Eight steps to inclusive recruitment and workplace diversity

Inclusive recruitment

Teresa Norman, one of EW Group’s Diversity and Talent Management specialists, shares her top tips on diversity and inclusion in recruitment – throughout the whole process.

The business case for a more diverse workforce has never been clearer and evidence shows that businesses with diverse workforces are more likely to financially outperform their industry’s national average.

A more diverse team makes for better problem-solving thanks to differing perspectives – but that’s not all. By sharing varied viewpoints and experiences, more diverse teams are far more creative than homogenous ones, and tend to be more profitable as a result.

Inclusive recruitment guarantees not just the widest variety of staff, but also the best possible choice of candidates. In fact, diversity of employees, especially at higher levels, is one of the best possible indicators of both long-term growth and overall innovation, with more diverse management teams tending to far outperform less-diverse competitors.

A 2020 McKinsey report found that the gap between organizations with a clear diversity recruitment strategy and those without is widening year-on-year.

So, what steps can you take to ensure your recruitment processes are inclusive, giving your organization the greatest chance of success?

How to ensure your recruitment process is genuinely unbiased and inclusive

  1. Set overall goals for representation in your recruitment strategy
  2. Write inclusive job descriptions
  3. Widen your search to include diverse groups and pools of talent
  4. Inclusively design the application process
  5. Make shortlisting fair
  6. Allow for reasonable adjustments at interview
  7. Prepare for an inclusive interview
  8. Set the right tone, ask the right questions

1. Set overall goals for representation in your recruitment strategy

One of the first things anyone leading on the organization’s recruitment strategy needs to establish is what success looks like for you. Are you aiming for gender diversity in management? Or looking to recruit more Black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates throughout your organization? Once you have established this, what is the positive action you can take to make it happen?

We offer diversity audits tailored to your organization, to help you identify diversity recruiting issues, and plan realistic targets to enact real change. There is no “one size fits all” and we have to remember the importance of adopting an intersectional lens when hiring. Whatever your goals, they need to be realistic, long-term, and built around your company values.

2. Write inclusive job descriptions

First, let’s focus on the job description:

  • Have you defined – as clearly as possible – what the job role is and the skills it requires?
  • Could someone outside your organization easily understand what is needed?

All organizations develop their own language; it is part of the world you operate in every day. While this may make sense to everyone already working in your industry or sector, if you want to attract people who are different to the status quo, they need to understand what is expected from the get-go – not be left confused by unnecessary jargon. You may even wish to consider running your wording past someone outside your company to see if they understand what you are looking for.

Make sure the criteria you set are clear and reflect the skills and competencies needed to do the job.

Next up, job advertisement. You will 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 organization was not employing more people with a certain protected characteristic. The response? “They don’t apply.” Instead of blaming the applicants, this organization should have seriously considered whether they were advertising their roles in the wrong place.

So how do you widen your applicant base? Nowadays, you can place your job ads on large recruitment websites, LinkedIn, or in a broadsheet newspaper, but you can also be imaginative. Get the word out there via promoted social media posts, or through the various networking groups and membership societies that work with under-represented groups.

4. Inclusively design the application process

Think about how easy you can make it for a diverse range of job applicants to apply for roles.

In your recruitment system, check that the messages and instructions displayed throughout the application form-filling process are friendly and inclusive, not overly formal, and punitive. Design the application process in a simple way that does not confuse or frustrate applicants.

Do not forget the basics, either. Your organization’s commitment to equal opportunities is something that really matters to diverse applicants – does your equality and diversity policy stand out the way it should?

5. Make shortlisting fair

If you have been crystal clear when deciding the criteria you are measuring applicants against, shortlisting should be easy. It’s best practice to have at least two people shortlisting in a formal meeting setting, they can then actively challenge any assumptions made by the other.

Assessing CVs without including any personal information is also effective at removing any bias against diverse applicants. This involves getting a person not involved in the shortlisting process to make sure the panel does not see names, schools, locations, and date of birth, ensuring assessors’ decisions only account for the skills and experience of the candidate – the things that matter.

6. Allow for reasonable adjustments at interview

Check whether the interviewee needs any reasonable adjustments, then remember to make them and communicate them to the candidate, ahead of time.

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.

7. Prepare for an inclusive interview

The more preparation you do for the interview, the less the danger of making a biased decision and the greater the chance that you will make an evidence-based decision. This is because you know exactly what you are looking for and how to elicit the information you need. Preparation involves agreeing in advance:

  • the individual roles of your panel members
  • the questions you will be asking
  • how you will score each applicant’s answers
  • whether you will be asking supplementary questions
  • the potential impact of implicit or unconscious bias

Your planning will give you the time you need 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, writing notes.

Now that many interviews are held online, you also need to include more time in interviews for screen freezing and any technical issues that might come up.

8. Set the right tone, ask the right questions

Part of setting the right interview tone is to have as diverse a panel as possible. This is a chance to demonstrate that you are a diverse organization – right there in the room – reassuring candidates that you employ people like them.

Creating the atmosphere is important, too. In a 2005 experiment carried out by Woodzicka and LaFrance, students who were asked inappropriate or offensive questions in a job interview ‘paused’, ‘trailed off’, and ‘screwed up the interview’ when compared to the control group. Prior to the interview, a majority anticipated they would call out the inappropriate questions. In the event, during the interviews, when the question was asked, the students in the experiment answered it and then performed worse than the control group, who were not asked offensive questions. This sends a clear message to hiring managers: ultimately, being aggressive in the interview is totally counter-productive.

When asking questions, 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. This helps you keep the tasks separate and manage ‘cognitive load’. Overloading your brain can lead to biased decision making.

And when you are doing online interviews, remember to:

  • Test the technology and that it works for both candidate and panel, ideally sometime in advance of the interview
  • Check whether the candidate can hear you
  • Make sure you make any online reasonable adjustments

Develop a more inclusive recruitment process with EW Group

Inclusive recruitment can have a dramatic effect on increasing diversity in your business. These eight strategies typically represent the minimum organizations can do to improve diversity and inclusion in recruitment, and the steps your company requires will be unique to your organization. That is where EW Group’s experts come in. We offer both training and audits of your recruitment processes.

Find out about our inclusive recruitment training and open courses

Get in touch