7 Great Equality and Diversity Interview Questions

February 4th, 2021 | 10 minute read

If you are serious about creating a more diverse workplace, the starting point is in your recruitment efforts. By embedding equality and diversity interview questions into your hiring process you can both make the point with future hires that you take this seriously, whilst also testing whether potential applicants have views that align with your culture, and perspective on diversity, equality and inclusion.

7 Great Equality and Diversity Interview Questions

Below are seven of the best equality and diversity interview questions. Although you can use some of these at any level, they are primarily aimed at more senior recruitment in your business.

1. Have you ever had to handle a situation when a team member was not accepting of another team member’s background? How did you do this? This will tell you a lot. Not only will you find out if  they are aware of diversity challenges, and how to talk about them, but it will also tell you a lot about their conflict style and how comfortable they are driving positive conflict.

2. What strategies have you used to respond to diversity challenges?Hopefully communication is their first response. You are looking for people who aren’t afraid to talk about difficult things.

3. In your opinion, what is the most challenging aspect of working in a diverse environment?This is an interesting question to see how people think outside of the box and where their true thinking can lie – it won’t be rehearsed or anticipated!

4. What do you think is the most common mistake in an organisation’s thinking about diversity?A great answer we have heard to this one: “there is nothing worse than a company that says they value diversity and have it written in their policies, but the culture and behaviours in the business does not reflect that in its actions.”

5. What Is Your Approach to Understanding the Perspectives of Colleagues From Different Backgrounds?The answer to this will give you some insight into the emotional intelligence of the person you are interviewing. You are looking for answers that talk of listening to understand, seeking to learn other people’s perspectives, and seeing the strength in diverse opinion.

6. How Would You Handle a Situation Where a Colleague Was Being Culturally Insensitive, Sexist, Racist, or Homophobic?If you are really wanting to drive change, and actively promote diversity, it is essential to recruit people who will be active in creating an inclusive environment. It is not enough that they won’t make insensitive remarks, but that they will actively stand up against biased remarks and actions.

7. How Would You Advocate for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion With Colleagues Who Don’t Understand its Importance?In addition to understanding more about how much experience someone has with diversity action, it will also provide you with an insight into how well they come up with ideas on the spot.

How else can you promote diversity and inclusion in other recruitment efforts?

In addition to looking at equality and diversity interview questions, there are a lot of other things you can look at when it comes to how you tackle diversity across your whole recruitment process.

Action Item One: Review the wording of your job adverts

Often the wording in our job adverts can attract or alienate certain groups of job seekers completely unknowingly. We often write behavioural job adverts for our clients to attract specific behaviours for a certain role, but it can be equally powerful in creating more diverse groups of applicants

Sometimes this can be gendered language that demonstrates more masculine success characteristics, or it can be written specifically to certain backgrounds or experience groups. In her book The Fix, Michelle Penelope King talks about the concept of a success stereotype, and that in every business there is a stereotype for success, often operating on an unconscious level.

To begin to look at this, it is useful to list out the attributes that you feel demonstrate success in your business. This is not what you individually deem successful, but what you see across the business – it could be what sort of behaviour gets rewarded, what common traits do leaders in the business have, what seems to be celebrated? It might be useful to look at the different leaders or managers who are progressing quickly in your business – are there any common threads? These are often the things that aren’t necessarily talked about but are there if we look.

Often you can be promoting certain gendered attributes without even knowing, and sometimes that language can translate into your job adverts.

It is important to note that masculine and feminine language are not the same as male and female – there are men who can demonstrate what is deemed to be more feminine leadership traits and vice versa.

As an example of more masculine language: dominant, ambitious, direct, aggressive, assertive, competitive, exclusionary.

Whilst feminine could include: empathetic, vulnerable, interpersonal, collaborative, democratic.

Let’s look at some example of gendered language (which you choose will be dependent on your needs, but may go some way to describe the type of applicants you are receiving):

Consulting Company Description

Masculine Description: We are an ambitious, fast paced consulting firm that boasts many leading clients. We are determined to stand apart from the competition.

Feminine Description: We are a community of consultants who have effective relationships with many satisfied clients. We are committed to understanding the needs of our client.

Sales Manager Qualifications

Masculine Description: Strong communication and influencing skills. Ability to perform individually in a competitive environment. Superior ability to satisfy customers and manage company’s association with them.

Feminine Description: Great oral and written communications skills. Collaborates well in a team environment. Sensitive to clients’ needs, can develop warm client relationships.

Sales Responsibilities

Masculine Description: Direct sales teams to ensure accurate task control and direct efforts. Determine compliance with client’s objectives.

Feminine Description: Provide support to sales team in a manner complimentary to growing client relationships.

Some Other Great Examples

A really insightful article about how Buffer changed their processes around job descriptions: How Changing One Word In Job Descriptions Can Lead To More Diverse Candidates

Slack’s team partnered with company Textio to create job descriptions that features specific phrases like “care deeply” and “lasting relationships,” which statistically draw more applications from women. This system has also been used by Microsoft and Twitter in their own change in language.

Joonko is an AI-powered diversity and inclusion platform for companies, which helps identify and solve unconscious bias in recruiting efforts.

Facebook has a wealth of resources around unconscious bias, called Managing Unconscious Bias, where they address everything from job postings to interviews to interactions once working in a company.

Another way to think about diversity is to think about how cognitively diverse your business is, and what benefits you may gain from increasing diversity of thinking.

Checklist for Change

We have put together a useful checklist for increasing the impact of your recruitment practices on diversity and inclusion in your business:

Audit your job adverts – as discussed above, step back from your job adverts – do they appeal to your audience? Do you use gendered language? Are you assuming applicants have a certain background or social class? Do they appeal to a broad range of candidates (if applicable for the role)?

Target diverse sourcing pools – Often we hear companies complaining because they can’t attract more diverse groups of talent, but they are fishing from the same pools all the time. If you are wanting to attract more women for example, you need to think about what forms of advertising may appeal most? Which social channels do they use? Which groups could you post within? The key is to think about your audience, where they congregate, and how you reach them.

Tackle unconscious bias – Often one of the biggest challenges in diversity efforts are the subconscious beliefs that impact your recruitment process – from how someone views a CV, to how they interview, it is important to recruit outside of your own experiences, beliefs and potential biases.

Showcase your diversity efforts – Often people, especially for minority groups, who may have felt the negative impacts of a lack of diversity before, people will be looking for evidence to back up how you promote diversity and inclusion in your business, and that it is more than just a tick box exercise. What elements of your culture could you share? How could you showcase examples of your activities and priorities?

Utilise technology to support activities – There are a lot of technology you can use to support your businesses recruitment efforts to make them more inclusive, this can range from blind CV review and blind interviewing through to the use of AI as discussed in some of the previous examples, or automating some of the process through an ATS.

If you are interested in additional equality and diversity interview questions, or are looking more generally at how to enhance your recruitment activities, especially around diversity and inclusion, we have modules that cover both in our monthly subscription The Pulse click here to find out more about if this could be a good fit for you. 


You may also like