Diversity Recruiting: Importance and 12 steps to improvement

Last updated:
May 31, 2024
May 31, 2024
min read
Brendan McConnell
diversity recruiting strategy
Table of contents

Most recruiters and managers would agree that a diverse team is more innovative, creative and achieves better results. You don’t even have to look at the stats (of which there are many) to know intuitively that diversity recruiting contributes to a better overall performance.

It makes sense that having different perspectives and backgrounds on your team will contribute to newer and more diverse ideas to help solve problems and drive innovation. It’s no wonder, then, that companies around the world are focussing on developing their diversity recruiting strategy.

But the topic of diversity goes beyond just business results and performance. Diversity is a noble cause for any company to strive for. Building teams from qualified candidates regardless of their gender, background, race, religion, or sexual orientation is long overdue, and a step towards true equality in the workplace.

In this article, we’re going to examine how you can move the dial on your own diversity strategies. But before we do that, let’s talk about what recruiting for diversity is, and why it’s important.

What is diversity recruiting?

Diversity recruiting is the practice of hiring candidates using a process that is free from biases for or against any individual or group of candidates based on their background, beliefs, or culture. 

Diversity in the workplace is the idea that your team should reflect the general makeup of the society around you. Your staff should consist of a variety of different types of people, from different backgrounds and experiences. This can include diversity in regard to gender, experience, socio-economic levels, race, religion, sexual orientation, and so on.

Diversity can fall into two categories: 

  • Inherent diversity, such as demographic factors or acquired diversity, which are developed or earned over time. Think of inherent diversity as being tied to race, gender, age, health and any other characteristic that is natural to who someone is as a person. 
  • Acquired diversity refers to things like education, experience, values, skills, and knowledge, which are more fluid and can develop and evolve over time.

As mentioned, the goal of diversity recruiting is to create a talent pool that is more representative of society around you. But, it is still merit-based recruitment and still aims to find the best possible candidate, but it’s structured to give all applicants, regardless of background, an equal opportunity. The goal is to balance that merit-based recruitment with an active effort to grow true and equitable diversity.

3 benefits of a diverse workforce 

Giving equal opportunity to all applicants, regardless of their background, is the right thing to do. Period. The ethical and equitable nature of diversity recruitment should be self-evident to all. But beyond the morality of diversity recruiting, there are clear benefits of a diverse workforce that companies simply can’t ignore. 

1. Diversity attracts top talent

Business success is driven by the quality of the people within an organization, and how empowered they feel to do their jobs well. To build a talented workforce, you need to make yourself a desirable place to work. Diversity helps make that possible. 

According to a report from Glassdoor, 76% of job seekers and employees say that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. And, even more telling, 32% wouldn’t even apply to a job if there was a lack of diversity. This is particularly true for Gen Z and Millennial workers, who place heavy importance on diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

2. Diversity drives better business performance

A diverse workforce means better business performance. In fact, there’s a direct correlation between the percentage of diverse employees in an organization and that company’s financial output. 

McKinsey, in a recent survey, found that organizations with higher gender diversity were 25% more likely to financially outperform their competitors. That same survey found that companies with higher ethnic and cultural diversity were 36% more profitable than those with lower levels of diversity. 

Diversity in leadership gives the same results. The Boston Consulting Group found that diverse management teams drive 19% higher revenue

3. Diversity leads to better agility and innovation

Companies with diverse workforces and 1.8x more to be change-ready and 1.7x more likely to be innovation leaders in their market. As massive, industry-wide disruptions like artificial intelligence, global economic trends, and workforce demographic shifts impact business as usual, companies with diverse teams are significantly better placed to weather the storm. 

Because of that agility and intonation, diverse workforces are 70% more likely to capture new market opportunities as they arrive, and 35% more likely to outperform their competitors as a result. 

The benefits of a diverse workforce are very clear, and well documented. But diversity doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes a dedicated and concerted effort to build and nurture diversity. This starts with a diversity recruiting strategy that actively seeks to attract talent from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.

5 diversity hiring best practices

Diversity hiring requires an ongoing, dedicated, and concerted effort by all stakeholders involved in the process. This starts with setting a strategy, and includes understanding and using best practices for sourcing, screening, and hiring diverse candidates. 

Here are eight diversity hiring best practices to follow: 

1. Create a diversity recruitment strategy

Start by setting clear and measurable goals for what diversity looks like at your organization. This means benchmarking where you are currently in terms of workforce diversity, and setting SMART goals to take you from point A to point B. This strategy should be aligned with overall business objectives, and target specific skill sets and diverse candidate groups in which the company is lacking.

2. Identify sourcing channels for diverse candidates

Going back to the same sourcing channels over and over again is a surefire way to attract the same type of candidates. Diversity hiring means widening the aperture on your sourcing strategies, and focusing on new candidate sources. This could be local or regional job boards, professional groups or associations for diverse candidates, or social media groups that cater to underrepresented communities. Doing so helps you reach a much wider pool of candidates. 

