and not many are applying over time, then there is a problem. Having a position open for a long time, despite qualified candidates in the pool, means you don't get the necessary productivity to push the company forward. The company is losing money. That is where you can take action. Instead of saying "Why is this white male not getting a position?" you can turn it around to

We often have positions not filled after a long time, despite having qualified candidates in the pool. Let's put a time limit on recruiting and pick the best candidate in the pool after 4 weeks, assuming we have any qualified people in the pool. If we have a qualified diverse one, we'll take that person, otherwise we'll just take the best we can get. Waiting for the perfect candidate costs us money and productivity.

By looking at it from the business perspective, you're more likely to have an effect, because hiring diverse candidates is in theory the morally right choice, so arguing morals will work against you. You need to advertise a combination of the theoretically moral choice with practical business needs.

As for the hiring practice itself, while it is discriminatory against white male people like myself, there is a lot of inertia in many industries that makes it easier for non-diverse people to get hired. That means that in theory you need to discriminate against us for a while, at least until the inertia runs itself out and a balance develops. That might take decades and might never happen at all, because such a balance would also require that e.g. 50% of all comp-sci students are female´, which is something we're very far away from, to my knowledge.
Whether it's in practice morally right or wrong is something that can be argued about forever, and I'm not getting into that argument. There are certainly good and bad arguments from all sides of the isle.

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    What is a "diverse person"? Someone with a high diversity of skills and experience? And "very far away" depends on the country; in Iran, 70% of science and engineering students are female. What if the diversity drive in American tech is motivated by the fear of Iranians taking over? ;-)
    – gerrit
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 15:20

Many companies are pushing for equality in the workplace, which I think is great.. However, I can't deny that I feel morally icky about leaving a qualified candidate in the candidacy pool because of what essentially comes down to their gender and skin color.

I agree with you on both points - Equality is wonderful and employment free from discrimination is also protected via federal law (Civil Rights Act of 1964 among others) , and state law in many states of the USA. However, simply hiring a minority , woman, or a member of a protected class solely because they are a member of that protected class, and no other justifiable reason, is wrong, and more than likely illegal.

Individuals should be treated as individuals, and to think diverse only as applying to minorities , women is not beneficial. You wrote that diverse may tend to favor racial minorities and women, with the key word being tend. In other words, the company may have a valid business case for targeting these diverse candidates. Therefore, just because the resulting candidates tend to be a racial minority, women etc. may not be a problem if other non minority candidates and men are not excluded simply for being non minority or men. I think you are making an assumption that may not be supported by what is happening. Candidates can be diverse in many other ways other than race or gender, such as having overcome personal adversity in one's life, being bilingual, being the first in one's family to graduate college etc. It may be true, that candidates fulfilling these qualities are disadvantaged minorities, and if so, I don't see it as a problem or being discriminatory. Outside of disparate impact, its the targeted nature and personal bias that confirms discriminatory intent.

If the request of the client is to screen out candidates using rigid criteria that systematically target any class of individual , then yes, this is most likely illegal discrimination and you are right to feel uncomfortable. E.g: minorities and women must make up X % of the qualifying candidate pool or only women can apply to this role (outside of a narrow group of jobs in which gender is a requirement). If you feel this is the case, I would suggest talking to higher level folks at your company for assistance. Stress you don't want to hurt the business relationship, but are strongly unwilling to participate in a practice that may be unlawful.

TlDR Find out why the company has these preferences. As long as they are not excluding a specific recognizable group from consideration, assuming they are qualified, I don't think there is a problem. You must gather additional information to decide on an appropriate response. If the company's definition of diverse, happens to lean toward minorities / women so be it.


Ignore it/use it to your benefit as best you can and focus on acquiring power in your career.

Organizational change doesn't happen from people on the lowest rung of the ladder. I suspect that you are facing a managerial target to increase diversity and the simplest way to do that is just to throw out all candidates that do not fit that profile. I have HR friends who have been there and done just that.

When companies set goals like this, icky rapidly becomes normal as the employees are incentivized to give management whatever it wants as that is the rational thing for employees to do.

Say that management is pushing the developers to finish more features in the same block of time. 9 times out of 10, the developers are going to develop a large pile of broken and hacked together features. And that can frequently be called success using certain popular software development frameworks.

