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A forum for students and alumni of the Asian American UVA Community

“Does being an Asian American help or hurt my employability?”


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I was asked this question during a talk with UVa APA students a while ago.  At the time, I answered that, in general, being Asian American was an advantage initially for helping get through the door.  But once inside, I told them they would have to overcome extra hurdles to rise in the organization.  My remarks were based on my observations of large government and private organizations which have HR “diversity” goals.  For these organizations, a qualified minority might get a slightly longer look.

Since my talk, I’ve come across an NPR story from Feb 2017 which documented a Canadian study that showed that a resume with an Asian sounding name, versus the same resume with an Anglo name, got 28 percent less call backs for interviews.  Other studies have shown that being an Asian-American (actually being an identified minority) is detrimental to getting employed.  See the following.

For a glass half-full interpretation, the same study done 50 years ago might show that Asian-American would get 80% less call backs.  For the glass half-empty interpretation, the current study should have shown no difference in call backs.  So what can we make of this?  Yeah, I know, life is unfair.  But I do feel that Asian-American employability has gotten better (consider what our parents went through) and I am guardedly optimistic that it will continue that trend. 

So my initial view seems to be valid only for a limited group of organizations.  Maybe one adjustment to a job hunting strategy is to put more emphasis on organizations that have diversity targets/goals where your odds are better.  That is unless the company has an over abundance of Asian-Americans already and you won’t count as a minority for diversity purposes.     

Give me your thoughts on this.