In this guide, Mock Questions discusses 10 essential interview questions related to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We discuss the importance of preparing well-thought-out responses that are meaningful and genuine. We also provide 10 questions to ask the hiring company to ensure they are actively involved in creating and maintaining a supportive work environment that offers equal opportunity.
PREPARE FOR THESE QUESTIONS FROM AN EQUITABLE EMPLOYER
Everyone has the right to feel safe, respected, and included in the workplace. A responsible employer will ask the right questions to ensure they hire only those willing to help build a positive workplace environment.
Take your time practicing these questions while thinking about how you can make a meaningful contribution to your next employer and team.
QUESTION #1: What is the difference between diversity and inclusion?
HOW TO ANSWER: There is an essential difference between diversity and inclusion, and the interviewer would like to know that you are aware of the critical distinction.
Diversity is often explained as 'what the company is doing' to attract a range of workplace talent.
Inclusion is the 'how' referring to what the company is doing to embrace this diversity plan.
As you can see, using this distinction, diversity efforts mean much less when inclusion efforts do not occur in tandem. For instance, a company can hire a female executive; however, if she does not have an equal voice, this diversity hire is simply lip-service. Discuss what you know to be the difference between diversity and inclusion.
ANSWER EXAMPLE: "Inclusion is taking a diversity plan and putting it into action. It's approaching a diverse hire and ensuring that the individual also experiences equity in the workplace. For instance, in my current position, we make a great effort to hire a diverse range of individuals with physical disabilities. If we did not also ensure that these individuals had equal access to accessible technology or physical spaces that met their needs, we would not be meeting the inclusive side of our diversity and inclusion plan - only the diversity aspect. I strongly believe that, although these two terms are often used interchangeably in the workplace, the distinction is incredibly important."
QUESTION #2: How have you demonstrated an active commitment to diversity and inclusion in your most recent role?
HOW TO ANSWER: The interviewer would like to hear the tangible and measurable ways you demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion. Think about the efforts you have made in your current position. Perhaps you:
Help educate your co-workers on equality.
Eagerly attended cultural training or diversity workshops.
Celebrate the strengths of those different from you.
Discuss the ways that you show an active commitment to diversity and inclusion at work while spotlighting the fact that you will wholeheartedly support the hiring company's efforts, should you be hired.
ANSWER EXAMPLE: "I have supported my current company's diversity and inclusion efforts in a variety of ways. One significant example was when our company planned the mass hiring of over 100 individuals in its technical department. I suggested that we find and hire an independent diversity mentor to inspire us to look at our new talent attraction strategy without bias. Our company leaders agreed, and this choice resulted in a much stronger team that has brought our company greater strides in innovation than ever before. If hired, I will eagerly support your organizations' diversity and inclusion efforts by rethinking policies, educating others through trustworthy resources, making mindful decisions, and encouraging more diverse hires."
QUESTION #3: What have you done this year to further your knowledge and understanding of diversity?
HOW TO ANSWER: The interviewer wants to discuss your interest in expanding your understanding of diversity and inclusion.
Show that you go beyond saying the right words and that you have taken action to grow your knowledge and empathy toward people with characteristics different from your own.
ANSWER EXAMPLE: "This year I have taken a keen interest in diversity and inclusion efforts, especially in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, and other calls for equality. Over the past six months, I have immersed myself in multiple online courses, including a course called Race and Cultural Diversity in American Life and History. I took another course on what it means to identify as transgender and gender non-conforming since, admittedly, I had a lot to learn. I am pleased to say that I have learned a great deal about other groups and myself along the way. I will continue to educate myself and broaden my knowledge as I believe this topic demands more attention from the majority of working professionals."
QUESTION #4: If hired into this role, how will you support our anti-discrimination policies?
HOW TO ANSWER: An anti-discrimination policy is a policy put into place by a company to protects its employees from discrimination based on multiple factors.
A robust anti-discrimination policy will cover various characteristics such as age, gender identity, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, medical history, physical abilities, sexual orientation, and more. An anti-discrimination policy should also protect employees from various forms of harassment, including sexual harassment.
The interviewer wants to see that you will openly and actively support their policies. Talk about the efforts that you plan to make, should you be hired.
ANSWER EXAMPLE: "I plan to support your anti-discrimination policies in a variety of ways. I promise to quickly identify and expose any instances of harassment or discrimination in the workplace. I will genuinely embrace everyone in the organization and treat everyone with the utmost respect. I will show cultural understanding and help my co-workers to build their competency and understanding of others. I also plan to support your anti-discrimination policies by continually educating myself on emerging inclusion programs and practices."
QUESTION #5: Have you ever attended formal diversity and inclusion training?