Or consider Walmart and its attempt to increase checkout speed. At one point, Walmart ranked cashiers by how quickly they got customers through checkouts (I am not sure if they still do this). The metric was scans per hour. What ended up happening in many cases is that employees did not bother scan any item with a hard to access bar code. I knew people who worked at Walmart that just told customers with items that were hard to scan to just take the items. Walmart is usually quite good with numbers, so I suspect that the losses here are acceptable.

Or consider another case I knew of. There was a call centre where employees were rewarded for resolving certain classes of issues within X amount of time for Y class of issue. Anyone who did not consistently meet that got a warning and then later got terminated, as there was a long time of people waiting to replace them. How did the employees handle it? They set a timer based on the issue category and just hung up when they were going over time and resolved the issue.

In every organization I have been part of, there have always been reasonable goals paired with incentives and encouragement to reach those goals through absurd means. Employees are not empowered to change those systems so they just figure out how to win at them. Employees who don't usually pay the price without bringing change.

You get to consider these questions once you are the one deciding the goals. Until that point, we are all just worker ants.

In summary:

  1. You need this job.
  2. You cannot change things without power.
  3. You cannot have power without having a managerial job.
  4. You cannot get a managerial job without an entry-level job.
  5. Doing icky things is common in the workplace as there are perverse incentives everywhere.

Take the job and do whatever it is management wants so you can get that promotion. Then you can figure out ways to do things better.

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    "To fix the law, you have to break the law... with enough law breaking, you can get to a position of power to not break the law anymore" Not sure I agree with the direction of this answer...
    – WernerCD
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 8:53
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    Re: "In every organization I have been part of...", that would be how many data points (organizations)? Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 14:29
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    How would going up the ladder help? These ideologies are pushed all the way from the top (sometimes even beyond C-level execs), and a higher ranked manager who has any decency left actually has a higher chance of being fired: as they would be expected not only to follow such ideology, but to actively push it to their subordinates. Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 15:21
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    @WernerCD 1. The question is not whether it is illegal, but rather what OP should do about it. 2. Anything that cannot be prosecuted is effectively legal. There is no smoking gun here. Given those constraints, what is OP supposed to do? The best strategy is to become the decision maker. Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 19:16
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    "The implementation of throwing out applications from white men is probably not" Apologies, but to me this sounds really naive. Not a single person would oppose to true diversity initiatives: build hiring centers in towns with many under-represented groups, fund and send instructors to historically black universities, fund and send teachers to poor schools with many minorities. But that's not what higher-ups do: they push OKRs with an actual percentage of "diversity" hires. I think it's really naive to suppose they don't know how those quotas will get implemented. Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 22:46

TLDR: Advertise your candidates of all backgrounds as good as possible

Preamble: As this seems a bit unclear and differently interpreted, I read the question such that the white males are filtered out before even looking at their profile and as such without basing the decision in any way on their qualification but just their skin colour/ethnicity.

Your job is two-fold: Find a matching candidate for a company and find a company for your candidates. While typically the companies pay you (your agency), sometimes candidates pay too and even if not, the more of them you can get a job the more companies will pay you. So in that sense, you work for both. So your job is to look out for both. (On top of that we obviously all want to be good people and not support discrimination but rather contribute to a fair society.)

There are a few good business reasons to hire from certain demographics or ethnicities. Kate Gregory pointed out several in her answer and the comments. For example, companies might want to sell their products to as many people as possible. For this it can help to understand different communities and how best to address them, e.g. via advertisements etc. Sometimes having an employee from certain communities/ethnic backgrounds can help in this. Same for the design of products, sometimes there are oversights when products are developed in-house just by members with one particular background (e.g. there are apparently soap dispensers that do not recognize black hands). Another company might want to sell to shops in China Town, but these mainly trade with other Asians (the example is made up, no idea if that is the case to any degree). In that case it might help to hire an Asian in the hope they can easier get connections into this community. Sometimes a certain background can help to prevent PR pitfalls, e.g. use a historical figure in your video game or as a company advertisement character etc. but overlooking their troubled past regarding slavery. Having a black person in the team could have helped to bring that up. On the other hand it might also just be a PR measure to increase the diversity rate and project an image of progressiveness in order to improve the company's standing with the general public (and attract interest and perhaps customers).

