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The top 10 questions on diversity to ask during the hiring process

March 9, 2020, 6:23 PM UTC

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We are all diversity professionals now. This, as it turns out, is a new competitive advantage.

Recent analysis from the job and recruiting site Glassdoor shows that employees in the U.S. and the U.K. are increasingly pessimistic about the state of diversity at their firms. Research into employee reviews from 2018, the most recent numbers available, found that some 32% of employees based in the U.S. spoke negatively about diversity at their companies, the largest number since 2008. 

Enter the diversity and inclusion hiring boom.

By mid-2019, Glassdoor reported a 30% increase in diversity and inclusion job openings in the U.S., a significant bump in an already crowded field. Employee skepticism is driving the market. “Overall, the healthy growth signals that employers are taking a serious look at investing in diversity and inclusion efforts,” writes Daniel Zhao, Glassdoor senior economist and data scientist.

That insight turned into a prediction in Glassdoor’s Job & Hiring Trends for 2020 report. “In 2020 and beyond, as companies continue to usher in a new era of hiring action-oriented diversity and inclusion teams, we expect to see a wave of hiring for leaders and managers that will help carry forward the mission of building a more diverse and inclusive workforce,” wrote Glassdoor chief economist Andrew Chamberlain in the report. 

Erin Thomas, PhD, is part of that wave. The inclusion expert was tapped last December to be the first-ever global head of diversity, inclusion, and belonging for Upwork, the global freelancing platform.

The research scientist and self-described pragmatist recently tweeted some excellent advice for anyone seeking or being recruited for a job in the field—or even reassessing where they’re working now. Now is the time to make sure you understand where any organization that’s caught your eye actually is in their diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI) journey. “If you’re on the market,” she says, “be choosy.”

With her permission, we’ve recreated her top 10 questions to ask during the hiring process below, in her words.

***

1. “Why me?”’ 

I love asking this during third interviews. It gives you instant insight into how an organization has branded you, gives you a chance to clear up any misconceptions they have about you, and can alert you to a big potential problem: Is it really about me, or will I be a token? At best, it turns interviewers into your hype team.

2. “What have you done to prepare for this role?”

While this is mostly relevant to positions that are new to the organization, it will tell you a lot about how they’re thinking about it. Listen for actions they’ve taken to prepare key stakeholders to work with the person in this role; and specifically for how they are making the case for culture change. If you get blank stares in response to this question, they ain’t ready.

3. “Why now?”

This relates to question #2. Listen for thoughtfulness regarding where the organization’s attention is. What problem is this new role really designed to solve? Are there red flags, like another major initiative that’s in the works? Are they preparing to go public? Listen for any priority that may compete with the massive change in the management process that you need to lead.

4. “What’s the goal?”

Try to uncover a clear point of view regarding what success looks like. Are they focused on equality? Equity? Is everyone using the same terms the same way? What other fundamentals—like the distinct value proposition or benchmarks—are top of mind? Think about how these may influence your decision. You’re looking for (at the least) the potential to align their goals with your own personal ones.

5. “How do you define diversity?”

The beauty and complexity of diversity is that it can literally mean anything. Are they focused on social diversity, diversity of thought, introverts/extroverts, work styles—everybody, everywhere? This matters to the extent that you’re a DEI purist.

6. “Who ‘counts’?”

This is an extension of question #5. This is the time to gauge who’s considered as a “marginalized” demographic and who is currently being counted. Are they thinking along gender and race? What additional data will you need to collect? What might prevent you from collecting it? This is the time to assess any hurdles ahead to doing your best work. 

7. “What’s the salary?”

You shouldn’t have to ask this question but do get clear on this early on. (And don’t give your current salary—just your compensation expectations.) Do your homework and know your worth. You can do justice work and be paid well for it.

8. “What’s my budget?”

This needs to be discussed before you accept an offer. If the company wants someone who will change the world, and your budget is less than four times your salary, run—don’t walk.

9. “What’s my headcount?”

This builds on question #8. Do you have an adequate team? Are you authorized for new hires if you need them? Are they earmarked in the annual workforce plan? Again, you need to know what you’re working with before you sign on the dotted line.

10. “What’s the growth plan for this role?”

So, you’re sold on the current role. Great! Is there a place for you to grow in the organization? Listen for the organization’s vision for this role or your department over the next two to three years, the typical change management cycle. If you’ve got a fire in your belly, chances are you’ll be looking to grow into what’s next. Can they grow with you?

***

Thomas ends by quoting Maya Angelou. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them,” she says. These questions are designed to help the organizations that are courting you better show themselves.

 “I hope they help you consider what matters most to you as you embark on a new venture or examine your current situation,” she says. “Go in eyes wide open and remember: You must be in a good place to do good for others. You got this.”

Ellen McGirt
@ellmcgirt
Ellen.McGirt@fortune.com

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Tamara El-Waylly produces raceAhead and manages the op-ed program.

Quote

"It is not surprising that a new disease leads to public fear, stigma, and the scapegoating of certain kinds of people because we tend to understand these events through our past disease rhetoric, which is rooted in fear, stigma, scapegoating. Some of the U.S.' first immigration laws were targeting Chinese immigrants because they were seen as racial, cultural, and biological threats, for example the Chinese Exclusion Act. Perceived biological threat is tied to a perceived cultural threat."

Josue David Cisneros, professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in remarks to Business Insider on why the rise of an infectious disease triggers xenophobia and racism.