Does diversity follow jobs out the door in hard times?

Nancy Anderson
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I recently spoke with a reporter for one of Philadelphia's network TV stations about the trials and tribulations of my own job search. I shared with her my always-a-bridesmaid, never-a-bride interview history to date and discussed some of the things I thought might account for this experience.

I know through feedback from a mutual friend that on at least one occasion, the interviewer concluded I was overqualified and would be bored with the job, and on at least two others, it was a simple mismatch between the skills and strengths I had and those the interviewer wanted.

Race never came up in my own mental list of possible causes. But after speaking with the reporter, who shares my racial background, I can no longer rule it out completely the way I had been doing.

One reason why came up in a story she told me about one of the people she spoke with for her report. This man was a corporate recruiter who specializes in what is known in the human resources field as "diversity hires." Companies looking to fill managerial and executive level jobs with qualified African American candidates turn to this recruiter for help and guidance.

The recruiter usually does not lack for clients. However, the reporter told me, his phone has been silent for the last several months.

This gave rise to an unlovely thought: When times get tough, many of the white guys who still run the overwhelming majority of companies decide they can do without frills like diverse management ranks.

Whether such decisions are conscious or unconscious is beside the point, which is that this sort of thinking is actually woefully mistaken. In hard times, a company's customers and employees may be fewer in number, but they are no less diverse than they are when times are good. The business and marketing insights that come from having people with a wide variety of backgrounds and cultural perspectives in the management ranks help companies hold onto and gain market share in down economies just as much as they do in up ones.

Smart CEOs should get this intuitively. Maybe it's that many CEOs aren't that smart.

By the way, both the recruiter and me are featured in the report by Joyce Evans of Philadelphia's Fox 29. The news feature focuses on areas where jobs are plentiful and on the difficulty African American men are having finding work. You can watch the full report on the Fox 29 website and share your thoughts on this subject in the comments here.

By Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is a veteran freelance writer, editor and public relations professional who lives in Philadelphia. Besides blogging for, he has written for numerous publications and websites, would be happy to do your resume, and is himself actively seeking career opportunities on Nexxt. Check out his LinkedIn profile and read his other posts on

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