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12 ways to improve your diversity recruiting strategy

March 25, 2019

12 ways to improve your diversity recruiting strategy

Most recruiters and managers would agree that a diverse team helps companies be more innovative, creative and achieve better results. You don’t even have to look at the stats (of which there are many) to know intuitively that diversity recruiting contributes to a better overall performance.

It makes sense that having different perspectives and backgrounds on your team will contribute to newer and more diverse ideas to help solve problems and drive innovation. It’s no wonder, then, that companies around the world are focussing on developing their diversity recruiting strategy.

But the topic of diversity goes beyond just business results and performance. Diversity is a noble cause for any company to strive for. Building teams from qualified candidates regardless of their gender, background, race, religion or sexual orientation is long overdue, and a step towards true equality in the workplace.

In this article, we’re going to examine how you can move the dial on your own diversity strategies. But before we do that, let’s talk about what recruiting for diversity is, and why it’s important.

What is diversity recruiting?

Diversity in the workplace is the idea that your team should reflect the general makeup of the society around you. Your staff should consist of a variety of different types of people, from different backgrounds and experiences. This can include diversity in regard to gender, experience, socio-economic levels, race, religion, sexual orientation, and so on.

Diversity can fall into two categories: inherent diversity, such as demographic factors or acquired diversity, which are developed or earned over time. Think of inherent diversity as being tied to race, gender, age, and any other characteristic that is natural to who someone is as a person. Acquired diversity refers to things like education, experience, values, skills, and knowledge, which are more fluid and can develop and evolve over time.

Diversity recruiting is the practice of hiring candidates using a process that is free from biases for or against any individual or group of candidates. It is still merit-based recruitment and still aims to find the best possible candidate, but it’s structured to give all applicants, regardless of background, an equal opportunity.  

Why is a diversity recruiting strategy important?

Workforce diversity is a fast-growing trend in the business world and with good reason. In addition to being a good moral choice, diversity recruiting also provides many tangible benefits for performance, innovation, and productivity. Some of the known perks include:

  • A broader range of skills and experience on your team;
  • Increased language and cultural awareness;
  • Larger and more varied candidate pools;

Because of these perks, it has been proven that diverse workforces are better at solving problems, avoids “echo chamber” or confirmation bias mentalities much more effectively, and drive better creativity and innovation at work. This results in better decisions and results overall. Diversity in viewpoints allows team members to debate the merits of different methods and come to the best possible conclusion using a much wider range of information.

The results speak for themselves:

As you can see, having a strong recruiting strategy for diversity is a sure-fire way to improve your team’s performance and drive innovation in your industry.

Now that we’ve looked at the benefits, let’s dive into how to recruit for a diverse workforce.

12 ways to recruit for a diverse workforce

As always, when attempting to improve a part of your business, it’s important to ask yourself two questions:

  • What’s my goal?
  • How do I measure success?  

Without clearly laying out these two important variables, it’s difficult to successfully improve your recruiting strategy for diversity.

Sit down with your team and identify what it is that you want to achieve. Do you want to hire more women into technical roles? Great! Gather the exact metrics around how many women you currently employ in those roles, and set a goal of how much you want that to increase by.

Now that you have your goals and metrics in mind, let’s jump into how to improve your diversity recruiting.

Increasing diversity in sourcing

A great way to ensure that you’re hiring a diverse range of people is to make sure there’s diversity in who is applying to your positions to begin with. Here are some techniques for increasing diversity in your candidate sourcing:

1. Audit your job ads

One of the best ways to recruit diverse candidates is to do an audit of your past recruitment ads, and make changes to speak to a broader range of candidates. You may notice that some of the languages you use are more geared toward a specific demographic of experience level. If this is the case, find ways to be more inclusive in your language to appeal to candidates from different backgrounds.

Don’t be afraid to write job ads with specific demographics in mind in order to boost your diversity recruiting strategy. Let your target candidates know that you’re seeking them out, and explain why your company would make a great fit.

2. Target sources where diverse candidates congregate

A great way to ensure that your talent pool is full of diverse candidates is to source your candidates from a variety of different places. Don’t rely on the same sources over and over again when seeking out new candidates. Focussing on only the sources that you know best can result in a talent pool of similar candidates and a lack of diversity.

Instead, seek out opportunities to source diverse candidates where they typically hang out. For example, there are many online and offline groups dedicated to women in technology. This could be a great source to meet and connect with high caliber female candidates directly, instead of waiting for them to find you through platforms like Indeed. The more you take the initiative to find these channels, the more likely it is that your talent pools will be diverse.

3. Encourage your diverse employees to refer their connections

It’s very likely that members of your team will have networks of people with similar backgrounds to them. Creating a diverse candidate referral program is a great way to both boost your diversity recruitment strategy, and showcase that your company values different backgrounds and ideas.

If you are looking to hire more of a specific group of people, reach out to some of the employees already on your team who are part of that demographic. Encourage them to share your job ads with their networks, and give them the tools they need to promote the company for you. Your employees and candidates will both feel that your company values their opinions and presence, which is fantastic for overall team morale and engagement.

4. Offer internships to targeted groups

Many companies have started internal diversity programs that offer internship and co-op positions to candidates from specific backgrounds. This is a great way to encourage up and coming candidates in your industry to join your team and get experience.

