Are You the “Diversity Hire” or Are They Using Diversity Hiring?

Have you ever walked into a meeting and noticed you were the only minority individual there? There is a huge difference between being a diversity hire and a recruiter practicing diversity hiring. Yet, it can be hard for any candidate to tell if a company truly advocates for DEI before accepting an offer letter. In this article, we’re going to explore the misconceptions around diversity hiring and how you can avoid being a diversity hire.

What is a Diversity Hire?

A diversity hire is an individual who is hired to make a workplace appear more diverse. No hiring manager writes a job description based on personal identifiers like age, race, ethnicity, etc. Open positions are open because the company lacks a particular skill set, and hiring someone who does not fulfill it is costly. 

However, that does not mean organizations do not consider who makes up their company culture. Being the only one from a specific background could be the start of their diversity hiring process, or the first of many red flags to come.

Why the Term “Diversity Hire” Needs to Go


The term “diversity hire” is commonly associated with negative comments, connotations, and more. Below are a handful of reasons that illustrate why it is an outdated and harmful label for new hires: 

Tokenizing 

The word diversity hire separates the individual from their profession. It emphasizes their personal identifiers over their accomplishments, experiences, and anything else that actually pertains to the job they were hired for. Plus, if companies promote their new hire as a diversity hire, it can be tokenizing.

Tokenizing is when someone is used as the representative of inclusion or to comply with diversity regulations to avoid scrutiny. The individual is expected to be the educator and speak on behalf of all the people they represent. Some examples include being referred to by their background first, “the Black HR representative,” or asking them to present on a topic pertaining to their culture, ethnicity, race, gender, etc., rather than their industry expertise. 

Culture Fit vs Culture Add

Culture fit is a common term used in the hiring process that has slowly declined in use over time. Instead of developing a workplace environment that supports a wide variety of personalities, interests, values, etc., culture fit encourages all new hires to be the same type of person with the same values as the company. 

Thus, if an individual is a diversity hire, it will be all that more obvious they are not a part of the company culture. They will have very little in common with their colleagues and may feel they need to change who they are to access the same opportunities as their peers. Whereas culture add instills a growth mindset where varying perspectives and ideas are valued. 

Psychological Safety 

A question of psychological safety also arises when someone is labeled as a diversity hire. It is not uncommon for minority individuals to be belittled because of their identity. Here are a few examples taken from real-world experiences of the ill-mannered comments associated with diversity hires:

“The only reason you were hired is because you are a ____.” 

“They were looking to hire more _____ people.” 

“You helped us hit our diversity quote for the quarter.” 

For more examples, read this article by Sonia Thompson, Inclusive Marketing Strategist and Consultant, who writes about her personal experiences of being a diversity hire. 

What is Diversity Hiring?

Diversity Hiring is a recruitment strategy based on merit. It ensures that any open position is accessible to a variety of candidates and reduces as much bias as possible in the recruitment procedures. 

A common misconception about diversity hiring is that it unfairly favors minority candidates due to their identity and not their qualifications. The goal of diversity hiring is not to favor one type of person over another but to ensure every candidate, no matter their identity, has the same chances of obtaining the position. 

Common Diversity Recruitment Tactics

  • The company reaches out to multiple sources for their candidates
  • The job descriptions include an equal employment opportunity statement 
  • The company partners or participates in diversity based initiatives
  • The company mandates unconscious bias training and more at all levels
  • The HR leaders and recruiters implemented advice from ERGs

6 Interview Questions to Ask About a Company’s Diversity Hiring Strategy 

As a job seeker, it can be difficult to discern the real intentions behind a company’s hiring strategy. To help understand their decision making process a bit more, here are a few interview questions you can ask about their diversity hiring strategy:

  • Can you share a breakdown of the company’s DEI metrics?
  • What ways has [Company Name] recently upheld their DEI mission? 
  • What about me piqued your interest as a prospective hire? 
  • How do you combat unconscious bias in your hiring process? 
  • How does [Company Name] make sure that employees have equal opportunities?
  • If you could describe your company culture in three words, what would they be?

What to Do if You are the Diverse Hire

If you find you are a diverse hire, there are a few things to remember as you navigate this new corporate space. 

Other’s Bias Isn’t Your Responsibility 

The most vital thing to remember is that you are not responsible for managing the bias of others and/or the business. Too often, minority individuals find themselves educating others. There is a difference between curiosity and tokenizing. Ensure you share a part of your identity to celebrate and support diverse experiences, not to pass them off as inclusive.  

No Business Would Hire Someone Unqualified 

Remember that every year of experience, certification, degree, skill, and more helped you to obtain this job. While who you are is an important aspect of your work-life balance, it is not the determining factor. It is far too expensive for an organization to hire someone who does not benefit their bottom line at all. 

Find Support from Your Network 

Any discrimination should be brought to the attention of your HR team. However, communicating with those who have no ill will but are ignorant to the effects of labeling someone a diverse hire is another story. Those in your network, ERG groups, and mentors are available to you for support. Learning from another’s lived experiences is a great way to navigate tricky situations.

Apply to Elsewhere

If the company you work for fundamentally misaligns with your values and mistreats you, then it is time to apply elsewhere. Belonging is the key to a happy and healthy workplace. Even if they were your dream company, it is better to be your authentic self, then be subjugated to daily microaggressions. 

Here are 10 vital signs that it is time to start looking for a new job

It is essential to recognize that diversity hiring should promote inclusion, equity, and the genuine representation of underrepresented groups in the workplace. Whether you are a diverse hire or suspect that diversity hiring practices might be at play, it’s crucial to engage in open and constructive conversations with your employer or HR department to ensure that diversity initiatives are meaningful and effective. 

Looking for DEI Dedicated Companies to Work at?

Professional Diversity Network connects job seekers across the nation to find companies that truly value DEI. We have an extensive list of open positions across industries on our website. Plus, iPDN expert compliance and auditing team provides organizations with customized services to ensure they meet the OFCCP and EEO regulations. Find your next job at a dream company today!

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