What are diversity, inclusion and belonging?
Diversity, inclusion and belonging are three distinct concepts that often go hand-in-hand.
Diversity can be found in a group of people with mixed demographics and cultural backgrounds. In many cases, diversity can be perceived. However, certain aspects of a person’s identity—such as their sexual orientation, gender identity or ability status—may not be visible.
Inclusion is about creating an environment in which all people are fully embraced. A diverse team isn’t just there for show—the unique perspectives that everybody brings to the table are valuable and should be respected.
Belonging is the emotional outcome that companies should strive for in their employees. Diversity and inclusion ensure that people of various backgrounds can have their voices heard, but they may still feel alienated from the group. The workplace should be a place where everyone feels safe, valued and empowered. Only then is a sense of belonging for each member of the team truly possible.
The importance of diversity, inclusion and belonging for your team
Having a diverse and inclusive workforce is beneficial to everybody involved. Your team, from entry-level staff all the way up to leadership roles, should be made up of individuals who come from various backgrounds. This type of distribution ensures that everybody can have a real impact.
In a diverse group of people, various experiences and perspectives can be brought to the table. This gives your team the opportunity to learn from one another and build on each other’s ideas. There are possibilities that may never be realized or even considered without exposure to varying outlooks. Different people have disparate ways of thinking, so when diverse individuals join forces, the possibility for new ideas is endless.
Another asset of diversity at your company is that your team is more likely to resemble the consumers you’re trying to reach. Employees can provide firsthand insight into the wants and needs of people who are similar to them. This leads to a more evolved understanding of who’s in the market for your products and services and how you can attract them to your company.
5 diversity interview questions and ideal candidate responses
Building a company that upholds diversity, inclusion and belonging is more than just stacking your team with visibly diverse individuals. It’s also more than cultivating a workplace where diversity is just tolerated. Your employees should sincerely appreciate working with people of different backgrounds and recognize the importance of learning from others. When seeking new candidates, asking a few questions about diversity and inclusion can give you a better idea of where each person stands on these issues.
Here’s a list of five diversity questions you can use in future interviews and what you should look for in a candidate’s response.
1. Are you passionate about diversity and inclusion? Why or why not?
Short, sweet and to the point—there’s nothing wrong with putting job candidates on the spot by hitting them with a question like this. If they say “No” and have no intention of promoting these principles in the workplace, then you’re left to decide whether or not they’re a good fit for your team. Realistically, you can expect most people to respond with “Yes.” It’s through their explanation that you’ll find the most compelling information.
What to look for: What is it that motivates this person to care about diversity and inclusion? Is it because they want to learn from other people? Do they want to have the opportunity to work with people who are different from them? Do they feel their perspective or identity is unique and they’d contribute to a diverse team? There’s no right or wrong answer, as long as they’re genuine advocates for your company’s values.
Example response: “Yes, I’m passionate about diversity and inclusion. Many groups of people have been oppressed in our society for so long, so now it’s absolutely essential for organizations to be doing this kind of work. Hiring a staff of diverse people and putting historically marginalized people in executive roles is a great first step, but these values need to be promoted on a daily basis in order to really make a difference.”
2. How would you contribute to the sense of diversity in this workplace?
This question gives applicants the opportunity to share any part of their identity that makes them unique. There’s usually more to a person than what meets the eye. Oftentimes, people associate the word “diversity” with race and ethnicity, but there are countless other characteristics to be considered as well. For example, you might discover that a candidate is a single parent, that they practice a certain religion or that they’re the child of immigrants. Allow each candidate to talk about their identity and how they can harness their personal experiences in their work.
What to look for: If your company lacks representation in a certain area, you shouldn’t just look for someone to fill this gap. It’s important to think critically about every candidate’s response to this question. Are they able to make connections between their personal identity and professional life? What would their presence add to the company culture?
Example response: “I was born and raised in the United States. However, my parents immigrated here from Germany shortly before I was born. This part of my life has left me with several qualities that could be quite useful in the workplace. First of all, I’m fluent in both English and German. My parents continue to celebrate German culture at home, so I have that background as well. Because my parents’ first language was not English, I have a lot of experience explaining intricate concepts in a way that makes sense to them. I think I could do that with anyone whose first language is not English, which could be very useful for this company.”
3. What do diversity, inclusion and belonging mean to you?
A question like this invites candidates to define these terms in their own words. By asking them to do this, you can gauge their current level of knowledge and their attitude about these workplace values.
What to look for: Recognize candidates who have an educated response to this question. They should know that it’s not just about race and gender—these concepts extend to other aspects of a person’s identity as well. The candidate’s explanation doesn’t have to be perfect, but they should have at least a general understanding of what these three words mean. Bonus points if they define each term individually!
Example response: “Diversity, inclusion and belonging are basic principles that I believe any organization should include in their mission. Diversity is the representation of multiple groups of people, inclusion is being open and welcoming to all people and belonging is when you yourself feel accepted. Together, diversity, inclusion and belonging create an environment where all people, regardless of their identity, feel safe, valued and empowered.”
4. What are the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of working on a diverse team?
This question is similar to asking about their strengths and weaknesses. In fact, it’s usually more interesting to find out what they consider negative aspects in themselves or others and how they choose to address those problems.
What to look for: Pay attention to the way they respond to this question. Their answer should demonstrate a positive attitude when it comes to working on a diverse team. When they talk about what they find most rewarding, you can identify what aspects of diversity, inclusion and belonging matter most to them. Are they interested in learning from other people or offering unique perspectives? When discussing what’s most challenging, look for candidates who can admit they aren’t perfect and demonstrate a willingness to learn and improve.
Example response: “The most rewarding aspect of working on a diverse team is having the opportunity to connect with people from all kinds of different backgrounds. Even if you only get a small glimpse of what their life is like, those interactions can be very eye-opening. What I’ve found most challenging is having effective communication with team members who aren’t fluent in English. In the past, I’ve dealt with language barriers and cultural misunderstandings. These conflicts can cause tension or frustration for those involved. It’s important to realize that people from different countries or cultures may have different language skills or etiquette than you do, and that’s OK. I’m working on being more patient.”
5. Tell me a story of a time you embraced diversity. What did that experience teach you?
People love to tell stories, so a question like this is always a fun addition to a job interview. You may be surprised by what you hear. Since this question is so open-ended, you could get all sorts of responses. Maybe one candidate traveled to a different country, while another has professional experience working with a diverse team. Whatever story they share, you can learn a lot about how they approach situations involving diverse people.
What to look for: This question gives the candidate a chance to explain a moment of personal growth. Listen carefully to find out what beliefs or views they had before the event and what lessons they learned from the experience. Do they speak positively of this memory? Did they implement effective strategies to handle a diverse situation?
Example response: “I grew up in a small, predominantly white town. When I went to university in Toronto, all of a sudden I was surrounded by an incredibly diverse population in terms of race, gender, sexuality and religion. I think I experienced some culture shock at first, but I got used to it over time. I got to meet all kinds of interesting people and learn from them during class discussions. I listened carefully and asked questions about things I didn’t understand. Being in this environment completely reshaped my view of the world.”
Sustaining a diverse and inclusive workplace
If these values are important to you and your business, there are things you can do to promote them to your existing team. For example, implementing diversity training can be a useful tool for teaching your employees how to work together more effectively. You could also start a committee dedicated to diversity and inclusion. If possible, allow this council to be run by individuals who come from various backgrounds. Finally, having open discussions with employees about current events and social justice issues can help everyone stay informed and educated on these matters.