Ask any company whether they’re diverse and inclusive, and they’re probably going to tell you “yes.” After all, not many hiring managers would want to admit that they have trouble recruiting or retaining members of diverse backgrounds. If you take that answer at face value, you run the risk of joining a company that talks a big game, but ultimately fails to take action. And in a worst-case scenario, this results in anyone from a non-traditional background feeling isolated and uncomfortable at work.
But you don’t have to wait until you’ve accepted a position to figure out whether or not a company walks the walk when it comes to sexual preference, race, religion or gender. The interview process is an opportunity not only for a company to get to know you, but for you to get to know the company — and there are a number of questions you can ask that will help shed light on their commitment to equality and inclusion.
So, what exactly should you ask? We asked a few HR and recruiting experts to weigh in.
1. What are your most important values?
“This question typically highlights many things, including diversity and provides a glimpse into their culture and helps the candidate get a better feel for whether their values match the company,” says Lee-Anne Farley, Global HR Operations Leader at Glassdoor. While this is admittedly a less direct question, but it makes it more likely that you’ll get a straight answer about whether or not they value diversity. Because what an interviewer does or doesn’t say can speak volumes.
2. How important is diversity to you as an organization? What value does it bring to you?
“Every organization should have an idea of their business case for diversity and inclusion and should also be able to articulate that,” says Sara Taylor, President and Founder of deepSEE Consulting. If they don’t have a stated business case, Taylor says, ask if they have any knowledge of how diversity has contributed to the bottom line. Companies that are aware of the concrete benefits diversity provides are much more likely to promote it.
3. What are you doing as an organization to actively ensure everyone feels included?
“While diversity does positively impact the bottom line, inclusion is just as important,” Taylor says. “Organizations that are actively creating inclusion strategies have assessed their organization to know both their inclusion strengths and challenges. They’ve also created plans to address those challenges with best-practice programming.”
4. What data do you have that shows the level of diversity throughout the organization?
Diversity stats will give you a clear picture of where the company you’re applying to stands, and “most organizations have this data readily available and are clear about certain roles, departments or levels that are lacking,” Taylor says. The best companies will also have “talent development programs that ensure an internal pipeline of great talent” — after all, you want to make sure you have room to move upward at your company.
5. How diverse is the executive team?
Speaking of advancement, noting the diversity of the leadership team says a lot about the upward mobility for diverse candidates and will likely indicate a more inclusive culture for candidates of underrepresented backgrounds. “Feel free to ask about the team and their career paths to their current role, as this can also kickstart a discussion about how they develop their people and can bring up any programs that embrace diversity and a commitment to a diverse, rounded team,” Farley says.
6. Is the leadership team committed to diversity in the organization? If so, how do they express that and ensure that commitment cascades down throughout the organization?
If the leadership team isn’t particularly diverse, you can still ask this question to gauge how highly they value diversity. “While candidates can check the organization’s website prior to the interview to see what they publicly say about diversity, sometimes the commitment expressed on the website isn’t expressed on a regular basis by leaders,” Taylor says. But in order to truly be successful, diversity needs to be a top-down initiative. “Ideally, leaders are regularly communicating about their commitment to diversity and inclusion and have strategies in place to back up that commitment.”
7. Are the company’s recruiting efforts supporting a diverse culture?
Pay close attention to how your interviewer answers this question — “it shows if they cast a wide net to attract a variety of backgrounds and talents,” says Jamie Hichens, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at Glassdoor. This proactive effort is crucial, as achieving diversity more often than not requires a conscious and active effort from a company. And if they communicate that to their recruiters, it’s proof that their commitment is serious.
8. What kind of diversity, inclusion and cultural competence training has my supervisor had?
Given how closely you work together, your manager can truly make or break your experience at a company — so it’s important to make sure that diversity is both a priority for them and something they have experience in. “Without cultural competence training, supervisors are likely missing the complexities of diversity and don’t have the necessary skills to respond effectively and create an inclusive work environment,” Taylor says.
9. Who holds my supervisor accountable to diversity and inclusion measures?
Diversity shouldn’t just be a one-and-done training session for your manager, however — it should be an ongoing effort that they are held accountable for. “Obviously, if no one is holding them accountable and no measures are in place, [you] can’t be assured that [your] supervisor will be paying attention to diversity,” Taylor says.
10. Does the company have any programs in place to support diversity? If not, are you planning to in the future?
Of course, it’s ideal if a company already has programs dedicated to supporting and celebrating diverse team members, or bringing them in. But even if they don’t just yet, not all is lost. “This is a good question because even if programs are not already in play, it shows if a company has thought about the future of diversity and is looking to make it a priority,” Hichens says. So if a company isn’t quite where you’d like them to be at the moment, plans to ramp up diversity programs and initiatives are a good sign that they’ll get there in due time.