Many companies today are making a concerted effort to include in their workforce people who have been traditionally under-represented. These employers encourage applications from visible minorities, Aboriginal people, women, and people with disabilities.
How would they know you belong to one or more of these groups? You’ve got to tell them, or “selfidentify”, as they say.
What employers say about self-identifying
Some career experts believe the fact that you belong to an equity group should not be stated at all in your resume or cover letter, but that your qualifications alone should get you into an interview.
Other career experts would encourage you to self-identify, especially when applying to Equal Opportunity Employers. These experts say, at the very least, you should fill in the optional portion of application forms which ask whether you belong to an equity group.
But there is one thing almost everybody agrees on, and this includes employers interviewed by the DiversityCanada Foundation, publisher of this handbook. The fact that you belong to an employment equity group should not be your one distinguishing characteristic. The skills you have to offer should be a good match for the position in question, regardless of your cultural background or status as a person with a disability.
Self-identifying in a way that can help you and your career
You may find, however, that the fact that you belong to an equity group allows you to offer the employer something extra. In such a case, you would do well to show up your winning qualities and skills.
If you were an employer, what would you think after reading cover letters with statements like these, for example?
Candidate A: “As a result of an accident, I lost most of my hearing as a teenager. Since then, I have worn a hearing aid and have learned to read lips, which allows me to function as any fully-hearing person. This has made me more attentive to and considerate of others. I believe this will serve me well in the role as receptionist at your company.”
Candidate B: “I was pleased to note that XYZ Finance Corp is an Equal Opportunity Employer. As a person of Chinese heritage who is fluent in Cantonese, I believe I would would be an asset to your marketing department in Vancouver, where the Chinese community forms a substantial part of your potential market.”
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