As a hispanic woman in the technology industry, I have constantly been faced with the idea that maybe the only reason I have gotten this far in my career is because of my “double minority” status. I have been hurt by others’ disbelief in my merit as an engineer over and over again, but perhaps the most hurtful instances of this stemmed from the recruiting process validating these beliefs. In writing about this I want to call out personal anecdotes from my 3 years going through recruiting cycles at least twice a year with a wide variety of companies. I will be pointing out what works for me as a candidate, and how some actions coming from recruiting impact diverse candidates in their job search and beyond.
Job hunting / Applying
For the Candidate:
Apply for everything, especially those positions designed for diverse candidates. Someone really close to me once told me that companies who have postings encouraging underrepresented minorities to apply is racist, sexist, etc. At the time I believed that, and it made me feel incredibly guilty about being part of the Pinterest Engage program after my first year of school. I have since learned that if a company wants to help build confidence on candidates coming from a minority background that is wonderful and it is very encouraging when a company invites candidates to apply that historically have not felt very welcome in the industry.
Make sure to make your job postings visible to underrepresented communities, seek out people from these communities by sponsoring their events, and consider going out of your usual target schools. There is a growing number of talented diverse candidates interested in the industry, but companies must go out of their way to identify them. In my experience within my community, most potential candidates I know never apply because they don’t know the opportunities are out there in the first place and they don’t know what to look for.
For the Candidate:
As a candidate it is essential to establish good communication with your recruiter very early on, that way if you believe that the position they are suggesting is not a good fit for you then you can voice that concern and explain why you believe so. Don’t settle.
For the Recruiter:
My biggest issue with the approach some recruiters take in relation to putting diverse candidates in the pipeline, is when a recruiter insists on placing a diverse candidate with previous intern experience in an intro-to-technology-type diversity internship program. This is extremely frustrating to me for a few reasons:
- These programs are meant to make room for diverse candidates who actually need that type of introductory experience to technology.
- These programs tend to pay significantly less which can leave a really bad taste in a candidate’s mouth considering someone with the same amount of experience could be part of the standard intern program if they are not a minority.
- The workload and expectations for a program like this one are usually lower than those of a regular intern, so for someone who has done intern work before the pace can be unsatisfactory leading to an overall wrong impression of the company, and also limiting the candidate’s ability to learn and grow.
This is not to say you cannot suggest it to them if you truly believe this would be the best fit for the candidate, but it is important to be mindful of these possible effects.
For the Candidate:
Prepare, prepare, prepare! There is no way around this. I have never done well at an interview I haven’t prepared for. If you are demanding equality, fairness, and transparency in the recruiting process, then don’t ever expect the company’s standards to change for you. As a side note don’t be afraid to call out if you feel like there is a language barrier in an interview, it will make the interview more pleasant for everyone involved if you find ways to effectively communicate and understand each other (especially over the phone!).
For the Recruiters:
One of the most defeating and imposter syndrome inducing experiences I have had was finding out from my peers that their technical interviews for the same company and position, both of us having roughly the same level of experience, were significantly harder than mine. I had my suspicions that getting an internship offer after one very basic string manipulation question was not standard for this prestigious company, but it was also my first job offer ever, so I didn’t know any better. However, as I started listening to my white male peers talk about their experience with this company’s recruiting process and how hard their set of multiple interviews were I was sure of what had happened, this company had decided to significantly lower the bar for me.
I turned the offer down and didn’t push the issue any further, mainly because I was humiliated by the experience. My very first offer all of the sudden felt like a sham, and by extension I as an engineer felt like a failure. It was like all those interactions I have had up to that point in my career with peers telling me that the only reason why I get interviews and offers is because I checked all the right boxes on the diversity grid.
From this experience I learned that bias in recruiting is very harmful even if from the recruiting standpoint it might seem as if it is justified in trying to help a candidate out. Having a consistent experience for all people applying for the same position with similar qualifications is very important to not only preserve fairness but also to prevent situations where you could inadvertently be hurting a candidate’s confidence.
The offer / Negotiation
For the Candidate:
I have never been afraid of negotiation, which I think has to do with the fact that my mother is the fiercest negotiator I know, but this is statistically not true for most women. My strategy for negotiation starts from very early in the process, and a key part of it is building a solid relationship with my recruiters that includes an open dialogue about expectations. By building this relationship with my recruiters it is easy for them to understand my background, wants, and needs before an offer is even on the table.
For the Recruiters:
The best recruiters I have come across are those who have taken notes on the specific details of my case (things I have expressed an interest in, immigration needs, etc.) and then they made sure to bring these up during important conversations, which made me more comfortable when asking for the things I need in an offer, since my demands are not new so I don’t feel like I am asking for too much all at once.
Over my three years of interviewing and being an intern I have collected some invaluable lessons that I hope other people can learn from, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that recruiting interactions are probably the first impression a candidate will get from the company, and at the intern level it will probably form a big part of their first impression of the technology industry as a whole. For this reason it is critical to have conversations about experiences we have had in recruiting, what went well, what could have been better, and why. Remember we don’t get a second chance at a first impression, and for many students like myself, these interactions can mark the difference between pursuing a career in tech, or leaving the industry altogether.
– Allison Suarez Miranda, RTC Fellow, Rising Senior at Rochester Institute of Technology