3. Implement screening practices to reduce bias

Bias in resume screening, interviewing, and shortlisting is a real and common problem. To minimize the impact of natural bias, companies can use a variety of tactics like blind resume screening and structured interviews. We’ll dig into these more later in the article. 

4. Track diversity metrics and KPIs

Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure and track diversity within your hiring process, and wider DEI efforts. This will help you benchmark a starting point, and keep tabs on improvements or declines in diversity over time. Common metrics include the diversity of the candidate pipeline, rates of interviews offered to diverse candidates, and hiring ratios.

5. Create inclusive employer branding

Promote an inclusive company culture in your employer branding efforts. Showcase diversity through company materials, websites, and testimonials that reflect the diverse makeup of your staff and the inclusivity of your workplace.

We’ll dig deeper into specific tactics and strategies you can use to recruit diverse candidates later in this article. But before we jump into tactics, you need to step back and create a high-level diversity recruiting plan that outlines your goals, philosophy, and plans for increasing diversity in your hiring process.

What is a diversity recruiting plan? 

A diversity recruiting plan is a dedicated strategy that businesses and recruiters use to increase workforce diversity. 

It outlines the tactics and resources that will be used to source, engage, and hire talent from diverse backgrounds. 

This includes steps to: 

  • Identify and source diverse candidates
  • Flag and mitigate screening bias
  • Create inclusive job advertisements and employer branding
  • Implement equitable screening and selection processes

A diversity recruiting plan will also include specific goals and trackable metrics related to diversity recruiting efforts, which can be used to measure impact and results over time. 

The goal of a diversity recruiting plan is to create a workforce that reflects the diverse population and leverages a wide range of experiences and perspectives to improve innovation, decision-making, and overall company performance.

12 ways to recruit for a diverse workforce 

When crafting a diversity recruitment plan, consider the following tactics in your efforts. This is broken up by tactics related to: 

  • How to find diverse candidates
  • How to screen diverse candidates
  • How to shortlist and hire diverse candidates

Let’s dig in!

How to find diverse candidates

A great way to ensure that you’re hiring a diverse range of people is to make sure there’s diversity in who is applying to your positions to begin with. Here are some techniques for increasing diversity in your candidate sourcing:

1. Audit your job ads

One of the best ways to recruit diverse candidates is to do an audit of your past recruitment ads, and make changes to speak to a broader range of candidates. You may notice that some of the languages you use are more geared toward a specific demographic of experience level. If this is the case, find ways to be more inclusive in your language to appeal to candidates from different backgrounds.

Learn to be a better writer. Hiring is always hard no matter what the market conditions. Learn to control the variables you can and one of them is how you ask. How you speak to people. Learn how to write and you'll be a better recruiter.
Katrina Kibben
CEO | Three Ears Media

Don’t be afraid to write job ads with specific demographics in mind in order to boost your diversity recruiting strategy. Let your target candidates know that you’re seeking them out, and explain why your company would make a great fit.

2. Target sources where diverse candidates congregate

A great way to ensure that your talent pool is full of diverse candidates is to source your candidates from a variety of different places. Don’t rely on the same sources over and over again when seeking out new candidates. Focussing on only the sources that you know best can result in a talent pool of similar candidates and a lack of diversity.

Instead, seek out opportunities to source diverse candidates where they typically hang out. For example, there are many online and offline groups dedicated to women in technology. This could be a great source to meet and connect with high caliber female candidates directly, instead of waiting for them to find you through platforms like Indeed. The more you take the initiative to find these channels, the more likely it is that your talent pools will be diverse.

3. Encourage your diverse employees to refer their connections

It’s very likely that members of your team will have networks of people with similar backgrounds to them. Creating a diverse candidate referral program is a great way to both boost your diversity recruitment strategy, and showcase that your company values different backgrounds and ideas.

If you are looking to hire more of a specific group of people, reach out to some of the employees already on your team who are part of that demographic. Encourage them to share your job ads with their networks, and give them the tools they need to promote the company for you. Your employees and candidates will both feel that your company values their opinions and presence, which is fantastic for overall team morale and engagement.

4. Offer internships to targeted groups

Many companies have started internal diversity programs that offer internship and co-op positions to candidates from specific backgrounds. This is a great way to encourage up-and-coming candidates in your industry to join your team and get experience.

To accomplish this, reach out to schools and community groups in your area to determine opportunities to make connections with students. Often, communities will have their own programs to encourage growth, and teaming up with those initiatives is a great way to give back while also benefiting from new and diverse talent.

5. Develop an employer brand that showcases your diversity

Perhaps the best way to boost diversity in your candidate sourcing is to organically create an employer brand that values people and opinions from all walks of life. Talk about the benefits and importance of diversity with your team, get their buy in and engrain those values into your company culture.

As you do this, you will begin to develop an employer brand that is known for valuing diversity. Encourage employees to talk about this part of your business. Record their stories, and incorporate that part of your corporate personality into how you promote your employer brand. Diverse candidates will seek out companies who truly value those ideals, and developing organically is the only way to truly reap those benefits.

