How to Ensure Diversity in Your Recruiting and Hiring Practices

So far in this series on improving diversity in your business, we’ve looked at ten key benefits of workplace diversity, we’ve examined different types of diversity, and we’ve celebrated International Women’s Day by looking at strategies for achieving gender equality in the workplace.

How to Ensure Diversity in Your Recruiting and Hiring Practices

In today’s tutorial, it’s time to focus on
the hiring process. Many businesses struggle at this stage. They set ambitious
diversity goals, but then the candidates they end up hiring are all from
similar backgrounds. Even Facebook, for all its innovation as a business, has had
in this area.

How do you fix that? It makes no sense, of
course, to hire the wrong person for the job, just because they help you meet
some diversity goal. That’s patronizing to the person you hire, it can cause
resentment among other employees, and it won’t help your business move forward.

How to Ensure Diversity in Your Recruiting and Hiring Practices

So in this tutorial, you’ll learn how to
find and recruit top candidates for all your open positions in a way that helps
you take advantage of all those benefits of diversity that we discussed

We’ll look at nine strategies you can use to overhaul
your hiring process. Some are simple; others will take more time and will
involve some serious work on your part and on the part of your existing staff.

The good news is that you don’t have to do
everything at once. You can start by picking the low-hanging fruit and seeing
some immediate benefits, and then you can gradually start to work on the more
complex areas over the months and years to come.

Set Your Focus

Before we start looking at strategies, it’s
important to set some objectives to work towards.

Look back at the dimensions
of diversity
from the previous tutorial. Ideally, you’ll take account of
all of them eventually, but it may make sense to focus on just a few at first,
or even take them one at a time, so that you can pour all your energy and
attention into one area.

Make an assessment of your existing
workforce to help you prioritize. Do you want to achieve a better gender
balance in your business? Or maybe you want to get a broader spread of
different ages? There are plenty of areas to choose from.

Once you’ve decided on your area of focus,
get more specific and set goals for your hiring practices. I covered this
process in the gender
equality tutorial
, and you can adapt that process for any other types of
diversity that you want to work on. Remember that changing the composition of
your workforce is a gradual process, not an overnight fix, so be realistic in
the timeframes you set yourself.

OK, so now for some strategies. We’ll start
with some easy ones, and then we’ll move on to address some deeper issues.

1. Work on Your Job Ads

Are you inadvertently turning away
qualified candidates by the way you word your job advertisements?

Studies have found that
even small differences in wording can send very different messages to
prospective applicants. So if you’re wondering why you get a majority of men
applying for your jobs, maybe it’s because your ad asked for someone who can “analyze markets
to determine appropriate selling prices,” instead of someone who can
“understand markets to establish appropriate selling

The difference may seem insignificant, but
the research shows that it makes a difference.

Luckily, there are tools you can use to
check for hidden bias in your ads. Check out the free website Gender
Decoder for Job Ads
, or try Textio,
a paid service with a two-week free trial. Both allow you to paste your text
into a web form and have it analysed to highlight potential problems.

Simple, right? This
one definitely falls into that “low-hanging fruit” category I mentioned
earlier. So start picking!

2. Create a Diversity Policy

A lot of job ads mention the company’s
commitment to diversity, but what happens when a candidate starts to research
your company? Will they find any mention of diversity in your mission statement
or company values? If not, why should they believe you?

So if diversity is truly important to you,
make sure it’s included somewhere in your company’s mission statement, values,
“About” page, or whatever public statement you make about who you are.

For example, СodeHolder, the parent company of
Tuts+, makes a strong statement about diversity as part of its core values:

We thrive when we champion diversity and
inclusion. We make better decisions, we’re stronger and happier, and it’s the
right thing to do. It is our responsibility and privilege to be somewhere
talented, value-driven people thrive. We are welcoming, respectful and supportive
at work, on our sites, and in our community.

Showing a true commitment to diversity goes
deeper than having a policy on your website, of course. We’ll look at some more
ways of expressing that commitment in this tutorial and the next one. But
creating a policy is an important first step.

3. Represent Diversity

If you want to hire a more diverse set of
candidates, you should show that in your company imagery.

Remember that prospective applicant we
talked about before? After reading your diversity policy, they’re going to
explore your website, read your annual report, look at your marketing
materials, and so on. If they don’t see any diversity in the workforce
represented there, your claims are going to sound quite hollow.

The BBC created
a recruitment film
a couple of years ago that emphasized the network’s
broad reach and claimed, “It’s
important that the BBC actually reflects what’s happening around the country.” But the film undermined that message by including an all-white cast, prompting complaints from groups like the Campaign
for Broadcasting Equality.

Don’t forget that diversity is about more
than just race and gender. Consider all the dimensions of diversity that we
discussed in our previous tutorial, and use imagery that reflects your values.

4. Be Accessible

It’s 2017. Your workplace should be fully
accessible to people with disabilities. In many countries, the law requires it.

And yet people can often overlook the issue
of accessibility. In the UK, the government introduced testing to see if people
still qualified for disability benefits, and two
out of five people
were sent to an assessment centre that wasn’t accessible for disabled

Disability is an important dimension of
diversity, so make sure that your office is fully accessible. Try this self-assessment
, and make any adjustments necessary—in many cases, they can be quite
simple and not too costly.

