In the midst of the Great Resignation, with more than 4 million Americans quitting their jobs each month, recruitment is at the forefront of every business’ focus. With Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion now being prioritized through multiple forms of outreach, many companies find themselves confused as to why they are unable to fill their positions and attract a diverse array of talent. We’ve created this guide to provide you with seven simple steps which you can incorporate into your company’s hiring process in order to invigorate hiring and attract a thoroughly diverse candidate pool. By increasing the accessibility of your job posting, expanding your candidate sourcing, and enforcing an equitable interview process, you’ll be making multiple perfect hires in no time at all!
Table of Contents
· Job Description – Increase Applications by Preventing Gendered Language
· Job Description – Eliminate Unnecessary Qualifications to Attract a Broader
· Job Description – Craft an EEO Statement Which Benefits Your Company’s Brand
· Job Posting – Increase Candidate Outreach Using Specialized Job Boards
· Job Posting – Attract Top Quality Candidates by Encouraging Employee Referrals
· Job Interview – Mask Candidate Data to Ensure Equitable Treatment
· Job Interview – Standardize Interview Questions to Promote Fairness
Job Description – Increase Applications by Preventing Gendered Language
We can begin to increase our equity from the first word of the job posting and description itself. As discovered in a 2011 study by Gaucher, Friesen, and Kay, many common English words are heavily associated with either masculinity or femininity. Words associated with dominating the field and taking charge are traditionally associated with masculinity, such as Outspoken, Confident, and Persistent. Consequently, words which emphasize unity and teamwork are often associated with femininity, such as Dependable, Modest, and Sympathetic.
When describing your position and ideal candidate, an overuse of either masculine- or feminine-coded words leads the candidate to subconsciously associate the position with one gender or another. Repeatedly utilizing words associated with masculinity will make a feminine candidate feel out of place and unqualified, leading to less female applicants and a male-dominated pool. But strangely, when reading a feminine-coded posting, men do not share the discomfort, and show no anticipation of a decrease in belonging. When describing a position, stick closely to the duties and qualifications expected, and try to keep focused entirely on those qualities to ensure that no candidate is made to feel unqualified due to their gender. Just this simple change sets you up to receive 42% more responses to every one of your postings!
Gendered language is further evident in the terminology used in crafting job postings. Many job titles still carry an orientation toward male candidates, which discourages female applicants. Crewman, Handyman, and Salesman are only a few male-gendered words which unintentionally shut out non-male applicants. When discussing terminology, always ensure that you have changed to gender-neutral terms such as Crew Member, Maintenance Staff, or Salesperson. In doing so, make every effort to move beyond the gender binary for positions such as “Salesman/Saleswoman” and “Stewardess/Steward,” as it immediately discounts anyone who does not fit into those groups, or forces them to modify their identity to more easily be categorized. If possible, utilize one term regardless of gender, such as “Waiter” to refer to all waitstaff. When describing pronouns, avoid “He or she” and instead stick with “they” or even “you!”
We all want to make our posting sound as exciting as possible, but additional superlatives such as “Expert” or “World-Class” can actually have the opposite effect! Feminine employees who prioritize collaboration can be turned off by characterizations of the position being a “Lone Wolf,” and are less likely to brag about their accomplishments, resulting in an immediate feeling of not belonging in a boastful, macho environment. As mentioned, keep all descriptions tied back to specific qualifications and expectations of the position, and avoid adding unnecessary superlative fluff just to make it sound punchy. A straightforward, gender-neutral job post is sure to do all the heavy lifting for getting candidates excited – after all, Goldman Sachs recently had an immense upturn in the hiring of female employees, and all they had to do was remove the word “aggressive” from their job postings!
Job Description – Eliminate Unnecessary Qualifications to Attract a Broader Candidate Pool
Now that we’ve taken a look at the wording of our job posting, let’s examine the content, specifically the qualifications being sought. There are many qualities and expectations which, while seeming reasonable, present a significant obstacle to our hiring process.
