How to Handle Being a Victim of Discrimination During Job Searches

The U.S. Army Aviation and Mission Command (AMCOM) job fair at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
The U.S. Army Aviation and Mission Command (AMCOM) job fair at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, on May 17, 2018. (Traci Boutwell/U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command photo)

One consequence of the slow recovery is more job seekers believe employers are denying them jobs, because they are too old, too young or unemployed for too long. They are discouraged, desperate and want to know, what should they do if they suspect discrimination has occurred?

Here is my two-part answer.

Part 1: Move On

In a litigious society such as ours, you would think employers would be on guard to prevent discriminatory hiring practices. The truth is that some interviewers lack training, some are uncaring and others are very cunning. They realize you cannot know their intentions, which makes discrimination extremely difficult to prove.

Judges realize job seekers are not privy to all of the discussions and factors that feed into making a hiring decision. Unless you have conclusive proof of an employer's intent to discriminate for illegal reasons, judges will rule your claim is speculative and have it dismissed. Thus when you suspect employers are discriminating, you may want to simply move on to the next employer. Chalk it up to their loss, not yours.

I am not suggesting you turn the other cheek or allow evil doers to get away without some type of punishment. Instead, I am recommending your time and energy are better spent finding a job with people who want you, not punishing people who do not want you. Except for the need of a job, why would you want to work for an ignorant, uncaring or unscrupulous organization? How employers treat you during the interview is often a prelude to how they will treat you as an employee.

Part 2: Put It Behind You

Some of you may be thinking moving away from a bad experience is not enough to help you relieve the emotional pain caused by others (fear, worry, doubt, anger, discouragement).

I would agree more is required; however, the remedy I am thinking of does not involve retaliation. It involves changing how you think about your situation. Avoid dragging along all that emotional baggage with you, or it will certainly impair your self-motivation and prolong your unemployment.

Realize uncaring people and even discriminatory hiring practices do not cause emotional pain. The manner in which you think about these things creates pain and distress. Whatever happens to you is insignificant until you assign it a meaning and react.

By learning how to assign better meanings to what happens, you can just as easily create emotional ease, reduce stress and increase your resolve to persevere despite your circumstances. You create a resilient mindset.

Here is the point. Your focus is on why the employer should hire you. However, because there are so many good job seekers to select from (employed and unemployed), the employer's focus is on discovering why you should not be hired. If an interviewer wants to find fault, they will, and the only control you have over what they think is by creating the best possible impressions.

My advice is to avoid trying to spot if employers are discriminating against you. Take it for granted they are, but not always with illegal intent. They are attempting to discern who they believe is the best fit. It cannot be you every time. Employment is by invitation only. Your best strategy for getting an invitation is to stay upbeat, focus on your assets and remain optimistic about any potential liabilities. Do not give employers any reasons not to like you.

If an employer brings up personal matters unrelated to your ability to perform a job, you would be wise to consider not working there. If the employer later rejects you, put the situation behind you and move on with your self-esteem and optimism intact. Seek help if your situation is particularly egregious, but be prepared to receive this same advice.

Jeff Garton is a best-selling career author, organization consultant, career coach and speaker. He is noted for pioneering the field of employment mindset to achieve career contentment.

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