Monthly Archives: June 2010

Is Your Interview Process Better Than the U.S. Senate's?

Watching some of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan today was a bit frustrating. It seems as though the confirmation process has deteriorated to both an unproductive and politicized activity by which we select our highest judges. The outlandish focus on the outcomes of high profile cases produces an unpleasant and ineffective process. It seems the process would be better served by focusing on the nominee’s qualifications – legal aptitude, experience and knowledge. Much like the confirmation hearing, employee selection is about hiring the right candidate for the job. While the interview process has been both criticized and praised, it remains the most important part of recruiting. However, much like we’ve seen over the history of Supreme Court confirmation hearings, the problem of selection is often associated with ineffective interviewers as well as a poor interview process. So – when was the last time you reviewed your interview framework and techniques? How about now?

Stereotypes Can Hit The Bottom Line

I’m teaching a course on critical thinking at the moment so I’m very aware that stereotyping is “hard wired” into our brains. It’s part of our cognitive process. We often don’t meet someone as a completely new person – we unconsciously use our expectations and perceptions (our stereotypes) to make some initial observations. Stereotyping can also result from not being informed or not taking the time to “research the new data.” It’s when this lack of understanding begins to dictate behaviors and attitudes that it creates issues or even missed opportunities. Take for instance two articles from AdAge regarding misconceptions about the Hispanic market. One article demonstrates how some organizations still don’t understand how to reach a “new majority.” The other discusses the affluence of Hispanics.

The reality is that stereotypes (including cultural misunderstandings) can hit an organization’s bottom line. These ‘attitudinal barriers’ cannot only hinder the ability of organizations to reach certain markets, but it also makes it difficult for employers to recruit and retain a diverse workforce. These misconceptions might also become systemic barriers when the lack of understanding is incorporated into organizational policies and practices that can negatively impact certain cultural groups. Because cultural diversity is now a reality in the United States, especially in the workforce, it’s important for organizational leaders, educators, trainers, and everyone to gain a better understanding of and sensitivity to stereotypes. We all have much to gain from helping bridge the cultural divide.

Developing Hispanic Leaders for the Future

There are various organizations out there that are doing marvelous work in developing Hispanic students. These programs help develop K-12 Hispanic students not only academically but also by developing their leadership skills. Case in point is this excellent Hispanic leadership program by the Harvard JFK School of Government.  The program is intended to help prepare the rising generation of Latino leaders for the opportunities and challenges they will face in the coming decades. Note the word “rising generation.” Currently, the program focuses on only a handful of schools but will probably expand with its success. You can read about some of the early results here and here – and find more information about the program via the Harvard Latino Leadership Initiative homepage.

HSI Career Centers – Learning from the Best (Pt. 2)

Welcome to part two of the HTM Podcast series, “HSI Career Centers: Learning from the Best.” Part two features the Career Center at Rio Hondo College, a two-year college in the heart of East Los Angeles. I’m joined by Belen Torres-Gil, a career center professional with over 22 years of experience working with Hispanic college students. Belen provides unique insights to a 2-Year HSI college career center as well as working with Hispanic students in an urban community.

This HTM Podcast Series continues to take an in-depth look at how career centers at Hispanic Serving Institutions work to support the needs of Hispanic college students as well as employers. If you missed part one of the series featuring The University of Texas at El Paso Career Center, you can find it here.



Multi-National. Multi-Cultural. Multi-Shortage

Finding talent is not confined to the borders of the United States. Meeting talent needs is now a global issue experienced by many organizations, particularly those on the international business stage. Finding talent has become such an issue that according to a Business Council Survey, CEOs view it as a major global competitive issue. According to a recent McKinsey and Company report, U.S. corporations competing in globally competitive markets are responsible for nearly three-quarters of U.S. real GDP growth since 2000. However, a ManPower survey shows that 31 percent of employers worldwide are having difficulty filling positions due to the lack of suitable talent available in their markets. Not understanding this ignores the reality of today’s economic environment. The ManPower report makes one recommendation which is insightful:

 It is imperative, therefore, that employers recalibrate their mindsets to consider candidates who may not have all of the specific skills a job requires. This is especially true for systemic shortages of in-demand roles: Employers cannot address these shortages one hire at a time. They must refine job descriptions and candidate evaluations to identify people with “teachable fit” based on adjacent skills rather than traditional fit.

