Going about sourcing talent in an inclusive way can make all the difference.
This article originally written by Andrew McGeehan Director at Trident Training & Consulting, is reminder that inclusion needs to be organisation-wide and won’t make a difference if human bias gets in the way.
Over to Andrew to share with us useful strategies for recruiting a diverse talent pipeline.
There are many ways to go about recruiting in an inclusive, affirming, and welcoming way, however, that won’t matter much if those with final hiring power and decision-making aren’t aware of the bias they might be carrying or aren’t interested in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce/team.
It’s a reminder that inclusion needs to be organisation-wide.
Recruitment teams can do an amazing job finding candidates with varied backgrounds, but if those making the final shortlists aren’t connected to the process or don’t understand institutional goals around hiring, nothing will change.
Strategies and tips to help organisation in hiring inclusively
1. ORGANISATIONAL ASSESSMENT/ANALYSIS
One key component of inclusive and affirmative hiring is that an organisation needs to know what it is looking for. An assessment that highlights current staff demographics can help to identify gaps. This is usually done with an interest in specific identities, such as gender, nationality, race/ethnicity, and age. However, it is important to start looking at other variables as well, such as years of experience, seniority in the organisation, educational background, and salary. It’s possible to find that there is a diverse array of experiences and identities in more junior staff, but that senior staff is still overrepresented by straight able-bodied men of majority racial identity. That overrepresentation could be due to those folks utilising their own networks when hiring at all levels, which usually yields people of similar mindsets and identities.
The point of the assessment is to analyse critically what the current demographics of the organisation are and contrast that to the kind of organisation that it aspired to. It is also an opportunity to ask questions internally, such as
“why aren’t we getting applicants from neurodiverse people for senior roles?” “why are all of our out LGBTQ staff not getting promoted beyond middle management?” “How can we appeal to the broadest range of candidates with each vacancy we have?”
The assessment and subsequent analysis are not intended to create quotas or force hiring managers to choose specific candidates. However, if an organisation doesn’t work towards inclusive and affirmative hiring, nothing will change. But it is essential to have a baseline understanding of the current staff makeup and use company strategic goals or internally set goals to determine what makeup is being aimed for.
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2. JOB DESCRIPTIONS
It’s time to take a good hard look at the way that positions are communicated to potential candidates. Research has demonstrated that certain words in JDs may encourage/discourage folks of different identities from applying. The inclusion of a non-discrimination statement may encourage folks from underrepresented identities to apply. Including information about insurance coverage, employee networks, commitments to inclusive workspaces, and flexible/hybrid working also encourages people with a variety of experiences and backgrounds to become interested. The exclusion of these items will leave people asking themselves whether or not the job is for them.
For instance, candidates who are part of the LGBTQ community would want to know upfront whether insurance policies extended to same-gender unmarried partners. Providing this information ahead of time would encourage members of this community to see themselves in that particular role; while omitting it (or not having same-gender partner benefits) would discourage this community.
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3. DIVERSIFYING NETWORKS FOR REFERRAL
If the same networks are utilised repeatedly when searching for candidates, the same candidate profile will keep showing up. Ask around to identify what kinds of new networks haven’t been tapped into. Many industries have outside organisations dedicated to supporting folks of underrepresented identities. Google is a good friend here! Search for “women in STEM organisation” “LGBTQ bankers network” “people with disabilities in Education” or whatever is relevant for your organisation. Many of these organisations have job boards on their websites and that is a great way to diversify the candidates that will apply.
Simply relying on current employee networks and/or 1-2 major networks in the industry will not diversify the hiring pool. Think outside the box and post the job listing in as many locations as is feasible in order to get the greatest variety of applicants once a vacancy is open and accepting candidates.
4. RESUME/CV VETTING & REVIEW
Unconscious bias in the review process is an undeniable reality that needs to be addressed. Study after study in various industries has revealed that just seeing someone’s name will alter perceptions of their hire-ability, competence, and experience. Unsurprisingly, women, racial/ethnic minorities, and folks who mention being LGBTQ or having disabilities in their resumes/CVs are viewed less favourably than those who don’t. Shielding first reviewers from names (and possibly educational background- there is also bias towards institutions/former workplaces with name recognition) can reduce the chances of unconscious bias playing a role in vetting candidates. Bias can also be reduced if each resume is vetted by 2 folks or candidates aregrouped in a variety of ways.
For the greatest variety in an applicant pool, vetting should be done using a holistic rubric and approach. Simply creating a checklist for years of experience, educational level attained, and previous responsibilities again ensures that the pool will remain similar to staff that is already employed at the organisation. It’s important to consider broad categories as well as transferable skills. This doesn’t mean to interview every candidate, but there are many great candidates that are cut out due to rigid checklists and criteria that often cater to the majority of experiences.
