Diversity Officer Magazine

Promoting Expertise, Research & Credentials

Diversity Officer Magazine - Promoting Expertise, Research & Credentials

The Top Ten Culturally Competent Interviewing Strategies

One of the major challenges in creating a culturally diverse organization is the trouble recruiters make for themselves, their organization, and the candidates in the interview. At the same time, that is where the stakes for attracting the most talented candidates are highest. The following list is offered to give you insights into what is needed to take optimum advantage of the recruitment process in today’s reality of a more culturally diverse applicant pool.

  1. Allow applicants to discuss and/or demonstrate what they can offer the organization. This will help you avoid unconsciously trying to confirm your  expectations  of the candidate or using techniques to require applicants to perform under pressure. There are cultural differences in comfort with being darted with questions that require thinking on one’s feet rather than engaging in dialog. many Native American group members with a strong group identity often view this style of interviewing as domineering and an effort to keep them at arm’s length.
  2. Always check with the candidate to if there is a need for any specific arrangements (e.g., physical access, interpreters, etc) for the interview. The gesture will show inclusion even for those who do not need them.
  3. Have questions prepared in advance, but rely on a relational style to get deeper into important discussions. Everyone prefers relational or discussion style interviews even when their dominant style is non relational. These type of discussions allow them opportunities to get a sense of what they will experience in the organization. You are the best model of what typical behavior they can expect should they be offered the position. Women tend to prefer relational style interviews for this reason.
  4. Ensure consistency and fairness in questioning. The focus should be consistently on the real needs of the job— Don’t make assumptions about a person’s ability to do the job based on physical characteristics. Focusing more on hygiene and the physical aspects of the job when talking with only with plus size candidates introduces unfairness into the interview. However, it is appropriate to ask people with disabilities whether they require any adjustments to perform the job. They expect it and avoiding it leaves a sense that the interview did not go well from the candidate’s perspective.
  5. Allow the interviewee time to make their point. Allow for silence. This is something that all candidates can benefit from, but it is imperative in interviews with diversity candidates. One formula is to allow at least 12 seconds to pass between a candidate making a comment and your talking. This allows them time to consider adding more to what they have said and shows a genuine interest in what they have to say.
  6. Do not ask invasive and irrelevant questions (e.g., ‘Do you intend to have a family?’) even if it is legal. If necessary rephrase to gain the essential information you require and ask of all applicants (e.g., ‘Can you commit yourself to the organization for two years?’).
  7. Keep records of questions and answers. You want to learn over time what worked with different groups of applicants and what did not. The records can be used in interviewing new recruits to learn what was most effective in getting them onboard. They may not remember the questions so the record will help.
  8. Do not use stereotype or discriminatory language or discriminatory requirements (‘Salesman’, ‘Age 30-45 years’). This should be a no brainer, but you may not be surprised that it still happens. There is something about talking more than one listens, which the interviewers too often do, that lead to trouble making statements. Remember the diversity candidate has a radar for insensitive remarks even if they like the interviewer as a whole. If you find yourself saying “Don’t take me wrong, but .…” or “I am not the least prejudice, but …. the harm has already been done and there may be no recovery. The fact that you felt a need to preference your thoughts with protective measures means that you are about to say something that you are ill prepared to comment on competently. It is best to avoid such remarks because no matter what you say after that, your point will be tainted in poor cultural competence.
  9. If used, ensure recruitment consultants are fully briefed on your requirements and have a good understanding of equal opportunity and anti-discrimination principles. But there is more to the successful diversity recruitment process than protecting the organization against breaking the law. Culturally competent recruitment is a matter of developing the awareness, attitude, knowledge, and skills needed to impress upon candidates that the interviewer “gets them.”
  10. Ensure that a diverse group of employees are part of the hiring decision. This is one of the challenges for many organizations. Their hiring personnel tends to not reflect the current diversity in the organization and certainly not what they are aiming for. They feel stuck with the circumstances and bootstrap the hiring process as much as possible. But, that is in-the-box thinking. Consider that organizations are using in-house employees more and more to conduct diversity training on a part time bases. These employees are trained and relieved from their regular duties during their round of training obligations. The same can happen with recruitment. Of course training is involved and there are at least a couple of other challenges that must be addressed, but that is true of training in-house people to do anything.

When carefully orchestrated, the interview process can bring into play important resources that have been proven to attract talent. In many ways, the diversity interview is not different than basic recruitment best practices. The primary difference is that the interviewer needs to carefully navigate the cultural differences across interviewees to match the subtle, but important differences. This is not something good intentions or trying to stick with an inflexible interview template can satisfy.

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About the Author: Billy Vaughn, PhD CDP is the editor in chief of Diversity Officer Magazine. He is articles of many articles and several books. His expertise is in talent management, organizational change, instructional design, and diversity management. He can be reached at admin at diversityofficermagazine.com.