When pressed, many Americans will acknowledge what research has proven to be true: The hiring system is broken, and white people have a historic, systemic advantage over other races when it comes to getting a job.
In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted this August of 1,000 U.S. adults, almost half said that people of color are treated less fairly than white people during the hiring process in the U.S. Seventy-nine percent of Black Americans and 69% of Latinx Americans said that racial employment discrimination was at least somewhat of a serious problem in the United States. (HuffPost/YouGov did not highlight results for Asian respondents due to small sample sizes.)
“While 57% of Black Americans said that people of color are treated less fairly than white people in the hiring process in their own workplaces, only 31% of Latinx respondents and 23% of white people agreed.”
But those numbers sharply diverged by race when participants were asked to consider how people of different races are treated during the hiring process in their own workplaces.
While 57% of Black Americans said that people of color are treated less fairly than white people in the hiring process in their own workplaces, only 31% of Latinx respondents and 23% of white people agreed.
White people were the most likely demographic to answer that all races were treated equally.
This survey suggests that colleagues are having radically different experiences even when they work in the same offices, and how much a person believes everyone has a fair shot at getting hired is informed by their own race and ethnicity. White people, in particular, are known to experience a disconnect between how they view themselves as workplace allies and how colleagues of color perceive them: Black and Latina women disagree that white people are using their power to support co-workers with less status, a June survey showed.
Hiring discrimination can be especially insidious, because candidates rarely get insight into what recruiters and hiring managers are thinking. A person may never find out why exactly a given company never called them back, but that doesn’t mean discrimination is not occurring.
For people who did feel like they were treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity in the hiring process, most said they believed it happened after they got a callback for an interview. Fifty-nine percent said the racial discrimination they experienced occurred while interviewing for the job, 30% said it occurred during negotiations after the job offer, and 25% said it happened when they applied.
The unfortunate truth is that although racial discrimination may be most blatant when it’s happening in front of a job seeker during a job interview, it can and does occur at every stage of the hiring process. During the application stage, resumes from equally qualified people are not judged equally: People with ethnic-sounding names are less likely to receive a callback and people with white-sounding names are 50% more likely to get a callback about the role, studies have shown. During job interviews, racial minorities in offices are penalized if their interview stories don’t include a story of overcoming incredible odds, sociologist Lauren Rivera found in her research on hiring at elite consulting firms. And the persistent racial pay gap shows that even after Black and Latinx workers are hired, they can be trapped in a cycle of being underpaid compared to white peers.
For too many office workers, the the ideal hire according to “culture fit” remains a white, male able-bodied man who can work without taking time off.
People in the survey shared how they have been told they weren’t “a good fit’ in the hiring process:
“I was once told that my long hair and beard had to go and that I must state that I was a Christian.” — multiracial man, 64
“I was told that they didn’t want to hire another woman because I might get pregnant and leave the job.” — white woman, 61
“Because I am blind in one eye and epileptic I was told I was an insurance risk.” — white man, 51
“It was for a minimum-wage job yet the interviewer thought it was appropriate to rant about how teenagers have no work ethic and would be distracted on the job.” — Middle Eastern woman, 18
“I had my natural hair in a ponytail and I met the qualifications and experience needed for the job. I guess my natural hair (being Black) didn’t make me a good fit in an office full of white people.” — Black woman, 34
“I graduated as a nontraditional student so was older. The employer said I interviewed well but they weren’t sure what they would do with me. At that point I could tell it wouldn’t be worth it for me to work there.” — white woman, 60
“One: unmarried, two: need to play golf with Dr. Management.” — white man, 60
Some of the responses were edited for clarity and length.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted August 13-15 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.