How to Tell If a Company Truly Values Diversity and Inclusion (or Is Just All Talk)

How to Tell If a Company Truly Values Diversity and Inclusion (or Is Just All Talk) was originally published on Vault.

Employers talk a lot about diversity and inclusion. In fact, you'll be hard-pressed to find a company that doesn't say they're diverse and inclusive. Companies make these claims on their web sites, in job descriptions, and at career fairs. But how do you know if companies truly value and prioritize D&I?

The answer is you must perform your own functional testing to determine this. Functional testing aims to answer fundamental questions like: Is a company's D&I policy operating as forcefully as it purports to? Is the company merely paying lip service? Are inclusion and diversity embedded into the company's ethos?

Recruiters are unlikely to admit that they struggle to hire, retain, and promote talent. So, even if a company says they're inclusive and diverse, don't take that at face value. If you do, you may end up joining a company that you later realize isn't quite what it claimed to be. That can lead to emotional issues, frustration, burnout, and loneliness.

Luckily, you don't have to wait until you start a new job to determine the validity of a company's inclusion and diversity policies. There are certain signs to look for before and during your interviews. What follows are seven ways to tell if an employer values D&I.

1. Closely read job descriptions

Be sure to scrutinize job descriptions. Bias can often be found in them, both implicitly and explicitly. Pay attention and keep an eye out for off-putting and troublesome terminology. Also, compare similar job descriptions across companies you're interested in. Additionally, check out different roles within a company you're interested in and compare the language across various job listings. For example, if you're interested in a platform as a service (PaaS) developer role at a specific company, search for other positions at that company and examine those listings. Doing so will help you identify patterns in tone and give you clues about the company culture.

2. Take a deep dive into employers' websites

Make sure to dive deep into employers' websites. Most employers dedicate a section of their websites to diversity and inclusion (or diversity, equity, and inclusion). Exploring these sections is a good starting point to see how much detail employers provide. For example, if you're looking for a role analyzing call-center metrics and leaning towards one company but aren't sure how its D&I policies stack up, head to its website and see what you can find. Does it elaborate on D&I? Does it share its diversity metrics? What's the tone of its D&I content? Can you gauge the company’s enthusiasm (or lack of enthusiasm) for D&I? Does it have employee resource groups? Has it won any D&I awards? Of course, it's also a good idea to look at a company's social media for signs of diversity and inclusion.

3. Check out the leadership team

Do some research into the company's leadership team. This includes directors, executive-level managers, vice presidents, and board members. How diverse is the company at that level? Businesses with high-level employees of all backgrounds clearly value diversity.

4. Read anti-discrimination policies

Many countries, including the U.S., must comply with anti-discrimination laws. These include equal opportunities for employees, regardless of gender, age, race, and religion. HR will be aware of these laws, but it doesn't necessarily mean they're enforced every time a staff member files a complaint. It's tricky to know how well an organization follows procedures before you join a company. However, if it's a large company, there'll likely be news stories if there's been negative press. So, search online for articles relating to diversity and inclusion. And if a company has had issues in the past, find out how they dealt with them. Did they apologize and take action? Or say and do nothing?

5. Check out employee reviews

Check out review websites (like Vault) for employee reviews on diversity and inclusion. Negative reviews can raise red flags, but be objective when you read. Does the review sound fake or like it comes from a disgruntled employee? Keep an eye out for small details. If reviews turned negative a year ago, why is that? Did something happen such as a change in leadership? Did the company rebrand? Do some research and try to find out.

6. Speak to former employees

Talking with others from different backgrounds at companies you want to join will provide you with first-hand knowledge you need to make good decisions. But it isn't always easy to connect with the right people at these companies. That's why networking and searching for mentors is so important—it can help you immensely at times like this, when you're looking to perform research on a prospective employer. So, do what you can to try to connect with employees (or ex-employees) of the companies you're considering working for.

7. Ask clear and direct questions in your interviews

Once you've carried out your preliminary investigative work, decided you'd like to proceed with an application, and have been chosen to interview, you're ready to do some further probing. During the interview stage, consider asking some of the following questions (tailoring them to the specific company and role you're applying to and for).

  • What would you say are the most essential values of the company and your team?
  • Where and how do diversity and inclusion rank among those values?
  • If you think about your current team, what characteristics make for a successful hire?
  • Do you have examples of when you or your company promoted diversity and/or inclusion?
  • Are there any groups you think are underrepresented within the company or your team? What is the leadership team doing to remedy that?
  • What programs do you have in place (or plan to put in place) to promote inclusion and diversity?
  • Are you investing in employees with diversity-based training, and, if so, what does that involve? For example, is there unconscious bias or cultural competency training?
  • Do you contribute to fundraising or encourage volunteering?
  • Do you allow your employees the opportunity to work from home, and, if so, how are you engaging remote employees?
  • Do you support mental health days? 

When listening to the answers you receive, consider whether the interviewer distinguishes between inclusion and diversity. One doesn't necessarily include the other. A diverse team isn't necessarily an inclusive one. Also, listen closely because the answers will help you determine how much the company values inclusion and diversity. It's not just the quality of the content that matter; it's also important how the interviewer comes across. What's their temperament and demeanor like? How comfortable do they seem speaking about D&I? Do you feel like you're being rushed off the subject?

High marks go to the interviewer (and company) if they initiate the topic of diversity and inclusion. But if your interviewer is stumbling when answering D&I questions, that's a sign the issue isn't important to them. If meaningful commitments have been made at the company, your interviewer should be able to respond with confidence—and be more than comfortable speaking about the topic.

Victorio Duran III is the Associate SEO Director at RingCentral, a global leader in cloud-based communications and collaboration solutions. He has over 13 years of extensive involvement on web and digital operations, with diverse experience as as a web engineer, product manager, and digital marketing strategist.