Most companies have ramped up their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) hiring over the last few years. This means interviewers are looking for new ways to assess candidates’ values and understanding of DEI initiatives in the workplace.
You are bound to run into diversity interview questions that surprise you for good and for bad. It’s possible you may not even know a question is assessing you for your perspective on diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s good to always be prepared to respond thoughtfully and with an open mind.
We’ve pulled together a few popular diversity interview questions in the most basic form and expanded on what interviewers are asking. Here’s how you can recognize interview questions designed to get a pulse on your DEI awareness and fit:
What experience do you have working with different kinds of people?
What they are asking: How has your previous work experience prepared you for working with a diverse population?
The wording of this type of question can certainly catch some candidates off guard. It’s important you don’t use insensitive references to people of different backgrounds or abilities which can easily occur if you’re not up-to-date on politically correct (PC) language. These types of terms and references are naturally inclusive and should be part of your vocabulary. Interviewers may be looking for signs of bias or ignorance about diversity, equity, and inclusion through how you describe people in the workplace.
Focus on your experience working in a diverse workforce and show sensitivity and understanding through how you share what you’ve gained.
How do you respond to inappropriate jokes or statements about other people?
What they are asking: How would you handle a situation in which someone made a sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise prejudiced remark?
Humor in the workplace keeps morale high but it should never be at the expense of another person. Laughing at a group of people, even when no one of that population is present, should not be encouraged. That means not tolerating jokes about gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, weight, or physical or mental abilities.
When an interviewer asks how you respond to inappropriate jokes, they want to assess your emotional intelligence and check your empathy. It’s acceptable to share how it makes you feel when you hear a joke that mocks people of different backgrounds as well as how you’d advocate for those people in the moment.
Additional Reading: Check out these questions recruiters love to ask and how to answer them!
What’s the biggest challenge of working with people who are different from you?
What they are asking: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge of working with a diverse team?
There is an opportunity for conflict any time you bring people together with different world views and experiences. This means, your perspective on diverse opinions and backgrounds is an important assessment during the interview process. You are being judged for fit into a work culture. In the process of diversifying the workforce, employers also need to be sure to hire for understanding, open-mindedness, and cooperation.
When the interviewer asks what challenges you expect to arise from working with people of different backgrounds, don’t assume it’s a loaded question and dismiss the obvious obstacles. Instead, consider ways teams connect in the workplace, such as through celebrations, and suggest solutions for how the company could create a more inclusive environment for different cultures.
How do you react to people who think differently than you about race, religion, or sexual orientation?
What they’re asking: How do you approach understanding the perspectives of people of different backgrounds at work?
Often, the trouble with blending diverse backgrounds is people are reactive to differences. One way to prevent accidentally offending someone with a different perspective is to be open-minded and informed. When an interviewer asks how you react to people who think differently, what they want to assess is your openness to different perspectives and how you seek understanding.
Asking questions and being an active listener are both great ways to show others you are open to their ideas. You can also take part in training programs in the workplace that expand your understanding of other perspectives and backgrounds. This is a great time to learn more about what training the company offers on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Additional Reading: Hiring experts share the best questions from candidates about diversity in the workplace!
What would you say to someone who didn’t value diversity?
What they’re asking: How would you advocate for diversity education and diversity initiatives with individuals who don’t see its value?
Being a team player means advocating for important values like diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, it requires high emotional intelligence to ensure emotions don’t escalate when there are differences of opinions or understanding.
When an interviewer asks how you would respond to someone who doesn’t value diversity, they want to see how you manage your emotions and influence those around you. While you may be very passionate about the topic, you need to convey valuable information in a way that opens others’ perspectives rather than puts them on the defensive.
How do you report to managers who are from different backgrounds from you?
What they are asking: Give me an example of how you could make a direct report feel a sense of inclusion and respect.
Along with growing diversity in the workforce, the overdue shift to focusing on equity and inclusion in the workplace includes increasing the representation of all backgrounds and perspectives in leadership. This means women, people of color, skilled professionals of all abilities, and more are at long last climbing the corporate and closing DEI gaps.
Gone are the days of exclusively answering to middle-aged white male managers as you advance through your career. While this is an exciting time for people of all races and genders, it needs to be recognized as a normal aspect of the workforce. Interviewers want to know you respect the position and the person rather than feel you’re forced to adapt and overcome your unconscious biases.
With that said, managers and other team leaders are frequently excluded from team camaraderie and outings. You may want to show you are empathetic to direct reports and while you can show them the appropriate professional courtesy in the office, you would also do your best to connect with them as a person, just like any other member of the team.