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Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are implemented by employers to ensure all employees can feel accounted for in the workplace. As part of these initiatives, many companies include DEI questions in the interview to better an inclusive, diverse, safe and progressive environment that ultimately boosts employee performance and morale.
Before we explore DEI interview questions and how to answer them, we first need to look at the term DEI. What does DEI mean exactly? Diversity in employees includes varying in race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, level of disability, and religion. Equity ensures fairness by giving employees tools to succeed based on their needs. Last but not least, inclusion is feeling “belonging” in the workplace.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion interview questions are oftentimes about your experience with people of different backgrounds, such as different races, and how you make sure people are treated fairly and respectfully.
In this article, we’ll go over DEI ideas, sample diversity and inclusion interview questions and how to answer them.
Diversity job interview questions have become popular, as more employers realize that feeling included in the workplace allows employees to thrive without fear of judgment or unfair treatment.
A diverse workforce benefits the company in many ways:
Incorporating employees from diverse backgrounds, skillsets and cultures can provide new perspectives, both strategically and creatively. Creativity involves having unique perspectives or challenging existing ones, which would not be possible from a homogenous cohort.
People of different cultural backgrounds are likely to speak languages other than English. Diverse language skills benefit client-facing roles, broaden research scope and help expand businesses across borders.
A diverse team working harmoniously can cultivate new strategies, products and techniques, which will ultimately improve business and turn a higher profit. This can fuel the expansion of the business, which will hopefully get paid back to employees!
Diverse employees bring unique but differing perspectives. Working through this allows teams to use more sensitive and productive decision making, in order to satisfy everyone. Decision making is valuable in every company.
Diversity interview questions might sound a bit intimidating as it's always difficult to think of something to say on spot. But there are tips that can prepare you to answer DEI questions comfortably and confidently. Below is a list of tips for answering DEI questions we've put together.
First thing first, to prepare for DEI interview questions, you must have your own understanding of DEI. Do research on equity, equality, cultural awareness and diversity, as most DEI interview questions will touch on at least one of these topics.
You can start by browsing websites such as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Carnegie Mellon University's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion site. Understanding these concepts is the first step to preparing answers for DEI interview questions.
Many company websites have a statement on DEI, which you can research and later incorporate when answering DEI interview questions.
Some companies strive to be diverse and inclusive; interview questions will reflect their DEI statements. Take note of what values are mentioned as they will most likely be included in their DEI interview questions. Make your answers to diversity interview questions stand out by aligning with their mission statement.
💡 For example, if a company’s diversity statement highlights the percentages of female and POC managers, you know they care about gender and racial issues and might ask you interview questions about gender and racial equity. When facing DEI interview questions, you can then talk about positive experiences with a female or POC supervisor or why you think having women and POC in manager positions is important.
When answering DEI interview questions, using your own encounters with people from different backgrounds will show you not only understand DEI principles but are also capable of working in a diverse workplace.
Think back of times when you collaborated with diverse teams and talk about the efforts you made to make sure everyone was comfortable when asked DEI interview questions.
Inclusivity interview questions are not only asking about race and culture – age, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, religion and gender also work!
Having prepared answers to diversity, equity and inclusion interview questions which reflect the company’s values will sound good in an interview; however, interviewers can tell if you give them a canned response.
This is especially important when discussing sensitive topics such as racial equity during the interview; questions like these are taken seriously by the employer.
As mentioned before, including your own experiences when answering interview questions about diversity and inclusion will show you have a genuine understanding and tolerance for DEI in the workplace.
DEI concepts can be tricky to articulate, so it's best to practice DEI interview questions ahead of time! Like how you answers regular interview questions, you want to provide real-life examples and specific details to demonstrate your DEI awareness during an interview. Keep this principle in mind when you think of how to answer DEI questions.
To help your preparation for DEI interview questions, we've gathered 10 common questions and sample answers, along with tips on how to tackle them.
The most basic DEI interview questions will involve you showcasing your understanding.
“Diversity, Equity and Inclusion means recognizing difference and respecting all colleagues, regardless of their backgrounds. Equity is giving each person the tools they need for success, depending on their needs, and inclusion is to provide a sense of belonging in the workplace.”
Diversity and inclusion interview questions want to explore your perception of DEI in the workplace. Think of how a diverse workplace improves teams and you interpersonally and professionally when answering DEI interview questions. If you have experience benefiting from a diverse workplace, don't hesitate to share it.
“The most positive aspects of working in a diverse workplace would be the unique perspectives everyone brings. Variation in experiences and education can force us to think laterally and use creativity to overcome challenges, which ultimately strengthens the team.”
When answering diversity interview questions, highlight how and why diversity was utilized. If you can't think of your own contribution when answering DEI interview questions like these, you can use examples of how a coworker’s diversity contributed!
“In my previous role, my team was responsible for directing a new advertisement campaign. When discussing phrasing, designs and actors, team members utilized their cultural knowledge to help guide the campaign in a culturally aware manner to attract a larger audience. I learnt a lot from working with them and have considered culture in campaigns since. Without the diversity in our team, we could have made an offensive mistake by accident.”
This diversity and inclusion interview question is for leadership roles. DEI ideas are exceptionally important for leaders as they need to find ways to help every team member to realize their potential. It can only be achieved when team members of different backgrounds are all comfortable with each other. D&I interview questions want to see how you can go beyond recognising diversity, and utilize it as well.
