Inclusive recruitment is a two-way interaction in which you are putting out a signal that allows diverse individuals to recognize that an opportunity calls for them. It also means holding your commitment to eliminate the hurdles that prevent qualified candidates from being hired into your organization.
The clear signal of inclusion must remain strong throughout a talent prospect’s journey. It must be strong enough to draw diverse individuals in (and not actively turn them away), it must continue through the interviewing process and it must be embedded in the organizational culture that candidates are envisioning joining, even after they have done so.
Engaging with diverse talent for open positions
Acquisition of talent from diverse pools requires both widening how you source your candidate pool and focusing precisely towards overlooked spaces.
Building a sense of belonging begins by understanding how different individuals experience your job ads: whether they can envision themselves in the position and your organization. Inadvertently, you are likely writing talented individuals from underrepresented backgrounds out of the picture for the wrong habitual reasons.
In order to attract diverse talent, make sure your language is inclusive - and it’s not always obvious what excludes. For example, the word “stakeholders” can signal to people of color that their contributions may not be valued. Textio research has shown the average job ad contains twice as many ‘masculine’ phrases as ‘feminine’ phrases, affecting who applies. For one Australian software company, rewording contributed to an 80% increase in female tech hires across two years. Making language more gender-inclusive can be as subtle as replacing “manage” with “develop,” “driving” with “guiding,” “building” with “creating,” and “decisions” with “choices.”
Also, ask: Does your job description read as dense and complicated or light and clear to attract greater interest from the people who qualified? Are you describing subjective qualities of an individual or objective criteria of a role? Are you including only the criteria that are must-haves and key tasks? (Women tend to apply only when they feel they meet 100% of criteria). Are you showing people that inclusion is a core value?
When it comes to the candidate pool, if you do not change where you search, you cannot anticipate finding new types of candidates. Broaden your recruitment search. Recruit at schools with more diverse student bodies, attend campus diversity events and send individuals who reflect the diversity you want to attract. Consider adding value such as offering a workshop on interview coaching. Seek out candidates from similar industries with transferable skills. Post in new sites and communities where you can reach a more diverse audience. Attain candidate referrals from your ERGS or external networking associations for diverse individuals.
Also, focus on overlooked spaces for diverse talent acquisition. Among underemployed talent such as neurodiverse individuals or people with disabilities, work with external partners who specialize in assessing this talent to reach them. For inclusive recruitment at entry level, begin an internship program with diverse students, through organizations like SEO. At mid-level and senior-levels, recruit from overlooked segments such as women who are returning to work or have resume gaps and are upskilling - hiring in experienced women can effectively diversify your talent pipeline.
Discerning and mitigating bias in the selection process
At the candidate selection hurdle of inclusive recruitment, use blind resumes to take out bias related to names and education. Look for transferrable skills that match job qualifications rather than a prescribed career trajectory.
Having one candidate from a diverse background on a slate precludes your chances at hiring them, so make sure your candidate slate is truly diverse. Research has demonstrated that having a candidate slate with one woman or underrepresented individual gives them zero chance of being hired. But if there are two women, the odds are 79 times greater, and if two from an underrepresented group, 194 times greater. Put in place measurable hiring metrics at each level and principles for inclusive candidate slates.
Implicit bias is both rapid and rife in the face-to-face interview process and works against diverse talent acquisition. Interviewing is one place where gut feel is dangerous - as it favors trigger-fast judgments and affinity bias towards people we’re comfortable with and a reliance on factors that have nothing to do with being a match for the position.
So instead of unstructured interviews that amplify bias, conduct structured interviews with preset questions focused on pre-identified objective criteria for job effectiveness. Behavioral-based interviewing asks for anecdotal evidence that demonstrates that a candidate possesses the behavioral competencies to do the job, without prescribing the context in which the candidate has demonstrated them. In the same vein, use work sample tests that mimic the skills required on the job, assess abilities in a comparable way and are better linked to job performance than organic interviews. Create a hiring matrix against which candidates can be scored on job-related criteria only.
To diversify your hiring, also diversify your hiring teams to include representation of different groups as well as various functions, so that candidates are evaluated through a range of perspectives. Even better, ensure those perspectives are bounced off of each other to challenge bias after individual evaluations are made. Recruiters and interviewers should have comprehensive bias training to understand how their bias influences decision-making and the reasons to mitigate it. For inclusive recruitment that embraces difference, prioritize “culture add” over “culture fit.”
And when candidates from minority backgrounds drop out of your selection process, ask for feedback to get the qualitative data that may reveal hurdles you have overlooked in your recruitment process.
Making your organization more attractive to underrepresented candidates
80% of people consider inclusion to be an important factor when choosing an employer. Are you creating and effectively projecting an inclusive culture which diverse candidates are compelled by and attracted to join?
Take stock of your organization’s “diversity brand equity.” Are you visibly, credibly and tangibly signaling that your organization prioritizes inclusion for all people? Audit every touchpoint through which talent prospects may be interacting with your organization for an honest assessment of who is being excluded in your language and imagery. Integrate authentic cues to minority candidates that communicate they can be successful and experience equal opportunity within your organization. If your organization values inclusion, be declarative and demonstrate it.
Make sure that your talent pipeline gives evidence of strong development potential. The more visible diversity is in your management and leadership, the more diverse hires can envision their own career developing with you. Focus on early promotions (first five years), which are most influential in later advancement. Leverage ERGS as platforms for input and visibility. Establish formal mentorship and sponsorship programs to more equitably advance diverse talent.
To signal inclusivity, reflect inclusion in your work policies and benefits in ways relevant to underrepresented candidates. Provide the workplace flexibility that is more important to these groups. Offer benefits and rewards that reflect inclusion, such as childcare leave for all parental experiences. Be transparent around historically biased factors such as pay and career development.
Don’t take inclusion for diverse hires for granted once they’re in the door. In the first critical 90 days, provide inclusive onboarding to invite in, support, and connect new hires. Conduct one-on-one check-ins with new hires to help identify struggles before they become reasons to leave. Also, make sure that DEI is a value that is tangibly communicated and actioned throughout your organization. Conduct diversity training with highly effective approaches such as perspective-taking (to elevate empathy) and goal-setting (to elevate ownership). Attain and publish diversity data that reflects where you are, highlights where you’ve grown and lays out where you want to go.
Take out the mystery around what’s working and what’s not when it comes to inclusive recruitment. Collect the DEI data and metrics that help to identify problem areas, create targeted strategies and measure impact.
All in all, the secret to inclusive recruitment is being real and consistent in your signals of inclusion to diverse talent, so they can recognize themselves in the call.