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4 Things Hiring Managers Don’t Want Black Employees and Jobseekers to Know

Read these game-changers before you apply for your next position


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Dr. Tiffany Jana

3 years ago | 6 min read

Black folks are in demand. That’s right. Every company that doesn’t want to be accused of Blackwashing or ignoring diversity altogether, is actively trying to increase Black representation.

This is great news for a population of people that have been left behind, overlooked, passed over for promotion, and disrespected in workplaces across America for generations. Here are a few things that Black jobseekers and promotion seekers need to know right now.

Every company in America needs you more than you need them.

This cannot be emphasized enough. The position you are applying for doesn’t matter. Do not think for one second that your entry level position is insignificant.

Your presence at any company is highly significant because most companies have abysmal diversity numbers. If they published a Black Lives Matter statement, then the pressure is on them to back up their assertion with actions.

Some companies need Black people at every level, most need to increase representation in leadership. The more informed we are as a qualified collective, the more respect and equitable compensation we can demand.

Your presence at any company is highly significant because most companies have abysmal diversity numbers.

You are negotiating from a place of power, Black power.

Society has exerted sufficient pressure on socioeconomic structures that we can no longer be ignored. Black people will not be dismissed, belittled, underpaid, nor overworked without consequence any longer. The racial reckoning is upon us. Doing right by Black people in the workforce is the most basic form of corporate reparations.

You are negotiating from a place of socio-political power because you are Black, qualified, and in extremely high demand. The demand for your presence — aka the statistic of you — is even higher the more applicable skills you bring to the table.

This bodes especially well for the Black women––currently the most educated demographic in the United States. The fact that most organizations lack diversity in leadership means that qualified Black applicants and employees seeking promotion have the greatest chance of winning that we’ve ever had in this country’s history.

Doing right by Black people in the workforce is the most basic form of corporate reparations.

Negotiating from a place of power means that you can and should demand appropriate compensation and benefits. If they insist they can’t give you appropriate pay — definitely negotiate more time off, flex work, and other benefits that serve you — if you still want the job.

Your first choice should be to seek work elsewhere and be valued.

You must do the research to learn what white people are being paid for the job you want, both inside and outside of your company. If you are a Black woman, find out what white men are being paid for the same work.

That is your benchmark because race and gender should not account for pay discrepancies, but they do.

The bottom line is that hiring managers don’t want you to know what you are worth. The lower you value yourself, the more the company saves. The best time to ask for the most money is at the very beginning of the engagement, during employment negotiations.

Even if they tell you it’s not negotiable, believe me, it is. Don’t be shy. People sometimes have less respect for you when you lowball yourself. Even if times are hard, don’t be so desperate for the position that you undercut your own interests. The worst case scenario is that you don’t get the job or the promotion.

Well guess what? A thousand other companies are looking for you. In fact, the biggest and richest companies in the world are saying you don’t exist. They literally cannot find enough qualified Black people to hire. That spells opportunity for you!

People sometimes have less respect for you when you lowball yourself.

That diversity work you are doing on the side is worth real money.

Don’t be bamboozled by companies asking you or expecting you to serve the diversity cause for free. My company is part of a multi-billion dollar industry designed to provide the services you are suddenly being volun-told to do.

The emotional tax of being Black and being expected to navigate these sensitive, triggering discussions that compromise your own psychological safety is worth substantive recompense.

The fact that it’s a legitimate discipline that requires research and experience means the addition of diversity work should yield you an additional $10,000 to $40,000 pay increase above and beyond your normal wages.

(Double that range for the west coast and large corporations). Why should I make millions doing it and you be expected to do it alongside your normal job for free?

If your company doesn’t value you, another company will.

Different organizations are at different stages of their JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) journeys. This means that while your company may not have embedded inclusive, respectful behavior with accountability into the culture — you can always find a company farther along in their JEDI strategy.

  • Ask about corporate diversity, equity and inclusion values during your interviews.
  • Ask for details about their JEDI journey.
  • Look up their employees of color on Linkedin and ask them about their experiences.
  • Check out their Glassdoor reviews.
  • Pay attention to who is on the interview panel.

Do you see yourself reflected on their website? What causes are they supporting? A little bit of research can save you years of agony.

If a company expects you to edit yourself into an unrecognizable cookie cutter clone of their corporate drones, your value will be limited. You will become a statistic and a scapegoat.

The good news is that many states and localities have made it illegal to ask about previous salary. This means that systemic racism cannot exert itself on your next paycheck quite as easily.

Know your value in the market and expect nothing less. Be proud to level up by tens of thousands of dollars a year with one job jump! I advise my BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) mentees and coaching clients to ask for more than they think the position is worth.

Why? Because being Black in the employment market adds incalculable value to any organization that actually allows you to show up and be fully yourself.

Ask for substantially more so you have room to negotiate. Don’t ask for enough to survive, ask for enough to cover your overhead, add to or start your savings and investments, and have plenty of wiggle room to treat yo’self.

When a company pays top dollar for any employee, they expect even more from you. If you let them get away with thinking you are nothing but cheap labor, they will expect to control you.

The negotiation table is where you establish your initial credibility, so sit up straight and advocate for yourself like no one else ever will. If you command top dollar, you have a strong case to support requesting the latitude you need to do your job if people try to prevent you from doing so by getting in your way.

And believe me, there are often folks on the inside who want to see you fail so they can reinforce their belief that increasing diversity is a waste of time and money.

If these negotiation strategies work, you do have to perform, but you don’t have to be perfect. Just do your best — which tends to be outstanding when given the space to do your job.

Defend the right to do your job and remind them that they are paying for you to do your job and that you would like the freedom to do so. If a company expects you to edit yourself into an unrecognizable cookie cutter clone of their corporate drones, your value will be limited. You will become a statistic and a scapegoat.

The experiences and perspectives of Black people in America create adaptability, resilience, ingenuity, grit, persistence, and drive that is harder to find when life is fairly smooth and predictable.

Even if you are among the privileged people of color who had a relatively chill upbringing and life experiences to match, your proximity to diversity still adds tremendous value to your employer’s asset base. They know what you are worth. One question remains, do you?

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