The Way You Conduct Job Interviews Could Affect Diversity in the Workplace

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Is there a connection between your recruitment process and the level of diversity in your workplace? Absolutely!

In this post I’m going to show you how your interviews could be eliminating specific people from your recruitment pipeline and preventing you from hiring not only diverse talent, but talent that could be driving real business results.

The Challenge of Recruitment

If you’re reading this I suspect you fall into one of two main camps. Your either a recruiter or someone who spends at least some of your time hiring. Or, you’re in a Diversity and Inclusion or HR role and are thinking about talent and diversity all the time.

If you’re in neither, don’t run just yet, stick around as you’ll quite likely find some parallels to your own world.

If you’re doing the recruitment, how often have you struggled to find people that can really, truly, make a difference in the role you’re hiring for? It’s not always about just hiring someone, anyone close to the ‘best fit list’ to fill a gap.

There are times when you have time to think further forward and want to bring in someone who can not only grow into the role, but hit way above their weight in doing so.

Perhaps if you’re on the diversity, HR side of things, are you seeing the diversity you hope for come through the door? Does your organisation’s workforce look a little too homogeneous? Is group think a challenge and innovation lagging as a consequence?

Perhaps it’s finding and building that future talent pipeline to fill niche skills and capabilities or finding those young people with the aptitude to do the roles in the future that haven’t yet been created.

Diversity is Over Valued and Just Hype

Deloitte’s report from January 2018 on The Diversity and Inclusion Revolution highlights 8 ‘powerful truths’ about diversity and inclusion.

The story of Qantas’ major turnaround in fortune, was according to CEO Alan Joyce, directly attributable to having a “…very diverse environment and very inclusive culture.” The Qantas experience showed them that a focus on diversity lead to “better strategy, better risk management, better debates and better outcomes.”

So, is there are a connection between diversity and business performance beyond just one company’s experience?

According to the research undertaken by Deloitte, diversity of thinking within an organisation can drive a 20% increase in innovation and reduce risks by 30%. The variety of perspectives and insights allows the group to outperform those that are stuck in the realms of ‘group think’.

Maybe it is just hype, but are you prepared to leave a potential 20% increase in innovation and the revenue generation and cost saving opportunities that reflects on the table?

Talent Acquisition and Recruitment

Ok, you’re now thinking that perhaps there is room for improvement and the rationale is clearer. Or perhaps you’ve skipped ahead as this is old news and you bought in ages ago and wondering why it took me so long to catch up.

What’s next then? What’s stopping you from creating a more diverse workforce that not only makes the business more effective and profitable, but a more enjoyable place to work too? Is it just a simple matter of tweaking your interviews and you’re good to go?

The simple answer is no.

It’s a little more involved. But I suspect that you suspected that was the case anyway!

However, the good news is that there are some things you could focus on as part of your interview process to get the beginning of the recruitment pipe working better for you.

Inclusive Interviews

Candidates coming through your front door, those that may have or would potentially benefit from accessibility accommodations, will fall into one of two categories. Those that disclose through your application process and those that don’t.

Obvious right? I know, but it’s an important point to remember. The way you word and position that question you’ve got on your application form that asks about ‘special considerations’ or ‘disability’ or ‘reasonable adjustments’ can be interpreted differently by different people. You’ll never get it right for everyone and that’s ok. It’s just the reality.

What that means though, is that some people won’t tick that box because the statement, the question and your overall positioning doesn’t resonate with their perspective of their personal situation.

Some people, regardless of what you’ve said and done, won’t feel that they need, deserve or require any allowances, even if in reality they might - especially if you’re not prepared for them. Whilst others still won’t tick it for fear of being discriminated against or otherwise judged.

So, in short, when it comes to interview candidates there will be some that let you know in advance and others for which you may (or may not) be surprised on the day.

The Knowns

Of course, if someone has disclosed to you, the best and easiest next step that will allow you to create an inclusive and supportive interview environment is to email them first and ask to arrange a time to discuss what you can do to help.

“But hang on, why not just ring them?” - fair question, surely it’d be quicker and easier right. You might find that for some people, that sudden, unexpected phone call will put them in a position of discomfort or stress. They may not be as ready or able to have a useful conversation with you and you might end that call with an inaccurate assessment of them as a potential candidate.

Email provides that space to consider, reflect and prepare for a prearranged time for you both to connect and have a much more fruitful conversation.

The Unknowns

There will always be times when someone shows up for an interview that you either just didn’t expect, ie they’re in a wheel chair or have hearing aids in etc or who’s behaviour or performance in the interview is outside what you might normally expect. This could be excessive fidgeting or an inability to articulate clear and considered responses to your questions.

How then are you going to react to that? Sometimes the difference will be more immediately obvious (and be aware, your reaction is likely to be just as obvious) whilst other times it may be more subtle and develop through out the interview.

Understanding that nerves can affect everyone at an interview, and let’s be honest, if they really want the job and are really excited about the opportunity you’d expect some level of nervousness. However, for some people the degree and impact of that nervousness can be much more than you might imagine.

Not everyone will always have the same understanding of social norms (how to shake hands, small talk etc) or will have difficulty interpreting what you are actually asking in your questions and how much information is enough versus too much.

So what can you do?

Firstly, being able to appreciate that not everyone is the same and there will be times that people will exhibit differences that you don’t understand. Whether it’s in speech, movement, body language or behaviour. Secondly, be comfortable with knowing you don’t need to understand why that is, but that it’s enough to be able to recognise and acknowledge that there is a difference.

Remember, if you’re truly looking for diversity, you’re looking for different. And different is not wrong or right, it is just different and different is good.

If appropriate, where someone is obviously nervous or highly agitated, you might want to suggest going for a short walk.

Getting out of the meeting room environment and moving can make a huge difference to someone’s stress or anxiety levels. The combination of walking in parallel with someone (where there is a human tendency towards synchronising our rhythm and pace) without the more confrontational interview room setting along with a more conversational approach to the interview can provide the opportunity for both you and the candidate to connect more deeply.


Appreciating that your application form may or may not be helping you to identify every candidate that might benefit from adjustments to your interview process is an important step. Reaching out, connecting with candidates (where they have asked for adjustments) and talking to them about what they feel would work for them is a critical part of inclusive interviews.

For when things are not going as you might have thought, being ready to be flexible and adaptable is a real strength. And remember, it’s ok to not understand a persons ‘condition’ or difference, but being able to acknowledge its existence and looking past to that to their strengths and how they can add value is key to inclusive interviews.

Conducting Interviews for Neurodiverse Candidates

Need more ideas and strategies you could leverage when interviewing neurodiverse candidate? Download our free Neurodiverse Interview Guide.

chris turnerComment