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Diversity and Inclusion

7 must-dos for inclusive interviews

The problem

We’ve all had that experience of interviewing someone and immediately hitting it off. Perhaps you went to the same university, or have the same wacky passion for windsurfing. Either way, the interview went off-piste as you swapped stories and developed a close connection.

But here’s why that’s actually problematic: in that 15 mins you spent talking about windsurfing with Candidate A, you were asking tough questions of Candidates B and C. So, your ultimate assessment won’t be comparing apples to apples.

The solution

Map out your interview questions in advance based on competencies and attributes required for the role. Ask each candidate the same questions, in the same order. Don’t let organic discussions allow you to stray from the course.

☝ Remember that interview processes go both ways. Candidates are interviewing you, too, and they’re making decisions not just about whether they want to work with you, but whether they would recommend you to others.

Here’s our suggested top 7 must-dos for inclusive interviews:

Clearly communicate logistics to candidates in advance

Make the interview logistics simple, clear and in a single email with plenty of lead time. Include:

  • (If the interview’s in person) Directions to the office and where you’ll meet them (e.g., “check in at reception and I’ll come pick you up.”)
  • (If the interview’s online) Clear instructions on how to prepare and access the virtual meeting
  • Interview prep info (how to prep for the interview, what types of questions will be asked)
  • Who they’ll meet (names and titles)
  • How long the whole process will take
  • A final question: do they have any accessibility needs for you to account for?

Ask the right questions and consider tests

The best way to gauge whether a candidate is right for the job isn’t based on personality or shared interests – it’s to ask them questions directly related to the competencies they’ll need to succeed in the role.

This can be assessed in multiple ways. The most useful is through a practical test, ‘homework’ assignment or presentation where you can assess performance objectively.

Failing that, it’s always a good idea to ask situational interview questions focussed on on-the-job performance such as, “Tell me about a time when you had to handle a stressful situation.”

Critiquing the quality of a candidate’s work or their past experience against a clear set of competencies is really the only way to judge their viability for the job.

Ask each candidate the same questions, in the same order

We’ve all had that experience of interviewing someone and immediately hitting it off. Perhaps you went to the same university, or have the same wacky passion for windsurfing.

Either way, the interview went off-piste as you swapped stories and developed a close connection. Here’s why that’s problematic: in that 15 mins you spent talking about windsurfing with Candidate A, you were asking tough questions of Candidates B and C. So your ultimate assessment won’t be comparing apples to apples. Don’t let organic discussions allow you to stray from the course.

Show up to the interview on time

Being late throws off the candidate’s confidence, might take away from other interviewers’ time, and shows a general lack of respect.

Send positive non-verbal symbols

Have you heard of the Pygmalion Effect? Watch ​this​ 3-minute video to learn more. In short, people will rise to the level of our expectations for them, and non-verbal symbols like body language and tone of voice have a huge effect.

Eye contact is important. A common complaint from candidates is that the interviewer was buried in note-taking. Sure, take down some key points – but be mindful that conversational interviews require a high level of interaction.

Compare candidates horizontally

Instead of going through each candidate one by one, start by looking at the strength of responses to the first question and compare how each candidate did on that specific question. Continue that way through your list of interview questions.

This avoids getting entrapped by the 👼 Halo Effect bias, where we tend to think a candidate has the right attributes for the job simply because we had a positive overall impression of them.

Account for level of experience and cost in your final assessment

Experience level and salary expectations need to be considered for each candidate alongside final scores from across all interviewers. In some cases, you might make a choice to hire a candidate who is less experienced or less polished than a top contender if their salary expectations are lower and they scored high on curiosity and teachability, for instance. Or vice versa – it may be desirable to hire someone with more experience at the top of the salary range who you suspect can get up to speed quickly, depending on your context.

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⚠️ WARNING: Know your protected classes

Did you know that it is illegal to ask questions in an interview that might make you bias to a protected class such as age, race, and sex?

Questions like “How old are you?” or “Are you pregnant?” are complete no-gos.

Make sure you’re totally up to speed on protected classes and how to run a legally compliant interview before you even think of doing one.

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The bottom line?

Simple tweaks to your interview process can really elevate the probability of hiring more diverse candidates. Asking the same questions in the same order and comparing candidates horizontally are just a few ways you can be more inclusive.

7 must-dos for inclusive interviews

If you’ve got any suggestions or ideas on making interviews inclusive, we’d love to hear them! Share your comments or whatever else you’d like to share here.

Get in touch with us here

Fiona Young (she/her)

Having previously led Learning and Development for 3,000 people at Europe’s leading venture builder, Blenheim Chalcot, Fiona knows a thing or two about how to build high performance culture. As Content Director at Hive Learning, Fiona pioneered the organisation's leading guided content programmes which are designed to turn learning into action. Most recently, Fiona led the inception, development and delivery of Inclusion Works by Hive Learning - the world’s first diversity and inclusion programme focused on turning unconscious bias into conscious action - created from over 1,000 leading sources.