Forward-thinking business leaders are actively focused on elevating their diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) practices – not only to ensure that their teams accurately reflect the demographics of their local population, but also to create a work environment that offers equitable opportunities where people of all identities can thrive.
One key area that directly impacts the demographics of any company is hiring. Traditionally, business leaders have looked to recruiting teams to shoulder the work of diversifying the candidates moving through their hiring pipelines. However, great business leaders understand that DE&I is a company-wide commitment, starting from the top – the Talent Maker mindset.
In a world where 57% of employees believe their companies should improve diversity among their internal workforce and 67% of candidates actively seek out companies with diverse employee bases, proactively building inclusive hiring practices to allow for a better diversity of hires isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do.
According to Forbes, “a McKinsey report showed that companies in the top quartile for racial/ethnic and gender diversity were respectively 35 and 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
This means that today, being great at hiring isn’t just about how quickly you make a hire. It’s also about exercising inclusive hiring practices and having diversity on both sides of the interview process, among your interviewers and your candidates. It’s about business leaders getting involved with DE&I to generate meaningful outcomes. No matter how valiantly a recruiter works to fill the top of a recruiting funnel with underrepresented candidates, if hiring managers don’t similarly prioritize DE&I in their own efforts, these candidates will inevitably leave the funnel – whether they intentionally choose to exit the process or through the adverse impact of unconscious bias.
In this article, we’re going to explore a few ways that Talent Makers – from talent leaders, to talent magnets, to talent partners – can boost diversity, equity and inclusion in their hiring strategies.
Before focusing externally, look internally at your own company
Diversifying your team isn’t only about bringing in a new hire who can add a new perspective. It’s just as much about creating an environment that allows that new hire to share their perspective and feel heard. Some leaders may skirt conversations around identity – they might claim to be “colorblind” when it comes to race, for example – but great leaders lean into color consciousness, and create spaces to celebrate each employee’s experience and unique intersectionalities.
What does all this mean through the lens of hiring? As you start thinking about how to source underrepresented candidates, ask yourself these questions:
- Why would an underrepresented candidate want to join your team?
- How would you articulate your commitment to supporting and advocating for them as a manager?
- If you’re trying to release a public statement or articulate your business’ commitment to equity in response to/in solidarity with a societal movement, how would you differentiate yourself from other organizations in a way that’s authentic?
- More importantly, how would you hold yourself accountable over time for driving the changes you want to see?
Next, take a hard look at the demographics of your team. Determine the following:
- Which demographic groups – including gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, industry experience, seniority, education, socioeconomic status, ability status, etc. – do you have represented?
- Which groups are you lacking?
- Look for patterns in the profiles of the people you’ve hired thus far. Does a pattern imply an inclination toward a certain personality type, background, set of qualifications or even race/ethnicity?
- If so, how are you justifying that?
- Could you inadvertently be screening for privilege (think preferred schools or degrees) rather than for ability and potential?
Have the conversation
It’s time to invite your team into the conversation. This can be the uncomfortable part, especially if you’re in an environment that hasn’t set a precedent for such dialogues. Actively sharing why you’re prioritizing DE&I will signal its importance to your team, help address any discrepancies and help build the muscle for healthy conversations on topics like race. You’ll also drive new awareness and behaviors that can have outsized impacts on who you hire by influencing your interview panels to be more open-minded and to provide better interviewing experiences to underrepresented candidates.
Finally, collaborate with your recruiting partners. At Greenhouse, our recruiters are working with our hiring managers to review current department demographics so we can have informed discussions about which groups to focus on when diversifying hiring pipelines, which ties back to our goals around having better representation among our employees.
Write your job descriptions through the lens of inclusivity
One of the most important pieces of content you’ll author as a leader is a job description for a role on your team. It’s the first touchpoint candidates have with an opportunity to join your team, and it directly impacts who does – and doesn’t – engage in your interview process.
Here are some ways you can make your job descriptions more inclusive – and better attract the candidates you’re targeting:
Identify and rework inherently biased language
It may surprise you that countless job descriptions contain language that is gendered, which can skew your talent pool before you even interact with candidates. Platforms like Textio leverage artificial intelligence to help remove gender bias, business jargon and other phrases that reinforce stereotypes in written content.
