So I just got back from an interview with an organization that I have known and loved for quite some time. Periodically I go to their website to see if they have any openings and a few weeks ago, I noticed that they had an open position for an Administrative Assistant. Granted, I have no desire what so ever to be an Administrative Assistant and have actually had several arguments with my husband who thinks that I should apply for anything I have any experience in. However, as my time at my current employer draws to an end because of the economy, I grow more desperate and the desire I have to feed my family overwhelms me. So I apply.
Last week, I was called in for an interview for today at 1p.m. Since the organization is not so far from where I work, I leave 20 minutes or so before my appointment. Even though there is a pretty bad car accident that I encounter on my way there, I still arrive five minutes early. Great! I get to the place, explain to the receptionist that I have an interview and wait for a few minutes for the HR representative to come and get me.
Probably 10 minutes or so after my interview is due to start, the HR rep escorts me into their office. Introductory pleasantries are made and the interview commences. He asks me to tell him a little bit about myself which I do. And then he asks the question to end all other questions, “So why is a person with a Master’s Degree such as yourself applying for an administrative assistant position?” Du Du Dun!
I quickly recalibrate as I was not expecting to be asked this, or at least I hoped that I would not. I briefly ask myself whether or not I should give the right answer or the wrong answer. I opt for the wrong one. “Well you see, Mr. HR Representative. Even though I have a Masters, I have more volunteer experience than I do work experience and many organizations that I have been applying for are really seeking someone with more full-time work experience. And so my hope is that I can start out in an entry-level position such as this and work my way up into a position where I am able to work in the capacity that I desire.” It is not that this answer is a lie, as I am not in the habit of telling lies, it is just that this answer does not get at the heart of what is really going on.
I knew that if I told the right answer that the interview probably would have ended right there. But since it is done, here it goes – “Well, Mr. HR Representative. I know that I am over qualified for a position such as this, given my years of education and work experience. I know that my two internships with churches in the capacity of pastoral care and the like probably causes you to question why I am here. I know that my five years in sales with superior returns makes you wonder what is wrong with me. And I know that the passions, gifts, and talents that I bring to the table makes you think that I will probably leave your organization to work for another in a relatively short period of time. But the reality is that I am not hiring material.”
At this point he would probably ask me to explain myself. I continue – “Well you see, when I look around me at colleagues, friends, classmates, and peers, those who started off in college at the same place as me, at those who took the same risks as me and I see where they are and where I am not I have to conclude that I am not hiring material.
“When I spend hours and hours revising my resume, tweaking it until it is just right, applying for jobs that are beneath my qualifications, that require less education than I have, or even ones that fit just right and I am being turned down left and right, I have to conclude that I am not hiring material.
“When I see people around me get job offers and promotions, and raises, and so many other things for things that they have not worked hard for and I know, I know that I could do their job better than they if I were only given a chance, I have to conclude that I am not hiring material.
“You see, Mr. HR rep, when managers look at the top of my resume they see one thing that disqualifies me automatically regardless of the position that I am applying for. It does not matter if I am applying for a position as a pastor, organizer, administrative assistant, admissions counselor, banker, or whatever else, employers see one thing and one thing only – my name. Which tells them two things – I am an African American female.
“And so, if they have already integrated their workplace enough, hiring their quota of minorities or women, my resume is placed aside. Many times I do not ever hear anything, sometimes I receive letters and emails in the mail saying that they have gone with a different candidate. Yet the result is the same, and the proof is in the pudding, I am not hiring material.”
After my rant is done, the interview would most likely continue but I already know that I did not get the job. He would feel too guilty, too uncomfortable to bring me into his work place and honestly I would not blame him. Who wants to hire the angry black lady with a chip on her shoulders? But the reality is, and for so many others like me, that we are not getting hired. It does not matter what we bring to the table, it just is not happening. It was not happening before the recession, and it certainly is not in the midst of it.
They keep saying that the employment rate is down but I ask them to verify that fact among communities of color and of women. If the rate is down for them too, great, and maybe its just me falling on hard luck. But I am most certain that if we look carefully, the greater percentages of those unemployed today are those who probably look a little bit more like me. And it does not piss me off, actually, it causes me to weep because deep in my heart, I know that God created me for something bigger than this racist, sexist society that I live in whether others can see it or not. Yet, in spite of this what am I to do? Do I sit on my gifts, go hungry and poor, and start to depend on the systems of WIC, SNAP, and unemployment like so many others who are in my predicament. Or do I fight, keep fighting for not only my own justice, but for the justice of others who are most overlooked for the things that they cannot change on the top of their resume.