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An Essential Checklist for Black Women Applying to Jobs

By Brittnee Phillips Originally Published on Medium

The stirring of recent racial injustices — the murder of Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others — juxtaposed with the mounting cases of and deaths from Covid-19 among Black people, along with the drastically high Black unemployment rate, has spurred me to share how I consider, and apply, for full-time employment in the U.S. Historically, I’ve only applied to jobs I believed I could 100% manage. Research has shown women are more likely to apply to a job if they feel extremely qualified. It’s something I still work on removing as a roadblock in my own job search. But instead of worrying about whether or not we’re qualified for a certain position, more of us (Black women, especially) should consider whether the job itself meets your own standards and qualifications. After I’ve read a job description, checked any LinkedIn stats for the posting (Premium comes in handy occasionally) and visited the company website, I launch into a very specific methodology for submitting my application. To provide you with a peek into my methods, I’ve decided to present my process in a list, because who doesn’t love a good list? 1. Pay attention to the language in the job posting If I see words like “rockstar,” “hungry,” “work hard, play hard,” “ninjas,” “gurus,” or “aggressive,” I will not apply. To me, these words are used in the posting because they’re actively used within the organization, thus indicating a culture I don’t want to be a part of. Plenty of academic research is available that has proven these words and phrases indicate a #BroCulture, which itself is synonymous with White-male-dominant culture. The last thing I want as a Black woman is to join an organization or team that’s for “bros.” I also find the use of these words in job postings to be simply lazy. If an organization cannot find a better way to tell the story about their business, their expectations, and how impact will be measured for the role, then they’re not going to be able to value what I bring to the table. 2. Check for personal connections When applying to jobs, I ask myself: Do I have any personal connections with someone at the company? Particularly, I first look for Black people and people of color in my LinkedIn connections. Based on my own application history, I know that any time I’ve asked a personal connection to refer or introduce me to the right person, those asks have been more successful with Black folks and people of color than with any White person I might know. Normally, I don’t tend to ask anyone for a referral or an introduction at all because it makes me feel uncomfortable to ask people to help me. I’m fully aware of how the majority of jobs are filled by people who knew someone who referred or introduced them. Recently, I took a chance with vulnerability and asked for help from my LinkedIn network. After I stepped out of my comfort zone, I had connections on LinkedIn either referring me or introducing me for roles at Google, Netflix, Facebook, and other tech companies and/or startups. Some of those haven’t borne any fruit, but I learned that all I needed to do years ago was simply ask my 1,600+ connections for help, and there might be those who would. It’s important that as Black women, we learn to get comfortable asking for help when we need it. I don’t want to be the only Black person at the company; that’s asking for more trauma. 3. Do a deep dive into the company’s website As a marketer, I review how the company digitally presents its brand, product, and/or services. I look at the style of their website, how user friendly is it, what content is most prominent, and more. I might sign up for their email newsletter. I’ll definitely click through their social media channels. But most importantly, I look for some version of an “About Us” or “Team” page. I’m not looking for a story about the mission and vision. I’m looking for images of Black people who work there — particularly Black women. If a company has one of these pages, I’ll spend time scrolling through every person presented. I’ll prepare a list to then review their LinkedIn profiles. When I don’t see any Black people on these pages and I’m unable to find any who list the company on LinkedIn, then I’ll remove the company from consideration. 4. And dive into the employees’ LinkedIn profiles After searching for the company’s LinkedIn page and scrolling through all employees (with intentional care to look for any Black-appearing employee), I’ll open each of their profiles and review their role at the company and their past roles and decide if I see they’ve had hierarchy-attenuating or hierarchy-enhancing roles. I don’t count a chief diversity officer or any diversity, equity, and inclusion roles filled by a Black person or non-Black POC. Why? Because that is a part of the systemic racism restricting Black folks in workplaces. We can do more than diversity, equity, and inclusion work — we are leaders, engineers, product managers, marketers, designers, and so forth. Additionally, I’ll review each person’s activity on LinkedIn — posts they’ve reacted to or commented on, articles they’ve written, and posts they’ve authored. How they use their voice and/or privilege significantly matters. To finish off this step in my process, I’ll try to find the hiring/direct manager for the role. I’ll also do a search using the term “marketing” to see who might be my potential teammates. If that yields a predominantly White result and/or the majority of the Black appearing employees have support roles or roles that lack decision-making power, I’ll remove the company from consideration. I don’t want to be the only Black person; that’s asking for more trauma. I’ve got enough to last me a lifetime. I don’t want to be tokenized in a position that has no power, cannot measurably enact change, and is lauded as one I should be grateful for in order to have the only Black seat at the table. I’ve worked in very toxic and exclusionary environments in my past. Moving forward, I refuse to subject myself to more. 5. Don’t forget about the company’s social media I’ll spend a considerable amount of time on a company’s social media channels looking at their most recent content and scrolling as far back as one or two years. With the current social climate, I’m looking at what is written about #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName, how statements are worded, and whether there is any published data on Black representation within the organization and in leadership roles. Some companies share their action plans and own their (potentially past) role in systemic racism while others provide vague responses on what actions they plan to take. Along with the above, I’ll review how their products/services are marketed on social media — if a person is pictured with the product, how frequently are Black, Indigenous, or people of color at the forefront; is gender factored in? I’ll also review the use of creative elements that make marketing fun, exciting, and cool. Based on the performative nature and/or lack of diversity in promoting their product or service, I’ll then remove a company from consideration. 6. Search for recent news about the company Finally, if a company has managed to stay in my process after the above steps, I’ll search them on Google News. I want to see what sort of news is published about the company. Did they recently have a scandal? Are they being sued by anyone? You name it, I’m looking to see if it’s there. I look from the past 30 days, last quarter, and then last year using the search tool’s recency feature. And I’ll read the articles, not only headlines. I’ll consider the news or media outlet that published the content as well. I won’t overlook performative pieces and clear PR stunts to ride a trend — especially if that trend is supporting the Black community as though we’ve just started existing in 2020.

These steps may seem like a considerable amount of effort. However, I’ve worked in some very toxic and exclusionary environments in my past that were directly tied to my identity as a Black woman. Moving forward, I refuse to subject myself to more. If somehow an organization progresses through my steps, I apply, they interview me, and then I accept an offer to only end up finding out their alignment with my values was a lie, then I will leave. I don’t want to simply try “surviving” in toxicity and anti-Black racism for a paycheck. Life is meant to be lived, not survived. I hope my steps help someone who is trying to navigate how to find a healthy-ish workplace as a Black person.

The original article can be found here:



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