Ask any company whether they 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.
But research by Glassdoor found that a third (36%) of LGBTQ+ identifying employees in the UK think positive communications do not extend past Pride Month in June. Furthermore, 1 in 4 employees admitted to feeling uncomfortable calling out anti-LGBTQ+ views in the workplace.
And for those from the LGBTQ+ community, just 2 in 5 (40%) say they feel comfortable expressing and celebrating their identity at work.
So how do you avoid joining a company that talks a big game, but ultimately fails to take action?
The good news is that you don’t have to wait until you’ve accepted a position to figure out whether or not a company inclusive 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?
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. While this is admittedly a less direct question, 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 organisation? What value does it bring to you?
If promoting diversity is truly at the heart of a company, it should be easy for them to articulate why it is important and how it has impacted their 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 a company to actively ensure everyone feels included?
While diversity does positively impact the bottom line, inclusion is just as important. Businesses that are actively creating inclusion strategies have assessed their organisation 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 company?
Diversity stats will give you a clear picture of where the company you’re applying to stands. Most companies should have this readily available and be about the certain roles, departments or levels that are lacking. If they don’t, check out how current and past employees have rated the company for diversity, equity and inclusion on Glassdoor. The best companies will also have established internal talent programmes — 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.
6. Is the leadership team committed to diversity in the company? If so, how do they express that and ensure that commitment cascades down throughout the organisation?
If the leadership team isn't particularly diverse, you can still ask this question to gauge how highly they value diversity. In order to truly be successful, diversity needs to be a top-down initiative. Whatever the makeup of the senior team, it is important that leaders in the company are regularly communicating their own commitment to diversity and inclusion.
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. 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 line manager 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. Leaders and managers across the business need to be trained to respond effectively to the complexities of diversity and create an inclusive work environment. It’s key that managers are empowered and engaged, rather than feeling like they are being told what to do.
9. Who holds my line manager accountable for 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. When positive behaviours are reinforced in the workplace, diversity will naturally become part of the business mission and strategy.
10. Does the company have any programmes 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 programmes 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. 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.