HOW TO ANSWER: There are many available programs, courses, and workshops dedicated to diversity and inclusion. Many of these programs are in-house, some are offered by post-secondary educational entities, some through professional coaches, and others offered online. Udemy, Coursera, edX, and even Microsoft provide highly valuable D&I training options.
If you have never attended diversity and inclusion training, take the initiative to do so on your own time. This addition to your knowledge base will be valuable as you search for new employment.
If you have formal D&I training, give the interviewer an outline of the program you attended. Discuss what you learned, and highlight how this training will benefit the company, should they choose to hire you.
ANSWER EXAMPLE: "Although my former employers have not offered formal diversity and inclusion training, I did take the initiative to attend a self-paced e-course from Microsoft on Unconscious Bias. This course was geared for managers and employees and provided a helpful overview of how diversity impacts employee productivity, happiness, and overall business success. Through this coursework, I deepened my understanding of unconscious biases, how they influence my behavior, and impact others. I learned a few action steps that I could take to eliminate bias in my work environment. I highly recommend this coursework, and I am eager to put my new knowledge into action."
QUESTION #6: How has your education and experience prepared you to succeed in our diverse work community?
HOW TO ANSWER: As a working professional, you should be ready to take your education, life, and career experiences to help you succeed in a diverse workplace environment. Discuss your exposure to the topic of diversity in the workplace, show that you have a solid understanding of the depth of diversity and inclusion in business environments, and assure the interviewer that you will succeed in their diverse work community.
ANSWER EXAMPLE: "I am thankful to have worked for companies that are highly conscious of their diversity efforts and inclusion programs. Some of the efforts that I have been part of include changing job ads to include only inclusive phrasing and information. While working as an HR Assistant, I learned how to write formal job criteria and promotion criteria to help managers avoid biased workplace decisions. My education in business taught me about the importance of diversity in the workplace. While attending the University of XYZ, I took coursework on gender, diversity, and leadership in the workplace. During this coursework, I learned how the HR sector has changed over the years, with an increased demand for organizational diversity. I am eager to take this knowledge and my inclusive mindset to support your organizations' diversity efforts."
QUESTION #7: If you were to create a diversity and inclusion plan for your current company, what would be your priorities?
HOW TO ANSWER: If it were in your hands to create a diversity and inclusion plan, what would this plan encompass?
This question is an excellent opportunity to explore your knowledge of diversity and inclusion related to a business or corporate environment. Hypothetically, if the call was entirely up to you, what would be your top priorities?
If you are not familiar with diversity and inclusion plans and what they often include, take some time to research your favorite companies and peruse the D&I plans on their website. Larger organizations will almost always have this information on their website, typically found in the 'careers' section.
ANSWER EXAMPLE: "If I were to create a diversity and inclusion plan for my current company, I would make a few essential additions. I would include a more flexible schedule, paid leave options, and provide recognition of various religious and cultural holidays and celebrations that may not have wide recognition on the traditional calendar. I would hold mandated diversity training regularly and create mentorship plans so that our team members could mentor someone with characteristics different from their own. This approach would be a good start. Of course, it's important to mention that I would build a way to measure and assess the programs' impact."
QUESTION #8: How do you feel about workplace diversity today, and how have your views changed over the years?
HOW TO ANSWER: Diversity has been a part of the corporate conversation for many years; however, the conversation has changed significantly over time. Today, corporations consider many more groups when building their Diversity & Inclusion plan.
The interviewer would like to know how your views have evolved over the years, and where you stand today on diversity and inclusion topics and efforts.
ANSWER EXAMPLE: "I believe that diversity in the workplace is one of the fundamental components to a company's success, brand story, and reputation. Today, diversity is a much broader conversation versus when I first entered the workplace twenty years ago. Then, the biggest conversation was about the increase in women in the workplace. Today, a company's diversity plan includes race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical abilities, socioeconomic status, and more. The most significant change in my personal view of diversity over the years is my realization that diversity has to go far beyond thought and move into action while including a broader range of groups. I am passionate about D&I, and I look forward to bringing my perspective to your organization."
QUESTION #9: Have you ever experienced or witnessed a lack of inclusion in the workplace? If so, how did you address the situation?
HOW TO ANSWER: Inclusion is different from diversity, and it's essential to be prepared to make the distinction. Diversity refers to 'what' the company is doing to create a diverse workplace, and inclusion is 'how' the company is developing a culture that is safe for all.
The interviewer wants you to recount a time when you experienced first hand or witnessed a lack of inclusion in the workplace. This question is not the opportunity to speak poorly of an employer or co-worker but instead spotlight how you address a workplace imbalance.
When responding to a question like this, it's best to give a specific story-based example rather than responding with a generalization. You can form your response using the STAR framework, an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. This framework will allow you to keep your reply well-organized so that the interviewer can follow along with your story.
