This is why companies do not give job applicants feedback…

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The other day, someone asked me this question via LinkedIn, “Do you think companies should give more feedback to candidates after interviews?” At this writing, I noticed that the comments were from the perspective of the jobseeker. Understandably, everyone who interviews for a job wants to know the “real deal” on why they were rejected. More often than not, they receive a form letter that says (in so many words) thanks but no thanks, we hired someone else. I thought such was a prudent course of action. Why? Speaking from the employer’s perspective, I said that individual feedback is less likely to be offered to the applicant for a variety of reasons.

  1. They don’t want to get trapped in an unending argument with candidates who will not accept the comment gracefully.
  2. Something meant as constructive feedback is misconstrued and posted on social media and used as an excuse to cancel the company.
  3. They don’t hire candidate because of X and when they make a hire, behold they have X and the person who did not get the job is of another race and as a result, disparages the company on social media.

And on and on…

If a company gives the same polite and terse response to every candidate, it’s safe and less likely to cause drama. That being said, candidates would benefit from feedback. They should quietly receive it when given to them. Companies open themselves to liabilities when they offer it.

I offered that bit of insight yesterday and today, I read an article validating my position. This was the headline, “FACEBOOK TOLD BLACK APPLICANT WITH PH.D. SHE NEEDED TO SHOW SHE WAS A “CULTURE FIT” And here are a few notable quotes:

A BLACK WOMAN passed over for a job at Facebook told federal regulators that even though she was exceptionally qualified for the position, she was rushed through interviews with entirely white staffers, told she wouldn’t like the job, and advised that the company wanted a strong “culture fit,” according to a complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provided to The Intercept.

The woman joins three others who have recently complained to the EEOC about anti-Black racism at Facebook. The agency has begun conducting a “systemic” probe of Facebook, looking into whether the company’s own policies further discrimination, Reuters reported earlier this month.

The article reads on to say, and I’m paraphrasing:

  • The complaint could not have come at a worse time since Silicon Valley companies are mostly White and Asian.
  • Google and Facebook have been hit a lot lately for their alleged discriminatory hiring practices. Like de-prioritizing HBCU candidates and suggesting that people who complain about racism seek mental health care.
  • The woman with the complaint said she was “subjected to Facebook’s pattern or practice of discrimination against Black applicants.” She further stated that her experience and education were brought up only in an early interview with the position’s hiring manager, who she alleges told her, “You have a big brain, you wouldn’t like this job.”
  • The complaint notes that the applicant wasn’t interviewed by a single person of color and that the “only Black Facebook employee [she] encountered during the entire hiring process was a receptionist.”
  • She further alleges that during one of the in-person interviews in California, she was told, “There’s no doubt you can do the job, but we’re really looking for a culture fit.

Do big tech companies like Facebook and Google regularly discriminate against blacks? I don’t know. I was not there in the recruitment process. However, it does seem that those companies have left themselves vulnerable. Telling a candidate that they did not get the job due to “culture fit” was not a wise move as such cannot be easily quantified outside of gut instinct. The fact that she was one of several people going after Facebook is not a good look either because it does suggest a pattern. I was not surprised that she saw so few black people in her interview process because the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley offices is not a secret. The fact that she was rushed through an interview process after waiting so long does not register to me as discrimination so much as it does mismanagement of their interview process. The “big brain” comment could have been an attempt at levity, not sure there. All that being said, the odds seem to be heavily in the applicant’s favor. Facebook and Google better call Saul Goodman.

As I read that article, my initial reaction was half-outrage and half-eye rolling. My outrage was around how big tech companies virtue signal constantly about matters of racial equity. Was this a glaring example of their own hypocrisy? And on the other hand, in this hyper polarized world of cancel culture, everything is racist.

It made me wonder, has there been a spike in discrimination cases filed with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)? For those who don’t know, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, transgender status, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Curiosity got the best of me so, I did some research.

I wanted to know which states had the most EEOC filings and discovered this chart that was posted on The National Law Review website. Presumably, California would be at the top of the list with Silicon Valley’s diversity issues. Surprisingly, to me, Texas held the #1 position.

Interesting, but it did not answer my initial concern. Had there been a spike in EEOC complaints to correlate with all the political polarization these days? I found my answers on the website JDSupra, a source of legal intelligence on a variety of topics. A few insights:

EEOC Logged Fewer Cases Under President Trump

Employees filed fewer discrimination claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in fiscal year 2020 than any year since at least 1992. The COVID-19 pandemic might have contributed, but the 2020 EEOC charges continued an annual decline seen throughout Donald Trump’s presidency.

Sexual Harassment Cases Were Also Down Under President Trump

In 2020:

Claims of sex-based harassment fell to 11,497, down 11.9% from the FY 2018 peak sparked by the #MeToo movement. That number includes all charges alleging harassment based related to one’s sex (treating people of one sex less favorably than others). The EEOC separately tracks harassment of a sexual nature. Charges alleging harassment of a sexual nature also fell to the lowest level in many years. The EEOC received 6,587 such charges in FY 2020, down 13.4% from 2018, and 17.1% from 2010.

Trends since 2016

FY 2016 ended September 30th of that year. Donald Trump was elected in November 2016, and became President on January 20, 2017. Total EEOC charges fell each year of the Trump Administration, after fluctuating but staying relatively flat during President Obama’s two terms.

So, why the decline of discrimination cases (and sexual harassment cases, for that matter) under the Trump administration verses all other recent Presidents? The researchers speculated but could not give a definitive answer. Maybe the EEOC operated differently under Trump than with other Presidents? Maybe more people opted to file with the States instead of seeking to make a Federal case? Maybe overall, employment discrimination itself is declining?

The article went on to compare EEOC filings under Bush (an average of 80,000 charges per year) and Clinton (there was a 21.6% uptick before settling down to the 80K range in his 2nd term). However, I thought what was most revealing is this comment…

When more employees lose their jobs and have no alternative source of income, discrimination claims are apt to rise.

This resonated with me. Under President Trump, prior to the Coronavirus, the economy was operating at record levels. Clinton had a booming economy for a season but, it was well into recession when Bush took over. Such being the case, companies would do well to insure that their hiring and workplace practices are fair at all times and especially during a recession. Not doing so could cost them dearly in finances and employer brand; just ask Facebook and Google.

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