However, in many cases having a certain ethnic background does not guarantee a candidate can automatically help in whatever goal the company wants to achieve. And in particular, another person might have a unique background that helps achieve that goal better. For instance, a white guy with a literature degree might also point out H.P. Lovecraft could ruffle some feathers when used to represent your company, perhaps more likely than a random black person (that otherwise is equally qualified for your designer/management job). Or a black woman that already worked with a lot of Chinese companies might also know how to get a foot into your Chinatown businesses etc. rather than a random Asian person. It comes always down to evaluating the individual as a whole to find the best candidate. In particuluar, if race or gender is used as a rough brush to filter out candidates before looking at the individual candidates this process may overlook all around better qualified candidates and we get indeed in the hot water of (potentially illegal) discrimination (see below).

So the first thing you should do is talk to the companies/departments that request candidates of certain demographics and clarify their underlying goals. Perhaps you can then add a few white males that would help them in achieving their goal too.

Now, given the current political climate, I'd consider it likely that at least a good portion will just answer that they want to increase their diversity, without having actually looked at any business benefit from that for the concrete position they are hiring for. Likely this is more due to the general goal of 'being more diverse'. They might feel that it has an inherent benefit in general or they might want to incorporate that in their PR measures. Perhaps their leadership (and perhaps good parts of their employees) just feel that this is a way to right a wrong in society as a whole.

I'd still argue to try and dig as deep as possible without becoming obnoxious in these cases. First to find out what kind of candidates they actually consider a diversity fit for them (what about a trans-person? what about a "hillbilly" in their totally progressive mono-universe^^). And second to make them think a bit about their own position and perhaps rethink it.

Especially in these case, if you feel some white males would otherwise be better qualified, you might want to advertise for them too and send a mail along the lines of "here are the candidates filtered by your criteria. Please note that we have some otherwise excellent candidates matching all criteria except 4.b (where 4.b is them not being of the target ethnicity).

Still, some will just blindly go for whatever they or their bosses consider diverse. Depending on how they do that and in which state you are in that might be illegal. You might want to clarify the legality by asking on law.stackexchange.com or by talking to a lawyer. In cases of obvious illegal practices, you could then also hint at the practice being illegal according to law so and so to them or anonymously report these practices. Though you'd need to be very careful in that regard. Even if in the end you might be right in court, you could loose your job. So I'd make sure first where the legal boundary is drawn and start playing it safe, not saying that a certain requirement from a company is illegal but just indicating the law and indicating that they might want to check with their own legal department whether that process is legal for them to apply. Depending on your boss and how strong you feel they are supporting such practices, you might want to get their backing for such cases first or try to keep this between you and the customer (the latter obviously has more risk if the boss would otherwise agree with you). For a rough guideline of what behaviour is legal, you might also checkout this link: https://www.kcsourcelink.com/blog/post/blog/2018/05/01/how-to-recruit-and-hire-for-diversity-legally#:~:text=Intentionally%20recruiting%20for%20diversity%20is,not%20to%20violate%20antidiscrimination%20laws (provided by @Joe W in a comment)

In the end, how much you need the job and how strongly you feel about such discriminative* behaviour only you can decide - and thus only you can decide how much weight you want to put into questioning the practice. You obviously always have the option to look for another job to not support this, but as you already know, that has it's personal drawbacks (i.e. one needs to find a job first or is without money^^).

* Is it discriminative (or even racist): While there are positions where ethnicity can be an indicator for a better fit due to the background, I'd wager for most cases in the US at the current time this is not the case and it is "just" about increasing diversity. I find it personally okay to pick a candidate for better cultural fit (after taking all the other qualifications into consideration). An ethnicity alone is not sufficient to a priori indicate that though. I also find it okay to try and counter-balance any subconscious bias by going for a minority by default if candidates are otherwise equally qualified. Whether they are equally qualified, however, is only known once the candidates have been evaluated individually. So if a company asks to filter out certain groups based on gender/sex and/or race before even looking at the candidates, I find there is no way around calling it discriminatory. In the first case where there is at least a business case to be made, I'd consider it a mild case, while the latter is not. However, in a case like this (as a measure to counter existing imbalances) it is not racist in the stricter sense that people associate one race with worse attributes (while still being racist in the wider sense as in "decision based solely/primarily on race"). It would still be discriminatory, morally wrong and potentially illegal depending on local legislation (but please clarify with a lawyer if you feel it falls into that category).

