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How to Create an Inclusive Hiring Practice 

By nature, our world is incredibly diverse. Our communities are full of people with different backgrounds, ethnicities, physical and mental abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities, income levels, body shapes and religious beliefs. We speak different languages, use different communication styles, hold different opinions and core motivations. And while at times these differences can be a source of conflict, they shouldn’t have to mean division. We believe embracing diversity makes teams stronger, more creative and ultimately better. 

Through our new series Hiring Diverse, we hope to showcase the incredible benefits of prioritizing diversity and shed light on some common blind spots in recruitment strategies. 

In this instalment of Hiring Diverse, I unpack how to create an inclusive hiring practice to create a more diverse team. 

Acknowledge your bias 

The first step to implementing any lasting change is, of course, acknowledging that there’s a problem, to begin with. 

Humans are evolutionally predisposed to look for homogeneity, which means everyone holds their own biases (conscious or unconscious). The problem occurs when these go unchecked and influence our reactions to others or are used as the basis for decision-making. 

In recruitment, where it’s common to hire based on employee referrals, gut instinct and ‘culture fit,’ it’s essential that implicit bias is recognized and strategies implemented to reduce the harmful impact. 

By functioning from the assumption that everyone has implicit biases, we can set up foundational policies that reduce harm rather than pretending it isn’t an issue. 

Harvard has developed a free online tool called the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to help identify where your personal biases sit. 

While it would be impossible to measure the impact of unconscious bias fully, tools like this can help encourage self-reflection and awareness. They may also inform specific goals within your organization. 

Identify goals and develop a plan

Creating a company-wide policy is a helpful step for organizations wanting to implement more inclusive hiring practices. 

It creates a framework to refer back to when issues arise as well as goals to work towards. 

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation report, “What Works: Evidence-Based Ideas to Increase Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace”, suggests approaching diversity in the same way as maximizing profits. 

They suggest organizations should “develop metrics, make them transparent, and hold people accountable, just like for any other outcome of interest.”

Arguing that by treating diversity the same as any other organizational goal, organizations will avoid “consulting fads, symbolic actions, and slow or no progress.”

As with any new policy, employee and manager buy-in is essential for a successful roll-out. Involving the team in the development stages of a new approach can instil a sense of ownership and drive. It’s also a great way to broaden your understanding of how these issues may be already affecting your team. 

Insights from working mothers, LGBT+, people of color, and other marginalized groups can lead to more well-rounded goals toward inclusivity and diversity. 

Assess your hiring pipeline

Once you’ve identified your goals, it’s a good idea to review your current hiring process. 

Look at any past data you may have collected, and if it’s not a complete picture, start collecting as soon as you can. 

Assess the pipeline for any clear drop off points. For example, you might find that underrepresented candidates are applying at high percentages but aren’t making it past the interview stage. Or, they may be making it through the interviews but dropping off at the testing phase. This information can help identify at what point in your process bias may be interfering. 

Your solutions will depend on what you find. Perhaps you’ll decide to take out identifying information from resumes or test exercises to help you judge applicants solely based on their work. Maybe you need to add more people to your recruitment team to diversify your outlook and keep each other accountable. Or you might decide to look into using AI software to produce unbiased applicant options. 

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Use inclusive language in job listings

In many cases, organizations report a lack of diversity at the application stage. This could point to issues in how they’ve written the job description and listed the opening (or a combination of the two). 

Language is incredibly powerful in expressing the kind of company you are, what you value, and the kinds of people you’re hoping to attract. 

By utilizing inclusive language, you’ll be showcasing to potential candidates that your company is a safe place for everyone to apply, not just select groups. 

While you may not think your listing is skewed toward a specific gender or group, studies have shown that some words are subconsciously perceived as more masculine or feminine. 

Terms like “strong” and “competitive” are often used when describing an ideal candidate, but they’re also seen to be more masculine and more likely to attract male applicants. 

Another area of exclusion within language is the overuse of industry terminology or company jargon. If you want to broaden your reach and hire outside of your regular pool, it’s vital to use language accessible to all kinds of people. 

Having multiple people read through listings before they’re published will help catch any exclusionary language you may not have noticed. 

It’s not always the specific words used either. How the listings are structured will also play a part in the kinds of applicants you attract. 

As one often-cited Hewlett Packard study revealed, men apply for a job when they meet only 60 per cent of the outlined qualifications, while women won’t feel confident to apply unless they meet 100 per cent. 

Rethinking how you present the requirements and qualifications in your listings will help make your role more accessible to those with diverse backgrounds. 

An example of a more clear job listing comes from Lever, where they use an ‘Impact Description’ model. 

They’re made up of two key parts:

  1. The outcomes a new hire would be expected to achieve at specific milestones (months one, three, six, then 12)
  2. Clear articulation on what the new hire would be expected to know already and help others with (labelled as “Teach”) versus what they would have to develop on the job (tagged as “Learn”).

By being as straightforward as possible with the actual requirements, you’ll be open to receiving applications from people who may have transferable skills rather than industry-specific (which increases the likelihood of diverse ideas and problem-solving skills). 

Incorporate a flexible approach to interviews and test exercises

Just in the same way, that job listings can include unintentional exclusionary language, so too can the next stages of the hiring process. 

The way you conduct interviews, testing exercises and submit offers can exclude some groups. 

A single mother or someone with mobility issues may not be able to commute for interviews easily. In addition, those who have hearing impairment may find Zoom calls difficult without using captioning software. 

Imposter syndrome, which disproportionately affects women and minorities, could affect how certain groups perform under stress. 

According to a study by North Carolina State University, women performed significantly worse when they were required to complete a “whiteboard challenge” in front of a group of people. 

They found that “All of the women who participated in whiteboard challenges failed, but when women whiteboarded privately (without anyone present in the room), they passed.” 

Be willing to change how you’ve conducted your hiring process before to capture a more diverse group with more varied needs. Be forthcoming in the flexibility you offer, and ask your candidates what accommodations they may need before getting to the interview stage. 

Encourage anti-discrimation training

Anti-discrimination and unconscious bias training is helpful for anyone, no matter their role in the company. However, the recruitment team must have access to these resources. 

This can be self-directed, using materials available from the likes of Google and Paradigm, or could involve external consultants or trainers. 

Whatever your method, it’s important to keep resources accessible, updated and part of the ongoing culture. This may mean regular company-wide training days or other incentives to keep them top of mind. 

Diverse hiring must lead to an inclusive culture

Creating a more inclusive hiring practice is only one part of the process. To truly promote diversity, you’ll need to retain your talent, which means creating an inclusive and safe environment for all employees. 

This needs to be a priority from the top, and it needs to remain a focus long after the policy is implemented. 

This means valuing diverse thinking, encouraging input from everyone no matter how out of the box it may seem, and implementing flexibility and accommodating practices at every level. 

It’s also a good idea to make it easy for employees to report discrimination and have a well-thought-out plan to respond to any instances of discrimination. 

How do you ensure you’re hiring practices are inclusive?

Unfortunately, there are no checklists or steps to follow that guarantee success. Embracing diversity is a journey of self-reflection, openness to correction and a willingness to change.  

These practices do not happen on their own-they require intention, effort and trial and error. 

Often starting is the hardest step, but it’s incredibly worthwhile. 


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