Determining how you fit into a company is very important. Finding a company that matches your needs, values and experiences can be quite challenging. Without the right job fit, you will likely experience dissatisfaction and a lack of success. Those in historically underrepresented groups must be cognizant of a company’s commitment to diversity and equity.

That commitment goes beyond the strategic recruitment of people of color or using people of color in marketing materials — this is about embedding diversity and equity into the fabric of an organization and its work culture.

Diversity and equity aren’t buzzwords. They are critical ingredients to ensuring the successful recruitment, retention and advancement of historically underrepresented groups.

Diversity among employees — and the different perspectives everyone brings — has been shown to have a multitude of benefits: increased creativity and innovation, faster problem-solving, better decision-making, higher employee engagement, reduced employee turnover and improved company reputations, hiring results and profits.

Equity acknowledges that due to historical and current systemic barriers, certain groups have been unable to access particular opportunities, and thus work environments will need to implement critical support systems to ensure these employees have access to advancement opportunities.

Let’s not forget that the interview process is a two-way street. While companies are interested in how you fit into their company, you should also be invested in exploring how your identities will be respected, included and rewarded.

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Here are a few examples of questions you could ask in an interview to figure that out. You will have to judge the best time to ask these questions during the hiring process, especially if you have multiple interviews with the same company. Asking these questions in a one-on-one interview with your future supervisor or a member of the senior level management team is ideal, as these are individuals who have the most power and say in shaping a company’s work culture.

  1. What does it mean for your company to be committed to diversity and inclusion? How have you demonstrated this commitment in the past year?
  2. In what ways do you feel it is appropriate to incorporate topics related to diversity and inclusion in staff training and professional development opportunities?
  3. Ensuring that everyone has an equal say in decisions is important to me. What do you believe is an effective strategy to ensure everyone’s voices are heard? How do you reach group consensus?
  4. Does your company have a strategic plan? Describe any of the areas of the plan that focus on diversity and inclusion.
  5. What training or experience do you have in hiring, training and supervising a diverse workforce?
  6. What opportunities are available for me that allow me to strengthen my skills and grow with the company?
  7. How are salary increases or advancement opportunities decided and evaluated? Is this process reevaluated, and if so, how often?

Interviews are meant to provide a snapshot of the organization and its people, and provide you with evidence to determine your fit within the organization. Interviews should not be unidirectional, which is why good interviewers will give candidates ample time to ask questions. A company’s commitment to diversity and equity isn’t merely a line or two in their mission statement — their commitment should be demonstrated in how they handle conflict and reach consensus, as well how they hire, recruit and retain diverse employees.

These issues of diversity and equity are rarely openly discussed. Therefore, people of color must step up and take the initiative in asking these questions themselves. Our careers depend on it.

Ciera Graham writes for Seattle Times Explore. (Courtesy of Ciera Graham)
Ciera Graham writes for Seattle Times Explore. (Courtesy of Ciera Graham)