March 15th, 2022

How to Recruit for Diversity

The importance of diversity in the workplace is clear to businesses. What may not be clear is how to recruit for diversity. Companies struggle to develop a plan that makes sourcing, qualifying, and hiring diverse applicants possible. Overcoming the challenges of recruiting for diversity is one place to start. But businesses should also make sure they’ve created a culture that will retain diverse talent. 

3 Challenges of Recruiting for Diversity

Businesses that are struggling to recruit diverse talent are likely dealing with at least one of these challenges. 

1. Sourcing Diverse Applicants 

Some companies claim they can’t recruit for diversity simply because they don’t have the applicants. While that may be true, it’s due to an inability to source candidates than an actual lack of diversity in our population. 

The applicants are out there. Data shows our society is more diverse than ever. For example, 48% of Generation Z is nonwhite—leading them to be the most diverse generation in American history. 

Another excuse is that diverse candidates might not be qualified for roles. But more women than men have college degrees. The sourcing problem could come from the fact that there are too many requirements in the job description. 

2. Not Focusing on a Variety of Diverse Factors

Businesses can forget that diversity is more than just gender or race. Diversity is the practice or quality of including people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds. 

There are a variety of diverse factors to consider, such as age, family status, nationality, sexual orientation, disabilities, or where people live. But keep in mind you can’t ask about some of these things in the interview or you put your business at risk of a discrimination lawsuit. 

3. Interview & Selection Bias

Bias during the interview process is dangerous not only because it can lead to a bad hire, but because it can hinder diversity efforts. Bias is preconceived notions about a candidate that guide your perceptions, thought process, and decision-making. In simpler terms, bias lets factors outside a candidate’s qualifications interfere with their selection. 

And bias can even happen before the interview; white-sounding, male names receive more interview requests than others. Other examples of bias in the interview process include implicit (stereotyping) and affinity bias. Affinity bias is selecting candidates who are similar to you.

Unfortunately, bias often happens unconsciously and quickly. A study by the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found that interviewers decide within the first 15 minutes if a candidate is suitable for a role. So bias can be a difficult thing to recognize and get rid of. 

Luckily, there is a solution to the challenges above. Each requires a different approach. Businesses that are serious about recruiting for diversity will take each step regardless of whether they’re currently facing these challenges. 

How to Overcome Challenges & Recruit for Diversity 

Step 1: Improve Your Candidate Sourcing 

If you haven’t had luck in getting diverse applicants, don’t just call it quits there. Instead, broaden your pool of candidates by posting and sharing jobs on different job boards and consider networking

Your job descriptions also have a lot to do with who applies. Did you know that men apply to a job when they meet just 60% of qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them? To combat this, only include qualifications in your job description that are essential to the job. For example, having a list of must-have requirements and nice to haves will keep the door open to candidates who may not perfectly fit your criteria, but are still qualified. 

Job descriptions are extremely important to attract more candidates. There are a variety of ways to improve them to recruit for diversity. To start, only use gender-neutral pronouns and avoid gender or age-specific adjectives—such as aggressively, fearlessly, energetic, junior-level, or senior-level. Some businesses just need to take a close look to see if they’re excluding diverse applicants because of poorly worded job descriptions.  

Step 2: Reduce Bias In Your Interview Process

You’ve finally sourced some amazing and diverse candidates, but you haven’t hired them yet. Now it’s time for the interview. The interview poses unique challenges for hiring diversity. Bias is all too common and difficult to avoid. One solution that has proven to combat bias is a structured interview approach. 

A structured interview asks all candidates the same questions, usually in the same order. And they evaluate candidates on the same measures. As you can probably guess, structured interviews help level the playing field for candidates. But they also help slow down the interview and decision-making process so hiring decisions are more data-driven.

One thing interviewers may not realize is how personal questions can result in prejudice. It’s important to get to know a candidate, but sometimes insight into a job applicant’s personal life can leave you with unconscious bias. Avoid asking too many personal questions early in the interview process and focus on the candidate’s experience and qualifications. 

Step 3: Create an Inclusive Culture

If you successfully overcome the challenges above and take the steps necessary to recruit for diversity, the final task is to ensure you retain diverse employees. And that requires the right culture.

Candidates who truly value and care about the diversity of your business will do their research. As a result, it’s critical to highlight progress you’ve made with diversity in your organization and make sure you’ve created a culture around it. 

An inclusive culture acknowledges and gets rid of stereotypes, microaggressions, and tokenism. A culture like this doesn’t happen overnight, it requires careful planning and execution. In reality, to recruit for diversity you should start with your culture and a comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) plan. This way you’ll ensure when you do hire the right candidates, they stick around. 

If you’re ready to take on diversity, equity, and inclusion, download the guide below. You’ll learn how to create a DEI plan and tips to promote diversity in your workplace. 

Download Our Guide: How to Promote Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Learn strategies, planning, and tips for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices in your small business.

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