Talking about diversity during an interview

More and more companies are realizing that not only is creating a diverse workforce the right thing to do, but it also has a profoundly positive impact on a company’s culture, employee retention, and the overall bottom line. Most forward-thinking companies are working toward organizational diversity and inclusion to promote innovation and to reflect the diversity of the population as a whole.  They understand they need to talk about diversity during an interview.

Promoting diversity is crucial during everyday business activities, but it is especially important during the hiring process. Today, 78% of candidates want to work for companies committed to inclusion, and it’s important to communicate your company’s dedication to that goal from the very beginning of a candidate’s hiring journey.

Executive leaders increasingly recognize that their company’s actions affect the community. Resultantly, many businesses have incorporated diversity imagery and language into a significant portion of their brand messages. This is a good start, but you also need to talk about diversity during an interview and throughout the hiring process.  This will create a team that incorporates many different backgrounds and opinions.

A lot of progress has been made within the private sector in the last few years when it comes to diversity, but there’s still a long way to go. Here’s what you need to know about the state of diversity in the workplace and how to communicate your organizational values during an interview.

Your organization can‘t afford to ignore diversity

Today, organizations will expose many consumers to the topic of diversity before they even think about starting a career. For instance, diversity in college sports is a growing concern, with the majority of teams hiring white coaches. This doesn’t reflect the demographics of our country as a whole, which is one of the most diverse in the world. That’s why diversity in a range of industries, from business to entertainment, to sports, is being given a closer look.

Even putting aside the argument that diversity is necessary for accurate representation, organizations can’t afford to ignore diversity for several other reasons. New generations are demanding inclusion and the shifting population of the United States will be directing its spending power toward organizations that promote diversity. Additionally, companies that ignore diversity will miss out on great talent that could make their organizations more innovative.

A long road ahead

Being truly inclusive is a long road. It’s not enough to simply hire people from different backgrounds. It’s about welcoming them, making them an essential part of workplace culture, and making them feel safe enough to discuss their ideas while knowing that those ideas will be valued.

Though one study shows that 71% of companies want to build an inclusive workplace, only 12% feel that they truly have done so. One of the best ways to fix this is to make management more diverse, welcoming women and people of color into high-level roles. The long road toward true inclusivity—equity—isn’t always comfortable and will involve some tough conversations and decisions.

The view from the outside

Companies often forget how their organization looks to the outside world. Even if you’re working hard toward equity within your culture, your hiring materials and branding might not reflect those values.

It’s important to communicate your policies and dedication to inclusion both in the materials you use to market open positions and in your website and branding. Weaving diversity and inclusion into your company vision will improve the view from the outside and attract diverse candidates who will make your organization better.

Walking the walk

The interview tells candidates a lot about a company and its work environment. You need to “walk the walk” when it comes to diversity in order to reach the goal of equity. But what does that mean for the interview process?

First, companies that are dedicated to inclusion should have a diverse hiring panel to help evaluate job candidates. Not only will this help promote further diversity within the team, but it will also send a powerful positive message to candidates. It’s important to have diversity at all levels and to have people of different backgrounds weigh in on important decisions.

It’s a good idea to take some time to talk about the culture and the diversity goals for the organization with candidates. Talk about what your organization does to make everyone feel welcome and discuss policies and resources you offer that promote inclusion. You should also talk about the challenges of implementing inclusive practices—no organization is perfect and job-seekers know that. Honesty and willingness to discuss the issue are key, especially if the candidate asks questions about your diversity policies and progress.

Inclusivity is about respect

You need to talk about diversity from the very beginning of the hiring process for one simple reason: everyone should feel respected and valued at work. Creating a truly inclusive culture isn’t easy and it will involve some missteps. But if your company is truly working toward equity (which it absolutely should!) the extra effort and growing pains are completely worthwhile.

Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.