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Answering Interview Questions about Diversity and Inclusion

by THEA kelley | June 25, 2020

In 2020, many of us have come to realize we need to think more deeply about diversity and inclusion, and this awareness is growing among employers as well. For job seekers, this means preparing to answer interview questions about diversity.

(And since a job interview is a two-way communication, you may also want to ask some questions of your own.)

For years I have been emphasizing the importance of authenticity in interviewing. “Canned” answers based entirely on what the interviewer wants to hear, without a deep connection to our own values, are unlikely to inspire trust. Good interview answers start with deeply considering what’s true.

So, here’s an exercise that will prepare you much better than simply memorizing a safe answer.

How to Prepare for Diversity Questions in Interviews

First, read a question below and answer it very frankly, just for yourself. Notice how you feel about your answer. Now is the time to work through any discomfort or confusion about what you’re saying—not in the interview.

Then ask yourself: In my interviews, what do I need to add to my answer in order to demonstrate (a) that I understand why it’s is being asked and why it’s important, and (b) how I will help to support diversity and inclusion if hired?

Say your answer aloud as if you were in an interview. Is what you’re saying authentic? Does it express the best of who you are professionally? Is it clear and concise?

If so, good work! Take a few notes and move on to the next question.

If not, give it some more thought, maybe over a period of time. You may also want to get some mock interviewing practice and feedback from a friend, colleague or interview coach.

Hint: If one of the behavioral questions (the ones that ask you to tell a story) has you stumped, move on to the other questions. One of those might make you think of a story or example that applies to the question you had trouble with. For example, your story about a time when you adapted to a culturally different environment (#10 in the first list below) could also shed light on how you’ve adapted your style to work better with someone from another culture (#8).

Sample Interview Questions about Diversity and Inclusion

  1. What is your definition of diversity?
  2. What kinds of experiences have you had in relating with people whose backgrounds are different from your own?
  3. What have you learned from working with diverse colleagues?
  4. Tell us about a time when you had to work with someone whose personality was very different from yours.
  5. Tell me about how you responded to a co-worker who made an insensitive remark.
  6. How has your current/previous employer benefited from diversity?
  7. How do you define social justice?
  8. Tell me about a time you adapted your style to work better with someone from a different culture.
  9. Have you ever realized you had said or done something that may have been offensive to a colleague? How did you handle the situation, and how did it turn out?
  10. Tell me about a time that you successfully adapted to an environment that was culturally different than your own background.

Interview Questions about Diversity for Managers and Executives

  1. What does it mean for you to have a commitment to diversity? How have you demonstrated that commitment, and how would you see yourself demonstrating it here?
  2. In your experience, what are the challenges faced by members of historically underrepresented groups in the workplace? What strategies have you used to address these challenges, and how successful were those strategies?
  3. Tell us about a time you took responsibility/accountability for an action that may have been offensive to the recipient and how you did that.
  4. What do you see as the most challenging aspects of a diverse team?
  5. What would you do if you discovered on your staff a belief that diversity and excellence are somehow in conflict? What kinds of leadership efforts would you apply to encourage commitment to excellence through diversity?
  6. Tell me about how you handled a culturally or racially charged conflict within your team.
  7. What have you learned from working with diverse colleagues?
  8. How does your own identity impact your work with a diverse team?
  9. When interacting with a person from a different culture than your own, how do you ensure that communication is effective?
  10. What have you done to further your knowledge/understanding about diversity? How have you demonstrated your learning?

Preparing to answer interview questions about diversity can be an opportunity for personal and professional growth, as well as an important step toward career success.

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