As a frequent speaker about diversity, equity and inclusion at tech events, I love to speak afterwards with audience members to hear their stories, find out the current topics most important to them, and sometimes to provide a sounding board to help them navigate their next career step. Given the nature of my work, most often these discussion have a similar underlying theme: as a minority-group candidate or employee, what can I do maximise my opportunities to be recognised and progress towards my desired goal?
I’ve also recently noticed a positive trend that accompanies this question. While the discussion is likely to include self-development possibilities, people are increasingly understanding they also have power as a candidate to seek organisations that will recognise and empower people like them. Environments where you can thrive and grow.
So how, as a job candidate, can you tell if a prospective employer truly values diversity and has a culture of inclusivity to ensure everyone can be themselves and contribute their best work?
Here are my top tips for candidates:
Before your interview, be sure to check out the company website. I’m sure you will already be doing this to check out what they do, get a sense of the type of work you will be doing, and the benefits package they have on offer.
You can also use the website to probe deeper about diversity, equity and inclusion at the firm. Take a look through the careers pages, About us, “Life at…”, and so on. What do they say about their values and culture? Does it align to a culture you would like to work in?
Photos and Images
Do they appear to have photos of actual employees, or do the images look like stock photos? Assuming they look real, how diverse do the teams look? Lots of tech firms struggle with diversity, so I wouldn’t recommend to use this criteria to screen out firms who don’t look very diverse, but you can gain some valuable hints from the photos. Diversity doesn’t tell necessarily say much about their culture of inclusion, so check how authentic the pictures feel to you. Do people look at ease or is it posed? Does anything stand out, for example, in group photos, have people separated into clusters by gender?
Perks and benefits
Some tech firms have become notorious for their “brogrammer” culture. You can find cultural hints in photos of the offices and perks they offer. Is it all about beer fridges and fussball (not that there is anything inherently wrong with those things), or do they also have facilities designed to appeal across a broad spectrum of people, preferences, and needs? Most importantly – does it look like they will meet your needs?
Check out the benefits pages to look for things like flexible and remote working policies, parental leave, including adoption – and if the language they use inclusive of all families not only the hetero-normative ones. How do they support employees to care for their work-life balance? How well do the facilities cater for people with disabilities, or neurodiverse colleagues e.g. with quiet spaces?
How diverse is the leadership team? Representation at the top is a helpful indication, and top level leadership valuing diversity is a key factor for the inclusive culture of a firm. If there are videos or quotes from leadership, check them out. Do they create an impression of an environment where you can see yourself thriving?
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programme
Does the organisation have employee groups, e.g. for women, LGBTQ+, race, parents, people with disabilities or others? Do they openly share their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy, any facts and figures about diversity in the organisation, any info about their D&I priorities, or any programmes they have in place?
Is the organisation a member or a signatory of any diversity related organisations, for example the Tech Talent Charter, the WISE Campaign (Women in Science and Engineering), or Stonewall? Have they won any diversity, equity and inclusion related awards?
For larger employers, you can also look for their Gender Pay Gap Report, which is mandatory for all UK firms with over 250 employees to publish. A good pay gap report will be transparent about the reasons for any pay gap (and most, if not all, tech/engineering firms will have a gap), but also about the actions they have taken to reduce it and a measure of how effectively they are closing the gap. You should be able to locate it on their website (they are required to share it publicly), but if not you can search for them on the UK government gender pay gap service page. The company Annual Report is another good place to look for information about their diversity, equity and inclusion programme, activities and achievements over the past year.
Check out the posts shared on social media. What is the balance between business and people focussed content? Do they share any posts about outreach or social impact activities? Do they feature a diverse group of employees when they share thought leadership and industry content such as articles or videos?
LinkedIn can be a valuable resource to check out who else works at the organisation. If you have an interview lined up, look up the people you will meet and see the kind the topics they post about.
Talking to current and former employees is a really great way to get first-hand insights into an organisation. If you know anyone else who works there, or any friends of friends, reach out to ask them about their experience. What is the culture like? Ask who succeeds here? Whose work gets noticed? How are the opportunities to learn and grow in their role?
I also find Glassdoor to be a helpful site for employee reviews of firms. For the larger employers, Glassdoor even shows employer scores by gender and ethnic groups. I love seeing these disaggregated reviews, as it can be really enlightening to see how different groups people experience the organisation differently. These key insights can expose any disparity felt by employees, or show which employers are really walking the talk in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion.
The application process
When you apply, is the process explained to you? Are you asked if you need any accommodations for accessibility? Does the system give sufficient options that you can properly self-identify– e.g. with non-binary gender options.
Watch out if you are asked your current salary. This is a no-no, as it may indicate they could make on offer based on your current pay, rather than offering the role at market rate – free from any biases that may have become embedded in your salary history. Ideally, the role will be advertised clearly indicating the expected salary range.
If you are asked to send a CV, is any information given about whether they will remove indicators of your gender, age, and other protected characteristic data when screening the CVs? This is good practice to remove bias in the screening process, and ensure you are assessed purely on your experience. Other firms will bypass CVs altogether and ask you to complete an application form instead – and ask you to remove these details yourself. It might be a bit irritating to enter the info on your beautifully constructed CV to a webform – but it shows the organisation is taking its anti-bias measures seriously.
The interview itself
So, now you are well armed with background info, and the research has hopefully sparked some areas of interest for you to probe further in the interview.
If you are interviewed by a single person, be suspicious that the organisation may not be applying best practices for inclusive recruitment. Ideally you will meet a few people – this can help to combat any unconscious bias that individuals have by including a diverse group to make the assessments.
Make sure you arrive with questions to ask. You may have formed many of your own by this stage, but here are some that you can always fall back on:
Ask about diversity in the team. Ask to meet them and, if you are going to a physical office, ask for a tour and see who you see around the place. What does the attitude of the people you see seem like?
Ask them about the company’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and any programme they have in place. I would guess many line managers may not know all the details, but should be able to at least give some info or refer you to someone who knows more.
Ask about the company culture and values. Do your interviewers endorse what is said on the website about these things, or do their words and attitudes tell a different story?
Ask about how the organisation have been supporting employees’ wellbeing, particularly during COVID, but also beyond.
Find out about their attitudes to flexibility and remote working. Both can be enablers for women, carers, people with disabilities and other diverse groups to fully participate – so it’s a positive if a firm, and your recruiting manager, values and enables these ways of working.
Finally, ask them what they are hoping the new recruit will bring to the team. Consider their answer: do they seem to want someone to fit in, or someone who will bring something new?
Here I’ve shared lots of ideas for how you can assess how diverse and inclusive your prospective employers may be. To make it a bit easier, I’ve made a handy checklist version, so you can score each firm against each of these topics. Bear in mind you probably won’t find full information until you join – so it’s likely you’ll have to leave some gaps, and don’t expect any organisation to get a perfect score on all of these measures. But I hope this will spark some thoughts, help you make comparisons, and help to expose the considerations that most matter to you.
My strongest advice would be to identify any must-have items for yourself, and think carefully if it looks like you may need to compromise any of these. Happy job hunting, and good luck!