Over the years, we have written about the economic advantage of diverse teams and how companies can better support diverse communities. In general, these topics that fall under the same theme: diversity distinguishes forward-thinking organizations and their ability to grow. If you are a candidate interviewing for new positions, what approach can you take to learn more about a company’s policies and their perspective on DEIB?
We’ve seen these types of inquiries increasing on the candidate side over the last few years. We commonly get questions about the makeup of an employer’s leadership team, if they have ERGs, and other questions about diversity. A lot of candidates are curious if companies are being proactive or reactive when it comes to growing diversity on their teams and continuing to engage those employees once they are on board.
How To Find Out If A Company Truly Supports Diverse Communities
Reasons vary as to why people prioritize diversity at their place of work. Whether you’re a member of an underrepresented community in tech or you find it important that the company you work for actively supports having a diverse team and inclusive culture, it’s not always easy to find out how much a business really does. Since all employers aim to make themselves look as attractive as possible to incoming candidates, it may take some additional questions to understand what’s on paper and what’s in practice.
Let us start by saying we encourage our candidates to ask questions related to company diversity and culture. Finding a culture that makes you excited is an incredibly important piece of accepting a new job, so there’s no shame in being open and honest about what you are looking for. How to phrase those questions and engage in a productive conversation is where things sometimes get tricky. Here’s 9 questions you can ask that get right to the point…
Try These 9 Questions To Explore DEIB At A Prospective Company
- How do you define diversity at your company?
- You’re looking for the person who answers this question to demonstrate an authentic understanding of systemic racism, inequity, and barriers faced by non-majority groups of people. Someone who has thought deeply about the topic will also be eager to talk about it and what their company is doing to make a difference. If you are on a zoom call, you can even look out for body language cues when the subject is brought up- is it met with enthusiasm or something else?
- What steps has the company taken to improve its diversity and inclusion?
- This is a great general question that allows the interviewer to bring up any and every example of how they are creating a more inclusive environment. Look out for someone to bring up programs, policies, and ongoing initiatives related to not just diversity, but also employee retention. If there’s hesitation or answers closer to ‘we will’ or ‘we’re starting x,’ it may indicate that equity is not as high of a priority within that organization.
- How important is diversity to you as an organization? What value does it bring to you?
- Sarah Taylor, the founder of a popular cultural competency training program says that “every organization should have an idea of their business case for diversity and inclusion and should also be able to articulate that.” If there’s not an easy answer, you can also ask if they have any knowledge of how diversity has contributed to the bottom line. Businesses who have an awareness of the benefits of diversity are more likely to promote it. This gives hiring mangers the chance to comment on the organization’s approach as well as their own personal experience on how diversity adds value to their team.
- What kind of inclusion-focused training does your company participate in?
- There are several off-shoots of this questions as well. You could also ask, has your leadership team participated in any kind of bias or inclusion training? Exploring even further, does everyone at the company participate in the training program or is it only provided after issues surrounding bias arise? Continued learning is one of BWBacon’s values when it comes to DEIB. We believe that companies that are actively investing in improving culture and reducing bias on an ongoing basis will foster more cultural growth than companies who see diversity training as a one and done experience.
- How does your company ensure everyone feels included? What checkpoints are in place?
- Especially with remote work, checks and balances, or established processes for bringing up issues, signal a company is in tune with the needs of their employees. We’re all human, every company will have to face issues related to bias and inclusion, so it is important to find out if the company you are interviewing with has established ways of communicating and handling those issues. On the flip side of negative issues that may come up, the answer to this question can also be positive by providing examples of how the team celebrates, recognizes one another, or has growth pathways for all employees.
- Can you share data on the organization’s diversity or the diversity makeup or the leadership team?
- You can learn more about a company’s commitment to diversity by asking what their organization actually looks like from a demographic standpoint. How many women are in leadership roles? How many POC or LGBTQ+ individuals are in upper management roles? This question helps candidates analyze if progress is being made, or if efforts are mostly performative. The types of roles people are in matter too. Are black executives siloed into the diversity and inclusion department or are they leading a product team? It's another way to measure the prominence and impact those leaders have within the business.
- Are there any resource groups at your company? How do employees support diversity and inclusion efforts on a daily/weekly basis?
