Hiring Minority Workers

The United States Office of Employment predicts that 29 percent of the U.S. labor force will be comprised of minorities by 2008. More importantly, it estimates that from 1998 to 2008 some 41 percent of the people entering the U.S. workforce will be minorities.

Human resource directors and managers are constantly asking question when the answer is literally under their noses, “You never really looked.”

Why do so few minority applicants apply for high-level jobs? Simple, they didn’t know about the opening. You can't just place jobs in the mainstream media and expect multicultural people to see them. Most minorities read the ethnic media because it better addresses issues of concern to them. If members of one group are not large enough to have their own newspaper or radio station they often read or listen to media for other minorities because they know there’s at least a basic level of sensitivity to culture.

There are no excuses because there are employment agencies that specialize in locating qualified executives of color. There are web portal for each of the major ethnic groups in the country. There are usually people within your own organization who can recommend appropriate candidates. Don’t forget that many minority groups are highly social and you can often reach prospective workers through church groups and social organizations.

However, even if a few minority candidates do express an interest they are usually screened out early by culturally-insensitive hiring processes. For example, many companies paper screen resumes as a first “cut” in hiring. Some cultural groups do not write very descriptive resumes because their culture encourages humility about one’s accomplishments. It would be fairer to applicants from these groups to ask candidates to answer written questions that might include problem-solving scenarios.

Studies show that 30% of people prefer learning kinesthetically where hands-on experience helps make the learning stick. Some 20% are visual/verbal learners who learn best when information is presented in a written language format such as that which is found on the Internet. Another 20% are visual/nonverbal learners who learn best when information is presented in a graphical format such as charts and graphs.

What does culture have to do with learning style? Over one-third of the average applicant pool is composed of people from diverse cultures. Hispanics tend to be highly kinesthetic. Studies show that, “They tend to prefer hands-on learning such as structured group exercises and the use of drawings as opposed to listening or reading”.1 Asians tend to be much more visual than verbal because the Asian language is based on pictures. They tend not to perform well when the primary mode of instruction is verbal2. Anyone who has spoken in Asia knows that speakers have to change to a much more visual mode of presentation when presenting in this part of the world.

The next step is often a telephone interview. This can put cultures who are not verbal communicators at a disadvantage. For instance, studies show that Asians are much more visual than verbal and Hispanics are more kinesthetic. Hiring committees need to keep this in mind in general and have a multimodal interview process that assesses all four types of communicators fairly.

Obviously, face-to-face interviews put people who aren’t very verbal at a distinct disadvantage. Many companies have developed other means of secondary screenings such writing essays, demonstrating a specific skill and other tests. A full range of challenges will give you a much better sense about the total capabilities of a potential employee.

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