DEI – Should You Discuss the Topic During the Hiring Process?

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As a staffing agency that delves into the realm of recruitment and labor news, we find ourselves speaking ad nauseam about new trends and ideas in the sphere. We find ourselves discussing ideas that, though seemingly in the right place, will burn their way out after a few months. It feels at times as if the working world is always trying to find what ‘betterment’ can garner the best attention, leaving the actual moral improvement for smaller companies and companies that focus entirely on employee culture. Unfortunately, that’s a matter of business. But, we’re happy to report that DEI is becoming more important every day.

DEI isn’t just a trend. In fact, DEI has been making its way throughout the staffing landscape for over 5 years now (if not forever, depending on who you ask). A study by Glassdoor in 2018 reported that 69% of executives rated diversity and inclusion as important issues.

But does this mean that those same executives are working to better the issue? Not really. As of 2021, 77% of the U.S. workforce is made up of white people. Hispanic or Latinx people make up 18% of the workforce, Black people make up 13% of the workforce and Asian people make up 7% of the workforce.

So, despite not being just a trend and continuing to be something on the minds of workers and employers alike, we need to discuss how to work DEI into your hiring process and if you should raise the question to employees and candidates.

Should you discuss the topic with candidates? How do you make sure that you are hiring correctly to help boost DEI in your company? Let’s discuss —

What Is DEI?

If you have no clue what the acronym truly stands for, you’ve found yourself both confused and ready to leave. And, due to the nature of keywords and sticky prose, we’ve left the definition further from the top. For that, we apologize.

Jokes aside, DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion — this acronym, though prevalent for a multitude of life experiences, is used for the working world. It was coined to help improve, provoke conversation about, and push the idea of hiring people from all walks of life into businesses. As noted, the working world is fairly skewed in regard to cultural diversity. From race, ethnicity, ability, gender, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, and beyond, companies tend to find themselves sticking with one avenue over the other.

77% of the workforce is white. This is not necessarily a sign that companies are racist or prejudiced, but that they do not have the idea of diversity and inclusion in mind, keeping them subconsciously hiring those majority voices. White people make up over 70% of the U.S.’s population (according to the census), so it’s only natural that a majority of workers will be white.

But when DEI is put into action, it can at least get companies to think about the idea before hiring another majority candidate.

To put it simply: if a company only gets white applications for a job, they’ll end up hiring a white person. But, having the idea of DEI on the brain will cause them to think about why their applicants are only white. Maybe they are posting in the wrong place or not advertising themselves as inclusive enough. Being aware of it is the first step in improving it.

This doesn’t mean that the company will force its hand, but at least they are taking active steps toward improving it. Meaning all companies should think about the topic during the hiring process.

Ironically, forcing hands and hiring based on diversity only is against the idea of DEI as a whole. Hiring just because you need to fit some diversity quota is… just as prejudiced as not hiring the group at all.

“There’s lots of talk about diversity these days. We tend to think about that in terms of things like racial diversity and gender diversity and ethnic diversity. Those things are all important. But it’s also important to have diversity in how people think.”

Richard Thaler, Nobel Prize Winner

Do Job Seekers Truly Care?

Obviously, placing thought and effort into the idea of hiring diversity is crucial for any company. It’s not only morally correct, but it’s a necessity to remain at the forefront of talent and ideas. But, the question always remains. Will the actual effort appear as a draw to job seekers?

Will candidates choose your job over another because of your work to be inclusive? Or will they still just choose the job that pays more?

Overall, it’s impossible to pinpoint the exact motives of job seekers, but the truth is clear. Workers prefer and stand behind inclusive workplaces. In fact, a 2020 Glassdoor survey found that 76% of job seekers said a diverse workforce was an important factor for them when evaluating job opportunities and companies. And, companies with highly diverse teams noticed a 2.5 times cash flow per employee.

So, yes, job seekers do care about your company’s DEI tactics and efforts. Meaning, you should bring them up in the hiring process.

How to do so without seeming disingenuous or just using the process to gain attention is the big question.

Why Company Culture Is Crucial

If you aren’t sold on implementing DEI tactics into your hiring process, here’s a statistic destined to perk your ears: Throughout 2022, 75% of organizations having diverse and inclusive decision-making teams were projected to exceed their financial targets. According to Forbes, diverse teams make better decisions 66% of the time, and gender-diverse teams were found to make better business decisions 73% of the time.

Diverse teams are more productive. Diverse teams lead to more engagement, a larger collective of ideas and thoughts, and a more significant buy-in for employees.

Diversity helps build your team culture. If your team culture is high, you are likely to have better engagement and production.

We’ve broken down the importance of company culture multiple times, but the idea is simple to summarize — employees want to work in a positive environment. It’s as simple as that. Workers want to be valued and know that the company’s views align with their own.