6. Create company policies that appeal to diverse candidates

It’s one thing to claim that you value diverse recruiting strategies and teams, but it’s quite another to actually live those values daily. That’s why it’s so important to proactively implement company policies that appeal to diverse candidates.

Consider changing your time off and scheduling policies to include more religious holidays, community events, and so on. Encourage flexible work hours that will allow candidates to continue being involved with their communities, and not require them to conform to a cookie-cutter schedule at all times.

It’s also important for management teams to encourage employees to speak up if they think certain policies are hindering diversity in any way. People’s individual biases will always be a factor in how they perceive and navigate the workplace, so it’s important to encourage open and honest dialogue to ensure everyone feels welcome.

Having these policies in place, and actively promoting them in your sourcing, is a great way to ensure your diversity recruiting strategy is running as it should be.

How to screen diverse candidates

If you find that your diversity recruiting strategy is bringing in a nice variety of candidates, but you’re struggling to eliminate bias in how you screen them, then you should consider some of these tactics.

7. Use blind resumes

An increasingly popular technique recruiters are using to remove bias from how they screen candidates is to “black out” any and all personal information on resumes. Information like names, schools, date of birth, specific locations, and so on can all contribute to some degree in a biased assessment of the candidate, even if it’s not done consciously.

8. Use blind interviews

Blind interviews use the same principle as blacking out resumes to reduce bias, but apply this tactic to early conversations with the candidate. They can be accomplished by sending candidates text-based questions via text, or through your recruitment platform of choice. Candidates answer these questions anonymously and are asked to avoid providing personal information.

The goal here is to remain free of bias regarding who you choose to interview further. Obviously, it’s much tougher to remove all personality and bias when talking to candidates on the phone or in person, so blind interviews are most effective early in the process.

9. Harness AI to review resumes

One way to ensure that you remove bias from your resume screening process entirely is to leverage artificial intelligence technology in your ATS. Pre-program your platform to flag and filter for specific skills and experience, and let the AI technology analyze your candidate resumes for those parameters. This will provide you with a completely impartial shortlist, free from any sort of bias.

However, as anyone who has used AI in their work can attest to, this technology is not always perfect. We still recommend that recruitment teams use AI in a support capacity to help with processing large volumes of information and automating repetitive tasks. It’s still important that a human actually goes through each submitted CV to determine a finalized shortlist. This ensures that qualified candidates aren’t rejected based on false assumptions by the AI, and that inadvertent bias or discrimination doesn’t occur.


Want to know more about harnessing AI in recruiting?

Find our guide here

10. Rethink the factors that you screen for

This tactic relates back to your job ads audit where you rethought what you look for in a candidate, and how you talk to them. A critical part of diversity recruiting is to always be questioning what traits you value most in candidates, why, and whether that’s based on your own bias.

Take the time to look at how you’re testing and screening candidates, and honestly ask yourself if you’re steering the results towards specific types of people. If you are, consider changing your testing methods. If you’re not sure, ask some of your peers to get a diverse range of opinions.

How to shortlist and hire diverse candidates

Deciding who to shortlist and hire can be the hardest part of the diversity recruiting strategy. That’s because you will have a pretty good idea of who each candidate is, meaning your own bias will likely creep into the equation. To combat this, here are a couple of techniques to consider.

11. Automate your shortlisting using an ATS

As mentioned above, your ATS can be used to impartially whittle down your list to the most high-potential candidates. Use the screening tools included in your ATS to find candidates with the most potential and the best resume of skills.

This technique allows you to completely remove personal opinions about specific candidates from the equation, and only focus on information that’s relevant to the job description. Shortlisting candidates based on certain requirements will help you move towards increased diversity.

If your talent pool was diverse at the start of the process, then you should have a nice variety of candidates and backgrounds in your shortlist. If not, then the final diversity recruiting tactic can come into play.

12. Seed talent pipelines with diverse candidates

It’s been proven that diverse candidates are far less likely to be chosen when they are the only ones from their demographic represented in a shortlist of candidates. To combat this decision bias, you can use a diversity recruitment strategy called “the two in the pool effect.”

The premise here is that having multiple people from the same minority demographic drastically increases the likelihood that one of them will be hired. Intentionally seeding your shortlist with a proportionate number of diverse candidates, therefore, will result in a more even playing field when it comes to choosing one to hire.

Of course, you’ll only want to seed your shortlist with candidates who are truly qualified. After all, diversity recruiting is all about hiring the best person, regardless of their background.


Want to learn more about diversity and inclusion in recruiting?

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Diversity recruiting is good business. It leads to a diversity of opinions, background, and experience at your organization, as well as engaged employees who feel a sense of belonging and inclusion. Diverse workforces are, as countless studies have shown, more productive and innovative, leading to better results for their organizations. 

We encourage all HR and recruitment teams to regularly review their own diversity recruiting. This ensures that hiring practices remain diverse and inclusive, and that bias and discrimination do not overly or inadvertently creep into hiring decisions. Regularly audit, monitor, and report on diversity metrics at your organization to determine where you’re doing well, and where you can improve. It’s worth the effort.

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