It’s disappointing when you don’t get a job you had your heart set on. Often it’s about finding the right person for the open position. But if you have been passed over even when your skills, experience, and passion align perfectly with a job description, it’s worth considering if you may have experienced hiring discrimination.
Hiring discrimination is prejudice against a job applicant or employee because of their race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, or genetic information, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Applicants can experience discrimination right from the time they submit their resume, right to being denied a job after the entire interview process.
Hiring discrimination is prejudice against a job applicant or employee because of their race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, or genetic information
Minorities who remove identifiable information about their ethnicity – including “whitening” their name, were more than twice as likely to get a job interview, according to a Harvard Business School study. Another study found women were judged harshly for exhibiting the same behaviors as men in a job interview.
Unfortunately, hiring discrimination is hard to prove in a court of law, warns employment lawyer Nicole Gainey. “Although, statistically, discrimination against race and gender can be quite high,” she says.
5 Ways to Tell if You Were Affected By Hiring Discrimination
1. Assess the hiring process. “If something seems unusual, it probably is,” says Gainey. This includes not having a traditional hiring process. Indicators include if you were not asked to submit a resume or your interviewers did not ask about your job qualifications during an interview.
2. Check if you were asked illegal questions during an interview. Interview questions about your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or pregnancy are against the law. But sometimes you may get asked about these factors in sneaky ways like, “what year did you graduate?” or “is that a ring on your finger?” These questions may seem innocuous, but they are not.
3. Cross-check with other candidates from a protected class. One African American client of Gainey applied for a warehousing job with a number of friends who were all African American. None got the job and were able to cross-reference their experiences to show a pattern of hiring discrimination.
4. Check who got the job. In the digital age, it’s possible to find out who got the job. If their experience was less or equal to yours and they’re not from an underrepresented background, there could be bias in the hiring process.
5. Trust your instinct. Gainey adds that often a “gut-check” that tells you something was fishy in the hiring process can be a good indicator of foul play.
If you experienced two or more of the above scenarios, there’s a good chance you may have experienced hiring discrimination.
What to Do About It
1. Report it. File a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights or U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Keep an exact record of what happened; note who you sent your resume to, what the interview process was like, and any communication about not being offered the job.
“Filing a report helps establish record, especially if a business has been doing this to many candidates,” says Gainey. “Even if the complaint may not help you, but it will help others.”
Filing a report helps establish record, especially if a business has been doing this to many candidates,
2. Ask for feedback on your unsuccessful application. This can be helpful even when hiring discrimination wasn’t involved. But if you suspect you may have been discriminated against and the hiring manager doesn’t have a compelling reason for why you weren’t hired, it’s worth exploring if bias was involved in the decision. “At the very least, it may get the organization to explore their hiring practices,” adds Gainey.
3. Talk to others. If you’re able to contact current or former employees at an organization, find out if the environment is diverse or homogenous. If there is a compelling enough track record of hiring discrimination, you could engage a lawyer to discuss the situation. With enough evidence, a legal case could be lodged against the organization.
4. Talk with someone in the know. If an employee recommended you, then you should follow up with them to find out why your application was unsuccessful. Even if they weren’t part of the hiring committee, they could find out if unfair practices influenced the decision.
5. Write to the organization. Meet with a local fair work advocacy organization to help you draft a letter to the company about your experience, advises Gainey. These organizations can also help you better understand your rights, based on the type of discrimination you have experienced.
Everyone deserves to be assessed solely on their work experience, skills, and passion for any job they apply for. If you have experienced hiring discrimination, speak up. Doing so may help you and others like you too.
Ruchika Tulshyan is the author of ‘The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality In The Workplace.’ She is also the founder of inclusion strategy firm, Candour. Find out more about Ruchika at rtulshyan.com.