Providing a culturally-diverse workplace, especially for the 76% of workers that prefer diverse companies, will help create a positive and productive work culture.

Should DEI Be Discussed During the Hiring Process?

It’s blatant that diversity is important in the workplace. It doesn’t take us, a staffing agency, to tell you that. You know it. We know it.

But, how should it be implemented in the hiring process? How can you let applicants know that you are working to create a better and more inclusive workplace without sounding like you are only waving the flag for attention? People can see right through it. People can see when you are doing it just to say you are doing it.

So, the main question is now at hand. How do you put your DEI efforts into your hiring and vetting process?

Make Sure Every Interaction Is Inclusive

As noted, most candidates know everything about you before they apply. They know if you are genuine. They know if you are on your way to making a better working world. With the prevalence of employee reviews like LinkedIn, job seekers can see if former workers are complaining about a lack of diversity.

Candidates can also scan your social media, job posts (we’ll get to this), and website for information about how you are enforcing your DEI efforts. Therefore, you want to make sure you include inclusiveness in every step you take as a company.

Reevalute your branding. Is it inclusive? Does it show your company as one that strives for DEI efforts? Does it have negative reviews regarding a lack of inclusivity, a history of prejudice, or other nasty negatives?

You don’t have to make your entire brand about inclusivity, for that may come off as forced, but it should exist. And the opposite should never exist. Your brand should never have any copy or review that makes you look against DEI.

According to D2, 75% of candidates will research a company’s reputation before applying. A strong employer brand reduces turnover by 28% and cost per hire by 50%. Therefore, it’s crucial to make sure that your online presence is both genuine and on the right side of history before posting your jobs.

In 2024, a negative online presence can make or break a small business (even large businesses in extreme cases).

DEI In the Job Post

Your job post and description should also include a statement regarding your efforts for diverse hiring. Even if just a note like “We encourage all races, genders, and walks of life to apply.”

Here is an example of a DEI statement on a job posting:

We’re committed to building an inclusive organization that represents all people and walks of life. We encourage members of traditionally underrepresented communities to apply, including people of color, veterans, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities.

Just something as simple as that will boost your outward inclusive identity.

Keep It In Mind During Recruiting

Harken back to the outrageous-but-possible scenario we stated earlier. Say you get 10 applicants for a job and all 10 are white. Or all 10 are men. All 10 are within one majority demographic. As noted, this will lead to you hiring a member of that majority. At the end of the day, that’s not your fault. You put the DEI statement in your job posting and that’s all who applied.

But… Maybe it is.

If you continue to find yourself with a majority applicant pool, maybe you aren’t reaching the correct audience through your recruiting methods.

Relying on referrals, sourcing from the same places, and listening to in-house suggestions only leads to an echo chamber of hiring. Over a prolonged time of ignoring DEI, we have applied hiring and recruiting strategies that keep us hiring the same demographics. That needs to change in order to reach actually diverse groups.

Post your jobs to a variety of places. Vet from schools and other sources that you haven’t used before. Diversify your vetting process to help your DEI process. And, if all else fails, work with a recruitment agency. Staffing services like ours (cough cough, Tier2Tek) have the resources to make sure that your jobs are seen by a wide variety of demographics.

Mean What You Say

We’ve noted this a few times already, but we must hammer it home: the majority of employees can see right through your genuineness. If you do not mean what you say, then you will quickly be sniffed out. You cannot just work the DEI methods just to say you did and then continue to hire within the majority.

Do what you say and mean what you say. If you tell everyone you are working to hire inclusively, you better actually work to hire inclusively. This does not mean you need to force hires (as mentioned), but you need to follow actual methods and exert actual effort.

Though a roundabout example, let’s discuss the Rooney Rule in the NFL.

The NFL created the Rooney Rule in 2003. According to the NFL, the Rooney Rule is “one part of the NFL’s effort to develop a deep, sustainable talent pool at all levels of the organization. The policy promotes diverse leadership among NFL clubs to ensure that promising candidates have the opportunity to prove they have the necessary skills and qualifications to excel.”

Ultimately, the rule means that when an organization has a head coaching vacancy, they are required to interview at least 1 minority candidate for the position.

On paper, this process helps boost diversity for NFL employers. In reality, it just causes teams to exert the idea, but not exert the effort. They don’t mean what they say, and it’s caused an influx of lawsuits. Minority candidates have started a lawsuit because they believe teams held ‘sham’ interviews to abide by the rule, already having a majority candidate as the hire. They never meant what they said about being open to and advocating for diversity.

And, all in all, this has created a lack of faith in the organization, painting them in a hypocritical light. If they actually meant what they said and did as they said they would, they wouldn’t have the controversy.

Point being: even the most secret of hypocrisy will rise to the top eventually (especially in the modern age). If you do not stand behind what you claim to be, you will be outed. Then, 76% of job seekers will avoid your posts.

DEI Metrics Can Help

Statistics are a beautiful thing. Aren’t they?

It’s important to use hiring metrics to help build a brighter future for your company. You must look back on your former hiring work and see what the difference is. What can be changed to help become more inclusive and diverse going forward?

Unfortunately, it would take a book worth of guessing to pinpoint why your company has had issues with DEI in the past. Maybe it’s the places you vet, as noted. Maybe it’s your interview process or the people you have put in place as interviewers. The algorithm that you use to go over resumes may be biased in some way. Regardless, it’s time to figure that out.

There are actually applicant tracking systems like Greenhouse or Lever with built-in functionality to help reduce bias and assist you in making objective decisions.

By keeping strict notes of your new vetting process and looking back upon your old hires, see if you can pinpoint any biases in your methods. Furthermore, set objectives and goals. As we’ve beaten in, don’t hire diversly just to hire diversly, but set goals for interviews or inclusive job postings.

Sharing these goals and methods on your website or job posts also helps you boost your DEI brand with job seekers.

Have an Accessible Job Post (closed captions,

At the end of the day, your job post is the most important part of the vetting process.

Yes, a lot of candidates will look your company up for review. That usually happens after they notice the job post, though. The advertisement of the post will still be the pitch to sell workers on the job, company, and opportunity. Therefore, the majority of your DEI work needs to be right there in front.

Make sure your job post and website are genuinely accessible. Drop jargon that could alienate candidates for not having the perfect educational background. Don’t use gender-coded words or pronouns. Note that you are open and available for candidates with disabilities and are willing and able to provide the correct accommodations for them (if the job is able to).

For example, put that the candidate must be able to move objects up to 50 pounds, not lift. Lift may subconsciously deter those with disabilities.

Furthermore, use accessibility options for your website. Make sure all videos have closed captions, have the site with visible colors to all eyes (not too contrasting or hard to see), and have buttons large enough to see.

For every step on this list, progress is key. If you are trying your best and truly mean it, you are on the right path. There may be hiccups in the DEI process, but if you mean what you say and what you are standing by, you are on the best track forward.

DEI Interview Questions

Now, we’ve talked enough about how you can implement discussions and information surrounding DEI improvement in your hiring process. From inclusive language on job posts to inclusivity on your website, we have covered the bases.

But what about the interview process? Should you include some inclusivity and culture questions when speaking to candidates?


It’s important to make sure that every candidate is in line with your company’s ideals, for that’s the best way to create a team of progressive and like-minded individuals. Therefore, you may want to ask some inclusivity questions in your interviews along with the other common behavioral interview questions.

Here are a few:

Side note: we have a whole article on 57 Behavioral Interview Questions here.

1. What does DEI mean to you? Is it important?

It’s critical to see if the candidate is like-minded when it comes to DEI and your motives going forward. This is doubly so if the position you are hiring for is in management or human resources. You want to make sure that the candidate believes in the mission just as much as you do.

Remember how we noted that disingenuousness will shine through? Hiring a team of people that don’t believe in or care about DEI will be a quick way to show it. You might express it as a company, but your representatives need to, too.

2. How do you find and respect the diverse backgrounds of your coworkers?

Bringing in diverse talent is one thing. Having them feel comfortable, heard, and an important part of the company’s culture is another.

With this question, you are seeing if the candidate is willing to go out of their way to understand their diverse coworkers and help create an inclusive culture.

Some workers may believe in DEI and have a good heart, but if they are unwilling to learn and adhere to their coworker’s needs, they are going to make things toxic (i.e. learning preferred pronouns).

3. How would you handle a situation where a colleague was being culturally Insensitive or prejudiced?

Is the candidate willing to point out what’s wrong and help bolster the inclusivity of the workplace? Hopefully. Are they willing to do so in a way that’s inflammatory or problematic? Hopefully not.

You never want a candidate that oversteps their boundaries or goes looking for confrontation, even if the situation is unjust. Overall, the answer should involve letting the employee know they’re being unfair and then reporting to a supervisor if things continue.

You want a candidate that isn’t willing to let prejudices slide, though.

Here’s an interesting one. Is diversity impacting the industry you both work in? How so?

This question shows you a few things. One, it shows you the candidate’s ability to problem-solve and come up with intelligent conclusions. Two, it gives you an idea of how you can improve your industry’s inclusivity going forward.

Let’s take customer service, as a broad example. Is customer service hampered by racism? Are representatives more likely to be insulting or talk down to those with accents? Or those that are women? How can these things be rectified?

It’s a good, thought-provoking question.

5. Do you have concerns about working with diverse populations or communities?

This is outright. This will help you weed out toxic employees.

If a candidate answers this question with bias or prejudice, they should be looked over. You never want someone hateful or unwilling to learn on your team. It’s an awful, awful sign.