You look like you can do this job.

I recently attended #SHRMVLS in DC with a slew of my favorite SHRM Volunteers from all over the country. This is my second time attending and the connections I make at this event are so valuable. These are other HR volunteers from across the country who are in the same shoes I’m in, or were just in them, or are about to be in them. We get to hear from awesome speakers and find out about valuable resources to help us in our home chapters as we work hard to provide our hometown HR community with everything we can.

We have two opportunities to attend break out sessions with other chapters the same size as ours. In the meeting I attended we broke off into groups to discuss challenges we were facing in our chapters and shared ideas and experience to take back and try for ourselves. I love this meeting because these are my people, if for no other reason than because they have the same size chapter that we do in North Alabama and can relate to our struggles and triumphs.

The most disturbing thing happened while in that breakout session. One of the groups shared that they wanted to have a better social media presence and their idea was to put a college student on the board because they would be good at it.

STOP.

IT.

please-stop

Do not do that anymore. Do you know what you just said? You said “you look like you could do this job.” You are in HR and you said “you look like you can do this job.” Nooooooo. This is wrong on so many levels, yet it happens all the time. Think of how angry we get as the HR professional of our organizations when a hiring manager does this-makes an assumption that someone “looks the part.”

Or you think it doesn’t happen in your organization because you have a diversity committee, inclusion policies, sensitivity training, extensive interview training, etc. Maybe it doesn’t happen in your organization, maybe no one on your team has ever looked at a candidate and thought “he looks like he’d be great at math,”or “she has the look for sales” or “I bet that student can do our social media.” Maybe it was something you thought was harmless like “women are good at assembly line work-because they have small hands.”

An ethnicity doesn’t determine your math ability. The way you look doesn’t tell me how well you can do sales. Being a student doesn’t tell me that you can leverage social media skills to build an effective marketing campaign for an organization through the correct channels. People with good dexterity are probably the best at performing assembly line tasks regardless the size of their hands.

This is a soft example of what is happening in organizations that we need to fix, but I want to really challenge you to dig deep and make sure you have left no stone unturned in giving your hiring managers every resource possible to make them good at identifying talent and not a look, not a skin color, not a religion, not an age. Allowing this behavior is contributing to a much bigger problem.

What have you done to fix this or when have you experienced someone else making a decision on what you could or could not do based on the way you look?