Employers of any size must come to the conclusion that competing in a global environment necessitates identifying and attracting talent from a variety of cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. Doing so provides employers the dynamic workforce needed to understand a dynamic business world.

Throwing Mud at the Wall

You’ve probably heard the old political adage – ‘throw mud at the wall and something will eventually stick.’  This has become a job search strategy for many college students- apply for a lot of jobs and one will eventually come through. The Washington Post shares an article showing that more college graduates are not only becoming less choosy about the the jobs they accept but more desparate in their job search. The “I just wanted to find something” career search strategy is probably a long way from the focused and well-planned strategies advocated by most college career centers and career advisors. However, these are certainly extraordinary times and perhaps the traditional book on finding a job goes out the window when this year’s college graduates are competing against last years graduates as well as other professionals.

Happy Father's Day

I’m thankful for being a father. Like other dads out there, I love my kids and am proud of everything they’ve already accomplished in their young lives. I’ve been very fortunate.  Having worked from home for the last 12 years, I’ve had the unique pleasure of raising my kids: being there to watch their first steps, hear their first words, and feed them their first real food. People often ask how I’m able to balance working from home and raising two kids – it’s hard, but it’s the hardest job I’ve ever loved. As they grow up, I realize how fast it happens so I try to enjoy everything with them – every moment that brings laughter, surprise, or sometimes sadness.  I’ve tried to mentally capture all those special times. And while there have been certain choices I’ve made in my career to witness all these special moments, I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’d do it all over again. Although this day is meant to give fathers their special day, I can’t help but think that I’ve already been given much more. I’m the one that should be thankful for having had the opportunity to be a dad.

More Hispanic H.S. Grads Heading to College

This is an excellent study by Pew Research focusing on minority college enrollment over the last few years. The news and trends are especially positive for Hispanic freshman. Why the boom? A few reasons are cited but a major reason is Hispanic high school completion rates. Data strongly suggest that the freshman college enrollment spike that occurred is closely related to the minority high school completion spike that occurred the same year. Some highlights below –with  the full report is here.

Large freshman enrollment growth was evident among the nation’s racial and ethnic minorities. Overall freshman enrollment was up 6%. Hispanic freshmen increased by 40,000 compared with 2007, a 15% increase in enrollment and the largest of any of the major racial/ethnic groups.

In short, since 2007 there has been significant growth in minority freshmen (particularly Hispanic) and there has been significant minority freshman growth in each tier of postsecondary education, including four-year colleges and universities.

In addition, the first year of the recession was a time when young Hispanics, in particular, were completing high school at record rates. According to Census Bureau surveys, the Hispanic high school completion rate reached an all-time high in October 2008 at 70%.

Social Media and Diversity?

A blog post over at recruiting blogs asks if you can have “Social Media & Recruit a Diverse Workforce?” A great topic and question (the post is great as well). I’ve linked to several studies that show the increasing number of Latinos getting online (via the internet and mobile technology). For employers interested in reaching a diverse workforce, social media should be an obvious resource – but not the only one.

The Challenge of Inclusion

The establishment of an inclusive organizational environment is a challenge that requires real change. The challenge is balancing one dominant viewpoint against less understood or recognized points of view. The suppression of other perspectives denies collective contribution that leads to organizational innovation and creativity. However, despite organizational structures that are flatter and more democratic, organizations still define leaders as the “thinkers” and employees as the “executing objects.”

It’s challenging to create an inclusive environment when such definitions of reality exist in organizations. In order to create inclusive environments, organizations must change their view of reality. It means increasing the awareness that people of other backgrounds, experiences, and cultures might perceive reality differently. Understanding and respecting these points of view encourage reflection which helps create a culture of inclusion. 

A clear organizational vision is a starting point for creating an inclusive organizational culture. It clarifies the organization’s direction, creates commonality in mindsets, and illustrates where the organization wants to be in the future.  Within this inclusive environment, “leadership becomes a question of coordinated social processes in which a leader is one voice among many (Pless & Makk).

Reference:  Pless, N., & Makk, T. (2004). Building an Inclusive Diversity Culture: Principles, Processes and Practice. Journal of Business Ethics, 54(2),129-147.