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  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting

Be Honest About Your DEI Work

Can you answer "the DEI question"?

The interview is coming to a close, and you’re excited about this candidate. You give them a chance to ask their questions of you. They say:

“I noticed that the people on the leadership page of your website all look pretty similar. And, I don’t see any people of color in your department. I’m curious about what your organization is doing to move DEI forward?”

Does this question take you by surprise? 

Maybe it’s a white male candidate, and you made an assumption that DEI wouldn’t be a priority for them.

Or maybe it’s a woman or a person of color, and the perspectives they have would add vital new decision-making power to your team.

But as a white and/or male manager, maybe you’ve always allowed other people to be the mouthpiece when diversity was the topic.

I bring up this scenario when I lead workshops on interviewing for hiring managers. I urge participants to be prepared with an answer to the question. 

Participants who are in the majority groups at their organizations sometimes push back. “We don’t know all the statistics!” they say.

Or, “Well, our firm really isn’t diverse. I want to make us look good.”

I answer: Learn the statistics.

Be knowledgeable of the efforts that your organization is making. You don’t want to be the person who says, “Hold on, let me get my Black colleague.”

And even if the numbers are not where you want them, share them and be honest.

You could say:

“You're right, you are going to be one of the only women at this level. And here’s what we are going to do to support you, and continue to build a more diverse team around you.”

Recently, a workshop participant—a white male law firm partner—endorsed this approach based on his experience. He told the group: 

“Just yesterday I was doing a follow-up interview with a Black woman. She asked me about the firm’s diversity efforts. So I talked to her about our progress...and our challenges too. She thanked me for being open and honest. In fact, she told me I was the only person at the firms she is considering who has not tried to make it sound like everything is perfect.”

People who have been excluded in their field know what they’re getting into.

They don't want to be tokenized. They want to be part of an organization that is working to transform, and whose leaders can articulate why it matters and why it’s hard. 

The candidate in this story appreciated that an organization was candid about where they were in their journey, rather than trying to sugarcoat it. 

And people of color are in demand among high-level companies. The top candidates have options. They may choose a firm that is already diverse, or they may choose the one that has a commitment and a plan to get there.

But only if the person interviewing them shows comfort and awareness—as opposed to being uncomfortable and clueless. 


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