August 2015

I had a problem at work today that surprised me.

hiring the right people square

I had a wonderful meeting this morning with a wonderful business coach.  She is a qualified teacher and she has volunteered as a faculty member with Sierra Commons for a long time.  (She wasn’t the problem.  She is completely awesome.)  Together, we used her resources to put together curriculum for an upcoming workshop about how to hire the right people.  Sierra Commons is really excited about offering this class and I left the meeting with real motivation to promote a workshop that I know is going to be a huge help to local businesses.

I have a system for promoting the classes at Sierra Commons and it is mostly a by-the-book approach to social media marketing.  I usually start by adding the workshop to our calendar and then I add the workshop to our business page on Facebook.

When I add workshops and events to our business page on Facebook, I usually search for a stock photo on the internet, or some other picture licensed under a commons license, in order to promote the event. (For those who aren’t familiar with web promotion, stock photos are available at a minimal price and photos licensed under a commons license are available to the general public.  It’s good to find a photo that can be the icon for the event as you promote it and it is also important that the photo you use matches the values of the organization or business.)  As a non-profit organization, we offer free and low-cost classes. It isn’t always within our budget to hire designers to create new icons or photos for every class we offer.

I went to look for a photo that would match the mission to “hire the right person.”

Nevada County isn’t exactly known for its racial diversity.  As of the last census, we were the second whitest county in California, just after our northern neighbor, Sierra County.  Interestingly, for being the whitest counties in California, neither Sierra County nor Nevada County have a particular propensity towards racism.  That’s not to say that racism doesn’t exist.  Racism exists everywhere.  But for counties lacking diversity, the awareness and the intention for inclusion is an undercurrent of the culture.  Speaking for Nevada County, many people and local organizations make consorted efforts to include people of color and other minorities in both business and organizational strategies.

Ruth Schwartz, the teacher for our upcoming workshop, and I had a long conversation about preconceived ideas about “hiring the right person.”  We talked a lot about pitfalls. We talked about inappropriate referrals.  We talked about how many local businesses hire their friends.  We talked about the fact that many local businesses don’t list job postings, they just ask for resumes through word-of-mouth.  We talked about how to honor resumes and how to sort through them.  We even talked about discrimination and how our prejudices can have an adverse effect on the hiring process.

I was so excited when I left our meeting.  I know that our upcoming workshop is going to be amazing and I know that our local business community is going to benefit from the material.

Here’s the problem I wasn’t anticipating: when I went to look for an appropriate picture to promote an event about “hiring the right person” it took me nearly two hours to find a mildly appropriate photo to promote the event, a photo that mirrored our values about the workshop.

Nearly every photo about “hiring the right person” contained the exact same group of people: young, fit, white men. Photo after photo portrayed young white men.  Pages upon pages.  Groups of young white men getting the job.

Then, most of the photos that tried to diversify, contained young, fit, white men and then one young, pretty, white woman in high-heels, a skirt, and low-cut blouse.  There were a small handful of photos that had a white-skinned Eastern Asian person, still 20-something and good-looking.  There were less photos that had a tan-skinned Indian or Pacific Asian person, usually in the background.  With the exception of a single photo that contained a group of entirely black young people high-fiving each other, there was no pictorial representation of diverse job-seekers that I could find.

I could not find a photo that contained a diverse group of hireable people that appeared to be equally qualified for a job. Today’s qualified job seekers might be not-white, not-male, not fit, and not under 40.  Those possibilities, and being open to those possibilities, are an asset to anyone hiring someone new.

I finally settled on a picture of a white woman’s left hand with no wedding ring using a magnifying glass to examine non-racially-descript, gray-scale icons of men and women.  It was a compromise.hiring the right people sq