How to be an Inclusive Recruiter – The Everyone Guide

How to be an Inclusive Recruiter – The Everyone Guide


This is the second in our ‘everyone guide’ series of blogs that tackle the big topics around diversity and inclusion.

Why is it important to be an inclusive recruiter? For many organisations, moving to a diverse workforce can be a game-changer. It’s been shown that homogenous groups make less successful business decisions and are less innovative than  groups with more diversity. So if you can attract and retain more diverse staff into your organisation then your business performance and employee engagement should rise.

If you know you need help now with inclusive recruitment practices, jump straight to our recruitment and selection training page.

What is an Inclusive Recruiter?

Many organisations acknowledge their duty to give all job candidates an equal and fair shot at entering their workforce, but for many it can be perceived as political correctness gone mad, rather being beneficial to both candidate and company.

A 2018 study by McKinsey, Delivering Through Diversity, provides a compelling business case for Diversity and Inclusion, finding that it “reinforces the global relevance of the link between diversity—defined as a greater proportion of women and a more mixed ethnic and cultural composition in the leadership of large companies—and company financial outperformance.”

Implementing an inclusive approach to recruiting means companies are taking positive action against a workplace culture which has historically (and quite possibly inadvertently) excluded and discriminated against some workers due to their differences; whether it be down to having a disability, their ethnicity, sex, gender identity, age or sexuality. Making recruitment practices more inclusive is beneficial for everyone involved: providing a level playing field gives all candidates a fair opportunity when applying for a job and, in return, companies get access to the best talent applying for job openings, as no one is being excluded or deterred from applying. Read more about this in our blog Seven steps to inclusive recruitment.

Inclusivity starts with the job ad

The process starts at the very beginning of the recruitment lifecycle when decisions are made about where to advertise job openings. If, for example, a company only advertises jobs in The Economist and The Sunday Times, as well as solely attending Russell Group University job fairs, the long-term result would be a homogeneous workforce, lacking diverse thinking and talent. The choices made at every stage of recruitment shape the pool of talent you can access – and the groups you will deter through your choices.

When looking at how to restructure your recruitment strategy and process, it’s important not to perceive your role as an inclusive recruiter as simply a checklist of things to tick off which guarantee inclusivity. It’s just one aspect of your wider ongoing diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy which seeks to make all groups of people want to work for your organisation. This helps mitigate situations such as male-only teams deterring women from applying for roles and BAME candidates feeling discouraged by your exclusively white leadership staff.

With that in mind, here are our ten positive steps to becoming a more inclusive recruiter:

1. Create a positive narrative

Organisations seen as the most progressive and active in diversity and inclusion have devised a positive narrative about why they are changing corporate culture. How vocal your company is about their D&I strategy and exactly what steps it is taking for workplace equality will send ripples of benefits throughout your organisation.

2. Track diversity data on applicants throughout the process

This isn’t ‘big brother’ watching over you. This is to see how far different social groups reach certain stages of the application process for the job, such as initial sifting, telephone interviews, shortlisting, interviews and decision. Tracking diversity data and carrying out regular diversity audits can identify potential undiscovered bias existing in the organisation and where it’s going wrong in appealing to a diverse pool of candidates.

3. Take positive action

Take steps to positively encourage and enable different groups to apply for a job. This is an incredibly simple yet effective way to encourage potentially excluded social groups to apply and can be done by stating ‘we are committed to best practice of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. BAME and disabled candidates are underrepresented here and are particularly encouraged to apply’. This does not mean that you will favour and hire those applicants. Instead, positive action levels the playing field for all candidates.

4. Ensure you have a diverse panel

What message does a homogeneous interview panel send to the visitors of your workplace? By having a diverse interview panel, diverse thinking will offer new perceptions towards a candidate. Having a varied mix of interviewers will not only offer more perspectives towards hiring the best candidate, but it demonstrates to candidates that your organisation is diverse and has implemented diversity and inclusion beyond paper.

5. Ensure that all staff have been trained in unconscious bias and that biases are acknowledged and explored in the decision-making process

One of the first things that we say in our Unconscious Bias training course that everyone has and will always have biases. It’s an inevitable part of the largely unconscious decision-making processes that we do thousands of times a day without even realising. By being aware of biases within the organisation, you can work to eliminate them. Your hiring managers especially will benefit from our Unconscious Bias course so that they are aware of where their biases may distort their recruiting decisions.

6. Use a pre-determined list of questions which directly relate to the job description and be clear about the evidence you are looking for from candidates against each

Interviews are opportunities for candidates to share their experiences and demonstrate their suitability for a role. They should be equal opportunities for all candidates which is why the same questions must be asked to all. Give applicants the ability to provide evidence showing their fit for the role.

7. No personal questions

This is one of the leading causes of bias influencing our decisions. If you discover that one candidate supports your football team and another supports a rival, which one might you favour? This is known as affinity bias and can distort our judgement. Even greeting the candidates when they arrive can create such problems through small talk. We advise the hiring managers we work with to have a colleague greet the candidates if possible so that you can judge the candidates solely on experience and not personality.

8. Use follow on questions to get the best from each candidate

Your job is to get the best possible answers from candidates. Your job isn’t to catch them out, set them up to fail or minimise the success of their interview experience. Recruiters can gain further information by using follow-up questions that can even change the hiring outcome as you may discover information about a candidate that would have otherwise been missed.

9. Keep your questions concise, asking clear single questions not multiple questions

Interviewers often forget what it’s like to be in the candidate’s chair as they haven’t been jobseekers for some time. It is also incredibly easy to forget that, unlike you, candidates have not been part of your organisation for an extended period of time and know the ins and outs of your company. This is why it’s of paramount importance to keep your questions as simple and clear as possible – and no double-barrelled questions!

10. And last of all…Smile

We can’t emphasise this point enough. Our physical signals and cues are what will make a recruitment process either an enjoyable and insightful experience of your organisation OR an off-putting experience that candidates will hope to forget as soon as possible – but only after speaking negatively about your organisation to their friends, family and work colleagues!

So that’s ten of our top pointers to follow when aiming to build an inclusive and fair recruitment process. Remember that this is not a checklist that will guarantee that diverse talent will be attracted to your organisation – but these points will certainly help. To optimise your chances of recruiting from the best and most diverse pool of talent, consider taking advantage of our 28 years of experience in D&I by signing up to our Inclusive Recruitment course, Unconscious Bias in Recruitment and Selection or more general Diversity and Inclusion training.

Rachael Wilson has led EW Group for almost a decade. She has designed and delivered sessions for senior leaders at Merck Pharmaceutical (Germany), adidas (Italy), Computershare (USA) and British Land Plc (UK). Rachael’s interest lies in bringing narrative and storytelling to the fore both in the design of diversity strategy and in driving inclusive behaviours. In addition to working collaboratively with clients, Rachael is responsible for the growth and development of our 50-strong consulting team who are central to all EW Group activity.

Find out more about Inclusive Recruitment.

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