Diversity and inclusion in the hiring process are imperative for companies. Research shows that 85% of executives believe an inclusive workforce is critical to increasing innovation.
Unfortunately, traditional hiring practices, such as requiring college degrees, do the opposite of what companies need and exclude thousands of potential candidates.
Inclusive hiring is proactively opening your hiring process to every qualified candidate, and it’s one of the most powerful talent acquisition strategies.
Inclusive hiring practices remove barriers from the recruiting process and specifically seek to create a more diverse workforce, such as sourcing candidates through minority-serving job boards and using inclusive language.
This blog discusses the benefits of inclusive hiring practices and the top strategies to adopt them in your organization.
If you’re familiar with the importance of inclusive hiring, feel free to skip ahead to our tips.
Inclusive hiring reduces bias and ensures every candidate has a fair chance in the recruitment process. Instead of a single practice, inclusive hiring is a total rehaul where your hiring team assesses the hiring process from start to finish.
Writing job descriptions
Posting job ads
Deciding on interview questions and interviewing candidates
Inclusive hiring practices need to touch every step of the hiring process.
Unfortunately, each part of the process contains opportunities for exclusion and bias.
For example, job descriptions could contain gender-coded words, like “aggressive” or “nurturing,” and many resumes contain graduation dates, which opens the door for age discrimination.
Why is inclusive hiring important? Because most of these things slip by during our decision-making process without us noticing.
Optimizing diversity and inclusion in the hiring process creates an inclusive workplace and helps you tackle key talent acquisition trends, such as improving the candidate experience and hiring internationally.
Before we dive into inclusive hiring, let’s quickly cover the differences between diversity, equity, and inclusion.
They’re similar terms and certainly related, but each refers to something unique:
Refers to your employees and the differences between them
Pertains to the fair treatment of all employees, such as policies and benefits that are available to every worker
Covers efforts and initiatives to make employees feel accepted, heard, seen, and safe
Inclusive hiring practices should try to include all potential workers and make them feel accepted.
Read our diversity and inclusion hiring guide if you’d like to look at this broad topic.
Despite using equal opportunity, most traditional methods hinder true diversity and inclusion in hiring practices.
Anything that could potentially exclude a qualified candidate is a barrier to inclusion. Let’s look at a few of the most common factors:
Unconscious bias, especially in resumes and interviews
Requiring college degrees
Requiring years of experience
Unstructured interviews that rely on quick answers and charisma
Job descriptions with exclusionary phrases like “young and dynamic team”
Instinctive human biases cause some of these problems. For example, when a job description uses an exclusionary phrase like “digital native,” the hiring manager isn’t trying to exclude older candidates – they just assume the ideal candidate is young.
You don’t intend your assumptions to harm anyone, but they’re still damaging.
However, some of these barriers only exist today because we had no other selection methods in the past. Many recruiters attach degree requirements to a position because they don’t know how else to measure skills.
However, we have other methods now.
Increasingly, more companies are adopting inclusive hiring practices – for good reason.
Many social issues, including unrest and global protests, are prompting more inclusivity and diversity in the working world.
Organizations are improving their corporate social justice strategies to show candidates, team members, and customers that they aren’t blind to these issues
Inclusive hiring is also gaining traction because many companies are breaking out of traditional hiring practices and seeing the benefits of new recruiting tactics.
After all, if we don’t need barriers to inclusivity in the hiring process, such as college degree requirements, why should we have them?
Here are a few of the top reasons why inclusive hiring is important to employers:
Current social events: Current events and protests demand that companies take action and improve inclusivity. It’s the right thing to do and a great tactic in your CSR strategy.
Improves your employer branding: People want to work for a company that prioritizes inclusivity. It improves the employee and candidate experience. We discuss employer branding later in this article.
A happier, more productive workforce: Inclusive hiring leads to an inclusive workspace, making people feel seen and heard and creating a positive experience.
An inclusive workforce mirrors your customer base: Customers want to see that you have an inclusive workforce with demographics that mirror them. It boosts your reputation and increases customer loyalty.