To accomplish this, reach out to schools and community groups in your area to determine opportunities to make connections with students. Often, communities will have their own programs to encourage growth, and teaming up with those initiatives is a great way to give back while also benefiting from new and diverse talent.

5. Develop an employer brand that showcases your diversity

Perhaps the best way to boost diversity in your candidate sourcing is to organically create an employer brand that values people and opinions from all walks of life. Talk about the benefits and importance of diversity with your team, get their buy in and engrain those values into your company culture.

As you do this, you will begin to develop an employer brand that is known for valuing diversity. Encourage employees to talk about this part of your business. Record their stories, and incorporate that part of your corporate personality into how you promote your employer brand. Diverse candidates will seek out companies who truly value those ideals, and developing organically is the only way to truly reap those benefits.

6. Create company policies that appeal to diverse candidates

It’s one thing to claim that you value diverse recruiting strategies and teams, but it’s quite another to actually live those values daily. That’s why it’s so important to proactively implement company policies that appeal to diverse candidates.

Consider changing your time off and scheduling policies to include more religious holidays, community events, and so on. Encourage flexible work hours that will allow candidates to continue being involved with their communities, and not require them to conform to a cookie-cutter schedule at all times.

It’s also important for management teams to encourage employees to speak up if they think certain policies are hindering diversity in any way. People’s individual biases will always be a factor in how they perceive and navigate the workplace, so it’s important to encourage open and honest dialogue to ensure everyone feels welcome.

Having these policies in place, and actively promoting them in your sourcing, is a great way to ensure your diversity recruiting strategy is running as it should be.

Increasing diversity in candidate screening

If you find that your diversity recruiting strategy is bringing in a nice variety of candidates, but you’re struggling to eliminate bias in how you screen them, then you should consider some of these tactics.

7. Use blind resumes

An increasingly popular technique recruiters are using to remove bias from how they screen candidates is to “black out” any and all personal information on resumes. Information like names, schools, date of birth, specific locations, and so on can all contribute to some degree in a biased assessment of the candidate, even if it’s not done consciously.

8. Use blind interviews

Blind interviews use the same principle as blacking out resumes to reduce bias, but apply this tactic to early conversations with the candidate. They can be accomplished by sending candidates text-based questions via text, or through your recruitment platform of choice. Candidates answer these questions anonymously and are asked to avoid providing personal information.

The goal here is to remain free of bias regarding who you choose to interview further. Obviously, it’s much tougher to remove all personality and bias when talking to candidates on the phone or in person, so blind interviews are most effective early in the process.

9. Harness AI to review resumes

One way to ensure that you remove bias from your resume screening process entirely is to leverage artificial intelligence technology in your ATS. Pre-program your platform to flag and filter for specific skills and experience, and let the AI technology analyze your candidate resumes for those parameters. This will provide you with a completely impartial shortlist, free from any sort of bias.

10. Rethink the factors that you screen for

This tactic relates back to your job ads audit where you rethought what you look for in a candidate, and how you talk to them. A critical part of diversity recruiting is to always be questioning what traits you value most in candidates, why, and whether that’s based on your own bias.

Take the time to look at how you’re testing and screening candidates, and honestly ask yourself if you’re steering the results towards specific types of people. If you are, consider changing your testing methods. If you’re not sure, ask some of your peers to get a diverse range of opinions. 

Increasing diversity in shortlisting and hiring

Deciding who to shortlist and hire can be the hardest part of the diversity recruiting strategy. That’s because you will have a pretty good idea of who each candidate is, meaning your own bias will likely creep into the equation. To combat this, here are a couple of techniques to consider.

11. Automate your shortlisting using an ATS 

As mentioned above, your ATS can be used to impartially whittle down your list to the most high-potential candidates. Use the screening tools included in your ATS to find candidates with the most potential and the best resume of skills. This technique allows you to completely remove personal opinions about specific candidates from the equation, and only focus on information that’s relevant to the job description. Shortlisting candidates based on certain requirements will help you move towards increased diversity.

If your talent pool was diverse at the start of the process, then you should have a nice variety of candidates and backgrounds in your shortlist. If not, then the final diversity recruiting tactic can come into play.

12. Seed talent pipelines with diverse candidates

It’s been proven that diverse candidates are far less likely to be chosen when they are the only ones from their demographic represented in a shortlist of candidates. To combat this decision bias, you can use a diversity recruitment strategy called “the two in the pool effect.”

The premise here is that having multiple people from the same minority demographic drastically increases the likelihood that one of them will be hired. Intentionally seeding your shortlist with a proportionate number of diverse candidates, therefore, will result in a more even playing field when it comes to choosing one to hire.

Of course, you’ll only want to seed your shortlist with candidates who are truly qualified. After all, diversity recruiting is all about hiring the best person, regardless of their background.

Loved reading this? Then you might also want to find out about the employee value proposition (EVP) and how it can help you, how to use lean recruitment to save time, or how to build a great career site and become more attractive to candidates.

Brendan is an experienced writer and content marketing professional with experience working for various HR tech and SaaS companies in Canada. He has an extensive background in web content marketing and journalism.
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