“Utilizing diversity involves providing opportunities to share knowledge and experiences unique to an individual. I always actively listen to my coworkers and encourage every one to do the same. If a colleague brings in their unique perspective, everyone should acknowledge and consider their opinion judgement. Making sure everyone feels included will encourage our team to utilize their diversity”
Applicants interviewing for manager roles are likely to be asked this type of interview question about diversity and inclusion.
The employer wants to know how managers would focus on achieving DEI principles. Equity is difficult to articulate; so when answering DEI interview questions, provide a clear description of how you would advocate for others.
“I’ll first make sure all the employees feel comfortable to come to me when they need specific assistance. If an employee requires assistance, tools or resources to achieve success, I will discuss it directly with the employee to make sure we understand their needs. Together, we can consider adjustments to their workflow and I will advocate for them with management by providing a clear plan for adjustments.”
This diversity and inclusion question is for leaders and regular employees. Workplace discrimination is never tolerated, and inclusivity interview questions like these allow you to show how you adhere to DEI principles. Ensuring equity for marginalized and/or radicalized communities workplace include creating an environment where they are free from harm and harassment.
HR takes harassment policies seriously; therefore this DEI interview question is likely to be asked.
“If I witness workplace discrimination, I will first interrupt the situation, regardless of who is involved. I will call out the incident as offensive and stop the situation. In the same time, workshops about equity should be held. I'd also suggest the company educate every one n the importance of DEI concepts. If the situation continues, I will report it to management, HR or the diversity or inclusion manager immediately. I will also check in with the affected person to see if they are okay.”
Although achieving a diverse workplace is ideal, conflicts are inevitable and will be brought up in interview questions when DEI is concerned.
Interview questions about diversity and inclusion can be both positive and negative; answer with tact to show your understanding of the realities of DEI. Suggest solutions when answering diversity interview questions about challenges:
“Whilst having a diverse workplace has many upsides, unfortunately, I agree that there are challenges that arise. One would be an inevitable conflict of opinions – as a person’s background, race, gender, culture or orientation is fundamental to their personality, there are times when pleasing everyone is not possible. In order to overcome this, we make sure we compromise and provide adjustments where possible.”
Often this interview question on diversity and inclusion is for managers; however, it is also a good DEI interview question to reflect upon and form the basis for your other answers.
Focus on skills such as communication, teamwork and productivity when answering this diversity interview question to highlight DEI’s positive impact.
“Achieving diversity, equity and inclusivity in the workplace would first include a team which is representative of the population in terms of racial diversity, age, gender, orientation, etc., including in management positions. When everyone's needs are accounted for and DEI is implemented, teamwork dynamics will be effortless, providing an overall productive atmosphere.”
Sometimes DEI interview questions can include equality, another important principle which differs from equity slightly.
Equality is about providing equal opportunities, support and assistance to all members of staff, whereas equity provides different adjustments for different individuals based on their needs.
Listen carefully to DEI interview questions and make sure you know the difference between equity and equality. When answering equality and diversity interview questions, make sure you focus on the principle of equality – providing equal opportunities.
“I believe that diversity and equality go hand in hand with this position. Having a diverse team who are all provided with the same opportunities to thrive will allow us to explore new creative and technical avenues by utilizing the skills of every individual.”
Although the major branches of diversity focus on age, gender, race and sexual orientation, which are immediately visible, the topic also covers invisible differences, such as culture. This might come up in interview questions about diversity and inclusion.
Having cultural awareness in your interview questions and answers is valuable to employers; culture is an unchangeable part of identity. DEI interview questions like these are especially important when jobs require meetings with clients, on-site visits and cross-cultural communications.
For example, being culturally aware is valuable to the employer when the job you apply for involves meetings with international clients, visits to other countries and cross-cultural communications. So prepare to show it in your answers to DEI interview questions.
“I will strongly encourage colleagues to share cultural knowledge if they want to do so. Listening to their perspective and knowledge of other languages and cultures will provide us with guidance, so we can make culturally sensitive decisions which will ultimately broaden our reach. Likewise, I will recruit a diverse range of people to participate in projects to ensure this.”
During interviews, the interviewer will open up the conversation and allow you to ask questions related to the company or position.
It is a good idea to have at least one question prepared – this shows your interest in the role. Also, asking diversity and inclusion questions in your interview shows the interviewer that you take DEI seriously.
A well-planned diversity interview question can also provide a lot of information. Inquiring about diversity and inclusion policies provides you with more context about the company’s values towards employees. If you are interviewing with multiple companies, asking DEI questions in your interview can help you decide between offers.
To make the most of your opportunity to ask interview questions to the diversity and inclusion manager or HR, think of ways you might need to have your diversity accommodated for.
An ideal company to work for should be able and willing to help you feel comfortable, whether your DEI questions are about gender, education, neurodiversity, disability or religion; so don’t be afraid to ask serious questions about DEI in interviews.
Examples of diversity and inclusion interview questions for leaders such as HR or your interviewer:
🔑 Key Takeaways:
Overall, DEI interview questions allow employers to improve the company by creating a diverse workplace and hiring staff who will contribute to a progressive work environment. So, next time you are asked a DEI interview question, think back to your experiences, background and the company values to provide a high-quality answer.
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--- Originally written by Bronte McNamara ---