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I interviewed in a UK technical company for a developer position and was offered the position. I decided to turn down their offer for another that I feel I will be a better fit and am now writing my reply to their job offer. While my experience was overall quite positive, there was something odd about that department/company: I interviewed with and worked for other companies that were much more diverse. Pretty much everyone I interacted with during my interview/visit was a white British male (I am too). For instance while the development team was fairly large (15+ people) I did not see a single black, Indian or East Asian developer, which I think is unusual for the UK. In the side of the office I was sitting I also spotted only one woman among approximately 30 men.

Maybe it is just me and such random fluctuations can happen but should I mention the apparent lack of diversity in my reply? It did not make a difference for my decision but I did think of this as noteworthy. I definitely do not want to offend them and I have no reason to believe they consciously exclude non-white or female candidates.

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    Note: my gut reaction on seeing this question was to downvote, question OP's judgement and move on. But these are precisely the kind of questions we want on this site. Many people might wonder if they should give feedback like this to a hiring manager and may not stop to think about the possible damage it could do to their reputation or career. I think it's good of the OP to ask this and it's a valuable question to have on the site. – Lilienthal Jul 23 '16 at 11:03
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Jul 25 '16 at 12:56
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    If you feel that way, just post an anonymous comment on Glassdoor, and give just enough details to make your review genuine. – Stephan Branczyk Jul 27 '16 at 16:32
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Should I mention a company's apparent lack of diversity when rejecting their offer?

Noooooo. No. Just no.

You have nothing to gain and a lot to lose. While you may think that it would be a kind thing to point out that a company or department appears to lack diversity, there's just no way to phrase this that isn't going to come across negatively. You're going to put the hiring manager on the defensive and the subtext he'll read is that you just called them racist. Your comments are coming from a place of kindness ("Hey, your department seems to lack diversity and that may cause appearance problems or make it difficult for you to hire good candidates.") but even reasonable people may jump to conclusions and misjudge your motives ("I think you're all a bunch of testosterone-fueled racists.").

Since they made you an offer you won't come across as someone with an axe to grind but they may still mark you as a loon for giving this kind of unsolicited feedback. That may get you blacklisted from their company in the future and it may become a black mark on your reputation. That may follow you around and you never know when you might encounter people again. It would be very easy for you to apply at a company in a decade's time and run into someone from that company who only remembers you as "the guy who called us all racists".

Now I may be jumping to conclusions myself. It's entirely possible that you can drop this information in your rejection email with the message being understood in the way you intended it. But that's a best case scenario and people often read more into messages like this, especially when the message is one of rejection. Because this could have a real impact on your reputation or career and you have nothing to gain, it's best to simply not mention it. Stick with a generic rejection mail.

Alison Green from Ask a Manager covered a similar topic with a candidate giving feedback to the hiring company. In that case it was about rude interviewers, but what applies here as well is her advice on whether it's appropriate to let the company know about a bad impression they made:

It pains me to say this, because if I were in charge over there, this is exactly the kind of thing I’d want to hear about. But you have no idea if they’re reasonable people or not [...], and there’s not really any incentive for you to go out on that limb. It’s not your responsibility to fix their hiring processes, and certainly not when it means risk to yourself. So I have to reluctantly, regretfully, mournfully say no.

She goes on to recommend that a candidate could give this kind of feedback if the hiring company or manager reaches out again to "debrief". But that's something you'd typically only do if the person you're talking to expressed an interest in improving his company's hiring process by inquiring after both the positives and negatives you experienced.

  • Thank you. As mentioned in the chat, I had second thoughts about posting it as a question to begin with and I wanted a second opinion. – OceanicDrive Jul 23 '16 at 11:08
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    @OceanicDrive No problem, as I said it's a good question for the site. Do keep in mind that we encourage you to wait one or two days before accepting an answer on StackExchange sites. Questions with accepted answers are less likely to get new answers and I think yours would benefit from additional points of view. You can untick or move the acceptance mark at any time. – Lilienthal Jul 23 '16 at 11:27
  • I think it is good as it stands. Thank you for you proposing though. :) – OceanicDrive Jul 23 '16 at 12:40
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    While the most reasonable answer, it is actually quite sad; it means that we have a lose-lose situation where it is impossible to exchange information without risking to offend someone. But the angry answer below proves your point succinctly. – Thorsten S. Jul 23 '16 at 23:32
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    I see another question coming: "Dear workplace, we think our company is not diverse enough, so we try hiring candidates from all kinds of minorities but they reject our job offers because we are not diverse enough. What should we do? " – gnasher729 Jul 24 '16 at 16:27
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While I indeed think Lilienthal's answer is quite good and exactly what the OP should do, I want to give a different perspective on the issue and highlight a few points:

