Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tactics for Hiring Teams

Here is an overview of diversity, equity, and inclusion tactics you can use to provide a more equitable hiring process.

It’s true that all job seekers are equal under the law in the United States and many other countries. But it’s also true that not all job seekers have the same access and opportunity under the traditional hiring model. Here’s an overview of diversity, equity, and inclusion tactics you can use to provide a more equitable hiring process. 

What are diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are three distinct yet closely related concepts. Diversity refers to the demographic makeup of your workforce. Equity refers to the level of access to opportunity in your hiring process. And inclusion refers to how welcoming an environment you foster at your organization.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion

A diverse workforce is one that includes members from a number of different demographics. Those demographics include unique aspects such as gender, ethnicity, age, national origin, socioeconomic background, and religion. They can also include intersectionalities of demographics (e.g., a middle-aged Black woman). 

An equitable hiring process is one where everyone has equal access to opportunity. Listing on a common job board like Indeed, for example, gives an opportunity to all potential candidates with internet access. Referral programs where potential candidates need to know someone at the company, for example, restrict access. 

Inclusion is an approach to workplace culture where people of all backgrounds feel welcome. While diversity gets most of the press, inclusion is really the heart of a diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative. Diversity is the end result, equity how you get there, and inclusion the foundation of it all. Again, closely related concepts, yet distinct.

Pledging your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion

Diversity statements on job descriptions are how you tell potential candidates that diversity, equity, and inclusion are important to you. In their most basic form, they let job seekers know that you won’t discriminate against them if they’re from a protected group.

But diversity statements can do a lot more than that. Among other things, they can promise to uphold equality and list the groups welcome at your organization. (Groups currently protected under the law as well as others not currently protected.) They can also describe your organization’s dedication to diversity and various initiatives supporting that dedication. 

Regardless of form, diversity statements do have an impact on how job seekers view the job and your company. In our own research, we’ve confirmed that they increase your organization’s perceived inclusiveness.

Addressing bias in hiring

Bias is a bit of a rabbit hole. Looking across the surface of a field, you may see a hole in the ground. But you don’t see the maze of tunnels under the surface, including beneath your own feet. 

Sexism and racism are obvious negative biases that everyone knows about, but there are other biases. There’s also tokenism, ableism (bias against people with physical limitations), ageism, nationalism, elitism (mostly socioeconomic), and religion bias. 

Addressing bias in hiring requires finding a lot of different tunnels. But finding tunnels isn’t easy, especially if you’re not a rabbit and don’t recognize the signs. (In other words, if you haven’t walked a mile in someone else’s shoes or done a lot of painstaking scientific research.) And it’s not a problem that an inclusive language guide can solve.

So, how do you identify bias in a job description that you don’t know is there? Any recruiter can recognize that a jack of all trades who knows how to man up is gendered language. But what about an energetic, aggressive worker and excellent communicator? Not so obvious, yet also known as a young, male, native speaker.

Even more subtle, what about degree from an Ivy League university? This sounds like an academic requirement, but it’s also a socioeconomic one. Because it can exclude anyone who can’t afford a prestigious university or get a full ride to one (which is most people, actually). 

Writing inclusive job descriptions

Job descriptions are the most important piece of your hiring effort. Why? Because they’re often the first and only messaging that potential candidates see from your organization. Therefore, it’s absolutely vital to your diversity, equity, and inclusion effort that your job descriptions are inclusive.

By inadvertently including bias in job descriptions, you may accidentally deter job seekers from historically underrepresented groups such as women and minorities. Inclusive job descriptions use language and content that is proven to include, not exclude, all job seekers.

Ableism, for example, is a subtle bias that’s difficult for a lot of us to identify (think of the rabbit analogy). Requirements like ability to lift 30 pounds or thrive in an energetic environment seem innocuous. But someone in a wheelchair may not be able to lift 30 pounds, and someone who’s hard of hearing may not hear well in a noisy office. 

The way to avoid ableism is to keep the requirements of the job to the bare essentials. Does an accountant really need to lift 30 pounds to perform the functions of their job? (A warehouse worker, sure, all the time.) And aren’t there reasonable accommodations you can make for someone who is hard of hearing in a noisy office?

Sourcing candidates through traditional methods

An important piece of the diversity, equity, and inclusion puzzle is sourcing. How you go about sourcing candidates determines who gets a shot at the job. 

Hiring teams use a few different methods to source candidates. Active recruiter sourcing involves reaching out directly to candidates on LinkedIn and other sites. Diversity recruitment usually means a dedicated diversity recruiter on staff. And there’s also third-party sourcers and referral programs.

The problem with these methods is that they limit the candidate pool, put the onus on a single recruiter (diversity recruitment), or artificially inject diversity into the candidate pool. They’re also vulnerable to unconscious biases (e.g., profile pictures on LinkedIn can influence whether someone gets an interview). 

Sourcing candidates organically

A better approach for diversity, equity, and inclusion is to focus on organic sourcing methods, which yield the most democratically sourced applicant pools. 

Organic candidates are job seekers who apply on your careers page or on common job boards that anyone with a computer and internet can access. Organic sourcing focuses on attracting these candidates with high-quality job descriptions that are welcoming to all job seekers no matter their background. 

Inherently, organic sourcing puts more emphasis on the quality of your job posts and how they perform on job boards. It also contradicts some other sourcing methods

For one thing, organic sourcing requires waiting on applicants rather than going out and finding them. This may add a little time to the hiring process, but it means achieving all of your recruiting goals, not just one. 

Actually, it’s still up for debate whether organic sourcing takes longer, but there’s no question that hiring for speed can derail diversity, equity, and inclusion. The way to achieve both is to hire for diversity, equity, and inclusion first and then refine your processes for speed. 

Employing diversity hacks 

Another relatively recent recruiting method is the diversity hack. This tactic makes a well-intentioned yet clumsy attempt to bring candidates from underrepresented groups into your talent funnel. 

The most well known diversity hack is the Rooney Rule, which comes to us from the National Football League (although it’s now fairly common elsewhere). Despite most of the players in the NFL being Black, almost all of the coaches are white. The league addresses this obvious disparity by requiring teams to interview at least one minority when hiring a new head coach. 

The Rooney Rule was one of the first attempts to address inequity in hiring, but now organizations are putting their own spin on it. Facebook, for example, requires that recruiters pass on minority candidates to hiring managers for every position. HubSpot gives senior leaders budget flexibility to hire top minority directors even if they’re more expensive. And many companies use blind recruiting processes to mitigate unconscious bias.

The primary problem is that diversity hacks target the bottom of the talent funnel instead of the top. In fact, there’s no need to insert minority candidates at the bottom if you welcome them at the top. You’re just messing with your organic sourcing effort at that point.

But if you want to use a Rooney Rule-type diversity hack, there are ways to make it more equitable. You can aim it at the top of the talent funnel, apply it to all roles, and take it beyond ethnic minorities to other underrepresented groups. 

Hiring for diversity, equity, and inclusion

No matter what industry you operate in, your hiring team is undoubtedly focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s not a question of whether to invest in it at this point, just how to invest in it successfully.

We hope this guide offers you a roadmap for identifying and addressing inequities. It may require looking at your tried-and-true hiring processes in new ways, but that’s kind of the point. Traditional hiring processes aren’t getting us to diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s time for more inclusive processes.

Charlie S.

Charlie S.

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