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Building Ethnic Networks

• volume 3 • number 1

All candidates bring unspoken questions to an interview, but diverse candidates have unique and specific concerns. Among other things, they want to know how much support they can expect from a particular organization; whether they will be able to find role models and mentors; and how well they will fit into the corporate culture.

Unfortunately, managers and organizations have not always been responsive to these concerns, leaving foreign-born and minority applicants to find their own way in an intensely tight-knit and competitive system. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in Silicon Valley, where nearly a quarter of the high-tech workers are immigrants with top-notch skills who have typically been excluded from the elite networks of people who control technology companies. As Mark Shir, a Taiwanese computer specialist says, "I just looked at all the faces on the management teams - and didn't see anyone that looked like me."

Finding few mentors and little support among the area's major players, Shir started his own company with help from The Monte Jade Science and Technology Association, an organization that assists Asians in Silicon Valley. Monte Jade is only one of a growing number of ethnic networks dedicated to helping immigrants who find themselves locked out of the Valley's powerful old boy's network. Keibock Lee, who founded the Korean American Society of Entrepreneurs, says, "You have a common base in a network - you know you have a place to go for help and to bond."

Over the past two decades, ethnic networks have proven extraordinarily successful. Still, most members don't want to encourage the kind of exclusivity that made the networks necessary in the first place. Instead, says Monte Jade's Robert Chang, "We see ourselves as a bridge to the mainstream." In fact, it's just that kind of cultural bridging that people from diverse cultures look for in a company. The ideal place to assure them they'll find it is in the interview. Here are some ways to make candidates aware that your company supports and encourages diversity:

1. Broaden the diversity of your interview team.

2. Provide training that addresses diversity issues (such as our Interviewing Today's Workforce® seminar).

3. Allow candidates to observe diversity across the organization by giving them a company-wide tour (include the cafeteria or company lunchroom so they see more than your work team).