Co-authored by Lionel Lee, DE&I Advisor at Candidate and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Recruiting at Google.
There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) in the workplace. We’ve already discussed how to prioritize DEI in a general sense, and the reason women aren’t applying for certain jobs.
While there’s greater emphasis on companies leaning into diversity, equity and inclusion efforts to transform their company culture and retain their current workforce, we know that efforts need to start earlier in the process. DEI should be reflected at the hiring stage, when a potential candidate is getting to know the company.
A key part of DEI at the hiring stage is building a robust pipeline – one that reflects workforce and customer diversity.
There’s a misconception in tech that the talent pool of qualified and skilled applicants simply doesn’t include enough diversity, but that’s not the case. According to Tech Can [Do] Better’s “Proposal for Achieving Equity in Tech,” the unemployment and underemployment rates (meaning college graduates working in non-college jobs) are higher for Black college graduates compared to their white counterparts–and the hiring process is to blame.
According to the report, “The same processes will yield the same outcomes: without a strategic reprioritization in hiring, companies will continue to hire the same kinds of candidates. Companies should considerably rethink the talent acquisition process from end-to-end, from sourcing to application to interviewing and evaluating.”
Here are five ways you can start creating a more inclusive hiring process.
1. Write inclusive job descriptions
A job description is the first point of contact for a potential candidate, and an opportunity to attract them. Start by using inclusive language—this will help you attract the widest possible range of qualified candidates. Make sure you’re not using gendered language, and don’t cram too much into the list of requirements. Call out skills and experience that are required and ones that would be nice to have. While you’re listing qualifications, try decoupling skills from educational experience–they are not one and the same.
As you’re writing and reviewing job descriptions, consider running them through an app like Textio, which can help you swap out words or phrases that may be considered exclusive or gendered.
“Candidates from historically excluded groups need to see themselves in the language of the job description, values and most importantly, experience transparency. When someone is a first in their family to go to college or enter a field like computer science, they want to know, “Will I be welcome and valued here? Will I have an opportunity to grow?” And that starts with what’s in the job description,” says Aparna Rae, DEI Advisor to Candidate and founder and CEO of Moving Beyond.
Be transparent about compensation, benefits, what the hiring process is like, and where the position falls within the organization. Transparency leads to 45% greater attraction and 27% increase in application rates, in particular by URM candidates. Note that all are invited to apply, and consider revisiting your company’s policy on hiring those who have been formerly incarcerated, if such a policy is in place.
Include a company-specific hiring policy that goes beyond the standard EEO boilerplate. Be transparent about where your company is in its DEI journey. No company has it all figured out, but noting your progress shows a commitment to evolving. As Control Y Consulting says, “Companies who publish these reports are not necessarily doing so because they already have it figured out. In some cases, it’s quite the opposite–they acknowledge they have a long way to go.”
2. Include assessments that accommodate neurodiversity
An increasing number of companies are transforming their hiring practices to welcome neurodivergent talent and allow neurodivergent applicants to showcase their talent in a setting that empowers and supports them, which includes candidates on the autism spectrum, with ADHD, or with social anxiety disorders. Each neurodivergent individual is unique, so accommodations should be flexible and adjusted to each applicant’s needs.
Many neurodivergent people have highly sought-after skills—such as exceptional pattern recognition—but struggle with the skills required to do well in a traditional interview setting. This is one reason why unemployment among the neurodiverse population is as high as 80%.
“We think of making accommodations for visible and invisible disabilities as new or novel. For instance, we’ve all but normalized visual impairment – we don’t even see someone wearing glasses as a disability. The ground is fertile for make neurodiversity a norm at work, and the benefit to employers will outlast the initial investment of a more flexible hiring process,” says Rae.
Consider which areas of your company could benefit from the skills that many neurodivergent candidates bring to the table, and decide whether you’re able to develop a program specifically to aid neurodivergent applicants with the interview process. Even if a whole program is out of reach at the moment, consider assessing applicants on a case-by-case basis and, when appropriate, asking applicants to show their skills by doing a work-related task rather than conducting a traditional interview.
3. Prioritize representation on the hiring team
If your company is just beginning to focus on attracting diverse talent, you may not be able to assemble a hiring team that is representative of the diversity you’re hoping to achieve. However, a representative interview loop is likely within reach. This will make interviewees feel more comfortable and decrease the risk of bias. It will also help avoid a “bait and switch” where applicants believe the company is more diverse than it actually is, based on the hiring committee they met during the interview process.
While you’re assembling your hiring committee, consider bringing in representatives from various teams within your organization. This gives your employees a chance to work with coworkers they might not usually spend much time with, and brings in a variety of viewpoints on what kind of talent the company needs. It will also give the candidates a holistic view of the company.
Startups and smaller companies who may have a homogenous workforce today, lean into transparency and share your vision for the future of your company. Proactively address potential concerns a diverse employee might have head-on.
4. Let the interviewee set the schedule
When you’re hiring, you’re looking for the best person for the job—not the best person who happened to be available on a certain day. Schedule interview days and times based on each candidate’s availability. This allows them to be at their best, and acknowledges that they currently have other commitments, such as inflexible employment or family members to care for.
“A flexible process shows a potential candidate that they are coming to work at a company that’s going to support work-life management, employees’ goals and reduce unnecessary friction. It also signals a new possibility, one where candidates see themselves as peers by upending conventional power dynamics,” Rae advises.
If you’re able to swing it, consider paying for work samples, long interview loops, or other tasks that take them away from their current employment. This shows you value their time and understand that they have a life outside of applying for a position with your company.
5. Focus on a “culture add” instead of a “culture fit”
Traditionally, companies have looked for candidates that would “fit right in,” but that approach can reinforce a lack of diversity. Instead, companies and hiring managers should take a look at the unique perspectives a candidate could bring to the table and see them as adding value to the team.
DEI starts with the hiring process, and these five tips will help you attract the talent you’re looking for while championing your values around inclusion.