Career Advice

Diversity At Work: 5 Tips to Find Out If A Company Has It Or Not

You are eager to find out if the job you want exists in a white man’s world or in a diverse one. Yet your window in so far is small: You’ve had 15 minutes on the phone with a recruiter.

If you’re interested in working in a diverse workplace and with people from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities, you may want to start checking it out before you show up in your interview suit. How can you find a bigger window to show whether the company looks like a mini-United Nations, or at least is making the effort of inclusiveness?

“There’s no one thing that will resolve this” for job seekers, said Howard Ross, a diversity consultant and author of the book Reinventing Diversity. Instead, consider various clues as you check the culture and learn about the workforce composition.

Added Lenora Billings-Harris, a diversity consultant, speaker and co-author of Trailblazers: “You have the chance to evaluate your future employer just as they are evaluating you.”

Here’s five ways to delve into diversity, as part of your interview preparations:

  1. Look at the executive team. Pull up bios on the corporate website. If the company is publicly held, check their proxy statement for the five highest paid executives. “An overwhelmingly white male leadership” is a red flag, said Ross, though they may be working to change that, or have added more minority talent a level or two below the executive office.
  2. Find out about diversity initiatives. These may include internal mentoring programs or affinity groups. They also may show up as sponsorships or other linkages with diverse community organizations or professional group, Ross said.  If the organization supports the National Council of La Raza or the National Association of Black MBAs, that’s a good sign. Look for diversity initiatives that are more than “meet, greet, eat” and actually are connected to the business, suggests Billings-Harris.
  3. Talk to your connections. Use LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook to locate staffers who will share details of the company culture, promotion practices and workforce diversity. This can be a great way to obtain information, Ross said, but he also cautions: “One person’s point of view shouldn’t sway you.”
  4. Check best of lists. Diversity Inc., Hispanic magazine and Fortune, all have lists of great places to work for diverse people. The Human Rights Campaign lists workplaces that get it for gays and lesbians. Check regional business weeklies, websites or professional associations for best workplace awards or lists that can reveal valuable information. Make sure they are more than a “make nice” move for advertisers, though. Even if the company that’s just arranged your interview doesn’t make any of the lists, you’ll find out if its competitors are there – and learn some best practices.
  5. Unearth hires and hiring trends. Sometimes new staffers are profiled in company newsletters (available online). Top people may merit media releases. Look at LinkedIn and other resources to see who has been hired in the last few years. Learn where the corporate recruiters go. If they stick to Ivy League schools, they may not recruit from as diverse a pool as those who go to big state universities. You can watch for hiring trends and other news by setting a Google Alert on your potential employer, said Billings-Harris.

Then when you get to the interview, you’ll have developed an array of information about the company. “Doing research is critical” in making a favorable impression, said Ross.  Once you’re there, you can pose a question or two about diversity practices and diversity of staff. Ask them “respectfully and appropriately,” Ross suggests, and then listen carefully for their responses. The best companies are proud of their efforts, and aware of the payoff of a diverse workforce.  The others – those who may not want to discuss their workforce and commitment to inclusion – may not be such a good fit.