  1. Should you [The OP] say anything in your letter declining the offer concerning diversity? No. As already pointed out, this can only hurt you (your reputation, networking potential, career, etc.).
  2. How much information did you [The OP] have to make the assessments of the company? There is a Greek word called "Scotoma" (psychology definition) which perhaps explains this. You saw what you wanted to see and made conclusions based off that information. However, consider if you had asked all of the employees in that particular office about their backgrounds (schools attended, educational background, family, friends, religion, politics, nationality, heritage, experiences, interests, career choices, culture, values, etc.)? You might be surprised by the answers to these questions.
  3. Did you [The OP] see the full picture? A large part of who works in a office is determined by geography and demographics. Most companies have many offices in different cities, states/provinces, countries, etc. and depending on where the office's geography is, the type of people working there will come from that geography's surrounding demographics.

    Some examples include Chinatown in New York, USA, as it has a prominent Asian American demographic. Businesses around that area will have likely hired Asian Americans to fulfill positions. Harlem, in New York as well, has a strong African American population thus the same result. Detroit in Michigan, USA has the same result as well. Utah in the USA has the strongest concentration of Mormans in the whole US thus most businesses and their employees are likely to be practicing Mormans. Little Italy in New York has a strong Italian demographic. And so on and so forth.

Even though you probably did not see any Asians, Africans, Indians, Muslims, Americans, Italians, Latinos, etc. in that office, does not necessarily mean that the company is not diverse, but perhaps the location of the office is just not prominent for those demographics. Statistically, women are less likely to be interested in software development compared to men, however, that does not correlate with the company being sexist. It just did not have many or any female candidates for positions offered, most likely.

Considering all of these points, I do not think the company is any less diverse than any other company.

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    "Considering all of these points, I do not think the company is any less diverse than any other company." Well, I think perhaps a more correct conclusion is that we (and probably also the OP) don't have enough information to conclude one way or the other. – reirab Jul 23 '16 at 20:53
  • @reirab Correct. That's a better way to phrase it. Though in all likelihood I strenuously doubt a company is "anti-diverse" due to laws (at least in the US i.e. EEO). I give the company the benefit of the doubt due to the fact that is is incorrect to presume guilt over innocence. – B1313 Jul 23 '16 at 20:59
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    As a random aside, we have been actively looking to expand our development team. I have reviewed about 200 resumes for 3 different positions on my team and not a single one of the applicants has been female. When we hire 3 men from the applicant pool that contains zero women, will that make us sexist? – K. Alan Bates Jul 27 '16 at 14:52
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    @K.AlanBates How are you getting those resumes? Some companies almost exclusively hire by referral, which tends toward homogeneous teams. What are your job ads like? Do you work with a hiring agency that might have biased recruiters? – Andrew Piliser Jul 27 '16 at 17:57
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    @B1313 As I said, the comment was an aside and the ultimate question was rhetorical. My comment relates to your point about localized demographics and was intended to draw attention to the notion that you can't choose a qualified "minority" candidate from an applicant pool having no minorities. – K. Alan Bates Aug 1 '16 at 12:23
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+200

Should you? Not using your name.

But I might, if I thought I could make it anonymous and if I thought they'd listen. The problem is that biases are implicit. Most people don't mean to not hire anyone but a certain kind of person, or to make people different than they are unwelcome, or to exclude them. They don't even know they're doing it most of the time, until someone points out something like what you noticed. And when it is pointed out, they can hide behind excuses that try to shift the blame to someone else, usually the kind of people who aren't employed there. It's a lot easier to say everyone who doesn't work there isn't good enough than it is to ask why a whole group of people aren't good enough.

For the obvious reasons, people don't like you for pointing out their biases. If you're on the job hunt, you have good reasons not to say anything. And as other answers have mentioned, it's not your job to fix their hiring practices. But you've observed something that troubles you, and it goes toward the fact that a work place is more than just a place at which you perform work.

