What is diversity and why should it matter? It matters because the more you know about corporate diversity, the more successful you will be in your job search process and interview experiences.
Typically, diversity is taken to mean race and ethnicity and, in some circles, gender, age and cultural differences as well. In corporate-America parlance, the term sometimes has been expanded to include other classifications, for example, religion, sexual orientation, and people with disabilities, to name a few. However, among forward thinkers of today, the definition of diversity goes beyond these broad macro categories of society. For these individuals, diversity includes the micro characteristics that reveal individual talents and qualities such as cognitive learning patterns, personality differences and leadership styles, and reflect our unique differences. The bottom line, however, is that when descriptions of diversity are distilled, inclusiveness is the common theme.
Inclusiveness is critical to this conversation because it is the platform for diversity in the workplace. Companies that are committed to diversity and run successful diversity programs are known to have inclusive work environments and to treat their employees fairly and equitably. They also are credited with providing extended career opportunities and having high rates of retention. In terms of the day-to-day work experience, employees tend to be motivated and to feel challenged as well as valued as members of their respective business teams and the workforce, in general.
Given this reality, it’s time for a practical assessment of diversity, more precisely, its role as value-added input for rethinking the job search process, when preparing for job interviews, and in weighing different job opportunities and what they hold for the future.
When seeking employment and preparing yourself for the job-search process, consider this line of inquiry:
What components must be in place for a diversity program to succeed?
Find out what it takes to run a successful diversity program, in essence, all of the components that must be in place and the infrastructure needed for sustainability. This knowledge will provide direction on what to look for in determining a company’s level of commitment to diversity and what to expect if you become an employee.
Next, collect background information on the company, namely, the nature and breadth of its ties to diversity. Start with the company’s website. Are there any references to diversity? Are they easy or hard to find? Does the diversity picture you get seem like window dressing or does it suggest a well-considered and well-run operation? In addition, find out what you can about those in leadership positions. Do any of them have current and/or prior diversity ties? Essentially, do individual backgrounds suggest that the company is likely to have a level of commitment to diversity? And, to cover all angles, follow up with a more general Internet search. Look to reputable publications and the press for general and additional diversity-specific facts about the company.
Once you’ve digested what’s been collected so far, develop a list of conversation starters, interesting points, and questions that might help to fill in the blanks and clarify what seems curious or motivating.
What is the company’s reputation as an employer?
Now, move on to third-party endorsements for firsthand experiences and hearsay renderings. These sources offer insight into the company’s reputation. Feedback from in-the-know family members, friends, and community contacts can provide personal and word-of-mouth stories about real-life experiences in the workplace and what the corporate culture is really like. Add the learning derived from members of professional and academic circles, and through social networking, and you are on your way….though the upfront work is not yet done.
What role should advisors and recruiters play in the process?
Engage school placement counselors and/or recruiters in meaningful diversity conversations using the information you’ve gleaned as a starting point. Ask for their thoughts and insights, use them as sounding boards, and have them engage you in practice runs. Push them to meet your enhanced job-search expectations, perhaps encouraging them to reassess the nature and quality of the services they provide.
At last, with the homework phase behind you and mock interviews under your belt, you are armed and better prepared for the interview. You are poised to be engaging rather than reactive, and to ask informed and intelligent questions about the company and what it holds for your future.
Ultimately, whatever the company’s stance on diversity, you will be better able to assess the pros and cons of that company and the nature of its workplace environment. You also will be better able to gauge if the position you’re seeking represents a short-term job opportunity or has the potential to offer professional growth, extended job satisfaction, and long-term career success.