We can begin by looking at the 4-year degree requirement. Typically, our posting will require at bare minimum a Bachelor’s degree, usually in one of three or four acceptable disciplines. But recently hiring has become more difficult, as there are almost twice as many open jobs as available job seekers. Because of the market shift, removing those barriers to entry can help pull you from a candidate deficit. The strategy of removing education requirements has been in practice long before the Great Recession, but has recently been amplified by it; in 2017, 51% of online job postings required a bachelor’s degree, while by 2021 that share had declined to 44%. This shift is reflected by the demographics current employees; one study found that 67% of production supervisor job postings asked for a college degree — even though only 16% of the people employed in that role at the time had one. Skill-based hiring now prioritizes the employee’s qualifications more than how those skills were received, and comes with multiple benefits. As described by Vervoe, 4-year degrees disproportionally screen out demographics such as African Americans and the LatinX community, and removing that requirement can help to immediately create a more equitable hiring process. And research has shown that removing qualifications doesn’t leave employers without dependable workers; in fact, candidates without 4 year degrees stay with their employers up to 34% longer!
In addition to 4-year degrees, many companies are removing the requirement for years of experience. Much like a degree requirement, the theory is simple: If someone has worked somewhere for a significant amount of time, there are qualities we can expect them to have. And while this seems logical, much like the degree requirement, it can end up backing us into a corner when we run out of available candidates. The main issue with requiring X years of experience is that it really doesn’t predict how well the candidate will do at the job! Harvard Business Review conducted a study which found that there is no significant evidence that employees with more experience will perform better or stay longer than employees with less. The issue is that each employee’s work and learning style are completely individualized, and are impacted dramatically by the position and company in which they work. LinkedIn points out that fast learners and those who seek out development are unfairly penalized by a quantity over quality approach, and that those with many years of experience are often left to fend for themselves due to the assumption that they can hit the ground running. And switching jobs has become the fastest way to a significant pay increase, with 49% of employees in a new position making at least 10% more than their previous role. Therefore, prioritizing employees who have been in one position for a significant length of time means we are likely to attract a higher proportion of employees who are unmotivated by or uninterested in pursuing career growth. Focus on the qualifications you are seeking, and drop your focus on arbitrary degrees of tenures; an employee who can do everything you need shouldn’t be disqualified because they lack two months’ worth of experience!
Job Description – Craft an EEO Statement Which Benefits Your Company’s Brand
One of the biggest benefits to our process is taking something which is a requirement and turning it into a benefit – I’m talking, of course, about our Equal Employment Opportunity statement! EEO statements come at the end of a job posting and reinforce the company’s commitment to equitable hiring – while extremely common, you may be surprised to learn that outside of Federal contracts, EEO statements are not required by law. Rather, they are considered a best practice, a way to instantly let candidates know about your Mission and Values – at least, that’s the intent! But because so many companies utilize boilerplate language or copy something from the internet, rarely is the EEO statement of true value to anyone!
In order to empower your EEO statement, use it to inform your candidates of some of your benefits surrounding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Don’t just say that your workplace prioritizes DEI, give specific examples. 67% of job seekers care about your diversity statistics, so offer them something to get excited about! If your hiring decisions are based entirely on merit, say that! If you have fostered a positive and inclusive environment, say that! If you have expanded parental leave, or employee support groups, or provide funding for professional development of underrepresented groups, say that!
If your EEO statement simple reads “Our company is an Equal Opportunity Employer,” then your candidate has learned nothing. Compare that to Google’s EEO statement: “At Google, we don’t just accept difference - we celebrate it, we support it, and we thrive on it for the benefit of our employees, our products and our community. Google is an equal opportunity employer. Employment at Google is based solely on a person's merit and qualifications directly related to professional competence.” They’ve said so much more, gotten their candidate excited, and begun building their company brand – all through something that many recruiters view as an afterthought! Determine what makes your company a great place to work, and market that opportunity!
