I want to take a second to talk about diversity, and specifically how it relates to exclusivity. Diversity is important. In fact, I think it’s one of the most important things we can emphasize about any organization. I’m in an interesting space to discuss diversity because I am both an interviewee for full time jobs and also interviewing applicants into a selective college club.
Diversity is the backbone of inclusion. Diversity is the composition of your organization. It’s socioeconomic background, gender, ability, race, and a myriad of other experiences that shape your identity. Being diverse is an amazing start. In fact, I would wager that a commitment to diversity would benefit the vast majority of companies financially and culturally.
Inclusion goes deeper. Inclusion depends on our ability to make diverse candidates feel comfortable and welcomed in our company/club. Inclusion isn’t just that we are diverse as an organization, but that our membership can feel respected and excel in our industry irrespective of their backgrounds.
When I’m interviewing candidates for our selective college club, I can’t help but remember all the times I was rejected from similar clubs my freshman year. My first job was preparing burgers at a McDonald’s in high-school, yet I had made it into this school with an 8% acceptance rate out of thousands of qualified students. I thought I was at least sort of intelligent.
And then came the rejections.
Not “But then…” And then. Because I took it hard. I cried. But I still thought I was at least sort of intelligent. You can’t take that from me.
And every time I thought to myself “I know it seems like I’m not very good at ______ right now, but given the time and effort I’m sure I could be better at it.”
Insert whatever you want for “_______”. Mental math. Coding. Financial analysis. Political organization.
I’ll say it again: Inclusion isn’t just that you are diverse as an organization, but that your membership can feel respected and excel in your industry irrespective of their backgrounds.
I don’t mean to say that we should never reject applicants. Whether it’s because they are not qualified or because there aren’t enough spots for them, I absolutely understand rejection and believe it’s just part of life. In fact in an earlier blog post I made the point that if you were never rejected, you’ve never truly pushed what you can achieve. I’ve been there myself.
But using rejection percentage as a measure of “eliteness” or “prestige”: that seems narcissistic.
When I was finally accepted into a selective college club my second year, I thought I kind of understood it. “Oh, I’m now better at _______, hence I was accepted. Everyone here must be pretty good at _______, because how else could they get here?”
And over time I put in the work and got even better at ________. And then I realized being good at _________ is difficult, but anyone can be good at it. All you need is a lot of dedication (to learn it) and empathy (to teach it). In fact, for a time I was even paid to do ________, primarily thanks to the fact that someone else who did ________ professionally committed to diversity and inclusion.
So I made sure we became one of the few clubs on campus to overhaul how we recruit. We don’t care how much you know about ________, we want to know you.
- What have you persevered through? (shows resiliency and tells us about their background)
- Did you prepare to discuss the materials we sent you in depth? (shows commitment)
- What do you think makes a good leader? (tells us about empathy)
- Tell us about a time you taught someone else how to do something?
And if you hit the above check points, we want you. We go to bat for you in candidate review. We make sure you know that if it comes down to not having enough capacity (all groups are limited by resources), we want you to reapply. And if you hit the above check points and you’re accepted, we commit to teaching you everything you didn’t know. And more recently, we’re putting in the groundwork to do that for all applicants and students who showed serious effort in their apps or in our events.
Because inclusion relies on diversity, but it’s built brick-by-brick by individuals going out of their way to make you feel welcomed and educated.
Irrespective of your background.