At some point in your career, you were probably turned down for a job at a new organization in favor of an “internal” candidate. Most of us have had that experience. It’s even more likely (though you probably weren’t aware of it) that you’ve been rejected at times in favor of outside applicants who were known to the hiring managers — candidates who were referred by other employees or recommended by friends of friends. That’s how the world works.
In fact, if you look back on your own checkered past, and if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll recall that a lot of the jobs you did get came through personal connections of some kind — associates, mentors, friends, family. You’re savvy about organizations, and savvy job-seekers rarely go in cold.
But what if you’re not a former associate of anyone in any employer that might need your skills? What if you’re not a mentee, a friend of a friend, a relative? What if you don’t come recommended by a trusted source — if you don’t have an “in” of any kind and are not a known applicant?
Then you’re out of luck, and that’s exactly why today’s corporate executives are missing the point about diversity: Whites don’t have to do bad things to minority groups in order to maintain a racial advantage in employment and wealth. They only have to do good things for one another. And they do good things for one another all the time.
In a study I conducted among white workers, I found that 70 percent of the participants’ jobs, past and present, had been landed with the help of friends or relatives who were in a position to provide inside information, exert influence on the candidates’ behalf, or directly offer job or promotion opportunities.
Yet virtually all of these employees, as well as white managers I’ve interviewed, maintain that they oppose racism and are in favor of equal opportunity.