Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Interviewing: Countering Implicit Associations

"...when corrected for variables like age and gender and weight, an inch of height is worth $789 a year in salary."  Malcolm Gladwell (Blink)

For those that interview and those that are seeking to do well in the interview process it is very important to understand implicit cultural biases and how to counteract their effects.

When you meet someone there are implicit associations that both parties make without being consciously aware.  When within moments of meeting someone are even seeing them on TV we believe someone is good looking, smart, experienced or nice our brain is making these decisions without us thinking through the actual qualifications.



You might not be tall, you may not be white, you may not be male but you can be exactly what the company wants.  Find out how they want you to dress, style your hair, etc.  Usually asking is the easiest way to find out but if that fails to deliver you a specific response find out how your superiors will be dressing and base your outfit, hairstyle, etc. on that research.


Nothing can sink a job interview quite as fast as language.  Do you understand the lingo?  Is your tone, diction and choice of words professional?  Mimic the style of language being used on the phone with you during phone interviews.


You will not be able to change a person's implicit reaction to your height, color or sex in an interview.  But, what you can do is point out your winning qualities in very clear detail.  You can document your achievements and make sure that you gather testimony of your experience.  By providing documented evidence you put the onus of merit in the mix.  Can your competition match your merits?  Very often they can not.

If you are taller, whiter or more male than your counterparts, statistically you have a better chance of landing your desired job.  That is great if you are male, white and tall.  It is really disadvantageous if you are not white, not tall and also happen to be female.  Fortunately, whether intuitively or through study, most professional folks know this.  In minority communities it could be called the "twice as good" policy.  Whether you are discussing Obama's ascendency to the Presidency or Charlotte Whitton who was the first female mayor of a major city in Canada you will find mention of these candidates having to be twice as good as their white or male counterparts.

Charlotte Whitton said "Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult." I don't think every woman would agree with Charlotte about the lack of difficulty.  It is tough both mentally and physically to feel that you must hold yourself up to a higher standard due to your outward appearance.  The only way to change people's opinions is to expose them to difference.  So fit in to get in and then broaden people's minds one moment at a time!

This post is inspired by the book 'blink' by Malcolm Gladwell.  It got me thinking about the interview training that I have done with students at A. Philip Randolph Campus High School with the non-profit SBI College and Career Preparatory Institute.