Inclusive hiring practices don’t just benefit employers, either. They offer employees and candidates powerful advantages:
Better collaboration, innovation, and problem-solving
A more inclusive, positive culture
Point two is related to point three above, which shows that the employer advantages also ripple out to workers.
Inclusive hiring is an impactful practice offering solid, tangible benefits to your organization.
The benefits of inclusive hiring practices include building a positive company culture, widening your talent pool, and reaping all the benefits of a diverse workforce.
Let’s take a more detailed look.
Inclusive hiring naturally boosts diversity by removing barriers to employment, like requiring a certain amount of work experience.
When you adopt inclusive hiring, you gain all the benefits of diversity in the workplace, such as increased creativity, productivity, and innovation.
The first types of diversity that come to mind for most people are gender, race, and ethnic diversity. Studies have shown the impact of ethnically diverse and gender-diverse teams and how they outperform less diverse companies.
But it’s more than that. This study discusses how every form of diversity, such as including people from different backgrounds and veterans, helps boost creativity and profitability.
Every type of diversity increases when you use inclusive hiring practices because they open the door for anyone with the skills to get the job.
Inclusive hiring nurtures a positive atmosphere where employees can show their uniqueness. This work environment leads to higher job satisfaction, happier workers, and employee wellness.
A study from MIT Sloan supports this theory, showing that a bad company culture is the greatest driver of attrition, ranking 10.4 times higher than compensation.
However, the good news is that a separate study found that employees who feel included in their organization are about three times more likely than their peers to feel engaged by and committed to their company.
With exclusionary hiring practices, you cut millions of great candidates with diverse backgrounds out of your talent pool.
For example, only 23.5% of the US population has a four-year degree as their highest educational qualification, and only 14.4% have higher qualifications.
Requiring a four-year degree limits your talent pool to 37.9% of the population. Once you narrow that further by including the work experience your role needs, it leaves you with few choices.
Traditional hiring practices also contribute to candidate anxiety – particularly unstructured interviews. Job-irrelevant questions and body language can be tricky for most folks, but they can be downright detrimental to neurodivergent people.
Research shows that 50% of autistic people have social anxiety as compared with 7% to 13% of non-autistic people.
Anxiety makes thousands of candidates flunk interviews because they can’t respond and prove they have the skills you need.
Diversity brings many benefits to your company, one of them being attracting even more diversity.
One survey found that 76% of workers say diversity is important when considering a job offer, and 80% of Black, Hispanic, and LGBTQ+ people believe the same.
The same survey found that 32% of workers would not apply to a job at an organization lacking diversity and inclusion. But this number is higher in specific demographics:
Black job seekers – 41%
LGBTQ+ job seekers – 41%
The more inclusively you hire, the more you naturally attract diverse talent and build a diverse workforce.
So, how do you remove these diversity-stifling barriers and bottlenecks?
Here are our top diverse hiring best practices and how to implement them, including boosting accessibility and using objective talent assessments.
Think of this list as your inclusive hiring checklist.
1. Commit to using inclusive language
Check your hiring materials, such as job descriptions, for gender-coded language
2. Use talent assessments to evaluate a candidate’s skills fairly
Gauge a candidate’s capabilities by using objective skills tests
3. Use structured interviews to standardize the process
Toss away the unstructured interview process to improve inclusivity and effectiveness
4. Make your process accessible
- Check your website and applications for accessibility, i.e., WCAG color contrast and alt text
- Offer candidates special accommodations during talent assessments
5. Expand your outreach and try different sourcing channels
Look for candidates in new places, such as unique job boards and through diverse communities
6. Weave diversity and inclusion into your employer brand
Tell candidates about your diversity and inclusion by building it into your employer brand
Language carries more implications than we know. We may use terms like “rockstar” and “ninja” because they are fun and approachable.
These words are sneaky, and many seem so lighthearted that they couldn’t be exclusionary or harmful. Many hiring managers wouldn’t think asking for a “rockstar” program manager would discourage women from applying.
