IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Interviewing for Diversity

Hiring teams must avoid unconscious bias by focusing on skills, knowledge, and ability. By Colleen Frye

UNDERSTANDING THE WAYS your interview practices can subtly influence job candidates and your own decision making is a key part of building a diverse workforce. According to a recent ChannelPro reader survey, 74% of respondents make diversity, equity, and inclusion goals part of their hiring process. To help ensure success with that goal, experts say, interviewers first need to be self-aware of internal biases.

LaChristian Taylor

The Society for Human Resource Management identifies several types of interviewer bias, from stereotyping to inconsistent questioning of candidates to making snap judgments. Those judgments can start with the resume. Focusing on where an applicant went to school or where they live, along with titles and degrees, is a “huge pitfall” to building a diverse workforce, says LaChristian Taylor, head of executive operations, CEO Office, at cybersecurity company Exabeam.

Interview questions about hobbies can also be barriers, says Marvin Bee, president of MB Systems, an MSP in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. For instance, he says, as a Black man interviewing for jobs in corporate America after grad school, the fact that he golfed opened up doors, but an interview question about the sport would leave most minority candidates feeling like outsiders. “I know that most Black Americans, at least before the Tiger Woods era, did not golf,” Bee says.

Candidates can note bias in subtle questions, says Lila Kelly, principal of Lila Kelly Associates, a diversity and HR consultancy, and, which helps organizations build competencies in hiring for diversity. For instance, an African-American she’s spoken with who once applied for a position that would make him the only person of color on the management team was asked how he thought employees would respond to him. What was implied but not said: How would he fit in as the only person of color?

Further, traditional questions that ask a candidate to describe their strengths or weaknesses don’t take into account cultural sensitivities or lack of access to coaching. “Someone from a cultural background where they learned that you don't brag about yourself as an individual may find it very difficult, if not impossible, to provide a good answer,” says Kelly. Moreover, she says, “Commonly asked questions like these may get rehearsed responses from applicants who have practiced interviewing or been coached on how to interview, and [interviewers] may miss good responses from diverse applicants.”

About the Author

Colleen Frye's picture

Colleen Frye is ChannelPro's managing editor.

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