10 Common Diversity and Inclusion Interview Questions

Illustration of a woman next to an enlarged roll of paper containing candidate profiles

One theme has dominated today’s corporate culture and workplace revolution: diversity. According to several studies, including a LinkedIn survey of 9,000 talent leaders worldwide, the leading international recruiting trend is diversity. While diversity and inclusion may seem like buzzwords on par with ‘synergy’ and ‘core competency,’ they do deliver real-world results that help offices accomplish their goals. Indeed, a Harvard Business Review study discovered that 70% of diverse companies are more likely to capture a new market. Meanwhile, CEB Global research learned that organisations that emphasised inclusivity were 120% more likely to achieve their financial goals

For jobseekers, you might come across hiring managers who will present a series of diversity and inclusion interview questions to better gauge candidates’ thoughts on these critical subject. These go beyond your more common questions regarding your skills and what your worst qualities are – yes, we know, you’re a workaholic. 

So, how do you prepare for these questions? Here’s a breakdown of the ten most common diversity and inclusion interview questions paired with tips on how to answer them tactfully. 

1. ‘What is your definition of diversity?’

Everyone has a different interpretation of the term ‘diversity.’ Some people believe diversity is about having different ideas in the workplace, while others consider diversity based on skin colour, culture or ethnicity. This is an opportunity for you to provide an insightful definition of the word, elaborating on how you think an office can be diverse without appealing to the lowest common denominator.  

Typically, when you come across this question, it is always better to refrain from giving the textbook definition. Instead, offer your point of view on how a business can commit to diversity and uphold the objectives of the company. 

2. ‘Do you possess any experience with diversity in this area?’

This is one of the best interview questions that a hiring manager will present to you. If there is one moment in a job interview when you know how to showcase your superstar potential, this is the one.  

During your storytelling, you can highlight your commitment to equity, the role diversity has held in your career (led hiring efforts, worked with colleagues from different backgrounds or partnered with organisations that promoted diversity) and what you learned from these experiences. Some career fields may not be as eclectic as others, which also gives you another opportunity to express your desire and willingness to work with others

3. ‘Have you ever had a situation where a colleague failed to accept another person’s diversity?’

It is safe to say that most people accept diversity in the workplace. However, there will always be one person who has failed to acclimate or is resistant to corporate efforts to hire talent from different backgrounds. 

If you had a co-worker who was like this, how did you handle this situation? Did you confront them? Did you remain silent? Did you voice your concerns to your manager? Your actions in this scenario could determine whether you will get hired or not. What may be a satisfactory answer will depend on the firm you’re interviewing for; the company would probably appreciate people who stand up against ignorance and discrimination

4. ‘What tactics have you employed to address diversity challenges in the workplace?’

Indeed, workers who are not in management positions may find it difficult to push for change in the workplace. But that does not mean they should sit back and accept the status quo – and this is what hiring managers may be looking for when they are trying to bring new talent into the entity. 

Whether you work closely with management or have been dissatisfied with the body of the workforce, you may have presented measures to address these diversity challenges, such as setting up hiring efforts in particular communities or encouraging internship opportunities for minority students and graduates. 

However, if you sat on the side-lines, you could explain the reason for your hesitance. For instance, you may say that this was one of the reasons you decided to move on from the company as it was not diverse enough. 

5. ‘Can you give an example of when you challenged a derogatory comment made against a colleague?’

Unfortunately, there will always be people who expose their ignorance, whether it is a derogatory remark pertaining to someone’s gender or an uncouth statement about someone’s mental or physical disability. Some people could allow that individual to a make a fool of themselves without holding them accountable to what they said. But nowadays, more people are speaking up and not letting these disgusting behaviours go unaddressed. Hiring managers may be interested to know which camp you belonged to at the office. 

Whether you were the one who confronted somebody, or you were an observer, use that as your example. For instance, you were in a breakroom when somebody made a racist comment. Explain how you approached the situation and what the end result was. If you do not have a real-time example to give, discuss how you would approach the situation in a hypothetical scenario – would you explain to your colleague why their behaviour is not acceptable or speak directly to your supervisors?

6. ‘How do you respond to somebody who says, ‘We just hire the best person for the job.’?’

A lot of critics of diversity hiring and inclusion campaigns will routinely remark that the office should only hire the best person of the job, regardless of skin colour, disability or background. A human resource manager may be curious about how you would respond to this statement. 

This is a chance to put a spotlight on your corporate experience and managerial prowess by going into detail about how hiring diverse talent gives the company a competitive advantage. Why? Someone with a different background may provide a unique perspective on a wide array of subjects, areas, and projects. You understand this, which is why you fully endorse diversity and inclusion hiring. 

7. ‘What do you think are the more common mistakes in an organisation’s approach or thinking about diversity?’ 

Your management prowess is showing again.

This question can shine a light on your own perspective on what is wrong in the corporate world, specifically in this area. With so many companies embracing this concept, it is more than likely that a lot of them will make all types of mistakes in diversity recruiting. It could be utilising the wrong technology or treating diversity as a trend rather than a fundamental necessity. Whatever the case, be sure to support your hypotheses with data and personal experience and try to tie it into the company you are interviewing with. 

8. ‘How would you find candidates from underrepresented communities?’

Businesses have good intentions when they say they want to hire more diverse candidates or hire talent from underrepresented communities. But how is this accomplished? The hiring manager may have ideas, but they want your opinion on how to find these types of candidates. You need to offer your interviewers some workable ideas that can show you are a forward-thinker, and you have the means to advance the cause of diversity. 

For one thing, you can point to the numerous job boards, like Hire Autism or Recruit Disability. Or, as another sample answer, you can propose establishing targeted internships or scholarships by contacting minority-focused organisations or educational institutions. 

For the most part, the purpose of this question is to gauge your resourcefulness and creative thinking

9. ‘What advice would you give a manager for initiating a diversity and inclusion programme?’

Presumably, the primary objective for managers today is diversifying the workplace. It is a lofty goal, but it is a manageable one. It can be overwhelming for many organisations, and so leaders welcome suggestions. 

A hiring manager might ask what advice you would give to upper management when launching a diversity and inclusion programme. So, in this instance, you can really stand out from the crowd with your answer by referring to statistics or by considering alternatives to the standard hiring process. 

A couple of ideas would be to establish a diverse interview panel, produce diversity recruitment videos or ask current employees for diverse referrals. Once again, it is important to tie in your employer and explain how you could help this firm hire candidates from different backgrounds. 

10. ‘How has diversity played a role in your career?’

This question is as difficult to answer as ‘How would you describe yourself?’ There is no single uniform response to this one because everyone’s history is different. That said, it does offer you a chance for some storytelling and to make the interview a bit more personable. Ultimately, you need to explore how your experience with diversity shaped your career, and maybe some life lessons you learned along the way that contributed to your job and your personal affairs. 

 

A diverse and inclusive workplace comprises professionals from all walks of life; including cultures, religions, ethnicities and disabilities. How has this shaped you and your career? And what has it taught you?

These might be hard questions to answer, but they are part of the overhaul of job interviews today. Use your experiences to formulate your answers and don’t forget to incorporate these interview tips at your upcoming meeting with a prospective employer! 

Have you ever been asked any of these questions at an interview? How did you tackle them? Let us know in the comments section below!