20 Interview Questions I Wish I’d Been Able to Ask, Part 2
An alternate reality to help global majority people discover safe work spaces
Today I’m continuing the list of interview questions I wish I’d been able to ask. If you missed part 1, read it here, then go ahead and dive in.
11.Do you have an ERG for your employees of color?
I know of one case (actually, maybe more than one, now I come to think about it) where when a few Black employees gathered, their white colleagues saw them as a threat. Yet white colleagues could group together in large numbers without a single eyebrow being raised. Sanctioned space through an employee resource group is one signal that you recognize that Black and brown people face particular issues at work, which they need to be able to discuss in a safe space.
12. What is your true commitment to creating a sense of belonging for all employees?
Again, if it’s paper performativity, miss me with that. I’d like to hear about real action bringing about real change.
13. Am I going to get invited to the unofficial networking gatherings?
Everywhere that I have lived and worked, without exception, there have been exclusive gatherings for white colleagues or peers. Of course, they’re not presented that way. Sometimes you don’t hear about them till after or, if you do hear about them in advance, their importance is minimized so you don’t feel you have to attend. Only later do you find out how important they were to building relationships inside the company.
Related reading: Seen Yet Unseen: Working While Black
14. Can I bring my whole self to work?
It gets pretty exhausting to do the mental contortions necessary to make sure you don’t fall into any common Black stereotypes and don’t give people an excuse to discount you. There are whole parts of your life you don’t share for fear of being “that person”. It would be great to know you could just be yourself.
Related reading: Showing Up With Our Whole Selves
15. Will I be labeled as unprofessional, lazy, aggressive or any of the other common stereotypes about Black people?
Speaking of stereotypes, something a lot of global majority people experience is doing more than average but still being seen as not contributing enough. It’s insulting and emotionally draining, and we’d rather know up front so we can avoid your toxic workplace, thank you very much.
16. Is my hair going to be a problem for you?
I’ve talked about this a couple of times. Wearing my hair the way it grows on my head should not be an issue. Appearing with a new hairstyle should not be an issue, unless you’re going to compliment me and move on. We are beyond tired of people putting our hair on the discussion table. Just stop it. And read this, by Lisa Hurley: No, No, No, You Still Can’t Touch Our Hair.
17. Am I “too Black”? (or not Black enough)
Need I say more? I’ve told the story before of the interview I attended where one of the panel wondered why I hadn’t applied to work on a “Black newspaper”. Later, in that same workplace, someone commented that she was disappointed that my name wasn’t “more ethnic”. Honestly, truth IS stranger than fiction.
Related reading: Is Blackness a Gated Community?
18. Will I be paid the same as white colleagues at the same level, or less?
I remember getting a promotion and my manager making a case for me not to get the full salary increase right away. This happens to global majority people all the time, and it would be nice to know up front so I can avoid that work environment. Related to that, a colleague recently shared this article on location agnostic pay at Wildbit. I love this idea, because paying people less because of where they happen to live is discriminatory.
19.Do I have the right to roll in late and leave early as long as my work gets done, the same as my white colleagues?
Ha ha ha ha ha! I don’t even know why I’m asking this question, because I already know the answer is no! Again, this has happened to people I know, who have watched those same people who have less commitment and experience easily rise up the ranks, despite spending most of their day on Facebook.
Related reading: Surprise, I’m Qualified (Working While Black)
20. Will you understand that when Black people get shot I’m going to need some time, and how will you support me in that situation?
When injustice happens to one Black person, many Black people feel it, because they know it could happen to them. And they know it has been happening for centuries and keeps happening, so forgive us if we feel emotionally drained, angry or sad. That’s not the time to ask us for the quarterly figures, or why a presentation is late. Have some empathy at least, and create space for people to process.
Related reading: Do Black Lives Really Matter?
This is just scratching the surface, but these questions are based on real experiences people go through. I’m sure there are many others - If you’re a global majority person, feel free to add yours below.
Thanks for reading,
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.