5 Tips on Recruiting or Working with Asian-Americans

1. Ask us how long we have lived in the area. Do not ask us where we are REALLY from. Do not ask us what our nationality is when you mean ethnicity.  Aside from EEO issues in the US, these questions show  that you have already put us in a box as "other" and we are tired of hearing it.  Also, for Asian orphans, this can be a painful question. Some do not know. One woman I met was abandoned in Saigon as a toddler speaking Chinese in 1968. 


2. Don't ask if we are related to Dr. Chang, Prof. Chang or violinist Sarah Chang.

Doctor, professor, and musician are an Asian parent's dream. Olympic figure skater or high earning attorney is also acceptable. This question reminds us that our parents think the other three are better, and being an IT Director running a 24x7 10,000sq ft data center equates to being  a "computer guy."  It doesn't matter that the IT Director makes more money than the doctor or the professor.


If you need to ask, I am not related to Jake Shimabukuro (http://jakeshimabukuro.com). Damn musicians.


3. Kids. Our #1 issue is how the job impacts our kids' education.  Regardless of salary, the job location must allow our kids to attend a school providing a SUPERIOR education. Imagine having your work location limit your kids' education to a UC Berkeley feeder school while your cousin's company was next to a Stanford University feeder school?  Most of us have a little Amy Chua (http://amychua.com) Dragon Mom in us. I only backed off after my daughter was in tears and destroyed her PSAT score sheet because she only scored in the 98th percentile. I guess I can live with UC Berkeley. There are many non-Asian Dragon Moms and Dads, but we are overrepresented in this demographic.


4. We vote with our feet. If there is something we dislike about the work environment, we are less likely to complain and more likely just to move on. There are GIANT exceptions to this point, but it is a good 9/10th rule. This is a great opportunity for finding passive candidates.  How do you know if Asians hate their work? Ask, and if they answer "It is okay" it means "This place is hell on earth. Is the new job you are talking about commuting distance to an Ivy League feeder school?"


5. Take us to lunch at a Thai restaurant. Why Thai? It accommodates vegetarians and there are fewer Thais to judge the food.  Except for you extreme foodies, most Japanese or Chinese restaurants which you think are great, really aren't. Offer to take us to Benihana or P.F. Chang's[1] and our lunch schedules will dry up for the next two years. Have we ever offered to take you to Howard Johnson's for a great Salisbury Steak?  


[1]None of us are related to P.F. Chang Bill was kind enought to point out that PF Chang's was founded by Phillip Chiang along with Paul Flemming. So there are Asian-Americans related to the Chiangs.


About the Author: Bert Shimabukuro is an HR professional with expertise in talent acquisition, employee relations, collective bargaining, electronic monitoring in the workplace, and International HR.  He holds a Master of Arts in Labor and Industrial Relations from the University of Illinois, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Hawaii.  He has been an Asian-American his entire life, and suspects that he speaks for people of Asian descent in Canada and the UK.  If they disagree with him, they should not leave comments, but instead write their own blogs. He is open to answering questions about the culture context of this blog to readers outside of North America.  He recommends that if American or Canadian readers have questions, they spend their next vacation in Southern California. 

Views: 881

Comment by Recruiting Animal on May 25, 2011 at 11:08am

Do you dare to come on the Recruiting Animal show today and defend your ideas? NOON ET

Here's the link - http://bit.ly/jVWDA9 - with the contact info.


At 1st I thought this was pretty stupid but it gets better as you read on

Comment by Paul Alfred on May 25, 2011 at 12:23pm
Great I guess I should write a blog on working with African Americans !@? Opps need to exclude the ones that are mixed race like my self with a German Grandad .. Oh no the ones that were born in the Caribbean - Or the ones that come from West Africa ... Not sure where to start...
Comment by Bert Shimabukuro on May 25, 2011 at 12:56pm
Paul, you'd better write it before I do.  What African Americans doesn't have a mixed heritage? My heritage is mixed and the social dynamics that go with that would take 30 minutes to explain. It looks like from your comments you already have your outline.  Try starting with the fact that there isn't one African-American experience or community. Look at President Obama, aside from obvious with his parents, he is the most Asian President we have ever had. He was educated in primarily in Hawaii with Asian Americans and lived in Asia.  Tiger Woods is another example.  I'll never forget Dave Chappelle's joke about arguing with with his Asian wife on which part of Tiger was hitting the ball. This was a broad stroke approach to the subject of Asian-Americans. I'm planning to break it down further in more detail later.
Comment by Paul Alfred on May 25, 2011 at 1:14pm
Bert you miss my point ...  Lots of African Americans don';t have mixed heritage and their histories are different and the point I am trying to make is this is unnecessary.  If you are writing a blog about how to survive doing business in Japan or China ok we can talk about some of the customs, the society etc but those are closed societies where it's important to learn the customs and ways for doing and conducting business once you are there   ...  I have been in this game since 96.   I have never had to adjust the way I work with Candidates based on Race ... I have 2 partners in my Portal Dev Company who happen to be born in mainland China one of whom is a Mentor of mine for over 15 years and I treat them exactly the same I do with any of my professional colleagues - White, Black, or Indian.
Comment by Bert Shimabukuro on May 25, 2011 at 3:33pm

