What It Feels Like To Interview As A Woman Of Color

7:53 AM

White privilege is real for women in career starting with 
women of color experiencing discrimination in job interviews. 
Racism at work is all of our issue.

women of color career

White Privilege

As a white woman, I've had the privilege of experiencing only some worries about job interviews. I've worried about proving myself, about making the right first impressions, about being able to tell my story eloquently and effectively. But I've never had to worry about all of these things not being seen, or accounted for, because of my race. This is my white privilege and I own that. On VProud, there's an eye-opening conversation about what it feels like to be a woman of color experiencing discrimination, not in the workplace, but in a job interview. Writer Rochelle Fritsch delves deeply into her personal experience with this. Racism is all of our issue and women of color experiencing discrimination at work is every feminist's issue. Read and truly take in what Rochelle has to say and then share her words with others. This is an incredibly important essay for all women and all feminists to read.

—The VProud Team

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Credentials Are Often Last When WOC Interview

By Rochelle Fritsch for VProud

Make-up, Hair, Outfit: On point.
Resume: Impeccable. Including references.
Canned answers to canned questions: Committed to memory.
Credentials: Transferable and relatable.
Good Night’s Sleep: Snoozing by 9pm and up by 6am.

It’s the usual rundown for anyone interviewing for a new job, unless the potential applicant is a woman of color, then the list is a little longer and nuanced. These extras WOC pack in their interview arsenal have little to do with make-up or other externals and least of all: credentials.

The Right Name

If the WOC has a name that does not “out” her as a WOC, she is more likely to receive an invitation for a telephone screening/initial interview. If she establishes rapport during the screening, she hangs up happily. But she then worries about the scheduled face-to-face interview. After all, she is a WOC.

The Telephone Screening: You Don’t Sound Like A WOC

When the face-to-face interview happens, the WOC may see upon first meeting–just for the slightest millisecond–a look that says You didn’t sound like a WOC when we talked. The WOC recognizes this, internalizes her sigh and prays the screener will give a heads-up about her WOC status to the next interviewer so she doesn’t have to relive the awkwardness that accompanies such a surprise.

The Next Interview: Solving The WOC Puzzle

The next interviewer will likely not have been warned about the interviewee being a WOC, because no one wants to be negatively labeled for noticing race or ethnicity–and godforbid, talking about it! The interviewer then reprises the millisecond surprised look and begins the process of hurdling his/her WOC perceptions. The WOC interviewee begins to retrieve prepared responses from her arsenal to questions like the following:
·  Family is so important…
This actually isn’t a question, but a veiled fill-in-the-blank for the WOC being interviewed. It is intended to confirm the interviewer’s preconceived ideas about WOC and their marital status, how many children and/or how many Baby Daddies are involved in the lives of WOC. These preconceived ideas ironically become, the WOC’s hurdles and hers to overcome, regardless if she is single and unmarried. She needs this job. If the interviewee’s answers do not confirm the interviewer’s ideas, the WOC is then prepared for the interviewer to continue with questions unrelated to her capability of performing the job.
She now is a puzzle to be solved. Not a potential applicant capable of doing a bang-up job.
·  So…where did you grow up?
The interviewer is bound and determined to solve the puzzle that is this WOC. If the WOC is childless and unmarried in a city where people of color, high poverty, and households headed by single females are segregated away from two-family, middle-income, white, suburban areas, the WOC has a canned answer ready, whether she grew up in the burbs or in the hood. Anything to help the interviewer solve the puzzle that is her … and perhaps move on to her credentials. She  swallows back another sigh and suppresses another eye roll.
·  Where did you got to school?
Years of living in her skin has taught the WOC to ferret out whether this is a credentials-related question or whether it is something else. When it is something else, she knows the question is often used to determine how accustomed she is to interacting with other races and/or economic classes or, under the umbrella of Value-Added used by companies who need assurance that she will not morph into the angry black woman trope or ruffle feathers when/if racial microagrressions might rear their ugly heads.
And, finally:
At this point, the WOC is on the brink of screaming We don’t all know each other! but instead remembers the angry black woman trope and her personal need to eat and pay bills. She offers a politely enthusiastic I’ve heard of Super POC but don’t know him/her personally. Super POC is amazing and I’d love to meet Super POC! She then steels herself for five to ten minutes of the interviewer telling her about all the good that Super POC has done and how the interviewer sat next to Super POC at the last big fundraiser.

Last On The List And Finally: Credentials

If the WOC has made it this far without blowing a gasket, she’s hoping–praying--to be asked about the portfolio she’s so carefully compiled for this very interview. If she has answered the questions put before her and did not threaten White Fragility with her answers, then the interviewer is open, ready, and willing to hear why she’s competent and hopefully begins to question why he/she has wasted such valuable time making himself/herself comfortable instead of snapping up this qualified applicant who happens to be a WOC when she walked in the door.
If, however, the WOC is new to the interview gauntlet of personal questions before professional realities, she will leave wiser, and perhaps frustrated, but aware of the realities facing many WOC as they step into or advance in their careers.

I was that WOC. I am that WOC. It isn’t right, but it is a reality. I’ve lived it, bought the t-shirt, even as I hoped for change. But right now, the truth is that sometimes when you are a WOC, puzzle-solving and comfort comes first while credentials are dead last.

rochelle fritsch vproud
About the author: Rochelle Fritsch is a Christian, a wife, a mom, and painfully human. She co-steers a biracial family while ambition rudely interrupts her slacker tendencies. Rochelle is the co-producer of Milwaukee’s Listen To Your Mother Show and is a 2015 BlogHer Voice of the Year honoree. She writes on her blog, The Late Arrival and is a metroparent magazine contributor. Follow her on Twitter @GeesMom. Join Rochelle's honest conversations on VProud.

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