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Are employers prioritizing diversity? What job seekers should demand from their employers

For years, many companies have been saying that they need to increase diversity in their hiring. However, the call for accountability on this is stronger than ever before. Over the past year, tragic events like the killing of George Floyd have brought a society-wide reckoning on why there are such glaring gaps in opportunities. The call to do better in fighting systemic racism and economic inequality has shifted diversity and inclusivity from a “we need to talk about this” goal to a “we need to do this” goal for many organizations. So what can job seekers do to help companies be more accountable on these measures?

According to a recent survey by Survey Monkey and Living Corporate, 79% of job seekers rate hiring and workplace diversity as an important factor in choosing their next employer. Yet only 34% of the people surveyed said they had been interviewed by a diverse set of interviewers. It can be difficult to tell which companies are talking a good game about their inclusion, and which ones are actively working to improve.

Do your research ahead of time

Before you apply, it’s time to do a little digging on the specific company. This is a good job search practice anyway, but make sure you’re looking for more than just a vague mission statement.

What to look for when researching a potential new employer:

  • Is diversity mentioned as a core value on their website? Are there mission statements openly committing to a diverse, inclusive experience for employees, clients, customers, etc.?
  • Is the leadership team diverse in race/ethnicity and gender?
  • On sites like Glassdoor, are people mentioning diversity–and what are they saying? Are employees of color leaving negative reviews?
  • Are they certified by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which emphasizes anti-bias training practices?
  • Do you know anyone (or have anyone in your LinkedIn network) who works there, and can speak to what diversity is really like in the day-to-day workings of the company?
  • Is their social media inclusive?

These are all things you can suss out with some basic online research. If this kind of information isn’t readily available online, you can also reach out to the company’s recruiters or HR to get more information. You have nothing to lose by doing some preliminary exploring–and even the most basic research could turn up some red flags that help you avoid a company that doesn’t support diverse employees.

Don’t wait until you have a job offer to ask questions

Part of the growth that’s happening has to be asking tough questions–and expecting honest, constructive answers. Many companies have a plan to look for more diverse candidates, or work with current employees to become more inclusive and culturally sensitive. It’s fair to ask about these things–part of your job search is finding a company whose culture and values align with your own values.

If you’re a candidate coming in for an interview, you will inevitably be asked if you have any questions about the job or the company. This is a perfect time to ask about what the company is doing to ensure a more inclusive work experience for employees of all kinds.

Possible questions to consider asking:

  • Can you share some statistics on your company’s diversity?
  • What are the core values of this company?
  • What do diversity and inclusion mean to this company?
  • What kinds of diversity programs are already in place?
  • How does this company increase diversity in recruiting?
  • What does your organization do to make sure that everyone feels included?
  • Does the company offer diversity, inclusion, or cultural sensitivity training to employees at all levels?
  • How does the company manage accountability for ongoing diversity and inclusion, beyond training?

These are all questions that a hiring manager or HR person should be able to answer in a straightforward way. If the answer is always “we’ll get back to you on that,” or “that’s in our plan for the future,” that could be a sign that the company isn’t moving along in its diversity and inclusion efforts.

As a job seeker, you need to decide for yourself what level of diversity accountability you expect from a potential employer. Ultimately, you’re joining a company’s culture, for better or worse–and if they aren’t willing to put in the work to find and maintain an inclusive workforce, then they might not be the right fit for you. Asking direct questions helps move the conversation forward into reality. If companies know that the talent out there is expecting certain levels of accountability, they’re more likely to take proactive steps against bias, systemic racism, and other forms of discrimination.     

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