By Steve Pemberton
There was a time when organizations believed that if they looked diverse, many of the issues they faced around this topic would simply dissolve. Corporate commitment to diversity and inclusion often went no further than being attentive to historical issues of underrepresentation and applying corrective action where needed. Diversity in the workplace, in essence, had a natural end state.
But this strategy has had limited success. Organizations can't simply move on by virtue of their standard diversity practices. Matters of diversity and inclusion, like many other organizational objectives, are ongoing processes. They require constant refinement to create a more effective and competitive organization. And similarly, you as a job candidate need to think about and potentially change how you present and talk about diversity to employers during your job search.
Diversity Jobs and Recruitment Practices Are Changing
Organizations are getting the message, and they're redefining their commitment and approach to diversity recruitment. In order to attract the best talent (this means you), employers are making diversity a part of all their processes. Fueled by shifting demographics and attitudes, increased global interactions and advancing technologies, companies are looking beyond appearances, conventional qualifications and traditional categories of race and gender.
Today's world of diversity and inclusion is increasingly about how you think, not how you look. Forward-leaning companies are interested in your ability to bring diversity of thought and informed perspectives to their organizations. These companies also want to harness your ability to help them connect with the increasingly diverse constituencies they serve.
Turn Your Diverse Background into a Marketable Asset
Unfortunately, many job seekers are still reluctant to share their diversity with employers, believing it somehow constitutes a disadvantage to their candidacy. Still others believe that indicating their background means they will be recruited on that basis alone and not for their skills, talents and abilities. Neither premise is true.
So it's time to rethink how you approach the job search. Consider all written and in-person communications opportunities to convey your diversity of thought, ideas and world view. Here are a few examples:
The Mutual Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace
- Numbers can underscore your experience. Rather than homogenize your achievement of increasing market share, for instance, paint the larger picture: "Expanded market reach by 18% to include untapped Asian audience in key metropolitan segments."
- It is one thing to indicate that you speak Spanish in your cover letter. It is something else entirely to write: "As part of my exploration into your company, I learned that you recently expanded operations in Latin America. I believe my bilingual background and experiences in the culture of that region could be advantageous to the organization."
- Parlay your interview preparation into a chance to demonstrate your strategic thinking. You may learn, for example, that an organization has not yet identified diverse markets as new growth opportunities. In the course of your interview, mention that this is something that interests you. Inquire about the company's community outreach programs, thought leadership in the marketplace and where these experiences have led the company. Discuss how you would leverage your experiences to approach and build relationships with potential customers.
If you can expand the creative power of an organization or help it better connect to an emerging market, then you will have an advantage over someone who does not provide that perspective.
Consider a national consumer brand that launched a new product but neglected to test-market it among its very diverse customer base. It turned out that the product actually offended a segment of the population it was targeting, prompting cries of active discrimination. Of course, the company never sought to offend its customers, suffer the threat of boycotts or damage the brand. How could this have played out differently?
Had there been a diverse perspective in the room before production had started, this may never have happened. A simple solution, true. But one that smart organizations are embracing more and more.