How to hire diverse candidates for improved culture and productivity

How to hire diverse candidates for improved culture and productivity

Our blog How to hire diverse candidates for improved culture and productivity
How to recruit diverse candidates by using the right tools

Many studies reflect that a diverse workforce boosts profitability and improves culture and productivity, yet many modern workplaces still don’t make workplace diversity a priority. If you're wondering to recruit diverse candidates, this guide will help you find the tools to do it.

Under laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it’s illegal to discriminate against race, color, religion, sex, age, and many other characteristics.

This makes it tricky to base your recruitment strategy around a diversity quota. Focusing solely on diversity instead of a well-thought-out strategy also puts you at risk of overlooking the most qualified candidates during the recruitment process. 

However, if you’re not recruiting diversely, then you’re certainly not hiring diversely -- yet you can’t simply recruit yourself out of a lack of diversity. Instead, you need a solid plan that helps you overcome recruiting and hiring biases, including using the right tools and techniques. 

Read on to discover best practices that will help you build a truly diverse workplace.

What is diversity recruiting?

Diversity recruiting consists of embedding bias-free (or bias-limiting) practices into recruiting processes. It doesn't necessarily mean prioritizing diversity above all else.

You can build a diverse workforce while also maintaining a commitment to hiring the best candidate available by creating recruiting processes that provide all potential applicants with equal opportunities and embed standardized assessments within them. 

4 steps to hiring more diverse candidates

Take the following steps to help you build a diverse candidate pool the next time you’re hiring:

1. Commit to blind hiring practices 

The concept of blind hiring is not a new one. One of the earliest examples of blind hiring was introduced by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1952, where blind auditions were carried out to diversify the orchestra’s member base. Fast forward to 2020, and studies of the positive effects of blind hiring have been conducted across all corners of the world. 

Blind hiring practices aim to reduce process biases by anonymizing candidate information and steps throughout the candidate assessment and application journey. Some common examples of blind hiring practices include: 

  • Removing certain identifying information from candidate resumes while retaining categories such as education or certifications.
  • Disregarding the need for a ‘hobbies’ or ‘interests’ resume section.
  • Ruling out searching for candidates on social media.

These practices are implemented to limit the effect of unconscious bias in the recruitment and hiring processes, such as: 

  • Gender bias.  For example, research by sociologist Jill E. Yavorsky revealed that women were likely to be discriminated against when it comes to working-class jobs, but not white-collar roles. Meanwhile, men were overlooked by their employers when applying for both working-class and white-collar jobs. 
  • Age discrimination in the hiring of older women. The US National Bureau of Economic Research conducted a large-scale study of resumes responses and found that women nearing retirement age received far fewer responses than men. 

How to easily implement blind hiring processes

Organizations sometimes balk when tasked with implementing new technology or processes because they often believe the costs will outweigh the results.

However, you don’t need expensive software to commit to blind hiring processes to attract diverse candidates. Here are a few ways your organization can easily implement blind hiring processes: 

  • Examine what data you really need. Review the questions you’re currently asking on your job application forms, and consider whether each is relevant to how you evaluate a candidate. For example, do you really need information regarding a candidate's age, name, or gender? You may need some of that data at some point (e.g., the candidate's name), but chances are, your applicant tracking system can already help you anonymize candidate data.
  • Review your job descriptions. When you write job descriptions, make sure the language is as neutral as possible. Text analyzers, such as Ongig, can scan and identify “exclusionary phrases” that imply gender, racial, disability, or age bias and recommend alternative words and phrases.
  • Include employees outside the hiring teams. If budgets are tight, you can begin by asking staff members that aren’t involved in hiring to help you create blind hiring practices. You can create a template that allows them to input the candidate data you deem relevant while removing data that could provoke bias. This is a time-consuming task, but if you see great results from this exercise, you’ll be more inclined to invest in technology that can help automate the process. 

2. Use candidate screening tools to prevent unconscious bias 

Skills assessments have long been part of the recruitment process, but using them as a first resort rather than a tool to reinforce candidate decisions you’ve already made will help you create a diverse workforce.

