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How to spot a welcoming culture during your job hunt

It may take some careful questioning to determine just how inclusive a company is.

How to spot a welcoming culture during your job hunt
[Source Photos: rawpixel and ijeab/iStock]

Companies across the world are at a critical moment for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The impact of prevalent social justice movements with the changing definition of work has placed a new focus on work culture and creating inclusive workplaces. For job seekers navigating a market favoring talent, toxic or even just subpar conditions are no longer acceptable.

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The challenge for employers becomes how to cultivate and convey authentic, inclusive workplace cultures that will truly resonate with job seekers. The keyword here is authentic. Many companies are touting a commitment to DEI, but how do job seekers spot the truly committed from those that will say anything to get you in the door? And for employers, how do they communicate they’re not just talking the talk, but truly walking the walk when it comes to DEI and positive culture?

The answer isn’t always straightforward. I offer the following advice to help those on the job hunt, as well as employers looking to find top talent.

To establish a meaningful workplace culture

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Job seekers: Ask yourself what you really need from an employer

When asking about company culture in job interviews, be thoughtful about how you word your questions. Interviewers will often share fun aspects of company culture like happy hours (which can be virtual or in-person), corporate outings, ping pong tables, nap pods, or other social benefits. While these perks are nice to have, they give limited insight into a company’s culture. 

It is crucial to have a clear view of what you will be walking into, should you get the job. The hiring process is a good indication of just that—according to iCIMS data, 58% of recent college graduates look for diversity during the interview process. To help get a read on a prospective employer, consider asking: What’s their approach to mentorship and career growth? Does the company encourage and support employee resource groups? How do they support work-life balance? 

Also, don’t just take the recruiter or interviewer’s word for it. Ask for specific examples or to speak to someone in the same or similar role or level so you can pick their brain about day-to-day life at the company and how they’re valued amongst their team members and the overall organization.

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Employers: Tap into employee stories, feedback and analytics to convey your culture 

Most companies believe they’re fostering a positive and inclusive company culture, but if leadership teams aren’t asking for direct and regular employee feedback, they may be missing the mark. Only through consistent tracking and open dialogue with employees and candidates alike can companies get an accurate pulse on how they’re performing at each stage of the talent lifecycle.

New research from iCIMS and Talent Board revealed 52% of organizations have not used other diversity-related data or analytics beyond what is minimally required for EEOC compliance. This is a lost opportunity to source employee feedback, gain insight and ensure their organizations are inclusive. Employers should embrace feedback and requests relating to DEI. This shows that employees and candidates care about culture and how their contributions can impact the company. Specifically, understanding input from the hiring process can help enable a more informed and data-driven approach to building a more diverse workforce. 

To spot if DEI is more than a buzzword

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Job seekers: Look for authentic DEI imperatives

Many employers are quick to say they prioritize DEI. To parse out the performative players from the truly committed, do your due diligence and research, research, research. Review their career site to see if they are transparent about culture and the diversity within their company. What does their leadership team look like? Do they showcase images and videos of real employees speaking to company culture, DEI, development, and mobility opportunities? Are any of your employee resource groupss or programs highlighted? 

IBM and Uber are both good examples of brands that showcase a commitment to building an inclusive culture. These brands leverage user-generated video content to connect and engage with job seekers and current employees. The videos are a quick and easy way to build more meaningful relationships with talent and showcase the culture and how the company supports diverse communities by tapping into the best source of this information: Real employees.

Employers: Establish and share authentic DEI imperatives 

Companies that are committed to action know DEI is a journey. Many companies are not where they’d like to be or have lagging numbers, especially at the leadership level. Understanding and being transparent about where you are at is critical in this talent economy and will go a long way with today’s job seekers. 

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Where you can, share your organization’s diversity goals, the progress it has made, and the steps it is taking to learn, improve and further its journey. And don’t be afraid to proactively bring this information up to convey the company isn’t shying away from the difficult conversations.   

Whether it’s monthly DEI discussion groups, partnering with HBCUs or veterans networks for recruitment, DEI training, or more—these are the types of programs that showcase real commitment. 

We are in a hyper-competitive job market. There is tremendous demand for talent; and at the same time, we see a record number of resignations according to the U.S. Labor Department.

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Job seekers hold the power. They can and should hold employers responsible for being more inclusive. Employers that let this moment pass them by will be hard-pressed to thrive as we move forward. This is an opportunity to build a more equitable, inclusive, and high-performing workforce for today and the future.


Jewell Parkinson is the chief people officer at iCIMS. Parkinson joined iCIMS in 2020 as its CPO. She has 25 years of experience of collaborating with and empowering high-performing teams.

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