The Do’s and Don’ts of Inclusive Interviewing

Many organizations understand that a diverse workforce and an inclusive workplace are critical for creating a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining talent and how the communities they serve perceive their brand.

Our blog post in October 2020 provided Six Tips for Attracting and Hiring Diverse Talent and covered the entire process from sourcing to selection. Our customers at OurOffice have been telling us that their hiring managers need guidance and coaching for inclusive hiring. So in this piece, we delve deeper into the interview process and share our comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts. These have been practiced by our customers and have shown significant positive impact for them on hiring the best talent, especially candidates from under-represented groups.

The Do’s of Inclusive Hiring

  • Find a quiet, comfortable space to have an interview. It will help you as the interviewer be at ease and help the interviewee feel comfortable.
  • Hold interviews with more than one interviewer to gain different points of view regarding the candidate's ability to perform the job and add value to the team and organization. Panel interviews can work well, if they are practical to arrange, as they provide different views on the same interview session.

  • Take the time to introduce yourself, the organization, the department or the team, and a brief summary of the position. You want to impress the candidate and provide them with context to have a more productive conversation. You are representing your organization's brand and setting a good impression about your organization. A candidate who doesn't make it through the interview but has a great interview experience with you can become a great referral source.
  • Give the candidate an opportunity to introduce themselves and if needed, ask them to let you know how to pronounce their name correctly and how they prefer to be addressed.
  • Review the candidate’s resume before the meeting and strategically prepare questions or areas of interest regarding items not appearing or clear enough in their resume. The intent is to understand the whole candidate and their experience better to assess how they will be able to add value to the team. Confirm your assumptions that are not based on resume or other available information by asking specific questions.
  • If you perceive gaps of knowledge or experience that are key success factors for the position, ask specific questions that allow you to assess the criticality of these gaps. Offer the opportunity to the candidate to share any other background or adjacent experiences that may substitute for what you are specifically looking for.
  • Use open statements that allow for more in-depth answers and signal to the candidate that you are actively listening throughout the interview process. Phrases like “Tell me about…” and “Tell me more about…” are often helpful.

  • Be conscious of your body language and facial expressions when talking about places, organizations, people, or any other topics that may make the candidate uncomfortable or give them an unintended impression about your biases and/or the organization that you represent.
  • Ask questions that allow you to understand the unique perspective that the candidate brings to the position. For example, ask them to be specific about life and career experiences, how they have shaped their views and interests, and how they may add value to a team.
  • Acknowledge if there is something you are curious about outside the candidate’s specific work experience. For example, "I see you volunteered with…. Please tell me more about the organization, your specific role, what you liked and disliked there," or "I would like to learn more about your experience when you lived in…. Tell me more about what you learned living there."
  • If there are specific requirements for the position, like a certification, confirm any assumptions you may make about the validity and applicability that may impact the hiring decision.
  • Be honest about the time or schedule requirements of the position. It will allow the candidate to consider if the job is a good fit for their life and responsibilities outside of work, including their family obligations or religious practices. Discuss the extent of the flexibility that the organization can provide around the requirements to demonstrate your inclusive mindset, while clearly communicating the expectations.
  • Explain the position's language requirements and provide context around the level of proficiency required for the job in reading/writing and speaking. Inquire about their ability to speak/read/write in the specific languages.
  • Talk about the organization's culture, commitment to DEI, and what is expected of their employees in terms of their behaviors and actions. Also, talk about any specific DEI initiatives that are important to the organization.
  • Leave enough time for the candidate to ask their own questions. If you are not sure about an answer to a question, let them know you will find out and follow up with them.
  • End the discussion by providing specific next steps and thank them for their time. For example, "This is our ___round of interviews; ____ in the _____ department will be in contact with you in the next ____days with further information about the status of your process. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have. We thank you for your time."

The Don'ts of Inclusive Hiring

  • Don’t hold interviews in areas where you cannot focus or that may be distracting to the candidate, for instance in open spaces or transit areas.
  • Don’t limit interviews to just one person in your organization to ensure there are different perspectives on the candidate for the decision-making process.
  • Don’t assign interviewers who are not prepared or don't clearly understand the position’s requirements, team strengths, basics of interviewing, etc. Don’t have the mindset of being too busy to use your best people as interviewers.
  • Don’t jump into the interviewing mode because you’re too busy and don’t have time to waste or because there is regency in hiring someone, before carefully discussing and arriving at a common understanding of the position and its requirements with key stakeholders. A lot more time will be wasted if things don’t work out, especially for time-critical hires.
  • Don’t avoid addressing them with the candidate’s name if it’s hard to pronounce, make comments about how difficult their name is, what nationality you think their names may be associated with, or nickname the candidate.
  • Don’t review their resume during the interview and look to screen the candidate quickly for anything that can disqualify them for the position.
  • Don’t play the detective role and try to point out the candidate’s flaws and weaknesses. This will create an atmosphere of distrust from the beginning.
  • Don’t ask unrelated questions about the ability of the candidate to perform a job to satisfy your curiosity, such as “When are you planning to have kids.”
  • Don’t comment or show your personal feelings about stereotypes, specific types of people, cities, organizations, etc. Your views on these topics are not material to the conversation. There may also be unintended consequences in terms of the impression that you leave about your own biases and the workplace culture that you represent.
  • Don’t make comments about how long ago someone graduated or earned a certification to avoid any impression of ageism.
  • Don’t ask a question about someone having kids, elderly parents, marital status, or religious practices with specific time commitments. Their responsibilities outside of work or religious practices are their choice and this information doesn't make them more or less qualified for the position.
  • Don’t talk poorly about the organization's efforts to improve DEI or refer to the candidate as a diverse hire. Under no circumstances ask about where they were born or their heritage.
  • Don’t ask candidates where their accent is from or make remarks on how hard it is to understand them.
  • Don’t rush the candidate or comment on how busy you or your organization are. This can make them uncomfortable in terms of taking your time for the interview, and can also reflect poorly on your organization’s ability to manage busy times.
  • Don’t run out of time for the candidate to ask questions. This is an important part of the interview process and an early indication of the degree to which you and your organization are inclusive of others.
  • Don’t leave the candidate without specifics on the next steps. You represent your organization, which needs to have an organized, cohesive, and well-understood hiring process.Please write to us at  about your own thoughts and experiences about Do’s and Don’ts of an inclusive interview process.

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