7

A couple of years ago, I interviewed for a job at a large corporation. During the interview, some interview panel members exchanged "high five" and would comment "that is the kind of experience we are looking for!" I thought the interview went very well until the end when I was asked to ask any questions to the panel.

Then, I said that I read from their annual report that the Board asked the CEO to address the issue of discrimination against women and minorities. I said something like "How is this being addressed?". For clarification, I am Black. The panel members looked at each other and seemed bothered by my question. Then, one senior member of the panel tried to answer the question.

Although the interview went well with comments panel members made, things did not seem to go well with the panel when I asked that question. For the next few weeks, HR told me that the director was going to contact me with an update, but I never heard from her or the company again.

I truly believe this was a pure discrimination issue, but I know many comapnies do not bother following up with their candidates. I thought I moved on, but this has bothered me a lot. Any advice about what I should have done or can do now will be appreciated.

  • so you very aggressively confronted them, more or less implying on the spot that if you didn't get the job it would be because of discrimination against you. That attitude alone would be enough reason to not hire you, whatever your skin colour, gender, or whatever. – jwenting Dec 5 '18 at 11:51
33

I don't believe that the interview is the time to ask questions like that for a couple reasons.

First off, it sounds like the people you asked were not in HR. Therefore they are unlikely to know the full details of what policies, if any, had been changed or put in place. In all honesty, they had likely received some sort of "training" that basically said, "This is what discrimination is, don't do it."

Second, the things that went on which led the board to ask the CEO to take a look at discrimination may have been limited to a few people that were fired. Point is the people you spoke with may not have had anything to do with it and you put them in the uncomfortable position of trying to explain it.

Third, whether you realize it or not, that question is loaded. Depending on what happened before they might be thinking, "Is this guy going to sue the company and/or me if there's something they don't like?" Self preservation kicks in at that moment and they'll continue looking for another candidate.

All of the above is pure conjecture. At the end of the day it could simply be that they interviewed a candidate after you that was stronger and went with them. Who knows.

17

Several points I want to make. First some interview panels make people feel they are going to get hired without intending to. I have been on interviews where I was sure they loved me only to not get the job and I have been on interviews where an offer was made when I felt they were not interested throughout the interview. So you can't base the final result solely on your impression of how the interview went. It is entirely possible they loved the next guy they interviewed even more or that they decided not to offer the job to anyone.

However, what they did sounds as if it could be discrimination. But if it is really what action would you want to take? Do you really want to work for people who are afraid to hire you because you asked a question? Do you really want to work for people of such low moral character that they care what color your skin is? What would your day-to-day work life be like if you sued them for discrimination and won?

I have faced blatant discrimination in my over 30 years in the workplace. I had one man flat out tell me he would under no circumstances hire a woman and he was interviewing me only because HR said he had to. That made me furious and upset, but after I calmed down I realized that I didn't want to work for him any more than he wanted to me to work for him. I have also worked for people who hated having a woman work for them and made it clear I was less than any man on the team. That is pretty unpleasant to deal with daily. Yes being female or Black or gay or Muslim or disabled or all sorts of other things could limit your job prospects and that truly is unfair. But life is unfair.

Some of us will push the envelope and sue to get those positions. I have known a few of them through the years and they were disliked at work and many people did nasty things to them and the daily grind for them must have been unpleasant at best. If you have the courage to deal with that, then go ahead and pursue a suit. We need people willing to do this. But it comes at a steep price in my experience. Me, I'd rather find someone who actually wants to hire me without having to force the issue.

I have also known a few people who cried discrimination every time they didn't get what they wanted. I suspect that your question made them feel as if you might be this kind of person (from what you wrote, I don't think that, but that type of question would tend to make an interview panel uneasy.). Not all choices of other people for positions or promotion are discrimination and thinking you are being discriminated against every time you don't get a job or a promotion is also career limiting. It is career limiting because you don't try to fix the actual thing that is holding you back. It is career limiting because people will talk about how you didn't want to be qualified but chose to sue instead. People won't recommend you, they won't tell you about upcoming opportunities.

Why am I saying all this? I guess because I want you to feel better about things. Sometimes it is best to just move on and not dwell on how they did you wrong. It sounds as if you are well-qualified. A better job will come along. With people you will be proud to work with because they won't care if you are Black or purple or pink with yellow polka-dots. In the long run, wouldn't that make you happier? Does staying angry and hurt at the rejection help you in any way?

