Wanted: Cultural Sensitivity

As a Recruiter, I spend many hours on company websites and see the promotion of diversity in the workplace and equal opportunity. “Minorities are encouraged to apply” and “Equal Opportunity Employer” are phrases that provide comfort to those still fighting for these universal truths.

However, as a company’s brand continues to become enlightened, there must be more discussion among employees and job applicants. Too often when presenting a position to an individual do I get “Well I’m not a member of the GLBTQ community, will I be accepted?” or “I think this position would be filled better by a professional that has the same ethnic background represented in the mission.” I almost stop in my tracks from these comments, and struggle in my responses which feel canned.

I do believe that a personal connection to a mission can make a candidate more viable, but those qualities alone does not make an individual more competitive. Further, not all connections are visible. HR employees and hiring managers also ask questions or make hints that make me want to have the EEOC on speed dial. At times I feel like I am treading in a sea of gray.

Our company staffs progressive nonprofits that promote equity for people with disabilities in the workplace, membership organizations that support minority students, and other missions that look to equalize the playing field. When conducting the initial discovery for a position, accommodations for those with special needs or questions about the best fit must be asked carefully and with knowledge of correct terminology and the legality of the recruitment process. Even a Recruiter with the best intentions could possibly offend a hiring manager with minimal words.

As HR Professionals, we are responsible to understand diversity and the positive impact it has on any office environment. A diverse team provides a unique lens that contributes to best practices in all fields. Companies may encourage and even pay for HR employees to become educated in employment law, diversity in the workplace, and how to deal with sensitive issues.

Understanding my own discomfort towards difficult or insensitive questions further demonstrates the need for this type of training. I brought this to the attention to my fellow staff members and supervisor during a recent meeting, and received the similar feedback and stories of insensitive applicants and hiring managers desiring a certain demographic, age, or background.

We unanimously agreed that there is a need for continued diversity education in our workplace in order to grow and assist organizations that need our help the most. As a team, we decided to create a presentation and present it at an upcoming company-wide training.

I am proud to recruit for those missions that promote change in the workplace and in our world as we know it. It is imperative that we continue to educate ourselves in order to be the best resource to these groups, and be the best advocates for the candidates or employees that we hire and represent.

I ask that readers share best practices for diversity training in their organizations as well as how to handle sensitive issues related to discrimination in the workplace.

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the author: Jessica Gross serves as the Lead Recruiter for a nonprofit staffing firm in Washington, DC where she performs full-cycle recruiting for entry level to C-level management roles. Jessica provides career counseling and job readiness assistance to individuals and nonprofits in the DC-area. Connect with Jessica on Twitter as Jessicas144 and on LinkedIn.

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