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Yes, You’re Right. Hiring in Tech is Biased.
Here are a few ways to improve your odds
He’s worked for some of the biggest tech companies in the world (Google, Facebook, Salesforce and Amex, to name just a few), and now he’s focused on helping people who are underrepresented, underestimated, and underpaid get jobs in tech. As he says, it’s not a pipeline problem.
I thought it would be useful to get his insight into how the hiring process in tech leaves many Black and Brown people, and people from underrepresented groups, out in the cold, and to learn some ways to even the odds.
The First Hurdle: Missing The Ideal Application Window
The first hurdle comes when the jobs are posted. Companies close down their search within the first couple of weeks by which time they have about 500 applicants. And these tend overwhelmingly to come from people who are keeping tabs on the job boards, and have their resumes already created and ready to go.
Solution: Stay Ready
The answer to this is to have your resume ready, and keep tabs on the companies’ own job boards. If you wait till roles appear on Monster or Indeed, you may already be too late.
The Second Hurdle: Imposter Syndrome
A large part of that application pool is people who feel comfortable applying even if they don’t match all the criteria. Most Black people, especially women, aren’t in that category.
Solution: Apply Anyway
“There's a lot of research out there that women and people of color typically suffer through imposter syndrome. Men have no problem applying for a job with three out of the eight things that they can do. I can speak from experience. I have applied, I've interviewed, and I have landed jobs that I had no reason to have been hired for,” says Alan.
There’s no getting around the bias, but if you don’t apply, you don’t have a chance, so apply anyway.
The Third Hurdle: Lack of Referrals
Alan points out that that employee referrals are hugely important in getting applications considered. But there again, Black people and people of color face a problem, he says:
“If you look at these tech companies, 4% of employees are Black, and though I haven’t looked at the mix of referrals, my hunch is that they are also in that range. The referrals are highly skewed towards people that are like the people that are already in the organization. So you get a disproportionately high amount of privileged individuals that are connected to people in these tech companies, putting them in as a referral. And those potentially go to the top of the pile.”
Solution: Build Your Referral Network
There are ways around this, Alan says: “You have to try harder, and that’s a bummer, but you can take proactive control”.
First of all, he says, LinkedIn is a great resource for finding people like you in the roles you want to apply for, and reaching out to them to ask for advice. Basically you’re building relationships with people like the people you want to be in the companies you want to work at. And there are always people who will help you navigate the process, tell you who the hiring manager is, and so on.
That also helps when roles come up in those companies, because you might get a referral.
You also have to have a specific goal, as well as a backup plan. Some suggest making a list of 40 companies, and checking them out. Correlate Glassdoor info with info from people who work there posting about the company and informational interviews with your contacts, to get a good feel for what the companies are like and what you should be thinking about as you apply. All of this happens before you even get to the application stage.
Potential Pitfall: Lowballing Your Compensation Expectations
Aside from skill set and location, one of the areas recruiters look at is compensation. There again, historic inequities in pay (Black women would have had to work an extra 214 days in 2021 to catch up to what white men made in 2020) can result in your ejection from the process. If Black people are getting paid less, and use their pay as an anchor when requesting compensation, then recruiters may take them less seriously.
Solution: Turn It Around
The answer, says Alan, is to recognize that in many cases companies aren’t allowed to ask for your compensation (check your local laws) so you don’t have to reveal it. Instead, he advises:
“Put it back on them, saying, ‘Hey, I just want to get paid fairly for what this role deserves’. ‘I want to get paid commissions commensurate with the impact that I'm delivering.’ ‘I want to get paid market rate’, or something like that.”
Often, that lets you get information from the recruiter that helps with your salary negotiations.
Final Tip: Practice Your Interview Skills
If you want to get hired, you have to nail the interview. If you’ve managed to get hold of your insider, you might have information on the kind of questions your ideal company will ask. Even if you don’t, you can look at the job description, write down the questions you think they’ll ask and practice, practice, practice. Here’s Alan’s advice:
“Create those lists of questions. Give them to a friend, have them interview you on Zoom, and record it. Better than that, have someone that has actually interviewed a lot of people before, and has hired a lot of people before, do that same thing and record those interviews.” Once you’ve done that, get that person to give you feedback so you can see where you need to improve.
Another option, if you haven’t interviewed in a while, is to interview for roles at other companies besides your main target, just to get the practice. That way you’ll feel more confident about your ability to handle the interview when your dream job is up for grabs.
Thanks for reading,
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2022. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Getty Images. Image credit: Klaus Vedfelt