  • + 1 - Well reasoned answer that urges the OP to find out more about the underlying reason for these requirements and to actually have a conversation. Advising treating all with same screening criteria is great suggestion!
    – Anthony
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 23:31

This is difficult to answer as I understand where you are coming from and have seen it in places before.

One recommendation that I believe would solve your problem would be:

Reccomend pushing to not do in-person interviews if possible. Ask that all interviews should be conducted virtually over the phone without video. This forces all interviews to be judged on their resumes, and questions asked during the interview. No race, age, etc can be identified over the phone accurately so it forces everyone to at least lean more towards judging based on answers to questions.

I would also suggest building an interview template with your coworkers...so all candidates for a specific position get asked a set of 10 questions as it relates to the position. Interviewing for a linux/automation engineer...10 questions regarding linux/bash/python/etc., general tasks past few years, and technology as it relates to the job....each candidate gets asked roughly the same questions and all responses can be judged by the team together without knowing the underlying race/age/etc.

Hiring based on race/gender/preference/etc is illegal...regardless of the race/gender/preference/etc its aimed at.

  • A lot of people tend to try and judge race and gender by a person's name, regardless of how accurate it is. They will stereotype Mohammeds as being Muslim and Johns as being white. Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 9:18

I can't deny that I feel morally icky about leaving a qualified candidate in the candidacy pool because of what essentially comes down to their gender and skin color.

That is downright racism/sexism right there.

Now, I don't know your financial situation so I wouldn't necessarily advise you to leave/risk getting let go of. However if you do wish to bring it up without high risk of repercussions, I'd say talk to fellow HM/coworkers about it but only in 1-on-1 conversations. People tend to have a hard time being fair in discussing an unpopular opinion whilst among their peers.


If you have collected proof of racial discrimination, this is illegal, and if that ease your conciousness, well, of course you can whistleblow it.

In absence of material proof, your options, while keeping the job, are limited. You can apply various degrees of resistance to your management. Be aware that it can dangerous and ineffective, though.

Ultimately, you can also question yourself if you consider doing something harmful, and rationalize impact. Thinking the problem not only from the perspective of law and economics, but weighting it in human impact (good or bad) might strengthen your personal decision to care or not, to comply, or to leave.


I really need this job right now and don't want to be fired

So mind your own business and do your work.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 3:21

I recommend doing a bit of self-examination. Is it possible that your resistance is coming from unconscious bias?

When I recruited, I took the Harvard Implicit Bias tests to increase my self-awareness about my biases. You can learn more about that here:


Doing so helped me check myself when I determined certain candidates weren't qualified. Was it me or was it them? It's an important question for recruiters to ask themselves.

Finally, kudos to your executives for demanding diverse candidate pools from their recruiters. If that means recruiters have to work harder, then so be it.

If you can't find qualified, diverse candidates, what initiative can you and your firm take to develop them?


Don't be a hero.

Real life is not a Hollywood movie, all you can "accomplish" is to be fired. If you really feel strongly about this you can consider donating to political parties/causes that align with your beliefs (to ease your "guilt"), or try to find a similar job in another company that just happens to not have the same discriminatory policies as your own(without ever mentioning to anybody why you changed jobs).

As a corollary: ignore answers/comments here that say that described practice is illegal: in reality certain illegal stuff is never prosecuted.

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    This answer suggests actions that are worse than the described behavior. Low integrity, self-serving behaviors are the problem not the solution. Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 15:14
  • @JoelEtherton I am sure that when OP gets fired you and all the people who downvoted me will pay her mortgage and legal costs if she decides to sue her employer. /s Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 17:14
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    A terrible, terrible suggestion. If there is one blaring lesson that we should have learned from the 20th century, it's that societies are the sum of their individuals, and that the complacency, dishonesty or malice of individuals corrupts a society and brings about the kind of tyrannical governments we've seen. We seem to have completely wasted that learning opportunity. It's everyone's moral imperative to have integrity, be honest, and act according to their moral convictions.
    – Alexander
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 17:41
  • @NoSenseEtAl: There's a far cry from protecting your job than this intensely low ethics answer recommends. This exact attitude is one of the glaring problems in business. Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 18:59
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    -1 Turning a blind eye to injustice just makes things worse. Rise above rather than stooping down to what is wrong: rejecting candidates solely due to personal characteristics they cannot control (race , gender)
    – Anthony
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 0:47

Your clients decide who they want to hire. If someone is qualified for the position but doesn't fall into the class of people your client wants to hire, you should be free to tell them "I am very sorry; you were technically qualified for the position, but we have a policy of not hiring straight white males / black lesbian woman / whatever applies". If the company is not Ok with that, then it might be illegal.

