Interviewing as a black woman

by | 27 Jun 2023

I've been working for a company in various positions for just over 13 years.

To get out of my comfort zone, I decided to embark on a new adventure: changing structure. So I applied to a number of adverts offering profiles with rare and sought-after skills.

J’ai autrefois passé des entretiens sans avoir le niveau de conscience que j’ai actuellement. Je suis une femme engagée. Mes combats portent sur la justice sociale, l’inclusion. Des combats que j’incarne au quotidien en donnant la chance à des jeunes de milieux défavorisés : se former auprès de moi en cybersécurité. Je m’engage pleinement et totalement à les former afin qu’ils soient compétitifs sur le marché du travail. En France J’ai été la figure de proue du combat des personnes noires pour l’accès aux soins de la procréation médicale assistée : Une PMA (Procréation Médicalement Assistée) pour tous et toutes et une GPA (Gestation Pour Autrui) pour les hommes cis-genre, transgenres seuls et homosexuels. Je continue de me battre pour une justice reproductive. En passant mes entretiens j’ai réalisé qu’il y avait aussi tout un chantier à investir en Europe dans le processus de recrutement. Investir plus d’équité dans le processus de recrutement.

I've been interviewing people and I've noticed that there are very few people on the recruitment teams who belong to the minority groups in society with which I identify. All these people will certainly bring new perspectives to recruitment. At present, the people in charge of recruitment are so familiar with their procedures that they come to adopt an attitude which, instead of including, excludes. We need to educate ourselves about inclusion. It is also important to recognize the risk of various biases interfering with the recruitment process, to the disadvantage of the applicant who belongs to a minority group in society. In such cases, the recruiter needs to prepare in advance, so as to address questions that take into account the diversity of candidates' profiles.

Some examples of diversity in the workplace :

  • Cultural diversity
  • Racial diversity
  • Age diversity
  • Gender diversity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Visible and non-visible disability

A candidate who enjoys a certain level of economic or cultural capital, and who is also able to pursue ongoing training, is a privileged person. They therefore have more time at their disposal than someone who does not enjoy the same privileges. A black European, for example, faces numerous forms of discrimination (housing, employment, health, etc.). All these discriminations are obstacles to daily life. Obstacles that mobilize and disperse their energy.

A company that wants to be inclusive must take all these societal issues into account. Its recruitment methods must therefore be both innovative and consistent. If a company's values include inclusion or the promotion of minorities, why wouldn't it choose a candidate's civic commitments as the first criterion for selecting a profile?

My inclusive interview method.

I've noticed that many recruiters don't do enough research on candidates. And yet, the CV contains relevant information that should be investigated (Github projects, Medium publications, work published on their websites). Based on the information gathered, I ask questions related to the job's expectations. I'll also ask the candidate questions relating to any work he or she has published. In addition, three days before the interview, I always send candidates technical questions to solve. Depending on their answers, I'll know which candidate is the most relevant to my job search.

I don't expect a candidate to have an excellent command of skills. What I do expect is for each candidate to construct a thought process that is relevant to solving the stated problem. Here's a list of questions I've been asked in interviews. I find it somewhat difficult to grasp their meaning and scope.

Questions often asked, and not always the right ones :

  • How do you see yourself in 5 years?
    • The time scale of a privileged person is not the same as that of a non-privileged person. The latter is faced with numerous material and financial contingencies that very often prevent them from projecting themselves so far into the future.
  • What will you do as a manager in the event of conflict?
    • A racialized person is very often aware that the system doesn't protect them. They will often refer to the authorities, giving the impression of not being autonomous, or even afraid.
  • How would you react if you were denied a promotion ?
    • Anyone would obviously be disappointed. This is a question I'm not comfortable asking because I don't know what the other person's intention is. Answering requires more thought on the part of a person belonging to a minority group. We speak of a mental load, and more specifically a racial load, when it's a racialized person who's doing the thinking.
  • What can you do to develop and improve your skills in areas where you are lacking?
    • Minority groups often have few resources at their disposal. Would a recruiter be willing to hear this? Wouldn't an honest answer ultimately reinforce the recruiter's negative biases or other negative prejudices towards the candidate ?

Politically incorrect answers to an inappropriate question :

  • What do you expect from a company?
    • Diversity, inclusion, that integrates the issues of minority people in the workplace.
    • A company that helps society progress and grow in terms of inclusion.
    • Clear, honest communication between managers and employees on issues of inclusion and openness to minority groups in society.
    • The ability of managers to hear and open up to issues of inclusion and openness to minority groups in society.

Women in cybersecurity: The lack of women representation in this field

In the field of Cybersecurity, women are underrepresented, initiatives exist to give women the taste to go into the programming professions. I will quote some actions that I know and follow so far.