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The distressing reason your job hunt feels just like high school

A number of studies find that diversity in the workforce helps businesses produce better results. Why then does it feel like we’re back in high school as soon as we start looking?

While diversity gets a lot of attention, both in the press and within companies, it’s facing an uphill battle — like trying to convince the drama kids that the science nerd is a great fit for the play.

Psychologists have studied the “us vs. them” bias for years. It’s in our nature to assign people into one of two groups: like us or not like us. We think people who are like us are more competent and warm. This presents an automatic bias when it comes to hiring someone. With every interview or screening, a person, not a company, is evaluating whether or not you are in the “us” or “them” category — whether they realize it or not.

Diverse but the same

1. Focus on the similarities.

Yes, you may have been working in retail your entire career and now you want to get into an engineering group. Things aren’t that different at the core of it. Make the connections in your resume and in your interview that highlight the similarities.

For example, I was working for a team of economists that looked down at my psychology degrees. In the interview and throughout the first months, I pointed out how the methodologies and the statistical models were similar for both disciplines. I also pointed out the economics was based on the decisions of individuals and groups?—?exactly what psychology sought to explain.

2. Bring something the team needs.

Maybe in high school, you had a barn with open space to build sets. Maybe you had a backyard with a half pipe. Tell people what you can bring to the team. Do you have a large network of past clients? Do you know a technology from the bottom up? Make it easy for the interviewer or company to understand how you can enhance their team.

3. Fit in with the team.

Know that everyone is thrown off their game when a new person joins the team, it’s not just the newbie that needs to adjust. Team dynamics are sensitive, just like high school cliques. Highlight your ability to quickly build relationships, learn the culture, and start contributing on day one.

4. When in doubt…

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get to know the company or person. Showing an interest is the first step in breaking down biases.

5. Get motivated with these great reads about the benefits of diversity

Good luck in your job hunt!

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