Diversity Recruiting: What it is and how to improve it

7 minute read

Posted by Chris Platts on 23 November 2017

When was the last time your company looked at how it recruits diverse talent? In this article, we explore how to reposition the concept of diversity recruiting so that it gets greater respect from hiring managers and business leaders.

Here’s what we’ll be covering off:

  • What is diversity recruiting?
  • Why is hiring diverse people important?
  • Why diversity hiring needs rebranding
  • How to re-position diversity hiring
  • How to improve your diversity recruiting [Checklist]

What is diversity recruiting?

A diverse recruiting strategy is when an organisation has defined goals, tasks and success metrics for attracting, engaging, selecting and onboarding talent from a breadth of diverse areas to drive business performance. It often forms part of a larger D&I (diversity and inclusion) strategy. The primary goal is to capitalize on the benefits that can come from hiring a workforce from a diverse range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.

Why is hiring diverse people important?

The reason focusing on diversity hiring is so important is because, despite significant gains in the workforce by women and minorities over the past few decades, there are still vast imbalances, particularly in managerial, professional, and technology roles. The chart below illustrates the situation (while the data is from the US, similar trends are seen in other developed economies).

diversity recruiting
Source: Lean In: Women in the workplace

In Scott Page’s book “The Difference”, he illustrates ways in which managers can ensure that their teams’ have a more thorough diversity of thought. One of these is illustrated with a hypothetical situation:

There are three candidates applying for a role: Tom, Dick and Harriet. Each candidate is given a standardised test that has been given to interviewees for years. Tom gets 75%, Dick 70%, and Harriet 65%. Most people would see the results of these tests and come to the fairly logical conclusion, “Tom is the best person for the job”. However, when looking into the results in more depth, it’s revealed that Harriet managed to get answers right that nobody in the current team had solved when they took the test.

By adding Harriet to the team, you have a team that is able to solve 100% of the problems they face collectively, rather than 10 individuals all being able to solve the same 75%. Instead of focusing on which candidate is the most qualified for the role, companies should be focusing on which candidate adds most to the team.

This goes far beyond hypothetical situations or thought experiments, it has been proved time after time, that diverse teams regularly outperform their homogeneous counterparts. People from diverse backgrounds are going to have very different life experiences, and those feed into different approaches to work. This beautiful mixture of perceptions, heuristics and perspectives enables teams to solve problems that they could otherwise have missed.

Why diversity hiring needs rebranding

It’s usually not the concept that people have a problem with, it’s what’s associated with the term ‘diversity’. The association between diversity and badly handled corporate policies allows managers to dismiss diversity effort as just another thing being “handed down” by the HR team. By placing too much emphasis on ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexuality companies overlook the most critical form of diversity for businesses: diversity of thought.

Forcing companies to hire for diversity for the sake of ticking boxes, or to avoid bad PR is not the answer. It’s this very conversation that gets people so irate. Fairer hiring policies and addressing unconscious bias are the real issues and whereas quotas are a proxy measure of success they rarely allow the true narrative to emerge.

How to reposition diversity hiring

Like it or not how we achieve cognitively diverse teams is through hiring people from a healthy variety of backgrounds, so although categorising people into minority groups and reviewing the data feels frustrating it does hold some validity. What’s needed is a new language to talk about diversity that focuses on the brilliance of difference, not of hitting quotas.

Encouraging companies to hire people from a diversity of backgrounds in order to increase their diversity of thought is a more effective way to package this message. It’s a rebrand that can’t come quick enough. Changing the language of diversity to one of cognitive balance will hopefully resonate with both HR leaders and frustrated managers.

How to improve your diversity recruiting [Checklist]

1. Check your employer brand

Do your employer brand and employee success stories accurately communicate your culture? Are your communications reflective of the diverse nature of your workforce? Do your workplace policies and employee benefits speak to people from diverse backgrounds.

2. Check your job descriptions

If you want to attract a more diverse candidate pool, the language you use in your job posting makes a difference. Tools like Textio can quickly and easily read your job description to see whether it’s more or less likely to attract candidates from different backgrounds or demographics. This post on how to craft the perfect job description may be a good place to start.

3. Check your candidate selection process

How you select candidates to interview will significantly impact the availability of diverse candidates at the interview stage. Do you select people based on the strength of their present ability or make inferences from their prior experience? Are recruiters seeing names, pictures, or other irrelevant information when reviewing CVs? Are those assessments of candidate suitability as fair as they can be?

4. Check your technology stack

What technology do you use to assess candidates at or before the interview stage? Has that technology been assessed for reliability and validity? Pre-hire assessments typically increase workplace diversity because they are a fairer more objective way to assess talent however it’s important to check that there is no adverse impact on, for example, minority group members.

5. Check your interview process

Interviews are usually badly conducted by under-qualified managers projecting their own biases onto decision-making. At least, that’s what the science on the ineffectiveness of unstructured job interviews tells us. We can combat some of these biases with structured interviews: identifying the ideal candidate profile in advance, and then creating a standard set of behavioural and scenario-based questions to ask each and every candidate. Although this might sound boring and robotic, it can double or even triple managers’ accuracy in predicting the best candidates.

Want to go the extra mile? Then think about the following:

  • Is your hiring team diverse enough?
  • Are they asking standardised interview questions?
  • How is candidate scoring done and can it be more objective?

6. Check your metrics

How will you know if you are making progress in diversity recruiting? One way is to define and monitor key recruiter metrics on areas such as (of candidates from diverse backgrounds):

  • % of candidates in the talent pipeline
  • Application to interview ratio
  • Interview to offer ration
  • Offer to Employee ratio
  • New hires made
  • Attrition / employee turnover rate

Find out how to hire more fairly with our free ebook “Beyond Gut Feeling: A Practical Guide to Fairer Hiring” below

Diversity recruiting 2
Source: ThriveMap research https://thrivemap.io/beyond-gut-feeling

Further Reading


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