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Conscious Job Seeking: Assessing Employers’ Commitment to DEI

November 16, 2020 | By NACE Staff

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TAGS: best practices, coaching, diversity and inclusion, interviewing, nace insights, student attitudes,

Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

As students become more engaged in racial justice and social impact, they are increasingly conscious of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) during their job search activities.

“Conscious job seeking is searching for employment or contractor opportunities that align with your vision, mission, values, and goals,” explains Chelsea C. Williams, founder and CEO of College Code.

“Your mindset changes from just getting a job to actually seeking an opportunity that aligns with your big picture.”

How can career services practitioners support students as they seek jobs while considering employers’ commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion?

While DEI is not an important value for everyone, for those who believe it matters, it is important to ensure that they are working within a company whose values match theirs. Williams says that a company that truly values DEI:

  • Has made commitments to foster a safe and healthy work environment;
  • Is taking actionable steps to improve representation across all levels and titles;
  • Holds leaders, managers, and employees accountable for actions and behaviors; and
  • Has sought to center equity through all aspects of the employee process—recruitment, training and development, promotions, pay, benefits, and more.

Students can assess this commitment to DEI, in part, by asking potential employers questions that can help students to differentiate between organizations that have taken performative steps in this area and others that are truly committed to advancing DEI and have made progress.   

“Asking questions will often provide students with an understanding of where the company is in their DEI journey,” Williams notes.

“This may range from organizations that are unaware of or have never really thought about DEI to those that are actively taking steps toward DEI and looking to evolve their focus to organizations that have made conscious decisions to center DEI and for which this is not a new focus.”

Williams offers a list of thoughtful questions that career services professionals can suggest their students ask recruiters during interviews or other interactions to assess their organizations’ DEI priority and commitment:

  • How does your organization define diversity? What lenses of diversity has your organization made a direct commitment toward?
  • Does your organization have a chief diversity officer (CDO) or a designated leader to drive DEI and engage internal and external stakeholders? 
  • What social causes does your organization support?
  • Does your organization actively support diverse suppliers, contractors, and small businesses?
  • Has your organization made any formal commitments in support of racial equity?
  • How does your organization center diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging?
  • Does your organization offer any formal employee training around biases, anti-racism, or general DEI?
  • How has your organization prioritized executive accountability toward DEI advancement?
  • Does your organization have any affinity groups or committees to support diverse populations? If so, how do these groups contribute to the culture of the organization?
  • Does your organization complete annual compensation equity analysis?
  • What resources has your organization provided to its employees in support of COVID-19 and racial injustices?

The answers students receive could help them make a decision about which employers to pursue employment with and those with which, perhaps, to end the recruiting process because their values do not align.

“[Students] should be looking for authenticity and progress,” Williams explains.

“An organization may not check of all their boxes around DEI, but maybe it has made the commitment to do and be better. That's wonderful!”

She recommends several others ways career centers can support students looking to engage in conscious job seeking around DEI.

“They can embed this conversation about conscious job seeking into their annual programming and/or include a DEI-related question in panels with employers,” Williams suggests.

“Hosting a roundtable or workshop for students that dives into this topic and provides practical examples could also be very helpful.”