20 Interview Questions I Wish I’d Been Able to Ask, Part 1
An alternate reality to help global majority people discover safe work spaces
Going through the job interview process can be stressful for global majority people, especially when there are multiple interview rounds and not a face that looks like yours at any of them.
In addition to the normal stress that every interviewee goes through, you’re likely to face the double-take as you walk through the door (maybe less so now that prospective employers can find you on LinkedIn, but it still isn’t gone).
And there could be an unusual level of questioning about your birth, nationality, qualifications and right to be there. (I’m not making this up; it’s happened to me more than once, and I know it’s happened to others, too including President Obama).
Even if you get the job, there’s no guarantee it will be a safe space for you to work.
But what if you could use the interview process to find out what you really need to know as a global majority person? You might not get the job, but you’d be a whole lot clearer about whether it was the right workplace for you.
I know this will probably never happen, but here are some of the questions I wish I’d asked. (This is part one of a two part series.)
1. Why aren’t there any people who look like me on the interview panel?
Almost every Black or brown person I know has walked into an interview room and seen a sea of white faces staring back at them. It can be overwhelming, especially if you get the double take at the start that lets you know you don’t fit in.
Related reading: The Double Take
2. Why is this the right place for me to work?
Most people can relate to taking jobs and finding out that the environment they presented is not the environment that exists. That goes double for global majority people who can easily find themselves in spaces where they are not valued or appreciated.
3. What are you doing to make it a safe space for people who look like me?
Here, I’d really like to know about your company’s anti-racism policy and how it’s enforced. If you have one, that’s already a plus, but if it’s just words on paper, then this is probably not a good place for me to be.
Related reading: Oh, The Gaslighting
4. How many people that look like me work here?
Being the sole Black employee can be lonely and isolating. It would be good to know there are a few more global majority people around so we can be ourselves at some point in the day. That said, don’t try to gaslight me by falsifying your numbers.
Related reading: The Loneliness of the Sole Black Employee
5. Am I going to be able to get in the door of the building without being stopped every single time?
Sometimes that feeling that you don’t belong starts before you get into work, when the security guard appears not to recognize or trust you, and takes extra time ensuring you’re not a threat.
6. What’s your policy on microaggressions?
I want to know if you have a policy, and if you’re going to enforce it. If you’re going to suggest that I can’t take a joke, or focus on the intention rather than the impact, then it might not be the right place for me to work.
Related reading: Paper Cuts Still Make You Bleed
7. Are the people who will be managing me actually better qualified than me or do they just look the part?
Black people in the office are often affected by credentialism - the need to be super-qualified for every role and have the paper to prove it. That doesn’t always happen with white colleagues, and I’d love to know up front if it’s that kind of workplace.
Related reading: Why Black Women Prioritize Education
8. What are my real chances of promotion?
I’d love to know if I’m going to be stuck at the level I came in on or whether there’s real room for advancement. Many Black and brown people change jobs regularly, because it’s the only way to advance in their careers. Meanwhile, less qualified people who don’t look like us seem to get promoted more easily, in spite of our excellent work.
Related reading: Warping Into White Spaces
9. Do you have a mentoring and promotion scheme in place for global majority people?
Rebecca Stevens Alder wrote about the importance of mentoring. Global majority people often find themselves out of the loop when it comes to that. Again, it hurts their chances to progress within a company. I’d love to know how your company plans to address that.
10. How many global majority people are in upper and middle management?
One mark of a company that takes diversity seriously is what its management teams look like. You’d better believe we check those pages on your website. Companies with no global majority people at top levels, or only one, get side-eye. (Even one is not enough, because that one person may not have the clout to fight a discriminatory culture.)
That’s the first 10 questions - have you experienced or noticed any of these situations? Look out for part 2 of this short series on Monday.
Thanks for reading,
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.