Diversity in the workplace. Another buzzword of the 21st century. Corporations have no choice though. They have to promote diversity in the workplace, and advertise it as one of their core values. If they decided against the common practice, they would be accused of discrimination in a flash. And their stock would lose value… But what does it actually mean, to have a diverse team of employees? And how do you perceive such a working environment? Can you thrive in it, or will you struggle?

In my opinion, this interview question does not make much sense. But that’s the case with many interview questions. You should still prepare for it, having something to say, ideally praising diversity–because that’s what they expect from you, especially in a big corporation. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question. I include both conventional and creative answers in my list.

Do not forget to read my notes below the answers as well. There I point out a couple of things you should keep on your mind when talking about diversity in an interview.

 

7 sample answers to “What does diversity mean to you?” interview question

  1. An enriching experience. An opportunity to benefit from a variety of viewpoints of people from a variety of backgrounds–educational, cultural, religious. I have experience working in a diverse team. And I must say that I grew both as a manager and as a human being in such an environment. Hope to repeat it in your company.
  2. More than anything else, it means to me an opportunity to learn. I want to assure you that I have no prejudice against people of different color, gender, or religion. On the contrary, I try to understand their perspective of life, their values, and learn something from them. And even if I disagree with something, I always respect that someone else can have a different opinion on this or that issue. At the end of the day, we live in a vast and diverse world. Unless we want to live in a constant conflict, we have to learn to accept the diversity of opinions. In the workplace, in the streets, in the politics. I can assure you that I have no problem with it.
  3. Diversity is to me something we cannot really avoid. Look, I’ve been working as a manager for a long time. And I can tell you from experience that in many instances, uniform teams can deliver better results than diverse teams–simply because people share common values and beliefs, and find it easier to cooperate with the same “blood group”. This is no secret to anyone who has managed both uniform and diverse teams. Having said that, I am not naive, and I realize that it is almost impossible to have such teams in today’s workplace. Yet as a manager I try to focus on what people in my team have in common–and it can be the goal we pursue as a team, something that unifies us, regardless of the differences. At the same time I try to avoid talking about sensitive topics, such as religion or politics. As I’ve already said, one cannot really avoid diversity in the 21st century, and I am definitely ready to lead a diverse team here.
  4. I try to look at it more from a formal point of view. Diversity simply means that people from all walks of life and all sorts of background (education, cultural, religious) meet and interact in the workplace. It can be an enriching experience at times, but it can also be a challenge. I witnesses in my last workplace how people formed small informal groups and led pointless internal conflicts within the departments. It had a negative impact on the productivity of everyone in the company… The message I try to convey here is that nothing is only black or white. Diversity can bring a lot of good things to the company, but it can also pose some challenges, both for the managers and for the employees in a diverse team. At least that’s the way I see it, and I am ready to face such challenges.
  5. In my opinion, diversity is an overrated concept. Sure, we have diverse teams in corporations, but we also have a working culture, dress code, rules and policies. Everyone has to stick to them, regardless of their religion, skin color, or anything else. What I’ve observed in the last few years, both in the corporate world and during my travels, is that globalization is slowly but certainly killing diversity. You have the same restaurants everywhere, radio plays the same music, and even in the corporations–most people are indoctrinated and follow the generally accepted code of conduct. There are no surprises anymore really… I find it quite sad, because when I was younger , I enjoyed the diversity of the world. Now, however, it is a mere concept, a buzzword, and it has very little to do with the actual situation in the corporations, or in the cities around different continents.
  6. More than anything else, it is something I would like to experience first hand. You see, I come from a strongly catholic background. Been raised with love, always hanged around with folks who had the same beliefs and values, went to a catholic school, church every Sunday, assisted at the service–you name it. And I honestly feel that my perspective of the world is rather narrow-minded. I crave meeting people who don’t share my set of values and experiences. I may find it hard at the start, but I also think it can be an eye-opening experience. If nothing else, I can learn to respect the others better than I do now, because let’s face it–we live in a diverse world. I cannot stay in my small catholic bubble for a lifetime…
  7. It means a challenge to me. The challenge we face, not only in the workplace, but in the entire world. Just look at America. The society is extremely polarized. People either love something or they hate it–and I do not talk only about politics. Extremism is on the rise all around the world, and many people are killed daily, just because they believe in a certain God or concept. We live in a diverse world, and I find it challenging. Can we find a way how to peacefully coexist on this beautiful planet? Or will we always compete and fight for some abstract ideals, leaving nothing but death and sorrow behind? That’s not an easy one to answer… and that’s why diversity means a challenge to me.

 

Think out loud, explain your thought process

Whatever you say about diversity (calling it a blessing, a challenge, something you miss, or something you hope to avoid), the most important thing is to explain your reasoning. There’s nothing like a generally bad answer to the question–unless you say that you cannot tolerate people of other color or faith. That would certainly cost you your chances in the interview.

Every skilled manager knows that diversity poses some challenges. And if you have an experience working in a team where diversity caused more harm than good, it is okay to say so. You just have to explain your reasoning, your experiences, and how you came to your conclusions.

* Special Tip: This isn’t the only tricky question you will face while interviewing for any decent corporate job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, ambiguity, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!

Do not be afraid of a philosophical answer

Creative thinking and innovation is highly valued in many corporations. Do not be afraid to challenge the status quo, and look at diversity from a different angle. You may talk about an extremely polarized society (see my answer no. 7), or even of your own narrow-mindedness (see sample answer no. 6), or even about how globalization is slowly (but surely) killing diversity around the world (check answer no .5 on my list).

Job interview in a big corporation is almost always a competitive affair. If you opt for a safe option–saying things everybody else says–praising diversity and embracing it, you can be sure that you won’t lose your chances to succeed in the interviews. However, you also won’t stand out with your answer. At times, especially when you cannot stand out with your education or experience, you have to take some risks, trying to stand out with your answers.

Sure enough, it may not always work. But being the average one when twenty other people compete with you for a single vacancy won’t bring you much success either… Think about your chances realistically, and choose your answer accordingly. I hope you will manage to do so, and wish you best of luck in the interviews!

Matthew

Ready to answer this one? Great! Check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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