Prepare for diversity interview questions
What do the former CEOs of Sam’s Club, Papa John’s and Miss America and the CEO of Revlon all have in common?
Answer: They have all made–or been accused of making– racially insensitive or flat out racists comments. As a reaction, companies are asking diversity themed questions during the interview process to screen out candidates who lack cultural competency.
FIRST, EXAMINE YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING OF DIVERSITY
One of my LinkedIn connections, Dee Dee Loftin Davis, a racial equity advisor and consultant suggests:
…. when it comes to Diversity and Inclusion themed interviews. I encourage you to, “check your perception.” Meaning, if you see Diversity and Inclusion as an annoying part of the interview, chances, are your answers to the interviewer may come across, rehearsed and superficial.
However, if you perceive this Diversity and Inclusion themed interview, as a chance for personal growth, assessment and discovery. Your answers, are likely to come across more authentic and self aware. Lastly, to paraphrase one of my favorite poets, Maya Angelou. “Once we know better we do better.”
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE CULTURALLY COMPETENT?
The US has had a cultural demographic shift over the last 10-years. Hispanics along with African Americans and Asian Pacific Islanders surpassed one third of the U.S. population in 2010. As their numbers continue to rise, they are on track to reach 54% of the population by 2050 – making them the minority-majority. The reason that companies are asking diversity related questions is that they are now realizing that inclusive workplaces recognize and value individual differences and that employees prefer a diverse and inclusive workplace.
There are several assessments available online to help you assess unconscious biases including:
- Research scientists at Harvard University, the University of Washington and the University of Virginia created an instrument to assess unconscious bias (also know as implicit associations). It was developed as part of Project Implicit, which blends basic research and educational outreach in a virtual laboratory that allows users to exam one’s own hidden biases and understand stereotypes that exist below one’s conscious awareness. The assessment can be taken here.
- The Anti Defamation League created a “personal self-assessment of anti-bias behavior”
WHAT IF YOU AREN’T VERY CULTURALLY COMPETENT?
What if you realize that this is an area that you want to work on? If you feel like you need development in this area, you should be doing other things to prepare outside of anticipating questions. This is usually the biggest area where people can spot authenticity or not. Don’t rely solely on surface level cultural education like movies and music. Take some time to immerse yourself by volunteering or attending events. Meetup.com can be a great way to learn about opportunities to meet and interact with people from a different background.
NEXT, REVIEW THE COMPANY’S DIVERSITY STATEMENT
A corporate diversity statement is a write-up that expresses the corporation’s commitment to advocate diversity. These statements can vary greatly and can give you a lot of insight into the heart beat of the company.
Starbucks, for example, has a major corporate emphasis on diversity and community. Their website (image snippet below) talks about how “each person bring a distinct life experience to the table…. and that it drives their business success”.
The Coca-Cola Corporation also has a strong corporate diversity statement (pictured in an image snippet from their website below).
Understanding your own stance on diversity in relation to the company perspective can help you answer a common interview question like, “Describe your understanding of diversity inclusion and why it is important to this position.”
WHAT ARE COMMON DIVERSITY INTERVIEW QUESTIONS?
⚡ What opportunities have you had working and collaborating in diverse, multicultural and inclusive settings.
⚡ Describe your understanding of diversity inclusion and why it is important to this position.
⚡ How would you describe your current thinking about diversity, and how has your thinking changed over time?
⚡ Give me two specific examples of how you—in your role— can champion an inclusive workplace?
Think about YOUR role—- will you work with employees on multiple continents? How will that impact your individual job?