A powerful way to be more inclusive is to pay attention to language, especially in inclusive job descriptions.
We recommend using talent assessments on your current team first to discover the skills necessary for your open role. Use this information to build an inclusive, skills-based job description.
Then, run this job description through a program to ensure it uses inclusive terms and gender-neutral language, leveraging AI in talent acquisition.
For more information on inclusive terminology, check out our DE&I glossary.
Talent assessment tests evaluate a candidate’s raw skills and capabilities, reducing bias and enabling hiring managers to toss away unnecessary requirements and resumes.
Traditional hiring techniques like screening resumes may get in the way of true inclusivity, but with talent assessments, we don’t need these outdated documents to measure capability. We can now objectively gauge skills and behavioral competencies.
Leveling the playing field is simple when you use fair and accurate skills tests. They enable hiring managers to naturally boost diversity by hiring whoever scores the highest – regardless of who they are.
Let’s see how talent assessments work with TestGorilla:
Pictured above is a question from our Reading Comprehension test, a cognitive ability test. These tests measure the candidate’s skills and personality and nothing else – no need to have years of experience as long as you have the abilities.
Candidates complete these tests, and you receive the results. Whoever scores the highest ends up at the top of your shortlist without considering their background, age, gender, or ethnicity.
This talent acquisition technology lets you get an accurate picture of a candidate’s capabilities and toss away resumes and strict job requirements.
Further, they also help you measure and monitor important talent acquisition analytics, such as quality of hire and yield ratio.
Traditional job interviews, also known as unstructured interviews, have a few problematic issues:
They have no clear order of questions
They ask different candidates different questions
They rely on on-the-spot questions
They ask irrelevant questions to see how candidates respond
That last point is particularly important. Some interviewers throw candidates off by asking odd questions such as “If you were an animal, which one would you be?”
Structured interviews are the best for inclusive recruitment. They’re more efficient and fair and produce better outcomes.
These interviews predict 26% of job performance, whereas unstructured interviews predict only 14%.
Why are they more effective and inclusive? Structured interviews ask all candidates the same questions in the same order from a planned script, and they have a set of predetermined criteria for success.
They also ensure that every question is relevant to the role.
Accessibility is one of the most important inclusive hiring best practices. Nothing welcomes quality talent quite like ensuring your system works for them.
One of the first places to check for accessibility is your career content, such as your careers page, about us section, and job applications.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Alt text for images
WCAG accessible color contrast
Another impactful way to improve accessibility is using special accommodations with your talent assessments. These accommodations include extra time for questions or extra breaks between tests.
Before the assessment begins, candidates can answer whether or not they want special accommodations turned on. Here’s what the screen looks like:
This option improves accessibility enormously because candidates who would have normally been too overwhelmed to finish the test now have extra time to breathe and answer confidently.
A great way to be more inclusive in your diversity recruiting strategies is to search for candidates in new places.
It’s also a great idea to partner with diverse communities, such as finding minority-serving colleges when conducting campus recruitment.
Many organizations connect you to women, people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people. For example, Sista Circle aims to connect employers to Black women in tech.
Groups like this are crucial to inclusive hiring because Black women are one of the least represented groups in tech, representing 3% of the US computing workforce and only 0.7% of the UK workforce. 
If you’d like to read more about the imbalance in tech jobs, read our article on STEM inequality.
We’ve mentioned that diversity attracts more diversity, but it only happens when you display your inclusive culture for all to see.
Make inclusion a part of your employer branding and promote it across your channels so candidates know your stance.
Here are a few channels to promote your employer brand:
About us page
It’s also a good idea to ask your employees to honestly review your company’s inclusion on social media.
This tactic is a solid part of your employee referral program and gives information to candidates from the source they trust most.
One study found that 66% of job seekers trust an employee's opinion of a company's DE&I versus 19% trust senior leaders, 9% trust the company's website, and 6% trust recruiters.
Now that you’re clear on the strategies you should follow to leverage inclusive hiring, let’s take a look at three companies that have successfully turned these best practices into reality.