If you have not experienced this situation in the past, you can speak hypothetically, being sure to address how you would handle the issue and how you plan to support your co-workers in achieving equality in the workplace.
ANSWER EXAMPLE: "(Situation) I worked for a company many years ago that did not have proper inclusion efforts for employees with physical disabilities. There was very little assistive technology, and accessibility was not a priority. (Task) As the HR Manager, it was up to me to put a spotlight on these shortcomings. (Action) I brought my concerns to the General Manager in the form of a few critical points, and I provided helpful resources. I explained that many companies are relatively aware that diversity is important, but this does not mean much without inclusion efforts as a follow-through. I spent time explaining the differences between diversity and inclusion. Together, we came up with a plan that would further support inclusion. (Result) In the end, our inclusion program expanded, and we made more effort toward creating a comfortable workplace for employees with physical disabilities. The company's head office was impressed with our plan, and they ended up deploying our ideas across all other locations."
QUESTION #10: How would you help a co-worker to increase the value they place on workplace inclusion?
HOW TO ANSWER: Not everyone is empathetic to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The interviewer wants to know how you would handle a situation with a colleague who did not place as much value on inclusion as they could.
What action steps would you take to help someone increase their awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
There are many ways to support further the idea of workplace inclusion, such as building awareness of unconscious bias or asking your co-workers to assess and review their assumptions of others. If you have experienced this scenario, tell a brief story outlining the situation and the actions that you took.
If you have not experienced this situation in the past, you can speak hypothetically, being sure to address how you would handle the issue and how you plan to support your co-workers in boosting their workplace inclusion efforts.
ANSWER EXAMPLE: "I would help a co-worker to increase the value that they place on workplace inclusion by being consistent in my actions and providing education and resources at every opportunity. In my previous role with Company ABC, the General Manager recognized many traditional Christian holidays; however, very few other events. I approached him, asking that he consider acknowledging a wider variety of religious and cultural holidays. I wanted the company to be more engaged with our diverse team and take the time to learn how everyone celebrates their special holidays. He took the feedback well and began to track these multicultural celebrations. As a result, we became more aware of other cultures and beliefs. Also, the GM provided days off and flexibility around these important dates."
10 DIVERSITY-RELATED QUESTIONS TO ASK THE HIRING COMPANY
An equitable employer wants to know that you will embrace their diversity and inclusion plans. In return, how can you be sure that the hiring company truly embraces equality? Remember, a responsible company will never be hesitant to share their values with you and how they promote those values.
Could you share with me the ways this company has actively embraced inclusion efforts in the past 12 months?
What to look for: Does the company make regular changes and updates to their Diversity & Inclusion plan, or did they write their D&I plan years ago, never to revisit it?
What is the latest diversity, inclusion, or equality-related action this company has made?
What to look for: Does the company show, through actions, that they genuinely embrace equality in the workplace, or do they have a diversity statement that remains stagnant?
How do you promote diversity in your recruitment and hiring process?
What to look for: Does the company use responsible hiring practices such as wording job postings responsibly, utilizing ATS systems to eliminate bias, or having a diverse interview panel?
What steps does this company take to empower underrepresented groups in the workplace?
What to look for: Does the company practice equity as a way to achieve equality? For instance, do they offer fair compensation across the board, and do they give everyone the same opportunities to grow?
How often does this company provide diversity training to management and employees?
What to look for: Does the company offer cultural competency training or training on unconscious bias for all leaders and employees?
How does this company respond to employee grievances around harassment or discrimination?
What to look for: Does the company act swiftly to acts of stereotyping, discrimination, and harassment? For instance, do they have a zero-tolerance policy that is closely followed by HR and management?
What percentage of your leadership team is made up of underrepresented groups?
What to look for: Does the company have a diverse workforce and a diverse board or leadership team? Look for leadership teams that include all genders, people of color, or individuals with disabilities.
What efforts does the company take to reduce unconscious bias in hiring practices and decisions around promotion?
What to look for: Does the company use ATS software to ensure a fair hiring process? Do they have a ‘blind’ application process and a diverse panel of decision-makers? Do they have a consistent way to measure performance when determining promotions and wage increases?
Does this company have any diversity and inclusion sponsors, partners, or association support?
What to look for: Does the company partner with outside organizations such as a national center for diversity and inclusion, or a disability employment network?
How do the company’s health and family benefits reflect a diverse range of needs?
What to look for: Does the company consider a wide range of families, characteristics, and needs in their benefits package? For instance, do they offer paid maternity and paternity leave? Do their family health benefits cover same-sex partners?
Today, a responsible employer will create an inclusive workplace culture and an environment of true equality. In exchange, they want to be sure that you will uphold the values that they exude in return.
Be prepared to provide answers that are of high quality and offer specific examples of your actions.