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Diversity Interview Training: Changing Attitudes

Newsletter • volume 2 • number 4

We are always looking for ways to assess the impact of our diversity interviewer training programs, and in September 1995 we began measuring changes in attitude among participants in our Interviewing Today's Workforce® seminars.

Using anonymous questionnaires, we ask participants to rate on a 0 to 10 scale the importance of nine attitudes we consider key in objectively evaluating diverse candidates. The questionnaires are completed both before and after the training. Post-session scores consistently reveal a positive shift in attitude in each of the nine categories. A summary of the average of pre- and post-session scores for the first 100 participants appears below:

Attitudes Pre Post Difference
1. Has a "good handshake" (strong, firm). 3.82 2.30 1.52
2. Has direct eye contact. 7.03 3.36 3.67
3. Uses "I" vs. "we" to describe his/her performance. 4.87 2.89 1.99
4. Speaks with an accent. 1.44 1.15 0.30
5. Avoids "yes/no" or very short answers. 6.04 4.59 1.45
6. Is assertive, rather than modest. 5.83 3.43 2.40
7. Is open, enthusiastic vs. quiet, reserved. 6.83 4.15 2.68
8. Uses gestures and has "fluid" body language. 4.75 2.64 2.11
9. Answers questions directly, without hesitation. 6.25 3.84 2.41
AVERAGE 5.21 3.15 2.06

According to these responses, interviewers are most troubled by a lack of direct eye contact in a candidate, primarily because westerners - and Americans in particular - believe this indicates a lack of frankness and openness. In some societies, however, averting eye contact is a way to show respect to a more senior person. Discussing these cultural differences helps overcome concerns about eye contact; in fact, our data reveals that this is the area in which we consistently see the greatest change in attitude. Other major concerns relate to candidates who come across as reserved or modest or who hesitate before answering questions.

Some participants enter our program with a full understanding of cultural differences and a respect for cultural diversity. They can still benefit from this seminar, however, by focusing on the behavioral interviewing techniques we provide.