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Diversity Interviewing

Newsletter • volume 1 • number 3

Conventional wisdom can lead to trouble in today's rapidly changing and complex world. More that one well-intentioned interviewer has told me they have always heard that one has to ask every candidate the same questions to keep interviews legal. They went on to explain that this was required because you have to treat everyone equally.

This is very dated advice (1970's). We are advancing a new theory in our Interviewing Today's Workforce® seminar. We advocate that managers learn diversity interviewing which calls for seeing each person as a unique individual. This entails becoming aware of your own cultural filters so that you are better able to manage your assumptions and stereotypes about others. We use powerful exercises to demonstrate this.

You want to give people an equal opportunity, but treating everyone the same is not really fair at all. We help clients to focus instead on treating each person as a unique individual. What participants learn is that they need to expand their cultural comfort zone whenever they encounter an interview situation which is unfamiliar or uncomfortable. Without this ability, interviewers run the risk of being non-objective in their assessments and unopen to cultural diversity.

It's interesting to note that some training firms are arguing vociferously for the status quo of "treating everyone the same." Some of our competitors are saying that because diversity is so complex, the only proper response is to treat everyone equally by asking the same questions of every candidate for a given job. They argue that each candidate is treated fairly because each is treated the same.

This is not what diverse candidates want! They want to be considered and understood as unique individuals. In fact, this is now part of the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The next time someone tells you it is necessary or required by law to use the same questions with every candidate, ask them how that relates to interviewing someone who has an MBA versus another candidate who has an undergraduate degree in business administration. Or ask them how it relates to a candidate who speaks English as a second language, or who recently immigrated to this country, or is disabled, or has any of thousands of other qualities which differentiate all of us from one another.

It takes time to adjust to a new world and we recognize that. After all, citizens from centuries past would not sail beyond the Mediterranean because everyone knew the world was flat. That idea eventually lost credibility and fell out of favor. We want to make sure our readers don't miss the boat today.