How can you embed greater levels of diversity in your recruitment process?
Recruiters are increasingly looking to AI to boost levels of fairness and equity in their talent pipeline. But question marks have been raised over the effectiveness of machine learning as a straightforward solution to a complex problem. After all, if the AI is being built by companies without inclusive recruitment processes of their own, is the technology they produce not at risk of reinforcing narrow ways of thinking, or unequal patterns of decision-making? In other words, who is watching the watchers?
I don’t think inclusive recruitment can be automated. It takes truly careful thinking to be successful. And like all things relating to diversity and inclusion at work, it isn’t just a box to be checked. This means that every time you recruit, it requires new thinking and questioning to make sure you’re doing everything you can to attract the best candidates out there.
Here are my five steps towards building a more inclusive recruitment process in your business.
Step 1. Write inclusive job descriptions
So where to start? Let’s take the job description:
- Have you defined – really clearly – what the job is, and what the skills are that it requires?
- Could someone outside your organisation easily understand what’s needed?
All organisations develop their own language. It’s part of the world you operate in each and every day. But while this may make sense to everyone already working in your industry or sector, if you seriously want to attract people who are different to the status quo, they need to understand what’s expected from the get-go. You may even want to consider running your wording across someone outside your company to see if everything is clear to them.
Step 2. Widen your search to include diverse groups
Next up, the job advertisement. You’ll want to think about the following:
- Where are you placing the ad?
- Are you being mindful of different groups who may want to apply?
Not so long ago, I heard a story of someone who had questioned why their organisation wasn’t employing more people with a certain protected characteristic. The response? “They don’t apply.” Ouch! In that case, clearly they were advertising for the roles in the wrong place.
Nowadays, you can place your job ads on large recruitment websites or in a broadsheet newspaper, but you can also be really imaginative in where else you promote them. Get the word out there, This might be through social media, or through the various networking groups and membership societies that cater to your area of business.
Inclusive design of the job application process is also key. What really matters is how easy you make it for applicants, and your tone of voice as you guide them on their way. In your recruitment system, are the messages you give about completing the application forms friendly and inclusive, or overly formal and punitive? Your tone really matters. Don’t forget the basics, either. Your commitment to equal opportunities, for example, is something that really matters to your applicants. Does your equality and diversity policy stand out the way it should?
Step 3. Make fair shortlisting decisions, plus any reasonable adjustments at interview
If you’ve been really clear on the job criteria you need, your shortlisting should be easy. We would recommend having at least two people shortlisting in a formal meeting setting. That way they can actively challenge each other on any assumptions they may be making.
Time to send out the invitation to interview. Always make sure you ask if the candidate needs any reasonable adjustments at interview, and remember to make them. This is not just good practice: there are instances of tribunals when applicants have won their case based on the inadequacy of the arrangements made.
Step 4. Prepare for an inclusive interview
At the interview itself, there will be lots of things going on so the more preparation you do, the better. This includes agreeing in advance:
- The individual roles of your panel members
- The questions you’ll be asking
- How you will score each applicant’s answers
- Whether you’ll be asking supplementary questions
- The potential impact of unconscious bias
- How the room will be laid out
- How refreshments will work.
In doing so, you’ll have more time to concentrate on the things that really matter during the interview: setting the right tone, finding the best means for candidates to demonstrate their capabilities, asking questions, listening and analysing against the agreed criteria.
Step 5. Set the right tone, ask the right questions
Part of setting the right tone is to have as diverse a panel as possible. This is a chance to demonstrate that you are a diverse organisation – right there in the room – and that you want candidates to feel that you employ people like them.
Creating the atmosphere is really important, too. In an experiment carried out by Woodzicka and LaFrance, students who were asked inappropriate or offensive questions in an interview ‘paused’, ‘trailed off’ and ‘screwed up the interview’ when compared to the control group. All respondents said that if they were asked the kind of questions included in the experiment, they would walk out of the interview. In the event they didn’t, they just mucked up. Ultimately, being aggressive in the interview is totally counter-productive.
When asking questions, too, keep the focus on the candidate’s motivation as well as the specific requirements of the job. Listen actively, then appraise the person’s suitability for the post only once the interview has finished.
Build a more inclusive recruitment process with EW Group
All in all, then, inclusive recruitment is an end-to-end process. While writing this, I did have doubts about trying to condense it all into a single blog. I’m sure you could apply for a PhD on the topic!
For more on how EW Group can support inclusive recruitment in your business, click here.