Results from standardized skills tests provide employers with a bias-free way to test candidates based on their knowledge and/or skills alone, without any other qualifying information.

For example, software like TestGorilla offers recruitment teams a more quantitative approach to diversity hiring.

With over 90 pre-designed tests designed by industry experts, TestGorilla’s skills assessments help teams make screening choices based on test results, rather than allowing unconscious bias to dominate initial screening selections.

Diversity hiring tool screenshot

Anonymized testing is not only a fairer way to make decisions on candidates, but it works.

FCB, a New York-based advertising agency, assessed their candidates’ technical skills without seeing any other information relating to their identity. Only once the results were in were hiring managers allowed to see other data relating to each candidate. 

Since implementing anonymous testing, FCB says they’ve hired 19% more women than before, and the number of ethnically diverse candidates interviewed rose by 38%. 

3. Implement a structured interview format 

Candidate interviews are where many unconscious biases come into play. This is especially true when hiring teams don’t follow a standardized format. 

Structured interviews consist of interviewers asking interviewees to set questions in a standardized order. Usually, the candidates’ responses are graded using a scoring system. This interview format is preferable if you want to assess diverse candidates fairly, as it provides qualitative data and comparable responses to make sound hiring decisions. 

Many HR tools or recruiting platforms have structured interview features built-in, making candidate comparison easier and less time-consuming. 

Screenshot of a tool to help recruit diverse candidates

Recruiting software Breezy allows users to assign candidates scores based on structured questions. (Source: Breezy)

While many hiring teams prefer unstructured interviews as they feel like the spontaneity and natural flow of questions helps them get to know candidates better, the reality is that the more an interview is unstructured, the less it tends to be focused on the role. In fact, unstructured interviews often allow interviewers to evaluate traits or characteristics in a biased way. 

Tips for setting up structured interviews

Embedding structured interviews into your hiring processes doesn’t need to be difficult. Here are a few steps you can take to start using structured interviews to make sure diverse candidates get a fair chance: 

  • Refer back to your job descriptions. Before interviewing candidates, remind yourself and your team of the key competencies you were hiring for, including skills, behaviors, and capabilities. 
  • Work on your interview questions. Here, you’ll want to include a range of situational questions (ones that present candidates with a hypothetical scenario and require them to predict how they’d deal with the scenario) and behavioral questions (ones that ask candidates to describe how their previous experience would be relevant for this role). These questions should always be relevant to the role’s key competencies. 
  • Design a rating scale. As mentioned before, many HR and recruiting platforms have ready-made features that will help your team assess candidates during structured interviews. If not, sit down with your hiring team and decide how you’ll rate candidates’ answers on a scale of 1-5. To help with this step, you can create mock interview answers that, in your opinion, would represent poor, average, and excellent answers. 
  • Train hiring teams. Everyone on your hiring team should know exactly how structured interviews work and how to evaluate candidates. Run mock interviews for practice, and if you’re using software to help with interview grading, run team training sessions so that interviews can familiarize themselves with how the tool works in advance. 

4. Use culture add assessments instead of culture fit

Assessing a candidate's culture fit has fallen out of favor because, without a standardized process for evaluation, it can lead hiring managers to hire people based on subjective judgments and unconscious bias.

That's why we recommend hiring for culture add instead. We offer a culture fit test, but we call it a culture add test to highlight the fact that Corporate culture isn't about “fitting in” but about creating an environment where diverse employees can feel included and add to the company through their unique contributions.

Want more diverse candidates in your pipeline? Eliminate process biases first

Evidently, employers are still struggling to remove the inherent process biases and hire employees that are an asset to their organization while also building a diverse workforce. A lack of diversity is rarely a pipeline problem but a bias problem. 

Ultimately, if you want to recruit diverse candidates, you need to remove biases in your hiring and recruit processes. Some biases are easier to eliminate than others, especially with specific tools and software that can automate and streamline bias elimination. 

To get a good idea of where you need to make improvements to your processes, check out your recruiting metrics and recruiting KPIs embedded in your HR software platform to see where in your recruiting process you are doing well in terms of attracting, screening, and interviewing diversely. This will also give you a solid foundation for building a diversity plan and what goals you should be looking towards. 

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