An example from Textio: "For instance, common phrases that exert a bias effect that don’t show up on any qualitative checklists include "exhaustive," "enforcement" and "fearless" (all masculine-tone) and "transparent," "catalyst" and "in touch with" (all feminine-tone). You can only find these patterns by measuring over time with an enormous data set of real hiring outcomes – exactly what Textio’s engine is designed to do.”
Describe goals and growth opportunities
Focus on describing the exciting goals and clear objectives of the job rather than listing day-to-day responsibilities that aren’t tied to outcomes. This will not only inspire candidates, it will also help them determine whether what they’ll own and learn in your job is aligned with their career goals.
To bring this to life, if you're hiring for a role in Sales, focus on the goals and outcomes you'd want this person to achieve. What are the success metrics being tracked and the desired outcomes? What does growth look like on your team when someone delivers quarter over quarter? Also share who this person would be actively collaborating with to provide insight into cross-functional collaborative opportunities.
Focus on abilities over requirements
Carefully consider each requirement you’re adding to your job description. Can you shift your focus away from a specific number of years of work experience or required degrees, and more toward a candidate’s abilities? Could you take it a step further and include verbiage that encourages candidates to apply even if they might not think they have all the necessary qualifications?
In addition to focusing more on technical skills (such as “the ability to communicate effectively across a customer base”) than hard qualifications (such as”5+ years of customer success experience in the healthcare industry”), our team at Greenhouse includes the following inclusivity statement as part of each job description's qualifications: “Your own unique talents! If you don’t meet 100% of the qualifications outlined above, tell us why you’d be a great fit for this role in your cover letter.”
Get other opinions
After you’ve taken the steps above, continue to iterate and socialize your job description. Share it with someone who’s currently in the role or someone who represents an underrepresented demographic group to learn if there are better ways to position the content. Incorporating feedback from different perspectives is key to eliminating unintentional biases in the language.
Use structured hiring to mitigate unconscious bias
Now that you’ve communicated your focus on diversity and published an inclusive job description, you might think most of your work is behind you. After all, isn’t the process mostly in your recruiter’s hands from here? Not just yet. Once you have candidates entering your hiring pipeline, your commitment to equitable and inclusive hiring practices will really be put to the test.
Here are several important things to keep in mind to stay accountable to your commitment to DE&I:
Screen in, over screening out
When reviewing resumes, use the framework of screening in, rather than screening out. While certain jobs will have hard requirements – an engineer might need fluency in a certain coding language to perform in their job – many employers are placing less emphasis on a strict set of resume qualifications when determining who to move to the next stage and thinking about how they can invest in training people who have potential but don’t have specific qualifications.
When conducting interviews, many hiring managers get understandably nervous when considering candidates with profiles they haven’t hired for in the past. However, that behavior could be grounded in similar-to-me bias and perpetuate homogeneity. Pay close attention to how you and your interviewers react to historically underrepresented candidates, and actively exercise open-mindedness. Your best hire may be the person who is different from everyone else your team has hired in the past.
Use the same criteria
To create an even playing field, assess all candidates against the same hiring criteria that you’ve determined is necessary for the role, which is the core of structured hiring. Similarly, make sure each candidate is answering the same interview questions from your interviewers. This will allow your interviewers not only to focus on relevant areas to assess, but also to compare candidates in a data-driven and fair way in the event you’re choosing between several finalists.
Diversify your panel
Finally, consider your interview panel. Which demographic groups are represented and which are. not represented? Do you have a panel of all men? Of all the same ethnicity/race? Of all millennials? If the answer is yes to any of these scenarios, how are you planning to address this elephant in the room with any candidate who identifies differently? Put yourself in their shoes and be prepared to clearly explain why creating a more diverse team is a priority for you.
Measure wins by progress and improvements
If you do not already have an extensive DE&I program at your organization, figuring out where to start can be challenging. Who we are informs everything we do – who we hire, what we observe, where we live, how we communicate – and it can be tough to know where to focus when checking our own potential biases. However, starting with a deep reflection of your hiring process is a way to take ownership of your responsibility as a business leader to prioritize DE&I. Your commitment may not produce immediate results, since company demographics aren't something that can change overnight, but in the long-run, your efforts will drive meaningful and positive change in who you hire and advocate for in your company.
Talent Makers are leaders who believe that talent is their top business priority – and act on it. Download the Talent Maker primer to learn how to create a great culture of hiring.