aNewDomain — The TV is on. I confess to a lack of disdain for “Pawn Stars.” But never mind that. It’s the commercials that are important right now — specifically one for shaving razors.
In it, six basically identical white guys show up for some kind of executive interview. One sits across from the other five, has a flash of inspiration, and runs off to shave his head. For some reason, razors and foam are for sale in the lobby, and he manages to get the process done quickly, without cutting his head and without getting any shaving cream on his interview clothes.
Never mind. I won’t ruin it all with facts and science, not yet anyway. But stay with me here.
Point is, this guy skids back into the waiting room and we see his point of view was different from the other guys’. He’s looking at a row of portraits of company presidents from the past. They all have the same identical grey suits as all six applicants, but they also have shaved heads. Then the interviewer comes out, and it’s a white guy in a grey suit, with a shaved head.
Now this commercial is inherently racist and sexist, but it also has its facts in order. We tend to hire people who are the most like us. The same clothes, the same skin, the same hair (or lack thereof), the same sex. Ideally, the same language, accent, education, hometown, fraternity, the list goes on.
Step one: Be exactly like the person doing the hiring.
Of course, this is a terrible strategy for the employer, but that’s not your concern right now. Diversity is a good thing. Different points of view bring more possible solutions and strategies. Six identical guys in identical suits only have the same ideas, nothing new or innovative.
Step two: Be sexy, but not too sexy.
In particular, if your interviewer is the sex you aren’t, wear something red. If you’re a woman, studies show that wearing red can get you all kinds of attention from men who wouldn’t look at you twice otherwise.
We probably evolved color vision to spot tasty, sugary leaves across the forest canopy. This would save us the trouble of walking there to search. Seeing color also helps us not be food for jaguars. But right after getting fed for minimum caloric expenditure and avoiding predators, we started using color to signal sexual readiness. Our skin and our lips are finely-tuned instruments to demonstrate our sexual readiness.
It’s no coincidence that lipstick tends to be red, nail varnish tends to be red, and a morning make-up routine is generally incomplete without some blush.
Just be careful. Men will notice women and women will notice men, and we’ll respond more favorably … so long as we’re straight. There isn’t data for how same-sex attraction works here. And straight men interviewing other men wearing red, or women interviewing red-adorned women, are more likely to respond with hostility.
Nobody likes competition.
Step three: Do everything you can to conceal ethnic-sounding names.
I know, I know — even the term “ethnic sounding” is racist. But we have to have some way of describing the phenomenon of interest.
Don’t throw stuff at me. Throw stuff at America. You guys make it necessary to use such words. I’m originally from the UK, so I won’t take the blame for you.
But imagine having four versions of a resume. The resume is identical in nearly every way. The only difference is the name at the top. Two have male names, two have female names. Of the two male names, one sounds Euro, and the other sounds “ethnic.” Same for the two female names. Now we can send out these identical resumes in large quantities, and measure differences in responses.
Bertrand and Mullainathan did just that. This article by David Francis describes it in more detail. But the upshot is, as you’d expect, if you’re in the market for work, it helps to be a white guy. If your name gives a lot away, and you can disguise it somehow, your chances of getting a callback go up.
So, use science. Be exactly like your interviewer; if you have to be a different sex, wear red; and do your level best to be a white guy.
Told you you’d be sad. But now you know, for better or worse, exactly how to get hired.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
Cover image: Zencat2006 (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons