I had a great debate the other day (with my boss, incidentally) about why we ask certain questions as part of the recruitment process at my organization. In this case, we were discussing a new position--the first time we've asked applicants to share how (or whether) our mission of equity and inclusion is important to them. My boss, playing devil's advocate, worried that such questions cause us to stray from strictly evaluating the hard skills of an applicant. I think questions that force an applicant to share more than the usual cover letter business can offer insight into their thought process, writing skills, and career goals.
Asking questions that touch on diversity can be pretty scary for HR pros. The idea brings up fears of discrimination lawsuits if we end up hiring someone who is in an underrepresented group over someone who is part of the majority--or the other way around. Sure, these fears are based in reality; we all know of some company that got hammered because of an unlawful hiring practice. It's so much safer to just ask for a resume and standard cover letter, and get to know people in the interview.
Still, I'd argue that--carefully crafted--questions that challenge applicants to think about your organization's diversity mission can really help the best of the pool rise to the top. Please don't ask an applicant to answer "How will your background help Company B fulfill its mission for a diverse workforce?" Words like "background" might confuse the applicant into thinking you want them to tell you about their race or ethnic heritage--not what we want!
Instead, share the equity and inclusion section of your mission statement and ask applicants to explain how their experiences have shaped how they view such a mission statement. How would they critique it? If they were in charge, what are some actions they would take to help the company fulfill it?
Write the question. Rewrite it. Have a few people read it and tell you how they interpret it, how they'd answer it if they were applying. Revise.
Not only do these questions encourage applicants to share whether they feel such a mission is important--and whether they'll be an asset in acting to pursue it--they let you see an applicant's brain and creativity at work. Now more than ever, equity and inclusion are mission-critical for most businesses--let's be brave and relentless in our pursuit! As with almost anything, success depends on surrounding ourselves with the right people.