By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.
Special to USA TODAY, February 26, 2019 —
Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human-resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.
The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.
Question: Should I mention my minority status in a job application? When an employer states in a job listing that it is an “affirmative action/equal opportunity employer” and “minorities are encouraged to apply,” does indicating I’m a minority give me an advantage? I am otherwise qualified for the position, but, after applying for jobs for several months, I’d like to give myself any competitive advantage I can. – Anonymous
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: The most important part of your application will always be your skills, experience and education. But your minority status can be a plus when applying to companies looking for the competitive edge a diverse and inclusive workforce delivers.
If you decide to provide this information, there’s a correct time and place to offer it. Let me explain.
While it’s a positive sign when an employer includes this language in its job postings, it also is a given. Almost every employer in the United States today should identify as an “equal opportunity employer.” By law, all but the very smallest employers (usually 15 or fewer employees) are subject to federal and state anti-discrimination laws.
Many companies now ask for this information upfront by having candidates complete a job application when they submit their resume online. If you are motivated to share the diversity you bring to a position and company, an application form is the place to mention it.
Otherwise, do not go out of your way to disclose the information. This includes not mentioning it on your resume or in your cover letter.
Here’s why: An application form – whether it is completed online or on paper – is a tool used by HR and recruiters to ensure their hiring practices comply with the law and with company policy. But to prevent discrimination or the appearance of discrimination, hiring managers generally are not privy to the personal characteristics about a candidate that are unrelated to job performance.
We know diverse and inclusive teams are more innovative, are better problem-solvers and produce better business results. Many companies today are proactively working toward more diverse and inclusive workplaces as part of their business strategy.
Additionally, employers with government contracts may be required to have affirmative-action goals and to provide reporting on their hiring.
To better understand a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, check out its website and social media accounts. See whether diversity is included in the company’s mission, vision and strategy and how it portrays its workforce.
Knowing a company is committed to these principles will help you feel comfortable sharing this voluntary information. If you do so, do it on an application form.