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How to decide between candidates based on color and presumed lack of education.

Yvonne LaRose, CAC

There is a history of poor educational opportunities and job discrimination amongst black men and women. Senior commercial posistions (sic) have a far lower percentage of blacks working in them than the percentage of blacks in the country. I would like peoples (sic) opinions on weather (sic) large firms should adopt a preferential appoitment (sic) scheme and give more blacks senior positions (sic) even if it means choosing them over better trained (sic) or more experienced candidates

You seem to be calling to task several shortcomings of our past as well as many myths and indicting U.S. education. Unfortunately, this is not the first time in the last 20 years that I have heard this attitude expressed. More unfortunate is the fact that it is being expressed more openly as time passes and more frequently.

Not all educational opportunities for blacks are poor and they should not be viewed as a group as being poorly educated.

However, some of the assumptions you make are exemplary in relation to several aspects of a recruiter's job when delivering good service to their client--counseling with regard to fair employment practices and upholding the vestiges of affirmative action.

The best approach is to open an opportunity to all and evaluate all on an equal footing. It serves no one to take a quantifiably less qualified person over one who is more qualified simply because of the color of their skin. Additionally, the color of a person's skin does not dictate their cognitive abilities, their socio-economic status, their managerial skills nor anything else.

If you choose to hire a quantifiably less-qualified candidate, you will spend at least two to three times as much money because you will be training the lesser-qualified person to do the job that the other could have done for you at approximately one-half the cost. Also after a time the "affirmative action" candidate will begin to wonder whether they were selected for their talents and qualifications or for the sake of filling a quota. No one will be served, not even your clients or customers, the ones who measure whether you are doing a good job or not and demonstrate that by returning to you for your product or service.

There is also the risk that as time goes on, resentment toward the "affirmative action" candidate will build because they will be perceived as receiving unearned favoritism. If things simply just don't work out, you have lost money and then have the double whammy of deciding how you will handle a reference for that person or whether you should demote and train.

Hire as if you are working in a virtual world and cannot see the color of your candidate. Hire based on the qualities that the person brings to the table that will let you, your company, and them shine.

The question is what the person's mind and training has provided them and how they have used all of that in order to not rest on their laurels or sympathy hiring but honest, good hard work that has been justly encouraged and rewarded.

Sorry to preach but if you are in a situation where you have many employees of color (and from the sounds of things, they only stay with your company for a short time because you exercise de facto discrimination) and you are uncertain of your hiring capabilities, it is best to start them out on small projects to test your evaluative skills and their capabilities. As you see they are executing their responsibilities in a judicious and expeditious manner, increase their responsibilities so that you grow the person as you grow your business and your confidence in yourself. To do otherwise is to unjustly rob you and the economy of a potential profit center goldmine waiting to be discovered.

Also make certain that you are putting the correct type of talent (and that is your pivotal word, "TALENT") in the corresponding area of focus so that both your needs and efforts are properly matched.

The Internet has given us a tabula rasa and it is important that we all take notice. Countries that were once considered Third World and noncompetitors in the economic marketplace are rapidly moving forward and competing toe-to-toe with former global economic giants. People of color from all nationalities, cultures, and education levels are in the marketplace providing all of the services that we in the United States offer. The computer screen is the only barrier to reaching across the globe to gather the fruit. Please keep this in mind as you recruit and hire for very soon we will find ourselves using outsourced talent of color to do the very same things we do in-house today. And to deny yourself a talent simply because of their color or your prejudice with regard to what you assume is their lower education or lack of quality is the same as to spell your own business suicide.

Now with regard to education, there are many other things I could say. But this column is about recruiting and searching and careers. So education, training and certification will be left to another day and another column.

Originally published December 12, 2000