Eve used to work as a recruitment and research consultant for an Academic Recruitment Consultancy. Previously, Eve had had a six-month secondment working in East Asia for International Aid Agencies as a reconstruction and relief officer after the Tsunami, and so had experienced a variety of workplaces in Australia and overseas.
Almost immediately after Eve started her role as a recruitment consultant, she became painfully aware of racism in the workplace.
“It was actually one of the most depressing roles I have ever had, really. The practices in my former workplace were exploitive and archaic. There was wide spread ‘resume racism’ which I witnessed daily and first hand. It is a tricky one working in recruitment, especially filling the specialist positions like the company I worked for was employed to do. Basically, it is hard to pin point exactly where the racism comes from because it seemingly comes from absolutely everywhere. A very ‘inviting’ job description would be posted and a wide net cast to find the best talent. Only this wasn’t true, because once the talent search began it was clear there was a pecking order in relation to nationality”.
Eve’s day would begin with vetting the CVs. The initial cull included lazy applications failing to supply a cover letter or addressing the selection criteria correctly. After the first cull, Eve was instructed to file suitable candidates according to race and/or country of origin.
Eve explains “I have to point out that majority of roles our agency was seeking candidates for were open to visa sponsorship due to the level of expertise required for a vast amount of the roles. We really had to import a lot of foreign talent. So the usual spiel about having valid Australian working rights was not applicable. I couldn’t see any valid reason why some nationalities were preferenced over others.”
Eve was directed to offer first preference to Australians and New Zealanders, then the United Kingdom, Americans – but to be careful as they often wanted to claim large relocation packages – then Western Europe as their work ethic was admired, Latin Europe, other countries or former colonies where the British education system is still used – Ironically, racial discrimination was largely directed towards Indian applicants – then lastly the ‘third world countries’. Some would even get a nose scrunch when mentioned.
Eve explains that there were some exceptional engineering professors from Colombia applying for tenured positions at Universities across the country but when Eve put these applications forward she received looks of both bewilderment and fear. Paradoxically, one particular university where these applications were forwarded on to have now embraced Latin American talent and there are many post graduate students from Colombia and other Latin American countries as well as teaching staff and researchers. Another example was a technical role that had been open for several weeks and the University seeking the candidate was getting anxious. None of the interviewees had been suitable and there were tens of applications from Indian nationals fulfilling the job selection criteria sitting in a folder for consideration for the position ‘if desperate’.
“Another consultant approached the General Manager after the morning meeting in earshot of one of our Indian colleagues, asking ‘Can I forward the Indian applicants? I know it is not ideal but we haven’t been able to find anyone.” Eve felt complete disgust and could not even imagine for a second how bad her Indian colleague must have been feeling.
Eve believes some recruitment is outsourced so these institutions are able to absolve themselves of any racial overtones within their employment practices and that it is because of this absence of transparency that results in them not being held culpable for any actions or recourse. “The conversations between human resources departments – or on occasion Vice Chancellors – and recruitment agencies are confidential. Behind closed doors they can freely express any racial prejudice that they may hold and easily dismiss these prejudices as a lack of a cultural fit or that certain countries’ educational institutions don’t turn out the calibre of candidate that they need. Recruiters are usually just after the pay cheque, so ethics just go out the window.”
Eve witnessed many candidates’ resumes being deleted due to their first name despite the fact that they were suitable candidates who addressed all appropriate criteria.
“It was a nasty, selective racism. I know many people hold racial biases for whatever reason but when a person’s racial bias affects another person’s chances of being interviewed for a role that is wrong. In my eyes the selective racism I witnessed was robbing a generation or more of students from the opportunity of learning from some brilliant international educators. Yes, we have jobs to fill but particularly in roles where working visas are not an issue, it should be about filling the position with the perfect candidate regardless of their country of origin.”
Interview by Alison Wilson.