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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Would your kid say this? "I don't like (insert nationality) people."

How do you think your child would answer this question?

"What do you think about China?"

I was sitting in on an interview the other day with a senior candidate I had introduced to one of my clients.  The candidate was in his 50s and was applying for a Director level position.  He was doing very well.  He was saying all the right things, looking my client in the eye when he answered questions and showing an obvious enthusiasm for the position and my client's company.

He went on to demonstrate his grasp of world politics and trends by pointing out that India and China are both in position to take a bigger share of the world economy in the future if for no other reason than by shear numbers as both countries are home to over a billion people each.  His next comment though killed any chances of him being hired by my client, or of me introducing him again.

"But, I don't like Chinese people."

With anti-discrimination laws in place and visas such as the H 1-B and L-1 it is virtually guaranteed that there will be various nationalities represented in any work environment.

The question, "What do you think about China?" is standard in many new graduate interviews.  It could be any country or nationality but the purpose is the same.  Employers want to know our sons and daughters are going to be able to work with whoever they end up sitting next to.  How your child answers this question in an interview will decide the job.  More important than her answer though is what she actually thinks.  Is she truly tolerant or better still, open-minded about other cultures and nationalities?  If she is pretending in the interview, how will her attitude affect her work when she must interact with people from different backgrounds?

Children are born accepting, curious and eager to interact with everyone.  They will learn to discriminate from adults.  As parents, we are in the best position to guide them.  Just as my son will most certainly grow up to be a Yankee fan because he sees me rooting for Jeter, he will also learn how to treat people by watching my actions and listening to the comments I make (for better or for worse).  Children watch and hear EVERYTHING.  And something they hear or see often enough will soon become part of their own personality.

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