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By Dominique Calixte, Associate Director of Annual Giving and Special Events, YW Boston

… there is an advantage baked into the interview and hiring process, favoring non-BIPOC folx.

Whether you are an emerging professional or a seasoned one in the field, job interviews can take you through a series of emotions. A job interview can often feel extremely judgemental, which can lead to an incredible amount of pressure for some.

When alerted of an incoming job interview, while some folx may feel instant excitement over being one step closer to the job, others can feel anxious.

To ease these feelings of anxiety, many of us rely on research. Cue the endless Google searches on “how to prepare for an interview” and “how to make a good first impression at an interview.” The more detailed of these searches can go as far as including industry-related keywords, which will generate listicles, articles, and so much more to support folx on their journey through the hiring process.

While the list and articles from these searches do a fine job at acknowledging that job interviews are just a step of a hiring process — and that the entire process includes planning, recruitment, and finally, selection — what these articles don’t often convey is that with each step of the process, there is an opportunity for conscious and unconscious bias rooted in racism and white supremacy.

Because this is often left out of the more widely circulated articles, there is an advantage baked into the interview and hiring process, favoring non-BIPOC folx. Because white folx get their anxiety and needs to be addressed in these articles, they have a leg up regarding interview prep.

To those of you writing these career-oriented listicles:

I’m also pretty sure that our fellow job-seekers, the Chads and Billys of the world, are not worried about what they are doing with their hair for their upcoming interview.

Your widely circulated articles are riddled with generic advice purportedly aimed at guide folx through the hiring process. Including such a general focus on job interview prep, one centered on the prescriptive action and steps needed in preparation for an interview, steps that include such things like “do your research,” “practice interview questions,” and “know your interview outfit” don’t at all address microaggressions, systemic racism, and the various forms that discrimination can take.

Thus, because of failure to acknowledge and address the conscious and unconscious biases riddled through the hiring process, BIPOCs are left with doing additional steps (which are unwritten) when it comes time to prepare for a job interview.

Listicle writers, not only do your general articles put the onus on BIPOCs, but they also continue to perpetuate hiring practices that are rooted in racial inequities and are often very gendered. Many of your tips focus on very surface-level superficial attributes that don’t actually reflect a candidate’s performance when they are actually on the job. (Last time I checked, the way I wear my hair doesn’t aid or hinder my ability to complete a task.)

I’m also pretty sure that our fellow job-seekers, the Chads and Billys of the world, are not worried about what they are doing with their hair for their upcoming interview.

Nonprofits, you are part of the problem, too

Often, the tips and hiring best practices I previously referenced are associated with the for-profit sector. Because of that, many assume that, since the nonprofit sector is well-intended, we are impervious to perpetuating practices that can be traumatic for BIPOC applicants.

I’m here to tell you nonprofit organizations that you are not impervious. After all, the common best practices for ‘effective’ nonprofit hiring, the practices that evaluate interviewees, aim to hire for the ‘best fit,’ which can be exclusionary and create a toxic work environment rooted in bias. Starting from a point of exclusion and bias sets the hire, especially BIPOC hires, up for failure.

Nonprofits, as you are hiring, I suggest:

  • Focusing on what can be added as opposed to what ‘fits’. Looking too much at fit shifts the focus from objective things like skill and ability to subjective things that are vague, problematic, and doesn’t allow for innovation and new ideas. Having clear processes that eliminate bias and creates a fair environment for candidates to be evaluated. It gives each of your candidates the opportunity to discuss their interests and motivations while giving hiring managers the same information to make their decisions.
  • Understanding that you are under evaluation too. Many interviewers create a power dynamic for the candidate that does not welcome a true evaluation of the organization by the candidate. It is important, both for your organization’s mission and the candidate’s wellbeing, to allow for both sides to be properly evaluated.
  • Leaving room for people to be themselves. Current structures and processes that are in place for most interview processes only enforce various -isms (racism, sexism, ableism, etc.). And these -isms can create a traumatic and toxic experience for all potential employees, but especially for those who are BIPOC.

To the interviewee — here are some words for you!

To my fellow BIPOC professionals, I know navigating the hiring process is tiring. Through each step of the process, you must navigate through respectability politics, imposter syndrome, and the biases of everyone you interact with during the job search. This is a burden you carry on top of the typical interview worries, like making a lasting first impression.

At this point I have been through my fair share of hiring and interview processes, and here are some of the most poignant advice I’ve received from other BIPOCs in the space as well as conclusions I have come to realize through my own experiences.

DO

  • Come with your own ‘Chad’ and ‘Billy’ energy. It’s no secret that white men tend to navigate the hiring process with an extreme sense of confidence. Our friends Chad and Billy are the types to apply to a job knowing they don’t fully meet the qualifications — yet they will still walk into the job interview with their heads held high. It’s now the time for you to match that energy. Confidence leaves a lasting impression
  • Be your most authentic self. Code-switching is draining, and you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you can never be your most genuine self. Honestly, if the folx at this new job can’t appreciate your authenticity, they really don’t deserve you!
  • Ask all the questions. Remember, job interviews are just as much a test for them as it is for you. Ask those hard questions and make sure you address all the things that are important to you.
  • Finally, advocate for yourself! By advocating for yourself and demanding the things you need, you are making sure there is a system set up with you in mind. For far too long, BIPOCs have been forced into white-led and white-centered systems that exclude them and keep the power within the systems. Failing to advocate for yourself continues to leave you out of the systems and allows the organization to skate by while you suffer.

DON’T

  • Let organizations off the hook. I’m going to repeat one of my previous tips here: Ask all the questions. Make sure you get the answers you need — and have a plan for follow-up on things that weren’t addressed during your interview time. You should know exactly what you are getting into, with every new opportunity.
  • Go at this alone. Talk to your mentors, peers, and sponsors. Everyone has been through the job interview process and can help you reflect and prepare for the experience. And most importantly, they can help you evaluate throughout the entire process — so that you can make an informed decision.

Now, the key thing about going through the hiring process is the shared end goal. Both the organization and the individual interviewing want to be able to have a collaborative and communicative conversation so that both parties feel well informed. Additionally, conversation rooted in collaboration and effective communication should create an opportunity for the relationship to start from a place and inclusion, which is ideal for all candidates.

To future hiring managers and interviewees out there, I wish you the best of luck. To the listicle writers, stop being so vague with your advice.

Dominique Calixte

Dominique Calixte

Dominique Calixte (she/her) is a fundraising professional and has worked in the nonprofit fundraising space for six years. In her career, she has supported nonprofits in building revenue streams, implementing systems, and inclusive fundraising practices. She also focuses on activating millennials as change-makers through philanthropy, donor engagement strategies, and effective DEI practices in the fundraising space. Dominique currently serves as the Associate Director of Annual Giving and Special Events at the YW Boston. Outside of her work commitments, she runs a nonprofit Instagram blog called DomProfit. DomProfit aims to be your plug to the nonprofit sector — be sure to give the page a follow for more.

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