3 Ways to Test for Racial Equity & Inclusion Competency

Whether you call it cultural competence, cultural humility, wokeness, or simply “getting it,” the ability to understand and navigate issues of identity, power, and privilege is often a crucial skill that can make or break a person’s effectiveness. While assessing this skill may not be as straightforward as, say, gauging someone’s public speaking chops or Excel wizardry, you can and should still test for it in your hiring process. Below are three simple ways to do it!

1. Probe for past experiences and lessons learned. Past behavior is the best predictor for future behavior (which is why some of us will probably never exercise in the morning, despite many a new year’s resolution), so prompt the candidate to tell stories about their experiences and takeaways.

Here are two questions (and follow-ups!) you can ask:

  • To what extent has pursuing racial or other types of equity and inclusion been a priority in your work, and how did you approach it?
    • Why was this important to you?
    • What were some of your core challenges?
    • What have you learned from these experiences?
  • Can you talk about a time you navigated tricky dynamics around race or other identities in your work? What did you do?
    • What do you think were the root causes of those dynamics?
    • What were some of your core challenges?
    • What lessons did you learn?

2. Use scenarios and simulations to see your candidate in action and observe their ability to spot and manage complex issues of identity. Give them a chance to complete an exercise that’s similar to what they’d be doing on the job, and include an equity and inclusion component.

Below are two examples:

  • For a communications role: “Here’s a recent newsletter we sent to our list. There’s not too much explicitly about racial or gender diversity here. How would you make that better?”
  • For a technology manager position: “Through our various programs, we serve people of many different ages, backgrounds and experiences, and our staff and interns reflect this diversity. Given this, how would you approach training and supporting our staff in meeting their technology needs?”

3. Weave in opportunities for your candidate to demonstrate their competence throughout the process. Testing someone’s ability to navigate issues of equity and identity shouldn’t just be relegated to an “equity section” of your interview process. It should be abundant and integrated throughout, like cantaloupe in a Costco fruit salad. Here are two ways to weave it in:

  • Get your candidate to demonstrate their understanding in the context of other topics by asking specific follow-up questions, like:
    • How did you account for racial equity and inclusion when you were setting recruitment goals for your team?
    • Do you think there were any differences in race/gender/other identities that influenced how that conflict played out?
  • Have them interact with a cross-section of your team that is diverse both in role and across identities. Then observe and ask for feedback from those people, with an eye for patterns or discrepancies.

Ultimately, seeing is believing, and you should see your candidates in actionby “looking” at past and present behavioras much as possible during the hiring process. If proficiency at spotting and addressing issues of race and identity are must-haves for the role, make sure they get plenty of chances to demonstrate this skill. Happy hiring!