Paul,  I disagree with this being unnecessary. I find 30% of the people I meet already do adjust for race by doing 1&5 and aren't aware of it. They do need to readjust to work effectively with Asian-Americans.  If you are treating me the same as anyone else, then two of us will be happy doing business together and you are in the 70%. I'd ask to to run this blog by few Asians you know born and raised in Canada or the US.  I think they'd tell you 1& 5 come up too frequently.  For #1, people don't ask this because they are trying to exclude me from being a real 'merican, but they don't even realize this is a question they'd never a white person and what it implies.   #2-#4 were tongue-in-cheek, but #3 in particular is important. This may be country specific, but in the US, school are funded on the local level.  That means in Texas, if you live in the wealthly Highland Park neighborhood of Dallas, your kids will have an education that will feed them into the Ivies.  A kid graduating at the top of his class an hour south in Corsicana, Texas in a less well funded school would has virtually no chance of being admitted to an Ivy League school.  Aside from that, if you are treating every colleague the same, I applaud you but I have found this not to be the case enough times to put it on a public blog.  I appreciate your feedback. 

As far as foreign cultures, that is a whole different topic. 

Comment by Paul Alfred on May 25, 2011 at 4:14pm

Ok I will make the point ... 

Give me your top five tips on Recruiting or working with African Americans,  Indian Americans, Native Indian Americans,  Irish Americans  Italian Americans ...  I could go on ...   I hope you see my point.


If you want to talk about 5 tips on doing business in Mainland China and or Hong Kong - My Brother lives there I can get back to you on this ...  I hope you see the difference ... If not we can agree to disagree ... 

Comment by Robin Stanton on May 25, 2011 at 5:29pm
Bert when you say 30% of the people you meet do 1 & 5 are you speaking of people in general or recruiters in particular?  I can't imagine any recruiter worth their salt would ask you about your ethnicity or nationality, but I can easily see a co-worker asking those questions.  I have personally experienced co-workers asking a lot of nosy and inappropriate questions totally unrelated to race.
Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 25, 2011 at 6:44pm

Bert i can see some sensitivity here to being treated differently due to being Asian American but could it be simply some interest and curiosity as opposed to being treated differently based on the way somebody asks something?


In my case with a West Texas atrocious semi southern accent if i travel outside of Texas someone will always ask me where i'm from. If i was born in Texas or what part of the South. If i travel to Mexico when i come back across the border i have to produce more documents than my blonde friends because i look like i am Mexican. Maybe not to some of you but you have never seen a Guera, which is either a Mexican who is blonde or one who has dark hair and is fair skinned.  I am often asked if i am of Indian descent as in American Indian.  Which i am, French immigrant grandfather and American Indian grandmother.  I find it fun to be asked about my nationality so i am wondering why as an Asian American it appears to be such a sensitive spot as obviously you look Asian Japanese , i look Mexican , Indian. all of us look like where we came from, sound like where we came from or something so why would anyone take umbrage if they are asked about it.  I take it as interest in my background and heritage not as being put in a box so how come you feel that way.  Inquiring minds want to know.  Or maybe why is it such a bad thing to be asked about our beginnings or nationality if we look a bit different than John Smith?


I have no idea if Paul is African, Carribean,  British or Nigerian or born and bred in Canada of all those origins but if i met him for lunch i would ask him about his background because i find it interesting

None of us are blind so we can see that people look different than the general population or sound different.  I simply think being interested is very different than discrimination.  Albeit i can promise that some people do not like Texans.  Colorado is not mecca for visiting Texans.


As to the school situation.  If someone has not lived in Texas they have no frame of reference as to the difference in the level of education depending on the area where one lives.  Bert is totally correct which is why many people in Texas kill themselves to live in a certain area of a city or send their kids to private schools.  Our educational systems in many areas is geared to accomodate an incredible number of illegals who have to learn English before they can learn to read or anything else.  English is not spoken in their homes so it is a terrific problem.


The flip side of that Bert is that most of us assume that Asian American children are higher achievers because most are due to parents who stress education more than Friday night football.  The Tiger Mom could teach a lot of folks in the South a lot.  Then we wouldn't have generations of kids who blew out a knee their junior year and are still trying to find a job somewhere that pays over minimum wage.



Comment by Suresh on May 25, 2011 at 8:08pm
Great topic Bert and interesting discussion. I guess this can apply to anyone who feels not part of the majority population. Most people who can blend in with the Majority Population will never quite understand the minute issues of being different. The US is definitely a country much more used to diversity, but there is a lot more education needed.

Never thought of these minute issues, when I was part of the majority population in India. Never once wondered what some of the minorities had to deal with. Now I can relate to it better.

For those diversity training experts, my suggestion is - unless people live as a minority (with your family/kids), you never truly understand it.
Comment by Suresh on May 25, 2011 at 8:17pm
By the way, if there is Radio show on this topic, would love to call in..


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