4 ways to drive diversity in recruitment
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is one of the hottest topics in human resources today and perhaps one of the most complex. As many workplaces are finding, meeting DE&I goals isn’t easy, and progress is slow. In one study, only 43% of HR leaders said their hiring practices supported their diversity goals in 2021.1
That’s why, in tackling such a broad area as DE&I, now may be a good time to revisit the basics.
The goal of any DE&I initiative is to create a workplace that is inclusive for everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, or other attributes, as well as personal characteristics like education, life experiences, and political views. One of the best ways employers can advance their DE&I goals is to be proactive about finding diverse candidates who will bring their unique experiences, perspectives, and ideas to the table.2
What can get lost in the conversation is that diversity recruiting is still (or should be) merit-based recruitment. It aims to find the best possible candidates, but is structured to be free from bias and to give all applicants an equal opportunity.3 In other words, when casting the net, employers must ensure they’re not unintentionally leaving anyone out.
Whether you’re kick-starting or restarting your diversity recruiting strategy, here are four ways to help broaden the diversity of your candidate pools.
Use inclusive language in job postings
Hiring bias can show up in your job posting language, which may lead to qualified people giving your company a pass. Some common examples of biased language are terms like “recent graduate” (potentially ageist), “strong English-language skills,” (ethnic bias), and “must live locally,” (may imply a desired socioeconomic status).”4
Review your current job descriptions to determine if and how they skew towards a specific age group, ethnicity, locale, gender, and other attributes. When writing (or rewriting) job descriptions, use language that is inclusive, impartial and gender-neutral. For example, experts say gender-coded language – words or phrases associated with male or female genders – often show up in job ads. Some examples of male-coded language are “aggressive,” “courageous,” and “champion,” while female-coded language includes words like “dependable” and “honest.” While all genders can exhibit these characteristics, the language may send a subtle message that discourages some people to apply. 5 In the description, you can also briefly state your company’s commitment to workplace DE&I and encourage diverse groups to apply.
Reach people where they are
Just as a company would target brand advertising to reach specific customers, you have to place your (now inclusive) job postings in the right locations to reach diverse audiences.
Large recruitment websites and social media sites are good places to start, but try to think beyond the obvious. Consider promoting your job ads through various networking groups and professional membership societies that work with under-represented groups.6 In addition, you can leverage a wide range of diversity and inclusion job boards, including those for women, seniors, people with disabilities, military veterans, 2SLGBTQ+, Indigenous peoples, and others.7
Be objective when assessing candidates
Diversity recruiting doesn’t stop at the resume pile. Once you’ve attracted more diverse candidates to apply for open positions, you have to ensure everyone gets a fair shake in the interview process.
Interview bias – or preconceived ideas about a candidate – can sometimes cause factors outside the prospective employee’s qualifications to affect the outcome.8 This bias might be conscious, meaning the interviewer is aware of their own biased attitudes about a group; or unconscious, meaning they have an unfair belief, assumption, or generalization about an individual or group of people – and they’re not aware of it.9
When assessing candidates, you should have an impartial list of skills and competencies required for the role, and ask standardized questions during interviews. Experts also advise against focusing on “culture fit,” which is more subjective and can be based on candidates’ backgrounds or personality types rather than qualifications. Instead, emphasize “culture add,” meaning how candidates’ diverse experiences, skills and opinions will enhance your team.10
Create a mentoring program to attract and retain diverse employees
Now, the question that may bubble up from your diverse candidate pool is, “what’s in it for me?” When considering their job options, candidates want to know how they’ll be supported in a workplace and how they’ll be able to develop their careers.
Consider developing a mentoring program as part of your DE&I initiatives. Research shows mentoring is effective in improving representation of diverse employees, while also providing an opportunity for connection and support in the workplace.11
There are different types of mentoring programs, depending on the organization’s goals. For example, some companies match employees with different backgrounds to build greater organizational empathy while expanding networks. Others match people with similar backgrounds to find and establish a sense of community.12 Whichever one is right for you, a mentoring program can help attract and retain diverse talent, and let you change that “help wanted” sign into a “welcome” sign.
1 Randstad Sourceright, “The inclusion imperative: taking meaningful action on DEI,” Oct. 19, 2022
2 ASAE - The Centre for Association Leadership, “How a mentorship program can boost internal DE&I initiatives,” Nov. 3, 2021
3 Recruitee Blog, “12 ways to improve your diversity recruiting strategy,” July 30, 2021
4 Ciiivsoft, “5 examples of bias in a job description”
5 Employers Council, “Words matter: Gender-coded language in job ads”
6 EW Group, “Eight steps to inclusive recruitment and workplace diversity”
7 Talent Lyft, “How to create as inclusive job postings as possible?” Dec. 14, 2021
8 Indeed, “Types of interviewing bias and how to minimize them,” May 17, 2021; updated Aug. 15, 2022
9 Pediaa, “What is the difference between conscious and unconscious bias,” May 20, 2021
10 Forbes, “Recruiting for diversity: Four steps for success,” Sept. 20, 2021
11,12 Association for Talent Development, “Best practices for implementing a mentoring program for diverse employees,” Feb. 23, 2021