How to Build Out your Diversity and Inclusion Hiring Strategies

Companies are increasingly seeking to diversify their talent pipelines and build inclusive work environments that attract more people of color, women, LGBTQ+ workers, and employees of varying ages and social classes. As many as 64% of businesses now see their diversity and inclusion policies as top priorities. As a recruiter, you can expect to see more clients looking to partner with agencies that have developed expertise in strategic diversity and inclusion talent curation.

This guide will cover what it takes to implement successful diversity and inclusion hiring strategies, including:

  • What diversity and inclusion hiring means
  • How to identify and acknowledge biases that affect hiring decisions
  • How to make job postings more accessible
  • Strategies to mitigate interview bias
  • Tracking the success of your diversity and hiring strategies

What is Diversity and Inclusion Hiring?

Diversity and inclusion hiring is a merit-based approach to talent procurement, with special attention paid to reducing biases that discriminate against candidates based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that is unrelated to their professional capabilities. Implementing diversity and inclusion hiring practices creates an organizational culture that is more welcoming and equitable while boosting organizational access to talent that may have been previously overlooked or discriminated against.

The goal of diversity and inclusion policies is not diversity just for the sake of diversity. By identifying and reducing biases in sourcing, screening, and interviewing candidates, employers reduce unfair discrimination and can reach talented, diverse candidates that may have otherwise been ignored or even completely unaware of opportunities.

Identifying and Acknowledging Biases

An effective diversity and inclusion hiring strategy begins with identifying and acknowledging the existence of bias in your current hiring methods. These biases may be unconscious or unintentional, but they can exist. 

Start identifying the unacknowledged biases of your hiring decisions through an audit of your workforce. Does its composition suggest any likely biases? Understand the weak points in your sourcing, selection, and interviewing strategies where diversity and inclusion processes are not yet included.

After biases have been identified, you will then be able to address them. Set specific goals to successfully incorporate diversity and inclusion methods into your hiring process. For example, perhaps you want to increase qualified female employees in technical roles by 20% over two years. Clearly defined and specific goals to attract female employees will help build hiring systems that mitigate biases and effectively develop a more inclusive workforce.

Make Job Postings Accessible

Attracting diverse candidates starts with making your job postings accessible. This means thinking more critically about where you are advertising job openings. Don’t rely on traditional job boards alone. You should also post on niche job boards geared to specific skills or communities, as well as physical job advertisements. Assuming all candidates have easy and reliable internet access and use mainstream job boards is an accessibility-limiting mistake many employers make. Recruiting in diverse spaces is essential for finding diverse talent.

What your job postings say can be even more important than where they are posted. Studies have shown that gender-themed words in job postings unintentionally discourage female applicants from applying. Masculine words like strong, competitive, ambitious, and challenging may unwittingly turn off top candidates from even applying. Using gender-neutral terms like they/them or “the candidate” in your listings is also a good practice. You can even use an online tool to analyze the language in your job postings to understand how gender-themed messaging may be deterring candidates.

You can also use the language in your job postings to emphasize that diversity is highly valued by your organization, not just an afterthought or an HR box that needs checking off. Language like: “we seek candidates with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences” will underscore that diversity is truly valued. Try to avoid phrases like “culture fit” which can sound exclusionary, and may leave some potential candidates wondering if “culture fit” signifies something that they are not.

Anonymize the Resumes

Resume screening is especially prone to bias. Studies have found that resumes with “white-sounding” names receive 30% more interviews than identical resumes with “African-American sounding” names. Resumes with “old-sounding” names are rated as less suitable than identical resumes featuring modern names. 

Blind hiring is a method that anonymizes personal information about a candidate that may bias hiring managers, unconsciously or otherwise. Blind hiring can increase workplace diversity by allowing for more objective assessments of a candidate’s skills and potential that are free from biases related to ethnicity, gender, or age.

Staffing firms can assign numbers to resumes and remove personal information, allowing hiring managers to objectively assess resumes based on skills and qualifications.

Mitigating Interview Bias

Blind hiring techniques can also be used in the interview process to mitigate bias. Take-home Q&As, work sample tests, and interviews over live chat can be anonymized as the first step in the interview process.

Sticking to a structured format across all interviews will also help mitigate bias for in-person interviews. Asking the same set of defined questions lets employers focus more on the qualities that directly impact performance. Using scales and numerical ratings to grade candidate responses helps keep the process objective. The more you can standardize and quantify the interview process, the less likely it is that hiring managers will be prone to biases in hiring decisions. Let the data guide decisions not “gut feelings,” which are often just personal biases masquerading as intuition.

Track your Progress

For diversity and inclusion strategies to be successful, you need to constantly be assessing impacts. “Set it and forget it” is not an option. Track your diversity statistics for shortlisting, interviewing, and hiring before and after implementing diversity and inclusion hiring strategies. Review the goals you have set every quarter, and be aware of emerging technologies and solutions that you can adopt to better mitigate bias, diversify your workforce, and attract the most talented and qualified candidates. 

CTA: Looking for more insights to inform your diversity and inclusion hiring strategies? Check out our webinar in the Best Practices for Candidate Sourcing in 2021

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