- We like this question because it speaks to what the day to day of working somewhere looks like in terms of culture. Ask for examples of how employees take action when it comes to DEIB. Are efforts managed within a small group of people that hardly reach out for feedback? This could be a red flag that this team has issues addressing the root cause of a problem or creating an ideal environment for diverse talent to thrive. You can also look out for ERGs, or Employee Resource Groups, and how they are supported within the organization. Does an execute sponsor the program or does it foster a sense of belonging with everyone? What changes have they advocated for? Companies that have groups, activities, and events tied to DEIB are demonstrating their continued effort and prioritization of giving everyone a voice.
- How do the company's recruiting efforts support a diverse culture?
- Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at Glassdoor Jamie Hichens noted that “it shows if [companies] cast a wide net to attract a variety of backgrounds and talents.” Some of this can be found in the language of the job description, one example is to look at what it says about education. Is it a hard and fast requirement for a C.S. degree or does the company mention that experience is just as relevant and will be equally considered? These details can inform the way in which companies are recruiting for new employees. You can ask questions like, what does your company do to keep engagement high for new employees? This can give you a better idea of the formal and informal ways managers invest in their team members’ growth to ensure equity. One way to phrase it: “I know we talked about how diversity is important to your organization, what are the processes are in place for amplifying retention and growth for the talent you are working so hard to hire?”
- Is the leadership team committed to diversity?
- If you asked all of these questions in one interview, it may take a while. What we’re suggesting is to use this list as a guideline for seeking more detailed answers on big subjects like diversity and inclusion. This final question gauges exactly how a company’s leadership team advocates for diverse groups through mentorship, trainings, sponsorship, and other business initiatives. Organizational change comes from the top down so this question gets to the heart of how leaders take action. Do they attend diversity events and lend their time towards actively recruiting and securing diverse candidates? In this way, you can get a reading on what commitments have been made versus lofty talk.
Remember, interviews go both ways. These days, businesses are competing for you as much as you’re competing for and vetting them. Putting yourself and your values out there by asking tough questions can be rewarding, as you will gain a better understanding of the company you might take a job with.
Assessing The Answers
Now that you know the questions, it is also key to know what you’re looking for once you ask. Consider who you are having a conversation with, and what kind of knowledge that person has about the company. While a hiring manager can speak to specific actions they have taken to increase equity on their teams, an HR representative is more likely to have specific information on the company’s overall diversity policy and inclusion programs or culture.
Additionally, if you’re able to ask more than one person who works for the prospective company these kinds of questions, you will get a more fleshed out picture of what it means to everyone who works there. Keep in mind that your interviewer has an obligation to answer your questions a certain way. Not saying you have to take those answers with a grain of salt, just be aware that different people will answer questions differently based on their positions, so gathering more than one answer is beneficial.
How interviewers respond to your questions is also telling. Are they fumbling for a response or do they seem confident and comfortable when answering your questions? Do they come off defensive or say ‘absolutely’ and continue with a response? These emotional human interactions give you a good idea of where someone stands in their journey towards greater workplace equity.
Accountability Is What Really Matters
Companies must recognize no number of trainings, resource groups, or mentorship programs are a substitute for real accountability. We’ve covered this topic before in our post on implementing a healthy call-out culture, but ultimately, nothing will change for underrepresented groups if employees are not being held accountable for the internal culture they are cultivating. So how can companies measure and do a better job of actual implementation?
One idea is to use anonymous surveys and DEIB scorecards to measure how your employees feel about the company culture, and how those feelings change over time. Another technique is to build reporting systems, with the chance for employees to remain anonymous, to expose mistreatment or persistent issues they may be experiencing. Are there any consequences for those whose behavior is reported but doesn’t change? Is the system upheld or is it for show?
Accountability and workforce equity have both become important factors for business leaders that are elevating DEIB initiatives. In fact, this will be the number one priority for HR executives this year. Transparency and reporting results are a big part of that. For example, Adidas representatives said they will fill at least 30% of new US positions from underrepresented groups and made global anti-racism and unconscious-bias training mandatory. In tech, Microsoft and Intel have tied half of executives' annual cash incentives to successfully achieving diversity metrics. The bottom line? Candidates are aware of just how easy it is to simply walk away and find organizations that prioritize diversity, equity, and employee wellbeing. If you’re seeking a new job, do not hesitate to reach out to our team to learn more about this topic.
Here at BWBacon Group, we know and live what you are experiencing as an employer or job seeker in Denver, Boulder, Dallas, San Francisco, New York City or any of the other cities we work in. We believe great recruiting starts and ends with understanding people.
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