Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Tools for evaluating applicants

Using personal diversity statements in application materials and diversity questions in the interview process can help hiring managers evaluate an applicant’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Personal diversity statements have traditionally been included in application materials to assess the DEI contributions of faculty applicants, but can be used for staff DEI-focused positions and leadership roles. This supplemental assessment can help hiring teams evaluate the skills and knowledge applicants have on the values and importance of DEI.

You can request that applicants write a statement describing the value of DEI and how they have or would exhibit those values in the workplace. Requiring a personal diversity statement in the application process lets applicants know your department and organization values diversity and is committed to fostering a more inclusive and equitable work environment.

For some applicants, personal diversity statements are an opportunity to be transparent about one’s identity, and when asked to provide a diversity statement, an applicant may include self-identifying statements referencing their race, gender, or orientation. However, if practices and standards are not put in place to mitigate and minimize bias in the hiring process, requiring a personal diversity statement as a part of the application materials may pose a threat to the identity of underrepresented populations in your applicant pool. As an equal opportunity employer, we have to ensure we are evaluating all applicants inclusively and equitably.

DEI-focused interview questions also help hiring teams evaluate a candidate’s understanding of the values and importance of DEI. Include at least one DEI question in the suite of interview questions.

Principles to follow

The purpose of the personal diversity statement and DEI-related interview questions is not to assess the applicant’s personal identity, but to assess the applicant’s skills and knowledge on the value and importance of DEI. The overall goal is to create an environment of inclusion and hire people who are aligned with the values of the University. Below is a list of principles to consider when including a personal diversity statement assessment in the application or diversity questions in your interview process:

  • Explain why valuing diversity is important in the role or department at all stages of the process.
  • When applicable, consider using scenario or technical questions vs broad open-ended questions.
  • Make sure the question is relevant to the position and team culture.
  • Assess for the candidate’s skills and knowledge of the value of DEI, not the candidate’s personal identity or proximity to diverse populations.
  • Develop guidelines for a “quality answer” with hiring team prior to screening candidates.
  • Look for actionable answers vs ideals and theories
  • Make sure the question is appropriate for the level of position (entry level, student-facing, administrative, leadership, staff, etc.).

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Guidelines for a “Quality Answer”

If you choose to require a personal diversity statement as a part of application materials or include DEI-focused questions in the interview process, defining the guidelines of a “quality answer” is essential to ensuring a consistent and equitable assessment. Ideally, this step should be completed with the all members of the hiring team prior to the first stage of screening, and should identify what skills and knowledge you want to assess.

Think of specific competencies and criteria that support and provide evidence of the candidate’s commitment to DEI. Below is a list of sample diversity-related questions and guidelines to consider:

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Samples of DEI-focused questions and guidelines of a “quality” answer

1. “How have you committed yourself to understanding and aiding in the pursuit of equity and inclusion in your professional and or personal life?

 Guidelines of a “quality” answer:
  • Actionable: articulates specific actions or steps taken (Proactive and/or Reactions)
  • Clearly articulates or explain their “why” or “motivation”
  • Demonstrated knowledge and understanding of the terms (equity and inclusion)
  • Able to articulate and explain connection between equity/inclusion and their personal and/or professional opportunities
  • Acknowledges the challenges and difficulties of this work
  • Demonstrates specific classes, tools, resources, trainings used to gained more understanding

 2.   “What steps have you taken to mitigate your biases in the workplace?”

  Guidelines of a “quality” answer:
  • Clearly demonstrates knowledge of bias in general and different types of bias
  • Able to articulate and explain self-awareness of their own biases
  • Clearly defines their measure of success or failure
  • Acknowledges challenges around recognizing and minimizing biases in the workplace
  • Speaks to knowledge of personal impact of biases as well the impact on others
  • Identifies specific steps taken and additional growth and resources desired

3.  Scenario: You are in a departmental meeting/training where a co-worker communicates that they feel targeted by the facilitator’s micro-aggressions. They express that they feel they need to communicate this to the facilitator after everyone else has left. They seem uneasy and very much affected. What is your response?

 Guidelines of a “quality” answer:
  • Actionable: What specific actions would they take? Did they use “I” statements?
  • Clearly demonstrates importance of acknowledging and validating their co-workers feelings and concerns
  • Acknowledges personal challenges or difficulties of the scenario
  • Did they act as an ally or advocate?
  • Articulates and explain how they would support and follow-up with their co-worker

Additional sample DEI-focused interview questions

  1. Can you tell us about a time where you had to overcome societal constructs regarding your identity in order to reach a goal?”
  • “What was the most valuable lesson you received from that experience?”
  • “How did those around you respond to your efforts?”
  1. “Please share with us a time when you were a part of an event, meeting or setting where there was diverse representation in thought and culture.
  • How did you contribute?
  • What did you take away and apply?”
  1. Technical: Have you mapped out a plan for DEI training going forward to further your career?
  • What resources do you feel you may need?”
  1. Technical: Explain what framework you are using to confronting inequities in your workplace?
  • How did you construct that frame work?
  • How do you measure its success?
  1. What privileges have afforded you the opportunity to apply for this role and how does that influence your outlook on the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the workplace?
  2. What are some specific things you want to do in the next year to further your development in diversity, equity, and inclusion work
  3. Scenario: You have been asked to be a part of a panel on the topic of diversity and inclusion but you notice that the panel is anything but diverse in appearance yet it was diverse in thought. At the end of the discussion the facilitator asks for your feedback. What is your response?
  4. Scenario: An employee of yours has expressed concern about an event that is taking place on campus. The event is offensive to many groups, and your employee does not feel safe coming to work that day. What would be your response and or action taken?

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