Skills for Success

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion March 06, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Skills For Success
As Extension strives to meet the needs of an ever-increasingly diverse society, it must do so by recruiting, hiring and retaining staff that possess the attitude, competencies and qualities that enable them to effectively work across differences. They must have the needed skills for success. As a result, well-thought out recruitment, hiring and retention strategies that attract, support and sustain individuals with a mature diversity lens are a critical component of creating an environment that supports and promotes pluralism and diversity1.

Today, most job postings and descriptions clearly identify the ability to show respect for differences in backgrounds, lifestyles, viewpoints, and needs in reference to areas such as ethnicity, race, gender, creed, and sexual orientation as being essential to the position and the organization. While articulating these as desirable qualities and behaviors is an important first step in recruitment, the challenge often arises in assessing the level of skill and competency during the screening and interview process.

The accompanying materials, Skills for Success©, developed by the Office of Human Resources at Cornell University, can serve a template for developing recruitment materials and interviewing questions that result in attracting and hiring individuals that bring a diverse perspective and are supportive of diversity. Skills for Success©, consist of the following materials:


Staff Skills for Success (pdf) - A broad overview of the skills essential for individual and organizational success and examples of demonstrated behaviors in these areas

Interviewing Candidates for Skills for Success (Short Version - pdf) - A short version of interview questions that address the skill areas

Interviewing Candidates for Skills for Success (Long Version - pdf) - A longer version of targeted interview questions that probe the breadth and depth of candidate’s skill level.

Characteristics of Performance Levels - pdf - A matrix that outlines a continuum of the characteristics of individual performance levels in the skill areas identified.

Staff Performance Dialogue Form (pdf) - A standard form to be used as a tool for conducting employee review, staff development and performance improvement discussions.

Each skill area identified in Skills for Success©, can lend itself to diversity and pluralism. The skills, behaviors and interview questions under the heading of inclusiveness specifically and intentionally address and provide a language for articulating desired diversity competencies in recruitment and a process for assessing them in hiring.

In addition to addressing the areas of recruitment and hiring, Skills for Success©, also provides resources for the ongoing support, development and retention of staff. As with other competencies, there is a need for ongoing assessment and development on inclusiveness. The Staff Performance Dialogue Form and the Characteristics of Performance Levels can serve as tools for creating organizational expectations around diversity and pluralism, as well as a means for supporting staff in assessing their skill level and identifying ongoing professional development needs in this area.

For additional information and case studies on Cornell Cooperative Extension’s efforts on staffing for diversity check out: http://www.joe.org/joe/1998february/a1.html

By Eduardo González, Jr., Diversity Specialist, Cornell Migrant Program


1The concepts of “diversity” and “pluralism” as defined in Pathway to Diversity: Strategic Plan for the Cooperative Extension System’s Emphasis on Diversity (1991) are: Diversity is differences among people with respect to age, class, ethnicity, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, spiritual practice, and other human attributes. Pluralism is an organizational culture that incorporates mutual respect, acceptance, teamwork, and productivity among people who are diverse in the dimensions of human differences listed above as diversity.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.