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Pet Sins October 2008

White man would rather flunk interview than work with black supervisor and coworkers of color?

Usually, when we hear of racial discrimination during/after job interviews, it is about interviewers discriminating against interviewees, that is, the hiring party is discriminating against the people who are looking for a job. But I heard of one story of the reverse occuring - a white interviewee discriminating against job interviewers of color - the person who is looking for a job is discriminating against the people who are hiring.

One of my friends is a man of African descent. He was a manager in a large company. At that time, most of his subordinates were people of Asian descent. Their unit had a contract opening, so my friend arranged for a temp agency to send job candidates. The candidates would be interviewed by my friend's subordinates before being interviewed by him. My friend encountered a white male candidate who had a very poor interview attitude - the man was giving off a lot of negative energy and acted like he did not want the job at all, which is odd. If he did not want the job, then why did he interview in the first place?

After the interview, my friend decided he did not want to hire the man who was clearly not interested in the job. After he made his decision, the two or three Asian subordinates who interviewed that white male before he did expressed their personal observations on the white man. (They had earlier only conveyed their professional assessment of the interviewee's performance.)

My friend found that the white man had not just treated him, but also his Asian subordinates, with scorn. After the first Asian interviewer had finished interviewing the white candidate, the white man asked him, "If I accept this job, will I have to work with you?"

The Asian interviewer was taken aback by such a question. It did not seem a very professional question for an interviewee to ask. He was not impressed by the white man's demeanor and attitude during the interview either. But the interviewer did not want to bias his colleagues who would also be interviewing this candidate, so all he told the next interviewer was that the man successfully answered the interview questions, and that he appeared qualified.

The next interviewer was an Asian woman. She told my friend, her manager, that the white man did not make much effort to answer her questions at all. When my friend finally interviewed that man, he decided not to hire him because the man was half-hearted when it came to answering the interview questions and he did not seem excited about the job. It was only after my friend made known his decision to his subordinates that he would not be hiring this candidate that his subordinates also shared with him their common perception that the white man's attitude was very disrespectful.

We don't know for sure what was going through the white man's head, but it is quite possible that when it became apparent to him that virtually everyone in that unit - from the manager down to the employees that were senior to him should he accept that job - were people of color, he decided he did not want that job and purposely flunked the interview.

Obviously, the white man must have been interested in that job if he were to show up for that interview. Since the first interviewer said the white male answered the questions successfully, he must have been making some effort to get the job at that point in time. But by the time he got to the second interviewer, who was also a person of color, he might have gotten an idea about the demographics of this work environment and decided he was not interested. My friend and his subordinates all expressed a poor personal impression of this white man after the interview.

Now my friend is a very kind and forgiving person. Although he has endured some unfair treatment from superiors at work, he has never claimed 'discrimination' without cause, and even refrained from saying negative things about his persecutors as far as he could. So for him to state a bad opinion about someone means that opinion is most likely justified, and that the person who has been negatively evaluated had worked very hard to earn that negative perception.

R.P.
7 2006