16

I truly believe this was a pure discrimination issue, but I know many comapnies do not bother following up with their candidates. I thought I moved on, but this has bothered me a lot. Any advice about what I should have done or can do now will be appreciate

If you truly believe you were discriminated against, solely because of your race, then you have the right to file a lawsuit. Contact a lawyer first.

But reading this I only see "It seemed to go well, then it didn't." It appears that they knew your race when they exchanged high fives, yet soured only when you decided to challenge them on the issue of discrimination. I'm not sure this meets a legal definition of "pure discrimination issue" but then I'm not a lawyer, and I don't play one on television.

So an alternate explanation to "discrimination" is "dislike for someone who might prove to be high maintenance", although the most likely explanation is "they found a candidate they liked better".

Anyway, you have a right to ask anything you choose during an interview, but unless it was actually discrimination, interviewers also have a right to choose someone else.

If you can prove discrimination, and you want to go through the process, you can pursue legal options. Otherwise, you might just wish to conclude that you wouldn't have been happy there anyway, and move on. I assume that's what you actually did.

6

I suspect you made a bad tactical error when you asked the question. I believe you may have been automatically perceived as a "potential problem". You can take my advice or leave it, but I would never ask such a question again in an interview. Employers have a very difficult time finding the best people and have an easy time finding the wrong people. The slightest hint of a person possibly being a "problem employee" will send them running for cover.

Possibly alarming a potential employer while in an interview is never advisable. I realize why you would be concerned about this because I'm a white guy who believes discrimination definitely does exist. It exists in all its ugly forms. I've seen it firsthand.

  • Well, that's like going to a conference, and asking if there's a code of conduct and then people dis-inviting you. – grasshopper Feb 5 '15 at 12:42
  • 2
    @grasshopper We're dealing with reality...not idealism. – Inquisitive Feb 6 '15 at 1:11
  • 1
    Not really, the OP said the company admitted in some public document that they needed to take some steps to tackle discrimination and he followed up on that. If this was any other topic, for instance, "being a more green company", mentioning this question would have been a positive sign that he read about the company. – grasshopper Feb 6 '15 at 9:18
  • 2
    @grasshopper That's true grasshopper, however we're dealing with the human emotions of the company's interviewers. That makes the situation real and not ideal. The company interviewers probably have no idea what is on the mind of the company president with regard to discrimination. I'd be willing to bet that the company president was never even informed about the interviewees legitimate concerns about discrimination. It's likely that the company's annual report statement about discrimination was simply lip-service to appear concerned to the shareholders. I don't trust corporations. – Inquisitive Feb 6 '15 at 9:40
4

Corporations are quite sensitive about the perception that they are part of the discrimination issue - probably more sensitive about being perceived as discriminating than about the act of discrimination itself. The company might have had mixed success at best in attracting women and minorities, they are acutely aware that they are not being successful and you hit them in their sore spot when you popped that question. I believe that you triggered an adversarial situation when you asked that question. It's a rough thing to say, but all it took was a single question out of turn for you to go from hero to zero in their eyes.

Interviews are about the prospective employer's needs and requirements and about how you can help them meet their needs If you are going to ask a last question, ask what it is that those individuals who do extremely well in the position - what is it that they do that really matters to the company. If you don't ask the kind of questions that relate to the position being offered, then you are wasting your time and possibly worse. You would have been better off asking the question you asked as an employee of the firm rather than an interviewee to the firm.

3

We have lots of questions here where someone asks for advice how to ask things during a job interview. I think we had someone who is afraid of dogs asking how to politely inquire during a job interview if people bring their dogs to work. Usually during an interview you try to show yourself in the best way, and you surely avoid upsetting the interviewer if you want that job.

And what do you do? You ask how they address discrimination against women and minorities. In other words, you accuse them of discriminating. I bet that didn't go down well. It's the kind of question that people normally would ask if they had decided that the job is not for them. I can assure you that this kind of question has a good chance of costing you the interview, no matter what your skin colour is. Especially if the company or the interviewers don't do any discriminating, that kind of question will be very annoying to them.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.