If you’re like most industry-leading organizations, you’ve already revamped your website and policies to be more inclusive, and you’re working hard (and having hard conversations) to make sure you’re addressing any deficiencies in diversity within your company. So why go the extra step to highlight your diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts in your interview process?
It’s simple, really: The purpose of the interview process is to show off what makes your company a unique and desirable place to work for the most qualified candidates. And in today’s competitive marketplace, where 78% of employees want their employers to be inclusive and treat everyone equally, showing candidates that you take diversity and inclusion initiatives seriously is an important thing to do.
If you want to make sure your interview candidates come away from their first meeting with your company understanding how important diversity and inclusion are to your business, here are three tips from career coach Jeff Magnuson.
1. Understand why candidates value diversity and inclusion
For the overwhelmed HR manager, D&I initiatives can sometimes become just another measure of how well they’re doing their job. In fact, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) just released standardized human capital reporting that includes diversity as a metric.
Before you welcome a prospective interview candidate with a dry line about the importance of diversity and inclusion, take a step back and look at your organization from the perspective of a prospective employee. You need to shake off this lackluster point of view because, according to Magnuson, the extent to which your company embraces diversity and inclusion can have a powerful impact on their career and daily life.
“Diversity and inclusion can help foster a positive work environment for everyone, which should always be a strategic goal,” says Magnuson. “Every employee benefits when they feel included and valued, and how a company approaches diversity and inclusion tells prospective employees how they’ll be treated and what they will very likely encounter in terms of the overall work culture.”
2. Share examples of how your company is promoting diversity and inclusion
When it comes to topics as important as diversity and inclusion, it’s not enough to hint at what your company is doing to stay competitive. You need to devote time in each interview to call out your efforts and show prospective candidates you take diversity seriously down to how you hire, who is allowed to contribute, and who you promote.
“Employers need to talk about diversity during the very first interview,” says Magnuson. “If there are specific initiatives the company is undertaking to accommodate an increasingly diverse workforce, call them out. Are you installing gender-neutral bathrooms? Do you provide flex-time off for non-standard holidays? Do new hires have a voice in decision making? These are important signs to job seekers that ‘diversity’ is not just a trendy slogan.”
For example, Magnuson notes that there can be an isolating and demeaning tendency for many corporate cultures to have younger professionals quietly “pay their dues,” sometimes for years, before they are able to have a voice. If your company truly embraces diversity, that might look like giving younger professionals like recent graduates and career switchers opportunities to speak up at important meetings (or interviews!) or work on high-visibility projects to grow their confidence and stretch themselves professionally. These are the kinds of things you’ll want to highlight for prospective employees.
3. Don’t assume you know everything a candidate will bring to the table–just show them they’re welcome at the table
Too often, HR professionals assume diversity is skin-deep, connected to race and gender alone. But diversity is both these things and more, so it’s important to welcome a conversation about inclusivity with every prospective job seeker, because you never know what diversity of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, age, background, and family situation they might bring to the table.
“Inclusiveness means that companies recognize their people as unique individuals with diverse backgrounds, personal beliefs, and skills,” says Magnuson. “Companies will rarely know private personal details before making a hire–and they absolutely should never ask!–so inclusivity in practice means that meetings, events, and conversations take place in a way that no employee will ever be (or feel) left out.”
Why spend so much effort on diversity and inclusion in the interview process? Because of the consequences of non-inclusivity. Magnuson recalls one example from a coaching client who worked at an international company where, on dozens of occasions, the executive leaders would have sidebar conversations in front of the larger group of employees who did not speak that language. Aside from being flat-out rude, employees agreed it was unprofessional and insulting, and made them feel like they could not contribute effectively to the discussion or decisions being made.
“Companies either actively work to make diversity part of their culture or they don’t,” says Magnuson. “Companies that demonstrate diversity and inclusion throughout the interview process will stand out and make a positive impression on the job candidates who value those initiatives.”