5. INTERVIEW QUESTIONS & PROCESS
The interview process will tell candidates a lot about the kind of organisation they may be entering. Interview teams should meet prior to any interview. Standard questions (perhaps with some room for deviation towards the end of the interview) are a must. I have been part of interview processes where each interview felt completely different; this makes it extremely difficult to compare candidates to one another. A good fusion could be having 30 minutes of standard questions and 30 minutes of candidate-specific questions.
Questions should focus on the candidates’ skills and competencies, as well as getting to know who they are (within reason). It’s important to vet questions for anything that may feel non-inclusive or use non-inclusive language. For instance, asking candidates if they are married, have kids, want to have kids, have been divorced, etc should be strictly no-gos. This is not only intrusive to the candidate but also can feel non-inclusive for LGBTQ folks; asking about children is often only asked towards women and can set the tone that the workplace is not parent-friendly.
There are many ways to make interviews more inclusive and welcoming. One suggestion I will always give is to provide candidates with questions in a written format. I’ve had interviews where I walked in the door and was given a list of questions. This allowed me to follow along, review the question if I didn’t hear it well or got confused, and pace myself with responses. It is also more inclusive for those who may have difficulties with hearing or are visual learners. Depending on the organisation, giving candidates options to have written questions in a different language may be relevant too.
6. INTERVIEW PANELS
The makeup of an interview panel will impact the way that the candidate views the organisation. Walking into an interview and seeing people who all seem to have the same identity/background will make candidates feel less confident and it will be difficult for them to see themselves in the organisation. This doesn’t mean every panel needs to have every identity represented; but a variety of perspectives will also help ensure that unconscious bias isn’t creeping into decision making and treatment of the candidates.
Panels made up of folks with similar background/identities will respond more strongly to candidates that also share those identities. Including folks at various levels of the hierarchy, different genders, different backgrounds, and different communication styles will create situations in which the candidates will get a more well-rounded experience and be seen from various perspectives. Unconscious bias is also something that is easier to notice in others, so a mixed-identity/background panel will also be able to monitor itself for this.
7. DECISION-MAKING PANELS
Similar to interview panels, decision-makers should also represent a range of identities, roles, backgrounds, and experience levels. This again helps to ensure that decisions aren’t made based on a group with a very similar outlook or set of perspectives.
When making a final decision, it can be helpful to review current staff demographics and makeup on that particular team. This can help identify gaps in identity, skill set, type of experience, or any other benefit that the new hire can bring to the team.
In general, having multiple staff be part of final decision-making is a good idea- leaving it up to the full discretion of one person allows for bias, stereotypes, and personal connections to distort the process.
8. FOLLOW-UP AND INCLUSIVE BENEFITS
Inclusive and affirmative hiring can also include follow-up conversations, such as providing detailed and specific feedback to candidates who were not selected. For candidates who are selected, sharing immediately about the opportunities they will have in the organisation, such as:
same-sex partner benefits
access to employee networks
a mentoring program for women
parental leave packages
And whatever else the organisation offers can be a strong way to demonstrate the commitment to inclusion and help folks to feel connected to the organisation right away.
Throughout all the above ideas, keeping an open and inclusive mindset is key. Inclusion may feel difficult at first because many folks are not used to thinking in this way- try not to be deterred! The benefits far outweigh the potential challenges.
Remember that the intention is to find the candidates who intersect as highly qualified for the role and for whatever contributions they can further bring to the team.
This additional contribution may be in the form of their identity, their unique skillset, experience in another industry, or any other number of things.
To connect this back to my opening example, I felt that candidates 1 and 2 had further contributions in terms of being able to connect with a specific demographic of student that needed it. As there were already much other staff & faculty with candidate 3’s demographics, the need wasn’t as strong there. For me, that meant the additional push factor to hire them wasn’t present in the same way that it was for the first two candidates.
TO SUM IT UP, INCLUSIVE HIRING DOESN’T JUST HAPPEN.
It needs to be thought about intentionally and thoroughly.
There are many ways to ensure that JDs, resume vetting, interview processes, and follow-ups are done in ways that are affirming and welcoming to all candidates, regardless of identity. This will help to ensure that the most wide-ranging candidate pool is included in searches, which will yield more diverse teams; this in turn will bring more creativity, experiences, and connection to the organisation as a whole and help it to thrive.
A huge thank you to Andrew McGeehan Director at Trident Training & Consulting, for sharing his steps to an inclusive recruiting approach.