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How To Create an Inclusive Interview Process

A diverse and inclusive workforce benefits businesses and organizations. For many companies, an inclusive interview process is a great place to start since the interview is often the first face-to-face interaction candidates have with your business. By doing the work to make the experience more equitable and welcoming for everyone, you can increase your chances of attracting a truly diverse team.


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1. Eliminate bias during candidate selection

Inclusive interviewing starts long before you speak to candidates. In order to make interviews equitable, you must ensure that you’re selecting applicants from a diverse pool.


Improve your job descriptions

The job description is the first barrier in the hiring process. This is harder than it sounds—many companies unintentionally use descriptions that eliminate applicants. To help all candidates feel comfortable applying, use these tips:


  • Use gender-neutral language: Instead of using “he” or “she,” address the posting directly to the candidate by saying “you.” Take special care when naming the position; instead of “salesman,” say “sales staff,” “sales professional” or “sales associate.”
  • Avoid age bias: Stay away from words that communicate age, such as “recent graduates,” “youthful” and “senior.” It’s also helpful to avoid putting a top limit on years of experience, as that can unintentionally rule out older candidates.
  • Welcome all abilities: Your job description should reassure applicants that your company is willing and able to provide reasonable accommodations for job duties.
  • Post job openings in a variety of locations: Gain exposure to a wider, more diverse pool of applicants by listing the job on different job boards, university websites, professional association boards, career center sites and social media platforms.

Moderate how you use AI

Large companies often use AI to screen applicants before conducting a final in-person review to select who to interview. However, bias may be baked into the algorithms that power these programs.


Hiring algorithms often look at past employee data to predict which applicants will be successful. This seems fine on the surface, but what happens if you’ve never had a diverse pool of employees? The program may automatically show bias to employees of a specific gender, race or educational background.


Reduce bias in the review process

Human reviews are also subject to bias. Reviewers may consciously or unconsciously give preference to certain applicants based on their personal information. Fortunately, there’s an easy way around this problem: Use a blind review.


Before your hiring team looks through applications to select a shortlist of interview candidates, ask your HR department to remove personal information. This includes references to:


  • Names
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Race or ethnicity

Don’t forget about your reviewers—ensure that you’re bringing together a diverse group of people. When everyone has the same background, it’s harder to challenge assumptions or benefit from new perspectives.


2. Create an equitable and inclusive interview experience

For many companies, the practicalities of the interview itself can be a stumbling block. Make sure you’re including all types of candidates by paying attention to:


  • Multiple communication channels: For remote interviews, consider offering a phone and video option. That way, candidates can choose the one that suits their resources and comfort level.
  • Accessible materials: Interview materials must be accessible for everyone. Videos should be accompanied by closed captions and transcripts, and images should include alt text. For written materials, use structured headings and descriptive link text. If you ask people to fill out forms, make sure each field is labeled clearly.
  • Best practices: Create a level playing field by sending out a list of best practices for parking, dress code, travel time and interview topics. This ensures that all candidates will start out with the same expectations. For video interviews, for example, you might recommend a plain background, ample lighting and a distraction-free zone.
  • Flexible times: Offer day, evening and weekend interview slots to accommodate people with various schedules and commitments.
  • Travel: If finalists must travel to your location, consider footing the bill to avoid giving preference to people with more discretionary income. Alternatively, offer a video option.
  • Location: Choose a place that’s accessible for people of all abilities.
  • Accommodations: Let candidates know you’re happy to provide special accommodations to make the process easier.

3. Use the same inclusive interview process for each candidate

If you’ve ever interviewed job candidates, you know that the conversations can vary wildly. If the interviewer clicks with the interviewee, they may offer different feedback or ask different follow-up questions. The same thing can happen with candidates who share a similar educational background, hometown or hobby. This type of nonstandard process can put certain applicants at a disadvantage. While you can’t eliminate differences in personality, you can take steps to make the process more equitable.


Write inclusive interview questions

Before you bring in candidates, write a set of standard questions. They should be the same for every person. To make sure you’re using inclusive interview questions, keep these tips in mind:


  • Keep questions relevant to the specific position requirements
  • Avoid language that’s biased toward a specific gender, age range, race, culture, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, political affiliation or ability
  • Don’t make assumptions about the candidate
  • Ask about capabilities and problem-solving rather than past experience

Create a scoring system

Once you have a set of questions, work with your team to agree on a scoring system. Decide what criteria you will use to rank candidates based on their qualifications and answers to questions. Use the rubric to make notes during the interview, and refer to it as you select the finalists.


Standardize the experience

To make sure that each candidate gets the same opportunity, use a structured inclusive interview process. Ask the questions in the same order, and keep every interview to a preset time limit.


4. Adjust for differences in self-assessment tendencies

Do you ask interviewees to rate their expertise during an interview? You’re not alone; companies frequently ask candidates to quantify their proficiency in a specific skill, tool or task. This includes questions such as, “On a scale from 1 to 10, how proficient are you in this software program?”


If you’re relying on similar self-assessments, it might be time to rethink your practices. Individuals don’t always describe their abilities accurately, often as a result of societal norms and pressures. Gender, in particular, can influence how a candidate promotes themselves. In a 2019 paper, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that women were more likely to downplay their expertise compared to men at the same level.


A person’s background can also influence self-assessment. A study from Frontiers in Psychology suggests that interviewees from minority groups often adjust their self-presentation as a way to adjust to the norms or values of the majority.


To create an inclusive interview process, you must find an objective way to gauge an applicant’s skills, expertise and ability. Some ways to do so are:


  • Conduct in-office skills and talent testing
  • Pose standardized scenarios to each candidate
  • Ask finalists to complete a work sample using identical instructions

Inclusive interviewing benefits businesses

Inclusive interviews are the first step in building a more inclusive and welcoming company. Patience is key—organizational change takes time and resources, but the benefits of a diverse workforce make the investment worthwhile.


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