Thursday, May 10, 2007


I wonder if there is "social" discrimination in the job market. Do HR leaders make hires based on the way you speak, where you live, or where you were educated? And at what levels are this kind of selection most likely to be prevalent? At a recent career fair that saw the participation of a large number of organizations, i could not help but wonder, how different people make their hiring decisions.

I feel that social discrimination is very often disguised as businesses attempt to find the "right cultural fit". This process in my opinion includes hiring candidates of specific socio-economic status by recruiting people from a certain area.

Though it is mostly illegal to discriminate on the basis of social origin, it is difficult to prove that no social discrimination takes place during the application and selection process.

A good recruiter then, becomes aware of this biases, and will actively refuse to recruit people based on social demographics. Reality of hiring, i think, is far from that.

Social discrimination is explained in psychology in terms of perceptions and stereotypes. These really are snap judgments based on pre-conceived ideas which may or may not be accurate.

Though the attributes of top performers are numerous, no research points to factors such as where you grew up, the school you went to, or whether you speak the kind of English that is befitting of….. Sadly however, there is an unspoken barrier built by the folks hiring, that is still present ... This is particularly in law, finance, and consulting.

Research shows however, that social discrimination becomes less prevalent in senior positions, because by that time, employers are hiring on proven capabilities or existing networks.

So, do recruiters or the strategies they employ discriminate based on sex, and age? The answer, at least on an implicit level, is: yes, they do. While mature candidates are seen as outdated or set in their ways, there is some truth to the saying that “sex sells”. In the work place, it helps being in the fairer sex if you wanted something done. At the career fair, i quickly realized that women tend to have longer interviews as compared to men. I don’t mean to interpret the difference in lenth of interview in terms of the quality it represents. But, really, why should there be a difference in the first place?

In terms of the age, mature candidates should ideally be a valuable resource to organizations. Though, there are other challenges such as an older employee feeling isolated in an office of younger colleagues, organizations tend to favor younger employees.

So when can one rightfully feel discriminated against?

I think the reasoning to this answer will be found in a scenario when a person has gone through the process and agreed to whatever's been described to them but feel they're not getting an honest answer when they're trying to find out why they weren't successful in the first place.

The answer to the question on another level could be overly philosophical and less practical. However, it is an questions to which i have no answer.

Happy weekend everyone!

No comments: