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5 Key Questions Tech Candidates Should Ask About a Company’s DEI Strategy
Asian woman asks questions during a job interview to determine her potential employer's dei strategy.

If you’re a tech candidate searching for your “dream job,” it’s important to look at other factors besides monetary compensation. For example, you may be searching for a position that offers you adequate work-life balance, an opportunity to further your career, and other benefits.

That being said, perhaps the single most vital element that will inform your final decision is whether your prospective employer has a clearly defined and effective DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) strategy in place. You obviously want your employer to value you as a person, rather than consider you for your skill set alone.

Why is a Transparent DEI Strategy So Important?

The reality is, many companies talk a lot about diversity, equity, and inclusion. But they don’t back up their words with concrete action. At best, they may do the bare minimum to meet DEI requirements, such as occasionally making “token hires” to meet a “diversity quota.” 

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made earnest DEI efforts more difficult. One survey found that 75 percent of software and tech employers feel the pandemic has negatively affected their DEI efforts. So many businesses have been focused on staying commercially and financially viable over the past year. Therefore, it is not too shocking that only 29 percent of software and technology employers view improved DEI as a top priority moving forward.

Nevertheless, you may view a clear and transparent DEI strategy as a make-or-break proposition when applying for tech jobs. The fact of the matter is, no one wants to work in a place where they’re not welcome — or at least, where they don’t feel welcome. Yet, that is exactly the feeling that many tech candidates have to face day in and day out.

For instance, a recent survey of over 2,000 workers at one company found that 50 percent had left or wanted to leave a tech job. Why? “Because the company culture made them feel unwelcome or uncomfortable.” A proportionally high percentage of women, as well as Asian, Black, and Hispanic men, stated that they had experienced such a situation.

Do Your Research: Ask These 5 Questions About DEI

The bottom line is that you need to understand what your personal DEI values are. Then, do your research before committing to a specific organization. You’ll want to work with an employer who doesn’t just consider DEI to be a “quick fix” or a protection against discrimination lawsuits. Instead, it’s important to find a company with a long-term plan for enhancing their DEI efforts.

With that in mind, here are five key questions you can ask your prospective employer about their DEI strategy:

1. What are your organization’s values, and where can I find them listed?

This is a good question to ask in general, since the answer will give you an idea of the type of culture the company wants to promote, and how serious they are about doing so. In many cases, an organization will have a mission statement or a description of its core values listed under the “About Us” section on its website. Some companies have their values posted throughout their facilities. If you receive a vague answer or the recruiter can’t point to a description of the company’s core values in print, that’s a red flag.

2. How important is diversity, equity, and inclusion at this organization, and why?

This straightforward question really gets to the heart of the matter. You’ll want to find out how seriously the employer takes DEI, and why they consider it to be a valuable investment. While actions speak louder than words, the answer you receive here can act as a “barometer” for the organization’s sincerity in terms of DEI.

3. What initiatives have you implemented to make sure your team feels represented and included?

This question should uncover some specifics of the company’s DEI strategy. This is where it’s important that you have a clear grasp of your own DEI values. You’ll want to pay close attention to your interviewer’s description of DEI programs. From there, determine whether they sound comprehensive and robust enough to meet your personal expectations.

Also, keep in mind that the hiring process itself can give you an idea of how seriously the company takes diversity, equity, and inclusion. For example, is the company clear about which job qualifications are non-negotiable, and which ones are preferred? Research indicates that men are likely to apply for a job if they meet at least 60 percent of the listed qualifications. Women, on the other hand, will only apply if they meet all of them. Is the company doing what it can to lower that barrier?

4. How diverse is your organization’s executive team?

DEI efforts are only effective if they begin at the top of the organization. A company’s executive team can provide a “snapshot” of how diverse the entire organization actually is. Interestingly, 83 percent of tech executives are white, while just 37 percent of tech companies have at least one woman on their board. These statistics emphasize the common disparity between what companies say about DEI vs. the reality of the situation.

5. What measurable goals does the organization have surrounding DEI?

There’s an old saying: “If it can’t be measured, it can’t be improved.” This is an important question to ask. The answer will show you what practical steps your prospective employer is taking to meet their DEI goals. Alternately, you could ask: “Where do you think the organization can improve the most in terms of DEI?”

If you ask these five key questions about diversity, equity, and inclusion, you’ll be better equipped to make good decisions in your job search — and find a role and company that you can be happy with.

Get started on finding your dream job. Talk to a recruiter at The Doyle Group.