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Recruiting Wisdom

Creating a Sense of Belonging In The Interview Process: A Focus On Inclusion

min read

The old saying, “First impressions last a lifetime” rings just as true in the recruiting industry as it does in life. It takes years to build a strong employer brand yet just moments to strip it away with one bad interview. Word travels fast In the digital age. A candidate can experience a negative interview one minute and then regurgitate every detail of their experience on Glassdoor the next.

Gen Z is known as the “purpose driven generation.” They thrive when they are solving problems and improving those around them and the world. When it comes to their career livelihood, they seek out companies that show a dedication to measurably improving society. They want to be involved with companies that make social responsibility a priority and donate to value-aligned charities. Knowing this, companies must ensure the gatekeepers of the company –the interviewing team– create a sense of belonging during all interviews and focus on inclusion.

Exclusion Can Be Subtle

We’ve all been there. We are sitting across the table from an interviewer and feel it couldn’t be going any better. You feel aligned to the company’s mission, the job description suits your skills and the interviewer is vibing with you. Then all of a sudden the interviewer casually mentions how they spend their Fridays doing keg stands with the company. “Everyone does it, especially new hires,” they add on.

Halt. Hold the phone. Rewind.

“Especially new hires?” What is that supposed to mean? Can the interviewer tell it’s taking every morsel of your energy to hide the confused look on your face and find a way to gracefully react? What if you don’t drink? Does that disqualify you from the job? Either way, a well-intentioned comment aimed at illustrating their company camaraderie has flipped sideways on all accounts.

Unpacking the comment further, it’s not the keg stand itself that is the issue, it’s the phrase, “Especially new hires”. It puts pressure on the candidate to fit in with the “new hire” culture or fear being excluded. Enough pressure will cause any candidate to withdraw from the interview process and tell all their friends about it.

A tip for all interviewers— be extra aware and refrain from any generalizations that the “whole company” partakes in a single activity. It’s okay to share the fun events your company does to build its culture, but the beauty in an engaged company culture is that people will participate in events and activities they resonate without being pressured to do anything. Avoid “forced fun” at all costs. 

Carve Out Time To Review The Company Mission 

The golden rule of recruiting is to find candidates who are passionate about the mission and vision of your company. Energy and genuine interest in the company’s mission and vision goes a long way when employees are asked to dedicate 40+ hours of their life each week to solve your company’s problems. If someone is missing a technical skill, their genuine desire to see your company succeed may elevate their motivation to pick up missing skills for the job.

Woman smiling in job interview

An article in Forbes says, “Employees who fall in love with their work experience higher productivity levels and engagement, and they express loyalty to the company as they remain longer, costing the organization less over time. Mission-driven workers are 54 percent more likely to stay for five years at a company and 30 percent more likely to grow into high performers than those who arrive at work with only their paycheck as the motivator.”

Highlight Career Pathing

Instead of solely focusing the interview on the hurdles a person has to jump and what existing skills are required to get the job, highlight what the career path looks like too. Remember, it’s impossible to find purple squirrels. Give up the search.

Purple squirrel
Purple squirrels are candidates who bring the exact skills and experience to be a perfect fit for your position. Unfortunately, there’s a reason you never see purple squirrels in the wild.

The cheesy question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” is really not as far-fetched as you might think. Knowing the career goals of the candidate helps the interviewing team to decide if their goals and the company’s future vision are aligned. You can’t expect a new hire to be a top performer on their first day. It takes time to grow in any role.  

No One Will Ever Be “Perfect” For The Job

Author Angela Duckworth has introduced a concept called Grit. Instead of focusing on the exact past experiences of a candidate during the interview process, use this simple equation as a benchmark. 

Grit equation. Effort counts twice.

Treat The Employee Referral Candidate Journey The Same As All Candidates

When employees submit employee referrals it’s easy to elevate that candidate faster than candidates from traditional sources. There is a preconceived notion that the employee referral is pre-vetted, and there is a trust that if the employee is vouching for that person, they must be a fit.

It may be true they are a fit, but equity in the interview process is imperative regardless of the candidate source. Don’t just take the referrer's word for it. Have the same interview rigor for an employee referral as you would for anyone else. If a candidate from a traditional source got wind that a referred candidate received different treatment, your company’s inclusivity practices would be in question. 

It’s Culture Add

Diversity in the workplace allows for more diversity of thought and ideation. According to Forbes, diversity in the workplace boosts innovation and increased financial results. Make it a practice of the past to recruit for “culture fit”.

There is no mold. Celebrate diversity and the unique perspectives every individual brings.

Diverse company employees together

During the interview process make it an assignment of the interviewers to jot down what candidate will add to the company. How will they enhance the business? Interviewing through this lens will empower the interviewers to move beyond the current company culture and break out of the box. That being said, there are always parameters. Bring your company’s core values into the interview process and benchmark every candidate to them. 

Final Thoughts

In the end, make it a goal for every candidate that interviews with your company to have a positive and inclusive experience. Bad experiences will tarnish your employer brand, making it difficult to hire future diverse talent.

Assume people have high standards for where they spend most of their waking hours. No one wants to work in a negative environment where they feel marginalized and treated unfairly. Those negative feelings will hinder their desire to blossom in their role and therefore hold your company’s success back. Every human deserves equal opportunities. Create a sense of belonging by focusing on what a person could bring to the table vs. what they don’t have.

Christina Wells

Christina has been working in the HR industry for over 15 years and is committed to helping recruiters make the transition to virtual events.

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