I would suggest to classify candidates from 0 to 10, and you set the minimum level for hiring someone. Then you hire whoever has the best classification as long as they meet the minimum level. The only exception that you should make: If you have several people equally classified, and not enough jobs for all of them, offer jobs first to the ones that the client prefers. Another exception that you might make but probably not is that you accept candidates one level below your lowest requirement if they meet the preferences of the client. (And all that only if you want to improve the chances of people who are often discriminated against, not the other way round).

What is bad for the business, bad for morale, and pure discrimination, is if you leave a position open when a qualified candidate doesn't meet the client's preferences.

  • 1
    "If the company is not Ok with that, then it might be illegal" Not 'might be illegal', IS illegal. And there is a daft new redefining of racism/sexism going on that some people, but not the law, buy into. Meaning a HM might not see any problem with you telling them outright that it was down to their race/gender, as they won't see it as racism/sexism. Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 9:32
  • @520saysReinstateMonica Laws should be changed. There should absolutely be transparency on who a company is willing or not willing to hire so as not to waste anyone's time.
    – HenryM
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 13:34

It's a good thing you feel icky about it, as making hiring decisions based on race and sex is racism and sexism, and is just as illegal as if you were excluding Indian men, black women, etc.

There are people who will tell you that racism can only be done by white people against other races or sexism can only be done by men against women. This is a dangerous falsehood based on the theory that systemic racism/sexism is the only definition of racism/sexism.

This theory completely ignores the fact that systemic racism/sexism is born from and is fuelled by individual racism/sexism and is dangerous because it excuses individual racism/sexism from minority groups or against majority groups. This theory is also not recognised by courts of law or legal text, so using that definition for hiring purposes also puts you on the wrong end of a valid lawsuit for discriminatory hiring practices.

You may want to bring up the legal aspect to your bosses; if someone leaks these hiring practices and your company's complicity, and a white male unsuccessful candidate finds out they can sue the companies involved to oblivion and being on the wrong end of a discrimination court ruling is never a good look. Bringing it up from a legal advisory standpoint should not harm your reputation, as to most reasonable people it will look like you're trying to look out for the company. Even if your company is just the middleperson in all of this, they can still be sued. I would suggest to your bosses that advising HRs that screening people out due to race or gender is illegal.


What your company is doing, as others have said, is "probably" illegal. If they have a different hiring bar for people depending on their skin color and gender, that's pretty much textbook discrimination. However, advocacy in favor of "the majority" (straight white males) is epically frowned upon in tech in the USA these days; if you make a fuss publicly it's likely your career will summarily end on the spot: you'll be fired from your current job and your name will be dirt amongst the entire industry who know your name. So yeah, it sucks.

Now that we've done the negative, here are a few positives:

  1. You can quit your job and find another. "Hopefully", not all tech companies in the US are like this. You can probably find a company who acts more ethically. This is to make you feel better about your job.

  2. You can write an anonymous article or letter. There are lots of websites who host anonymous articles or articles under pseudonyms. You can contact non-left-wing news sources and report your story to them under condition of anonymity (although most news sources in the US are very heavily left-biased especially amongst those listened to by tech people, so your voice is likely to not be heard by those who matter). I presume you have an idea which news companies are on which side of this issue, so you can talk to the ones who you think will listen to your story and not brush you off. Be aware that if you write anonymously, your story may be treated as a "hit piece" rather than an "insider report" and people might not care; if you report to a news network as an "anonymous source" you are likely to be treated more seriously.

  3. If your company is big enough, you may be able to write to your local lawmakers and have them launch an investigation, or, if your local lawmakers are those who you believe tend to ignore this kind of thing, you can contact a lawmaker who is not likely to ignore this situation, in a jurisdiction which is not your own but in which your company does business. If the company is big enough and prestigious enough (e.g. Google, Amazon, Apple, MSoft, etc) those people may take action. You may also be able to ask for anonymity in order to keep your career safe.

