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A new book by Nicola Rollock, professor of social policy and race at King’s College London, tears up the template that most workplace books follow. The Racial Code: Tales of Resistance and Survival is startlingly effective as a primer for anyone interested in racial equity at work. It brings readers beneath the surface of things, to understand the complexity of the black experience of navigating the (often hidden) exclusionary practices built into our existing systems and structures.
Through fictionalised accounts of black British life, Nicola aims to show how things really work. She uses academic research and lots of data to make her points, but her fictionalised case studies read like short stories, highlighting “the complexity and fluidity of racism”.
In one section, Nicola explores a sci-fi like scenario that gives black women the power to put a force field around their personal space, protecting themselves from white people’s inappropriate curiosity about black hair.
The book is sometimes challenging, as it should be. Because it reads, in part, like a short story collection, it sets a new bar for our notions of what a workplace or business book can be. (Isabel Berwick)
PS I recommend a very powerful article Nicola wrote for the FT in 2020: It’s time for white people to step up for black colleagues.
Join leaders from Qualcomm Incorporated, PepsiCo, Twitter and more at our Women at the Top Americas Summit on November 14 at the Dream Downtown, New York, and online. Our speakers will discuss how purposeful action from leaders can drive real change. Claim our limited 25 per cent discount offer on our VIP in-person summit using promo code Newsletters22, or register for a free digital pass today.
Beware of ‘ghost job’ listings
The modern process for applying to jobs is “horribly broken,” says Allyn Bailey, executive director of hiring success at SmartRecruiters, a talent acquisition software company. Part of the problem is caused by the sheer number of job postings for positions that don’t actually exist — or do they?
A recent survey from Clarify Capital of over 1,000 hiring managers found that almost seven out of 10 managers have had job postings active for over a month, and half of managers keep job postings open not because they are actively hiring, but because they’re “always open to new people,” or are holding out for a “purple squirrel,” or impossibly perfect candidate.
Allyn says that these “ghost jobs” aren’t a new phenomenon. But as more people partake in the Great Reshuffle, job applicants are becoming “more savvy” to “a bad practice that’s developed over time.” Social media has heightened our expectations to receive immediate feedback — and that expectation extends to a company’s hiring process.
Ghost jobs aren’t “malicious,” says Allyn. These types of listings often show up — and endure — on job boards when large companies hire for a role very frequently. They accept resumes on a rolling basis so that they can draw from the stack whenever the need arises. The problem is, when recruiting teams are finally ready to hire, they’re not necessarily looking back through the people who’ve previously applied.
“The job posting isn’t the problem,” says Byron Slosar, founder of HIVE Diversity, a recruiting platform that connects companies to underrepresented, early-career candidates. “[Applicants] aren’t complaining about a post that’s been up too long, it’s about a post that’s up too long that no one hears back from”. Byron designed HIVE to foster engagement and emphasise quality over quantity — 90 per cent of their 21,000 users receive responses on their applications.
“Ghost jobs” can be a misnomer. The real issue, says Byron, is “about the disconnect”. And the longer a company collects resumes, the less efficient their recruiting efforts. “If you collect too long,” says Byron, “most of those candidates have moved on”.
This creates frustration on the job seeker’s side, and fuels the assumption that one must apply to hundreds of jobs in order to get a single response.
To avoid wasting time applying for ghost jobs, Allyn advises that job seekers look for specificity in job descriptions. If a role includes unique job duties, it’s more likely the company is currently looking to fill the opening. If you’re not seeing any particularly specific details — or if the same listing has been posted in multiple locations or has been active for 30+ days — you may be looking at a ghost job. “It doesn’t hurt to apply,” says Allyn, as long as you recognise you may only be adding yourself to the company’s ongoing talent pool.
“We can do a better job of matching people’s interest with the work that [companies] need,” Allyn says. Instead of a job-by-job application process, she hopes for a future where candidates can signal their interest to companies and recruiters can proactively and holistically match people to the right jobs.
In the short term, Byron says transparency is key. Companies that are knowingly putting up so-called ghost job listings should say that resumes are accepted on a rolling basis.
“Gone are the days a company can treat the process as a process and not an experience,” says Allyn. “This is about relationships, not transactions”. (Sophia Smith)
When you see a job listing that you’re excited about, but which is likely a ghost job, would you bother to spend time applying to it? Let us know in this week’s poll.
Listen in: Advice from all-star business podcasters
This week is Working It’s 50th podcast episode (how did that happen?) and to celebrate we have insights into the future of work from some of the biggest stars of the business and careers podcasting world, including Steven Bartlett, host of the smash hit The Diary of a CEO.
The production team called this episode “Avengers Assemble,” after the Marvel superheroes, because we gathered together some of audio’s top talent: our other guests are Bruce Daisley of Eat Sleep Work Repeat, Emma Gannon of Ctrl Alt Delete and Jenna Kutcher of The Goal Digger. What was fascinating to me was that many of their ideas and tips come down to one thing: prioritise human connection. It’s the bedrock of so much at work — and we need to cherish and cultivate it even more in a hybrid world. We hope you enjoy hearing from the experts as much as we did.
Next week, we take a fresh look at the much-maligned middle manager. So many of us take on these roles, but end up sandwiched between top leaders and our teams — it’s too often a thankless role. With expert advice from Quy Huy, an Insead professor and my FT colleague Andrew Hill. (Isabel Berwick)
Elsewhere in the world of work:
1. Leaders reflect on their first jobs: Six women who are leaders in their field share how their early work experiences — from grocery stores to the Peace Corps — shaped their careers and impressed the importance of commitment, ambition, and confidence.
2. ‘Everyone should wake up figuring out how to get paid more’: US economist Jason Furman sits down with FT’s Henry Mance to talk about inflation woes, the likelihood of a recession, and return-to-office mandates.
3. Forget the ‘toxic boss’ — meet the toxic underlings: It used to be that everyone moaned about the people above them, not the people below or to the side. But these days the disgruntled and insubordinate are seemingly everywhere.
4. Is it worth moving to a big city to climb the corporate ladder? In a remote-work, high-cost-of-living world, a junior employee weighs the costs and opportunities of relocating to a pricey city.
5. The surprising power of being someone’s sidekick: Benjamin Markovits recounts his experience as a pro basketball player, falling into the “number two” role, and what it taught him about team dynamics and identity.
Last week, Pilita Clark reflected on the rituals of exchanging business cards, and wondered whether technologies like QR codes and Near-Field Communication chips have complicated the exchange of professional contact information — or simplified it.
Reader Kz says that business cards are important for reasons which are “not usually spelled out”. (Pun intended, Kz?)
Many people don’t catch names that quickly when said aloud, and find it rude to ask again and again to spell it. Reading a name makes it easier to remember it. Plus, so many cultures have difficult names — or at least less familiar to you. Business cards solve these problems.
Reader ex scientist, who used to work for a Japanese company, points out the importance of business card etiquette in Asian culture:
Handing over a card involved a ritual where it was seen as an insult if you didn’t hold the card in both hands and read it for a few seconds before putting it in your pocket.
Reader Beachbum Paris also mentions another instance of business card etiquette:
I was at a breakfast before an event and a youngish senior executive managed to spill coffee all over me. If she had a business card, she could have presented it and insisted that I send her the bill for my dry cleaning, which would have been an elegant gesture to wrap up the incident. Instead, both of us were left feeling very uncomfortable and no further contact was made. Meeting new people is one of those times when having a little ceremony (exchanging card, glancing at the names, nodding heads) eases the tensions and facilitates connection.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
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