519.420.8447    laura@laurahartnell.ca 

Unconscious Bias & the Clever Job Seeker

 When I meet with my clients, we go over research methods for targeting companies of interest and then locating the appropriate people to cold contact. Typically, this involves the advanced search functions of LinkedIn, among other tools.


A search of the targeted company on LinkedIn will usually reveal a company profile along with a link to view all employees. This can be very useful for identifying people in your prospective department, and determining who has hiring authority. As it turns out, it’s also a great way to discover how diverse the workforce is.


After coaching one of my client’s on how to strategize his job search, I was surprised by another step he had added to the process.


When determining which companies to apply to, my client first conducted a scan of the existing employees. If his results yielded a primarily Caucasian workforce, he assumed that his application efforts would be wasted since he did not “fit in” with the existing staff. It saddened me to hear him say this, but his concern was valid. He wasn’t naïve, and he wasn’t going to let unconscious bias ruin his career path.


He had desirable qualifications and experience, and was smart, personable, and ambitious as hell! I KNEW he was going to make a fantastic contribution wherever he ended up, but it’s unsettling that his choices would be cut short due to a company’s limited comfort zone.


Although we are most comfortable around people that remind us of ourselves, the affinity bias can result in a workforce with stagnant growth. There is so much talk about “culture fit” when it comes to selecting the right candidate. In a way, my client was turning this on its head. He wanted the right culture fit. He wanted to work for a company that valued diversity.


Companies that are not aware of their gravitation to “sameness” are missing out on talented hires! Job seekers are savvy, leveraging social media to size up a company’s values, and then weed out the ones that discriminate. So…if you haven’t addressed your biases in race, gender, religion, age, weight, and disability, I suggest you do so immediately.


P.S. In case you were wondering, the above-mentioned client earned an awesome job with a leading-edge company that values diversity, and he’s currently kicking butt!

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