5 Things to Never Say or Do When Interviewing People of Color

There is a lot of bias in the hiring game – some of it unconscious. So as a guide to help you interview better here are some tips when interviewing people of color aka black and brown people.

Keeping in mind that the whole point of an interview is to determine if someone has the talent and character to be a good addition to your company. I believe that effective interviewers are the ones that make the interviewee comfortable and relaxed – not nervous and afraid.  And since you want the best out the person you are interviewing, it is in your best interview to make sure the environment is comfortable, and the conversation is natural. Unless you are one of those recruiters or hiring managers, who like to put the candidate on the defensive to see how they react under pressure. I call those a**holes. Don’t be an a**hole.

Shall we begin?

  1. The Name Game

“Can I call you (insert whatever lazy name you would prefer to use instead learning how to pronounce their real name) for short?”  People of color tend to have different names, unique names, names that sound familiar but are spelled differently. For some, this can be a problem. There are countless studies that show when candidates with different names change or whitewash their names, they get more interviews. That’s a shame and shouldn’t be the case but it because of so much racism, prejudice, and discrimination. You don’t want to be like that so, when interviewing a person of color with a different name, don’t ask if you can call them something for short, because they will say “sure” with resentment. If they have a shorter name or a preferred name, they will tell you immediately upon introduction. “Hi, I am Christopher, but you can call me Chris.”

  1. The Hair Situation

“I like your hair” and “Can I touch your hair.” Okay, people, many people of color have textured hair that can be styled in many different creative ways. Some of us have locks, dreadlocks, twists, braids, fades, waves, perms, naturals, cornrows, afros, and all things in-between. Don’t make a big deal out of the hair either – again it’s a comfort thing. Someone starring at your hair and being distracted by it does not make you feel confident in their ability to see your value as an employee. And for God’s sake please don’t ask can you touch their hair. It’s just all kinds of uncomfortable and unprofessional on your part.

  1. The Education Piece

“Oh, wow you graduated from that school! I’m impressed.” Don’t act like you are surprised that a person of color attended and graduated from whatever prestigious college that you just find unbelievable. This one hits home for me because I graduated from Ohio State and there have been a few instances when I told someone I attended and graduated from OSU that they looked at me like I had a penis growing out of my forehead. Yes, we are educated and have competed at very high levels. Stop being surprised and start asking relevant interview questions.

  1. The Relationship Status

“Oh, you’re married.” Listen, you are not supposed to ask about marital status and children, period but today asking about family is more acceptable.  Sometimes the candidate will even lead with it – so if you happen to wander into the family life situation and the person of color that you are interviewing says, “I am married with children” don’t act surprised. I feel like Black and Latinx Americans get this sort of surprised reaction the most when interviewing.

  1. The Fashion

“That’s a colorful/different outfit.” Look, I know that the best colors to wear during an interview are navy, tan/brown, and gray but the workforce is so much more colorful than that. So, if someone shows up wearing something outside of the traditional solid color pattern, don’t diss them! Men’s suits have patterns, shapes, and colors too now. Whatever the case, don’t call their outfit, “colorful” or “different”- you never know, it could be cultural by nature or they just wanted to wear something other than the same ole same. As long as they look nice leave the rest of it alone and focus on the interview questions