  4. If nothing else makes you happy, at least know that companies who hire consultants tend to get what they pay for. If they are paying your company, who has a low standard for hiring (which is to say, they have a high standard for hiring white men but a low standard for hiring "diverse" candidates, and they tend to hire only "diverse" candidates who meet that lower bar), then they will get crappier developers than they would get if they went to another company. This type of information definitely gets around; if one CEO talks to another CEO and they say "I hired XXX company and their developers were garbage", the other CEO is not going to hire from XXX company. This word-of-mouth goes around, and it's possible your company already has a not-great reputation. Perhaps that makes you feel better, perhaps not.

  • ...or word gets around that the developers are so much better because they are diverse and the company makes so much more money because of good PR.
    – guest
    Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 7:51
  • 1
    @guest Except OP has said the developers are noticeably worse...did you even read the question?
    – Ertai87
    Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 14:31
  • Yes, I did read the question. I have not the impression from it (where exactly does OP so?) that the new developers are incapable of doing the job, only that the others are better. This is something what could be outweighted by the diverse experiences and the PR. (compare: a company highers a junior which is significantly worse than a senior but does not take so much money).
    – guest
    Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 14:56
  • 1
    @guest From the OP: "However, there have been instances where we've hired for diversity over qualifications - that is to say that the selected applicant was qualified, just less so than another applicant."
    – Ertai87
    Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 14:57
  • Ertai87: This is exactly my point (compare @KateGregory's answer): The selected applicant is still qualified. Less so than another, but they have other qualifications by being diverse which may or may not be better for the company.
    – guest
    Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 14:59

I have never worked for a company where anyone meaningfully checked the quality of the hires after they were hired. But having increased diversity looks good on the resume so that is what I did.

At my company the last time we had a diversity push I just chose less important positions and filled them with the first blacks we could find who applied and was otherwise barely reading the resume. Brought the company from 5% black to 10% black. It got me a nicer job.

Go find a lot of diversity hires and stuff them wherever you can. Whether the hires are any good is not your problem as you will be going to a new company with a raise with your successes.

  • 13
    and this is how people rise to their level of competence plus one ie the Peter Principle.
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 7:26
  • 1
    Sounds more like people start at their level of competence plus an unknown number.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 10:32
  • Hopefully all of the people upset with someone incompetent taking their job blame you for being too lazy to read resumes.
    – HenryM
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 13:31

So if I walk into a store and tell the clerk that I want to buy a book about gardening it's the clerk's job to feel "icky" that I'm not buying books about grilling steaks. Even tho that clerk doesn't know whether I already have 300 books about grilling and my own cattle farm. A lot of tech companies have a high percentage of white developers. If they want to add a few non-white it's really none of your business. You're just the clerk and here's a dollar.

On the other hand, if you are knowingly changing the qualification standard based on race that is totally wrong. A black/asian/whatever person worked hard to learn their skills. They don't want to have a stigma attached to them by clueless co-workers who assume they only have a job because of how they look. That's not just your fault if you're doing that tho. It's also the hiring managers who aren't properly screening candidates.

Ideally, a company's hiring strategy would be 100% public knowledge. Everybody should know if they're wasting their time applying for a particular job. "No blacks allowed (at this time)" or "No whites wanted (till Labor Day)" signs should be required by law.

I also find it hilarious that you/your company equates diversity with race when if I look up business management theories on diversity there's like a dozen different types of diversity that have nothing to do with race.

  • 7
    The first part seems like a weird out of place analogy. There is no law regarding what books you can buy (well there are but the analogy doesn't touch on that). There is no social issue closely related to that. And there is no "buying" practice that discriminates people in the book buying analogy or otherwise is morally questionable that OP would support if they were a book store clerk. That feels even more out of place as you then go on to say that it IS partly OP's fault when hiring practices are problematic so they should stick their nose in how the process works. Seems quite contradictory. Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 19:26
  • 1
    The analogy makes sense to me. He's trying to point out that you the question says nothing about the current demographics and assumes that white people are not fairly represented, rather than inquiring and seeking to understand.
    – Brandon
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 19:52
  • @FrankHopkins The second paragraph is about skills & experience as qualification which I spell out in the second sentence.
    – HenryM
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 1:07

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