By Laura Stevens, CollegeJournal


Minority candidates who fail to check into a company’s diversity track record are playing “Russian roulette” with their careers.

That’s the opinion of Mauricio Velasquez, president and chief executive officer of the Diversity Training Group, a diversity-consulting company in Herndon, Va. An employer’s diversity track record should be important to all job candidates, says Velasquez. Good diversity policies will help minorities to advance and improve general working conditions for non-minorities.

Yet too many young candidates don’t heed this advice. One reason is that they don’t know how to assess a company’s commitment to diversity.

Manhattan College senior James Chen is among them. To Chen, it’s a given that he doesn’t want to work for an employer where his advancement would be hampered because of his Taiwanese heritage. But Chen isn’t sure how to assess a company’s commitment to diversity. “I don’t know,” he says. He’s focused on simply finding a job when he graduates in December.

Peggah Farid had never considered checking into a company’s diversity track record, even though she suspects her resumes have been rejected because of her Iranian name. “Ever since the war, things have become a little harder,” says the 28-year-old, who has been job hunting since leaving her last position in public relations in August.

Farid wants to change careers, possibly working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation because she’s fluent in Farsi. She believes she looks Caucasian and doesn’t expect to experience overt discrimination from employers. “I haven’t run into that many problems” because of how she looks, she says.


Thinking Long Term

It’s especially important to investigate diversity policies at a company where you would like to work for a long period, says Velasquez. Do your research before sending out a resume. If you suspect that your resume is being rejected because of your race or gender, concentrate on applying only to employers listed at the top of diversity rankings, he suggests.

Candidates such as Farid also should seek work at companies that will value her heritage. Those that do business with the Middle East or companies based there are good examples. Although this research takes time, it will prevent career problems later on, he adds.


Research Methods

The ultimate test of a company’s commitment to diversity comes when you work there. Michelle Lin, a law school student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, believes it’s the only way to truly know whether an employer’s pledges are sincere. Diversity commitment is important to Lin because she wants future employers to care about her as a person and not just about her productivity.

Lin has had a diverse career path, including working for a Taiwanese lobbying group. She spent three years at Allstate Corp. in Illinois, and managers there appreciated her Taiwanese background and helped her to succeed, she says.

Since you can’t “try out” an employer, seek out public information about the company. Many publicize their diversity accomplishments, which shows their commitment.

If no diversity information is available, that raises a red flag, says Velasquez.


Helpful Steps

To learn about diversity practices at a prospective employer, take the following steps so you don’t “have to check your difference at the door,” says Velasquez.

  • Start by looking online. Check to see if a company outlines its diversity goals and programs on its Web site.
  • Check rankings. Review surveys and lists of the best diversity employers in the U.S. to determine top companies in this area. This can help you target your job-search efforts, especially if you’re experiencing discrimination problems, Velasquez says.
  • Ask to talk with current employees. Speak with them about the environment and culture at their company. Ask them: what is it like to work here? How long have you worked here? Could you describe the company’s culture? Ask open-ended questions for better responses, Velasquez says.
  • Network with family, friends and others, suggests Ron Jordan, senior principal director of Carter-White & Shaw LLC, which recruits diverse candidates for law firms. “Most likely, there’ll be someone that will be able to give some positive [or negative] feedback about the company as far as diversity is concerned,” he says.
  • Research a company’s compliance with federal laws. Check to make sure no lawsuits involving civil rights violations have been filed against the company, says Cathy Weiss, senior adviser for WSA Corp., a career-consulting firm in Shawnee, Kan. Start by entering the company’s name into a search engine and then a term such as “civil rights violation” or “lawsuit.” [To learn if an employer is in litigation with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, type the company’s name into the appellate briefs search engine at the EEOC web site.  While it’s by no means a comprehensive source for checking a company’s track record, it’s one place to start your research.]


Other Readings of Interest


–Ms. Stevens is an intern with CollegeJournal.


This article is reprinted with permission from the College Journal career site of the Wall Street Journal. is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.