Don’t forget your website either. If people
have difficulty accessing it, they’ll probably be discouraged from applying,
either because they can’t find the information they need or because they simply
feel excluded. The following course will get you fully up to speed on web

  • How to Ensure Diversity in Your Recruiting and Hiring Practices
    Web Accessibility
    A Beginner’s Guide to Web Accessibility
    John Hartley

5. Offer Extra Hiring Bonuses

One of the most common ways to hire new
employees is through referrals. You ask your existing staff members if they
know anyone who would be a good fit, and they recommend people from their own

It’s often a very effective method, but it
can also lead to a homogeneous workforce. That’s why some companies have
offered extra referral bonuses to people who make referrals that help them
achieve their diversity goals.

Intel, for example, announced
in 2015
that it would pay up
to $4,000 in bonuses to employees who referred a woman, minority, or veteran to
its workforce. And Microsoft
is taking a slightly different approach
, tying executive bonuses to the
company’s diversity efforts.

Money is a great motivator. A small
investment in referral bonuses could lead to big results for your
business—while putting some extra cash in the pockets of your employees too,
which always goes down well.

6. Check Your Interview Questions and Assessments

Do you like to do unstructured interviews?
The kind where you just chat and get to know the person, rather than putting
them through a test?

There’s a lot of merit to that approach,
but one downside is that it can lead to a lack of diversity, according to this HBR

When sociologist Lauren Rivera interviewed
bankers, lawyers, and consultants, they reported that they commonly looked for
someone like themselves in interviews. Replicating ourselves in hiring
contributes to the prevalent gender segregation of jobs, with, for example,
male bankers hiring more male bankers and female teachers hiring more female

A more structured approach can help you to
compare candidates more fairly. Ask the same set of questions in the same order
to each candidate, and then do a comparative evaluation—read the full HBR
article for more detail on the process.

Standard tests may also help, but use them
with caution too. As The
Wall Street Journal reports

The rise of personality tests has sparked
growing scrutiny of their effectiveness and fairness. Some companies have
scaled back, changed or eliminated their use of such tests. Civil-rights groups
long focused on overt forms of workplace discrimination claim that data-driven
algorithms powering the tests could make jobs harder to get for people who
don’t conform to rigid formulas.

7. Examine Your Own Biases

Even if you take the steps above, there’s still likely to be a highly subjective element to the hiring process. So you need to
be aware of your own unconscious biases and work to correct them.

You probably don’t think of yourself as
biased, but that’s why they call them unconscious
biases! Try some of the tests on the Project Implicit
website. You can test your thoughts and feelings about a whole range of
different groups. Keep an open mind, and the results may surprise you.

Working to overcome your biases is not a
simple or quick process, but being aware of them will help you to start the
process—and to try to minimize the effect of snap judgments in your recruitment
process. If you have a larger team working on recruiting, encourage them to
take the tests too, and perhaps organize some unconscious bias training for the
whole team.

8. Expand Your Network

If you want to hire diverse candidates, you
need to go where they are.

Part of that is about placing your job ads
in new places. So research magazines, websites and forums that are visited by
your target group or groups, and place ads there in addition to your usual

But as we covered earlier, many jobs are
filled through personal networks and recommendations. So if you’re committed to
diversity, why not expand your own networks?

If you’re interested in hiring more LGBTQ
employees, for example, perhaps you could find some organizations in your area
and make contact with their staff members. It’s a great way to learn more about
the issues that community faces and how you as an employer can help. And you’ll
also have the chance to talk to people and get recommendations, or to have the organizations publicise your job openings to their members.

9. Create Formal Programs

If you want to achieve true diversity,
sometimes a formal program aimed at supporting a particular group can help.

For example, financial firm TIAA launched
its Fruits of Employment
disability program in 2008, while Walgreens built a disability-friendly
warehouse in which roughly half of the staff has a disability. It is now the
company’s safest, most productive warehouse, according to a Fast
Company article

We are now firmly out
of the realm of quick fixes. To build a successful program, you’ll need to do a
whole lot of research into your area of focus, and you may have to invest
significant sums of money into making the necessary changes and publicising the
program. But if it’s done well, it can pay off handsomely.


In this tutorial, you’ve learned nine
useful techniques for achieving diversity in your recruiting programs. Some of
them have been simple, while others will take a lot longer to implement.

The next stage is to make a plan to go
through each of these techniques one by one. Work out how you can best
implement them in your business. We’ve looked at some best practices by other
companies during this tutorial, but every business is different, and you may
need to make adjustments to fit your own particular circumstances.

Hiring a diverse set of new employees is
only half the battle, of course. You won’t make much progress towards your
diversity goals if your new recruits encounter a discriminatory or unwelcoming
workplace culture.

So in the next and final tutorial in the
series, we’ll look at some important retention strategies you can use to ensure
that the people you’ve hired feel welcomed and supported, so that they thrive
at your company and make contributions for years to come.

Making your workplace culture more
inclusive will also help you in your recruitment practices, creating a virtuous
circle effect. So stay tuned for the next episode! In the meantime, let me know
if there are any other recruiting strategies you can recommend.