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Home  > Article

Diversity Dot-Com

By Pamela McBride

What are the advantages--and drawbacks--of minority-focused employments sites? Get the lowdown from the people who have used them.

 
Focused sites help job seekers hone in on workplaces with welcoming cultures and promising opportunities.
 
After not getting a single solid job lead from several major job boards, Dennis Murcia decided to change his tactic by targeting web sites that were targeting him. Murcia, 30, turned to LatPro.com, a leading job board for Spanish - and Portuguese - speaking professionals. Four months and several job offers later, Murcia accepted what he considers his dream job, a regional promotions director position at ElSitio.com, a top dot-com geared toward Latin Americans. "Finding a niche [employment] site is the way to go," Murcia says.


Without a doubt, the web is a popular place for recruiters and job seekers alike. Employment sites targeting underrepresented groups have entered the web landscape as both a tool to diversify the workplace and a means for job seekers to conduct more-focused job searches. Savvy job hunters take note.

The advantages: Debra Saroyan, vice president of sales and marketing at Ability, a magazine for people with "health disabilities and human potential," found her position the same day it was posted on JobAccess.org, a web site dedicated to the employment of people with disabilities. She was interviewed and hired almost immediately, despite a three-year hiatus since her last job. Saroyan says she began her online job search with large sites but soon became frustrated by the number of irrelevant positions she had to sift through.

"Smaller sites are much easier to navigate," says Saroyan, who found that web sites geared toward specific groups tend to make an Internet job search less overwhelming. Using a niche site also allowed Saroyan to be open about her disability from the start. "I didn't have to pretend or be embarrassed. Employers know up front that the applicants have disabilities, yet they give us the same opportunities to excel," she says. After only six months on the job, Saroyan advanced from sales rep to sales director to vice president of sales - a string of promotions she credits to the fact that she's "extremely comfortable" in her position and with her employer.

Sites that target gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) applicants offer a similar opportunity for job seekers to focus on workplaces with welcoming cultures. "Employers who use our site offer job seekers the opportunity to work in a job where the employer embraces diversity and offers a GLBT-friendly work environment," says John Exley II, web site manager of Gaywork.com, which posts jobs for companies with domestic partner benefits, gay and lesbian groups, or nondiscrimination policies.

Moreover, minority-oriented employment sites aren't limiting themselves to job postings. Celia Reyes-Hoke, who landed her job as an area human resources director for CVS Pharmacy through LatPro.com, appreciates the networking opportunities available online. As an HR director, she now uses the site to recruit other employees. "I'll stay a member [of LatPro.com] because I am not willing to give up the networking contacts that come with the subscription," she says.

The Drawbacks: While the use of niche web sites can make it easier, quicker, and less costly for minority professionals to hook up with equal-opportunity employers, there are some drawbacks. "Because many of the sites are so new and therefore lack the infrastructure to adequately respond, job hunters may lose confidence in them," says Lisa Willis Johnson, chairperson of the Society for Human Resource Management's Workplace Diversity Committee.

Also, though it may be easier to navigate a small site, the pool of job listings can be much more limited. "A major disadvantage is that there just aren't that many companies who are willing to post on our site [Gaywork.com]," says Exley. "It's a struggle to get to the right people interested." However, the site is making progress, recently adding job postings from high-profile companies like Novell, Microsoft, and Wells Fargo Bank, among others.

Murcia adds that while LatPro worked for him, it wouldn't be a good choice for everyone. "I was looking for a very specific regional position where I could use my bilingual skills and work directly with Latin American companies. In that case, LatPro was perfect. LatPro would be a bad choice for someone just looking for a 'regular job,' whether they're a minority or not. The pool of jobs on the site is very focused."

Furthermore, just as affirmative action always stirs up debate, some job seekers hesitate to be categorized by their minority status. "Some people think there is a stigma of being grouped together," says Johnson. "They fear being viewed as an affirmative action hire who is the best-qualified minority rather than just the best qualified." For most people who have used the sites, however, the benefits outweigh any perceived drawbacks.

There has already been tremendous growth in the number of minority-focused employment sites, and the demand is likely to increase. Whatever your ethnicity, community affiliation, or group, if there is not already an employment site that focuses on you, there may very well be one soon.







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