Work places have cultures, by which I mean they have expectations, practices, ethics, and rules which are specific to that work place and the people in it. It's those invisible rules that dictate who succeeds in a situation, far more than their individual skills.

The only way to see those rules is to look at something they effect, like who tends to get hired and how long they stay. The rule of thumb here is that if whole groups of people aren't there and/or leave after a short period of time, there's something wrong. Unfortunately, people often stop paying attention when they find something else to blame it on and the cause could be many things, so it can be really challenging to put your finger on why.

Let me put it to you this way: sure, a company full of people who look alike could be a coincidence. It just usually isn't, as any number of studies on bias can tell you.

Think of this as a learning experience--if what you observe during interviews makes you uncomfortable, you've learned the kind of company you don't want to work for and what you're willing to put up with in an employer. Whether or not you have an ethical duty to say something--you'll have to figure that out on your own. My advice would be to be very careful commenting.

But I want to encourage you to take the culture of a work place seriously as you look for a job, as much as you can. A work place with a culture that is uncomfortable for you has a powerful impact on your ability to get work done in it. Trust me, if you're not welcome in a work place, Murphy's law about things going wrong applies at least three times as much as it should: if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. Daily. With fireworks and a three ring circus.

You may not have the luxury of paying attention to all this, but it is something to keep in mind during the job search: the invisible rules matter a lot more than people think they do. And people often put on their best face during an interview.

No situation or work place will be perfect. But if your instincts are telling you there's something there, it's worth paying attention to them--if for no other reason than because it could be a sign that you would not fit in.

  • Welcome to the site wormwood and thanks for submitting an answer. I think you've made some excellent points here but I think your post could be further improved by clarifying your opening phrases (which are unclear to me), reducing the number of paragraphs and, if possible, bolding some key points. – Lilienthal Jul 26 '16 at 18:48
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    I will try. I'm accustomed to writing long, so fingers crossed. – wormwood Jul 26 '16 at 18:58
  • It's fine to write long (and I appreciate your style), but I think the repeated paragraph breaks make it more difficult to read than it has to be. – Lilienthal Jul 26 '16 at 19:52
  • Thanks for making the edits and for writing a great answer. – Lilienthal Jul 26 '16 at 20:12
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You wouldn't be in that company either way:

  • At the moment, you do not want to be there for lack of diversity of their employees.
  • If they were more diverse, you wouldn't be diverse enough from their existing employees to be of interest to them.

should I mention the apparent lack of diversity in my reply?

Should they respond that in order to increase diversity they cannot employ you? Another British male?

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    This company just can not win this situation. If they hire a white male, they are being jerks. If they say they are hiring anyone except white males, they are jerks. I feel bad for em. Maybe should only hire women, because an office full of women works perfectly. – Dan Shaffer Jul 27 '16 at 19:11
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I would like to dissent strongly with the other answers here. If you do let the company know that you're choosing another opportunity based primarily on their lack of diversity, you will be doing a big favor to the entire industry. People of the white male persuasion often assume that their paleness doesn't show to others. They're wrong. But they also mostly assume that other pale men will feel comfortable with that, that what they're doing is the natural order of things. It's very good when they find out that they're wrong about that too.

In my experience, the most effective motor of change is for the dominant group to be called out by one of its own members. They cannot discount that as easily as they do one of the outsiders. You have a unique opportunity here, please make the most of it. Politely of course, but firmly, not like you're trying to negotiate a better offer or something, just tell them plainly.

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NO.

It is not your responsibility to police adherence to diversity hiring practices.

It strikes me as worrying that you only saw a snapshot of the employees at that particular location at that time and go on making such accusations right away.

If you've been discriminated against during hiring it is your right, even duty to complain.

Other than that why would you conclude such a subjective observation to a) be accurate and b) you were entitled to criticise a prospective employer about this without further research ?

In many jobs, due to the nature of the work, student interests in that profession, workforce availability and other factors, a non-diverse workplace may be unavoidable.

Your colleagues race, age or gender doesn't even matter.

Anything else is racist,agist or sexist in my book.

If you're a member of a minority and feel uncomfortable without negativity coming from your peers, I submit that maybe you ought to critically review how you see yourself or your colleagues.

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Politely say exactly what you said in your first sentence:   that you have decided to accept another position that you feel would be a better fit for you. "Period."

Thank them, politely, for extending you the opportunity.

Say nothing more.

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