How can recruiters increase workplace diversity?

James McGill, VP International Customer Success, EMEA & APAC at HireVue discusses the steps recruiters can take to increase diversity in their hiring process

Diversity and inclusion are all too often the cause for many a sleepless night in the world of recruitment. Recruiting leaders know that if their companies aren’t sourcing and hiring for diversity, they are missing valuable talent and experience. However, current diversity initiatives are often inadequate, leaving companies to face a range of barriers from struggling to find diverse candidates in the first place, to failing to convince them to accept a role once you’ve got them through the door. Sound familiar?

In order to overcome this challenge, organisations typically implement a range of corporate strategies to attract a more diverse pool of candidates, including employee training, diversity policies, “CV blinding” and compliance-based reporting. Whilst they sound impressive on paper, these solutions rarely affect meaningful behaviour change within a company. For this, the main obstacle recruitment needs to overcome is the impact of unconscious human bias, which previous studies have shown to influence up to 40% of hiring decisions.

So what more can be done to overcome employees’ existing unconscious bias and make hiring more equitable for all candidates?

  1. Ensure there is diversity in the hiring team

It’s obvious once you think about it, but if you want to attract more diverse candidates, you must ensure that the interview panel reflects diversity. Many organisations mandate a diverse interview panel in order to bring unique experiences to the discussion, and help candidates feel more comfortable. It also sends a message to prospective employees and your current employees that you are committed to an inclusive culture. More importantly, recent research suggests that organisations that implement diverse interview panels are seeing a 41% increase in the percentage of new female and minority hires. When you consider the significance of this number, diverse hiring becomes so much more important than a box-ticking exercise and one which can drive real business impact.

  1. Create inclusive job descriptions

An often overlooked strategy, but one that’s relatively simple to execute, is to review your job postings with fresh eyes and omit any phrases that could indicate bias and deter candidates from applying. It’s a good idea, for example, to remove aggressive words such as “decisive” or “superior” from your job applications, and instead try to use more inclusive terms like “committed” and “responsible.” Similarly, terms such as “rock star” or “ninja” tend to have masculine connotations and may discourage some female candidates from applying for a role within your organisation. If you are looking to attract a more diverse pool of talent, these words should be removed or switched with more gender-neutral terms.

  1. Expand your hiring sources

Whilst we all have our own tried-and-tested methods for finding candidates, you may need to diversify your platforms for advertising new roles if you want to reach a broader mix of talent. For example, if a company exclusively promotes new roles on social media, it may receive a greater volume of millennial and Gen-Z applicants, as they are generally more actively engaged on these platforms. Similarly, companies which heavily recruit via internal referrals may find they are hiring many similar candidates over a period of time. It’s also worth bearing in mind that some job seekers still use (sometimes highly niche) job boards or learn about positions through word of mouth – so there is no catch-all solution. Instead, it’s important to make as much noise as possible across a wide variety of platforms, including the traditional methods of recruitment websites, as well as LinkedIn and other social media.

  1. Rely on video interviews over CVs in order to expand your talent pool

Designed as a quick way for recruiters to judge potential employees based on factors such as work experience or education, the CV has been a mainstay in the recruitment process for many years. However, studies have shown that rating candidates by these incidental factors is one of the worst predictors of performance. In fact,  rating candidates based on core and soft skills is a far more relevant way of qualifying them, and allows you to open up the talent pool for people to apply based on ability, rather than background. But how can you do this?

Structured video interviews are a great way to screen candidates based on their skills and attributes versus experience, but also make the job application process more accessible to a broader range of applicants. Candidates record answers to a structured question set at a time and in a place that suits them, and recruiters and hiring managers can review the responses (and any data the platform collates around them) at their convenience. Not only does this allow you to consider more candidates since all qualified applicants can take a video interview, since all candidates answer the same questions, you create a more objective and fair evaluation process that ensures consistency in hiring decisions.

  1. Introduce AI to reduce bias and support human decision-making

There are many discussions in the media about the use of AI in recruitment and the fear that it could replicate human hiring biases if coded or implemented without rigor. However, the reality is that unconscious bias is most common in interviews with humans.

Whether deliberate or not, even well-intentioned recruiters and hiring managers have biases that play a significant role in their hiring process. Perhaps the interviewer had a tough weekend with their family – this tension could bleed over to a Monday morning interview and result in the candidate not having the full attention of the interviewer despite being perfectly suited to the job. In contrast, AI doesn’t have a bad day and will offer the same consistent experience to every candidate.

It’s important to ask any vendor offering an AI-driven recruiting technology to describe the ways that they combat bias in the development and implementation of their algorithms. Some have developed and are stringently following strong best practices in the mitigation of bias in their technologies, and some are not. Then ask whether any of their customers are increasing diversity through the use of these technologies, as well. The proof is in the metrics.

From small tweaks to larger technology implementations, there are a number of ways companies can significantly reduce unconscious bias in their hiring – so why not take the first step toward reimagining your recruiting processes today?