5 Steps to Inclusive Recruitment

5 Steps to Inclusive Recruitment


Teresa Norman, EW Group’s Diversity and Talent Management specialist, shares her top tips on how to attract diverse talent from the job description to interview.


How can you make sure that your recruitment is unbiased and genuinely seeking the best possible candidate?


Recruiters are increasingly looking to Artificial Intelligence (AI) to boost levels of fairness and equity in their talent pipeline (see here for more). The business case for a more diverse workforce has never been more clear and evidence shows clearly that businesses with a diverse workforce are more likely to financially outperform their industry’s national average. Automated recruitment is meant to speed up recruitment by:

  • Reducing time spent writing job descriptions
  • CVs can be pre-screened by machines learning algorithms to sort out the best candidates
  • Even screenings and interviewing can be automated

So, can we take people out of the most important decision, a manager will make? Is it possible to create an inclusive recruitment process using AI?

Hmmm, But if AI is being created by companies without inclusive recruitment processes of their own this technology poses a risk to reinforcing unconscious bias in recruiting. Can automated recruitment be the future of inclusive recruitment?

Look at Amazon, for example (see the original article). Their AI specialists had been building computer programmes since 2014 to review CVs to automate their recruitment process. But they uncovered a big problem. Their new recruitment engine did not like women. Whilst automation has been a key factor for Amazon’s commercial success, it’s undermining a fair and equal recruitment process. The AI algorithms learnt to vet applications by observing patterns in CVs submitted to Amazon over a 10-year period. The majority came from men reflecting the dominance of men in the tech industry. Their model of success was built on who was currently successful, not who might be in the future.

I think inclusive recruitment cannot be automated. It takes careful thinking to be successful. As with all things with diversity and inclusion at work, it isn’t just a box to be ticked. Every time you recruit, it requires new thinking and questioning to make sure you’re doing everything to attract the best candidates.


My 5 steps to inclusive recruitment


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, 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 there 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 you 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, 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. The way they can actively challenge each other on 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 (see here for what is unconscious bias)
  • How the room will be laid out
  • How refreshments will work

In doing so, you’ll have more time to concentrate on 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 important, too. In an experiment carried out by Woodzicka and LaFrance (see here), 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.


Building a more inclusive recruitment process with EW Group

All in all, then, inclusive recruitment (see here for more details on our inclusive recruitment training) 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!

Sign up to our next Inclusive Recruitment Open Course

Teresa Norman is a Diversity and Talent Management Consultant for EW Group. Teresa's work covers both strategic work and delivery. Her specialisms include policy development, investigations, research, coaching, facilitation and talent management - with a focus on working at an organisational level to build inclusive cultures. Teresa's expertise has meant she's EW Groups go-to for research having delivered many reports for EW Group's extensive client base, including co-authoring the report, 'A Regional Approach to Talent Management' for the NHS London Leadership Academy.

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