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Want to Hire a Diversity and Inclusion Leader? Answer These Questions First

More and more organizations have chosen to make diversity and inclusion a priority, and even though they may have delayed hiring a D&I leader before, it’s becoming increasingly clear that they can’t put it off any longer. Whether they are responding to “The Great Resignation,” which has empowered untapped talent to leave companies that don’t value them, or consumers who demonstrate how important diversity is to them by voting with their wallet, companies are getting serious about diversity now because it makes good business sense.

“Inclusion is the driver of the business,” said Mita Mallick, Head of Inclusion, Equity, and Impact at Carta, in this week’s “Untapped” podcast. 

As a result, companies may have decided to take the plunge and hire a D&I leader to drive their business in the right direction. But before they do, Mita suggests that the executives consider the answers to the following questions.

3 Questions DEI Leaders Should Ask In An Interview

1. Why Now?

Mita says that first and foremost, an organization’s leaders should think about why they’re interested in hiring a head of diversity and inclusion at this moment. And when they have answered that question for themselves, they need to be transparent about these answers with the people they’re considering for the role.

“Why do you need someone to do this work now? As you are thinking about candidates and talking to candidates, are you in crisis mode? Please be honest with people. We all want to help,” she said. “Are you responding to pressure from the marketplace? Is it something your customers have been asking for? Is it something that you have been thinking about for a while, but you just have never put into play? You have to really answer that question: Why now?”

2. What Are the Requirements for the Role?

Another area companies need to be clear about is what qualities they want in a D&I leader. Mita notes that companies may not necessarily think the answer to this question through, and as a result, they may end up drafting job descriptions that require candidates have 15 to 20 years of D&I experience, even though the field has not been around that long. To remedy any potential ambiguity, the role, as well as the kind of person who should fill it, should be clearly defined. 

“What are the things that you’re looking to do in this role? Be open-minded and inclusive to the job skills and requirements,” Mita said. “We see so many of our peers, industry leaders, who have had backgrounds as operators, they've been in sales, they've been in finance, and they're now coming in to do this work and I think if you want to do this work, you also have to have a strong understanding of how business runs.”

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3. Where Will the D&I Leadership Role Go?

Mita says this question is important because in order for the D&I leader to make a real impact in an organization, they have to have some kind of influence. If this isn’t going to be the case, the company is setting everyone up for failure and its diversity and inclusion goals ultimately won’t be met.

“If you are going to hire for this role, and you are going to bury the role three levels beneath the CHRO and have no access to the executive team or the CEO, please stop searching. Just stop the search because this person has to have influence and has to have access to the C-Suite,” Mita said. “Role modeling matters, it has to go throughout the organization. But if your executive team is not involved in interviewing this person, I would consider that a flag in the process. In my process, I met all the execs; it was open, anyone I wanted to meet. And so you have to approach it in that way.”

To find out more of the questions organizations should consider before hiring a D&I leader, as well as Mita’s opinions on the impact the pandemic has had on underserved talent in the workplace, listen to this week's “Untapped” podcast, where host Tariq Meyers speaks to industry giants about untapped practices for moving D&I work forward.

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