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Hiring diverse and inclusive talent isn't as easy as you think. As a diversity consultant with over a decade of experience, I have hired my fair share of employees. I've hired assistants, managers, human resources professionals, graphic designers, and more.
But sometimes hiring different candidates can be like walking a tightrope. You want to hire more women, people of color, people with disabilities and beyond, but you may be walking a thin line between tokenization and appreciation.
While a workforce with good demographic representation is required, it is equally important to staff the organization with people who already value diversity and inclusion.
The work of inclusion begins on a personal level. Institutions are made up of people. People are those in the organizations who develop policies, procedures, practices, systems and ultimately shape the culture.
If you want an inclusive work environment where everyone feels they belong, hire people who value inclusion, both in action and in practice.
Otherwise, you risk losing talent if you have a problematic company culture and hire candidates who were never a good choice to maintain the value of inclusion.
Over the years of advising and hiring various candidates, I have found five outstanding traits that demonstrate inclusion, diversity and equity at its core.
These key qualities result in candidates who will not only thrive in an increasingly diverse workplace, but also have a solid moral compass and voice.
Here are the five qualities to look for in new hires – from the perspective of a diversity expert.
Candidates who negotiate violently
In my experience, candidates who negotiate their terms and salary with strength and perseverance prove to be powerful hires.
Candidates who negotiate their salary and terms will show you their self-worth. These candidates are highly trusted and can have a huge impact on your business if they stay long-term.
In other words, they are leaders in development. Here's how I know.
In 2020 my consulting business grew. To keep up with the demand, I've decided to hire a new manager. There were several reasons I fought for her to join my team, but the one that stood out the most was her skill in the negotiation process.
This candidate set out her qualifications, added value, areas of expertise and salary requirements. She was firm, open and straightforward about her needs. And I was immediately impressed.
In a world where women too often ask for less than they are worth and feel shy in the negotiation process, it was a breath of fresh air to see a candidate ask her fair share and ultimately receive it.
As a diversity expert, I appreciate hiring candidates who know their worth. They are less likely to adapt to the prevailing culture (especially if it is suppressed or undermined of its worth) and they will be confident of their unique offerings, skills, and authenticity.
This is the type of candidate who has the confidence and vision to take your business to great places in the long term.
Related topics: How to drive concrete change in a world where unequal pay is still the norm
Candidates who are aware of themselves
When I think of hiring new employees, a key quality I look for is their innate awareness. In the interview process I ask myself:
How aware is this candidate of their presence in the workplace? Is he aware of how much space he is taking up or giving up in meetings and other corporate functions?
This may seem like trivial questions, but you will be amazed how many people appear to interviews with a hint of self-esteem but join the team with a lack of self-esteem.
Confident candidates take note of their personal privilege and their position in the company and use this to break down prejudices in the workplace.
For example, if a candidate knows that he is a white man in a male-dominated work culture, when asked about his personal experience with diversity, he can share scenarios in which female employees speak first in meetings or encourage colored people to take on leadership roles on specific projects .
In essence, a confident candidate can exercise more compassion, restraint, empathy, and encouragement for minority employees in the company.
Without self-confidence, unchecked prejudices and privileges can have an enormous impact on your company's culture of inclusivity and ultimately deter different and culturally more competent candidates in the future.
Make hiring a confident candidate a top priority.
Candidates who choose courage over comfort
The act of courage in the workplace is not to be underestimated. In my hiring, I ask strategic interview questions that show how a candidate can choose courage over comfort.
For example, I ask the candidates questions like:
Name a time when you practiced bold communication in the workplace. When was the last time you shared a vulnerable office experience?
These strategic questions enable me to understand whether this candidate can choose the right path via the common path or the safe path.
This is important as unconscious biases arise in the workplace and if no one feels brave enough to speak up, it will persist.
It is important for employees to be aware when employees of color, women and other minorities are treated unfairly in the workplace.
You want to hire candidates who will respectfully and accurately inform inequality management. Without bold voices in the workplace, companies like this may have your subconscious bias rife and never notice.
The long-term consequence is a work culture that feels uncomfortable, unjust and inhospitable to minorities, people of color and other groups.
Courage is a big part of inclusion, and hiring candidates who appreciate this value will go a long way in your company's DEI efforts.
Related topics: How do you increase your work culture?
Candidates who are culture do not add culture adjustments
A big mistake that companies make is that they hire candidates who already “fit”. By fit I mean candidates who imitate an existing attitude, person or identity of other people in the company.
The danger of hiring for culture adjustments is that you run the risk of losing various voices and ideas that will give your business a competitive advantage.
This is why the setting of a culture addition is so important for DEI work. A culture add is someone who offers a missing piece of the puzzle in your corporate culture. They give a unique voice, new ideas, solutions and perspectives to the most complex problems in your company.
But let's not confuse cultural additions with diversity quotas. We don't want you to add more women and people of color just because they're missing from your company's list.
A culture add goes beyond identity and becomes someone who offers a unique cultural perspective that can fuel progress, inclusion and growth in your business.
While deciding who a good culture would be, do a thorough analysis of your company's core values. Ask yourself:
Which gaps in knowledge and experience can this candidate close in order to promote our organizational processes and offers? Could this employee question the way we think and suggest improvements in the way we work? Does this candidate represent a voice or point of view for our clients that we miss? ?
Once you've established that a potential candidate can truly offer something unique and necessary to your business, reap the benefits of hiring a culture addition.
Candidates who show genuine curiosity
Curiosity and the will to learn are not qualities that everyone has. Many candidates are willing to join your team with existing knowledge, but prove to be inaccessible or difficult to develop later on.
One of the things I look for when bringing in new consulting clients is how educational that client is. How curious is this customer to learn and grow? If the answer is that this customer wants to do something for them without much effort, then that's a red flag.
You should apply the same mentality to your new hires. Inquisitive and teachable candidates should see diversity and inclusion as strengths with plenty of opportunities to learn and grow.
People who are really curious aren't afraid to make mistakes and see what's inside. These candidates offer new, revolutionary ideas in meetings, create concern for your leadership team, and promote cultural literacy in the workplace.
These candidates can expand your network and seek diversity of thought to practice effective collaboration.
Candidates who are authentic and curious come from a place of positive intention, a genuine interest in listening, learning, understanding, and leading.
These are the candidates who will grow and support a positive corporate culture that is diverse and fair.
Related: 4 Ways To Foster Inclusion And Compassion In The Workplace
I am happy to say that this year I have hired a number of people who have demonstrated all five of these key qualities.
My new employees are all on deck supporting the growth, expansion, thought leadership and development of my consulting.
These new employees have taught me so much just because they embody the natural qualities of fantastic leaders.
Your company can also benefit from diverse and integrative settings. And everything starts with these 5 properties.