Why it’s successful
Increasing diversity and building inclusion into its employer branding
Offering flexible opportunities to disabled candidates
Promoting women in tech with skills tests and hackathons
Steelcase is dedicated to inclusion and removes resumes wherever possible, focusing on training and upskilling.
This company is succeeding with inclusive hiring through skills-based practices.
DE&I is a huge part of its employer branding and corporate identity. Here are a few important inclusive targets it achieved:
Its board of directors is 54.5% women
76% of interns in 2021 were Asian, Black, Hispanic, international, or women in STEM
Awarded 100 points by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and designated one of the "Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality" in the US
Its website even stresses that the company maintains a diverse supply chain, ensuring that 10% of its spending goes to diverse suppliers in the Americas.
Salesforce has a loud commitment to inclusion.
This company established a goal to have 50% of its US employees from underrepresented groups. Nearly one year early, it achieved a workforce of 50.7% underrepresented groups.
It is an impressive achievement, but diversity targets aren’t necessarily the best way to promote inclusion.
Read our article on DE&I target problems to see why token hires are just one of the issues with diversity targets.
The business has also been named a "Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion." It's partnered with inclusive communities such as the Blind Institute of Technology (BIT) and Disability:IN.
This company also encourages flexibility in the workplace, particularly remote work, for disabled candidates.
Amazon firmly believes in equal employment and saw a huge opportunity to boost the number of women in the tech industry.
It organized a hackathon to hire women programmers from leading technology institutions across India to achieve this.
The combination of hackathons and online skills tests encouraged many women to apply, and Amazon received more than 6,000 female participants.
This event extends from Amazon’s WOW program, an internship program that offers job opportunities and training to Indian women, promoting more gender equality in tech.
Diversity and inclusion in recruiting should be your top talent acquisition strategies.
These smart tactics enable you to enjoy a wider talent pool, increased innovation, and a happier, more productive workforce.
You don’t need to take these all on at once.
Try a handful of inclusive hiring best practices, such as adopting talent assessments and checking your process for accessibility.
Even a few inclusive practices boost the diversity of your candidate base.
If you’d like to read more about this, check out our article on diverse candidates.
To try a more inclusive approach to assessing cultural alignment, gauge your next hire with our Culture Add test.
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2. Spain, Debbie. (August 2018). “Social anxiety in autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review”. Science Direct. Retrieved September 1, 2023. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1750946718300643
3. "Glassdoor’s Diversity and Inclusion Workplace Survey". (September 29, 2020). Glassdoor. Retrieved September 1, 2023. https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/glassdoors-diversity-and-inclusion-workplace-survey/
4. Robinson, Kim. "Words Matter: Gender-Coded Language in Job Ads". Employers Council. Retrieved September 13, 2023. https://www.employerscouncil.org/resources/words-matter-gender-coded-language-in-job-ads/
5. Bock, Laszlo. (April 7, 2015). "Here's Google's Secret to Hiring the Best People". Wired. Retrieved September 1, 2023. https://www.wired.com/2015/04/hire-like-google/
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7. "Black Lives Matter - it’s the data that makes the difference". (October 12, 2020). bcs. Retrieved September 13, 2023. https://www.bcs.org/articles-opinion-and-research/black-lives-matter-but-it-s-the-data-that-makes-the-difference/
8. "Diversity, Equity + Inclusion". Steelcase. Retrieved September 13, 2023. https://www.steelcase.com/discover/steelcase/esg-overview/diversity-equity-inclusion
9. "Our 2022 Annual Equality Update: Accelerating Representation and Racial Equality". (February 10, 2022). Salesforce. Retrieved September 13, 2023. https://www.salesforce.com/news/stories/annual-equality-update-2022/
10. Nichols, Catherine. "Far from Done: A Journey to Become a Disability:IN and American Association of People with Disabilities “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion". Salesforce. Retrieved September 13, 2023. https://www.salesforce.com/company/careers/blog/best-place-work-disability-inclusion/
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