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How to answer candidate questions about DE&I
Candidates today are highly selective about the organizations they want to work for–or even apply for in the first place. One of the top issues for many candidates, particularly members of Gen Z, is diversity–and candidates can spot woke washing all too easily. Is your company really geared toward DE&I? Candidates are asking these three key questions as they evaluate potential employers, according to CNBC:
- How transparent and measurable are your company’s DE&I goals?
- Do you know what percentage of diverse groups you’re trying to hire and by when?
- Are these numbers available to the public?
Are you prepared to answer them?
Diversity Washing Isn’t Enough
Developing a comprehensive DE&I program isn’t just about paying lip service to diversity and inclusion in your workplace. All too many businesses say that they want to be inclusive and diverse, but the reality falls far short.
Diversity washing occurs when a company creates the appearance of diversity and inclusion, but does not, in reality, have a diverse team in the positions needed to achieve those critical diversity goals. When your business is more focused on diversity washing than enjoying the actual benefits of diversity, you may notice several key signs.
- You talk about diversity, but you actually have a relatively homogenous workplace.
- You hire for racial and ethnic diversity or even neurodiversity but fail to put those individuals in key decision-making roles within your company.
- You claim to be seeking diverse employees, but your applicant pool does not reflect that diversity–signaling that you have not yet made the shift to fully diverse hiring practices.
Today’s candidates want to see businesses that genuinely stand behind their beliefs and are willing to go the extra mile to reach that strong level of diversity in the workplace.
Acknowledge Your Limitations
Small businesses, in particular, often struggle with diversity in hiring, not because they do not want to hire diverse candidates but because they simply lack the tools to do so. You may:
- Not knowing where to find diverse candidates
- Not having access to diverse candidates
- Not have enough open roles on your team to fully diversify based on your current needs
You may also not yet know where to start as you try to put the tools in place to support diverse employees, which may make it more difficult for you to bring them onto your team in the first place.
When talking to job-seekers, acknowledge your limitations. Admit what you don’t have and the steps that the business as a whole is attempting to take in an effort to build more diversity. By acknowledging your limitations, you clearly show that you aren’t just woke washing. You’re genuinely taking steps to improve, and you’re aware of what improvements still need to be made. Acknowledging your overall limitations can also put you in a better position to address those concerns since you’ll have a template for where your business needs to move next to accomplish those DE&I goals.
Put the Right Tools in Place
You need tools in your hiring process to help you attract, screen, and select diverse candidates. For example, you may need:
Better Job Descriptions
Your job descriptions may automatically rule out some of the top candidates for your open positions. The language you use, from the soft skills you choose to highlight to the specific hard skills necessary for the job, can either help you attract candidates from a diverse pool and background or prevent them from ever applying for your company to begin with. Optimizing your job descriptions can make it much easier to attract the diverse candidates you’re looking for.
How you conduct interviews can make or break the experience diverse candidates have with your company. Just as candidates ask about your diversity and inclusion practices, they also judge your interviews. Is your interview process accessible to all audiences? Is it friendly to candidates from a variety of backgrounds? Does it have structure, allowing you to ask standardized questions and score every candidate against the same baseline criteria? Do you have processes in place to help eliminate the potential for groupthink? Many candidates will rule out your business based on complicated hiring processes or a lack of structure in your interviews that they feel is subjective and biased.
Share Your Goals
Many companies aren’t “there” yet when it comes to diversity in hiring, but they’re working on it–and in many cases, that is a critical part of the process. Remember, candidates, don’t just want to know about your current diversity statistics. They also want to know what you’re doing to improve overall diversity and what those goals look like.
- How do you define diverse candidates?
- What do you consider “diversity success” for your business?
- How will you judge whether you are making progress in your diversity and inclusion efforts?
If you cannot answer those questions for yourself, you cannot answer them for your candidates–and candidates who care about diversity and inclusion, including both those who come from diverse backgrounds and those who support them, will be less likely to choose your business. Make sure you know what your business’s goals look like: not just what you want to accomplish but when you plan to meet those goals and how, overall, you’re choosing to measure them. With a solid strategy in place, you are better positioned to answer candidate questions and ensure that your business is giving more than just lip service to critical diversity hiring goals.
Be transparent about where you’re at and where you’re headed. Show your candidates that your commitment to DE&I is not just lip service. Acknowledge your limitations and put tools in place to attract, screen, and select diverse and qualified candidates. And finally, be prepared to speak honestly and openly about your company’s DE&I goals and progress.
Scot is a successful HR technology entrepreneur and advocate for conscious inclusion. Passionate about helping others succeed, he’s committed to improving the hiring process for employers and job-seekers every step of the way.