Job Posting – Increase Candidate Outreach Using Specialized Job Boards
Now that we have the job posting created, the next question is where to post it. Typically, companies will post to their own internal job board, then reach out to one of the larger boards such as ZipRecruiter or Indeed. And while these boards certainly have extensive reach, it can be almost too extensive. In order to give underrepresented groups a fair shot at the position, we need to increase specific outreach. Fortunately, there are many online resources which can help us do so.
One of our first stops should be to a job board which focuses on diversity. There are many different options, beginning with perhaps the most famous, Diversity.com. Diversity.com is home to positions and employers which place an emphasis on providing opportunity to groups which have historically received very little. You can further expand with posts on Diversityjobs.com or Diversityjobs123.com, both of which provide additional outreach. Though these sites do charge per posting, their increased reach can be a great way to revitalize your candidate pool.
Another approach is to make a post on a site which controls an entire posting network. Some companies have a main site for general inquiries and then specialized sub-sites which are designed to attract a specific employee demographic. For example, depending on the position, a job posted to PDNRecruits.com will also potentially be posted to the Professional Diversity Network, Military2Career, Ability Careers, Asian Career Network, Women’s Career Channel, Black Career Network, Pride Careers, and iHispano. Just by making one post, you have the potential to have it mirrored across multiple different sites, each designed to secure a specific candidate demographic. WorkplaceDiversity.com is another great posting network, especially if used in conjunction with PDNRecruits. With just one or two posts, you could be reaching dozens of new candidates!
Finally, you may wish to target a specific demographic which your company finds itself lacking. Much like there are entire networks with sites for specific candidates, we can also find sites which are specifically oriented toward a demographic group. Perhaps you are seeking more racial diversity among your employees; sites such as Hirelatinos.org, BlackJobs.com, Jobs.naaap.org, and NativeHire.org are all focused on specific subsets to provides specialized outreach. Perhaps your company is currently male-dominated; CareerContessa.com and ApresGroup.com can help find female candidates, while TransWork.org and TransEquality.org can help to further increase gender diversity. If you are looking for diversity in sexual orientation, you can find members of the LGBTQ+ community on sites such as Pink-jobs.com and LGBTConnect.com. And if you are looking for diversity of physical ability, Recruitdisability.org and Abilityjobs.com will help you find a perfect fit! No matter what representation your company is lacking, be it general or specialized, there is a job board out there which can connect you with your candidates!
Job Posting – Attract Top Quality Candidates by Encouraging Employee Referrals
Employee referrals are one of the most effective sourcing tools out there – after all, they reduce time to hire, increase applicant quality, reduce costs, and more. A strong employee referral program can be an excellent pipeline of high-quality applicants, especially if the company offers an incentive! As of 2019, the average referral bonus for a hired employee was $2,500, with some companies going as high as $5,000 for a single successful referral. While that may seem significant, it is estimated that an employee referral can save the company upwards of $3,000 by expediting the hiring process. With so many benefits to referrals, it should some as no surprise that we’re going to use them to increase the diversity within our hiring pipeline!
As diversity becomes a cultural focus, we are fortunate that the referral pipeline has also become more diverse; since 2010, the share of women in employee referral pools has increased 47% while the share of black, indigenous, and other people of color has increased 12%. And while best practices would state that all referrals are regarded equally, there are some companies who have chosen to ask for specific demographics in their referral process! Pinterest specified to its employees that it was looking for female candidates to be referred, and after only six weeks they saw a 24% increase in female candidate referrals. And more than simply asking for diversity, find ways to incentivize it! Intel has a standard $2,000 referral bonus, but if the referred candidate is female, a veteran, or a member of an underrepresented group, the referral bonus is doubled to $4,000. Recruitment and discrimination laws can change between states, so if you make a specialized ask for your referrals, make sure to do so legally! Beyond just asking your employees, there are many people in your network who can offer referrals – be sure to contact vendors, business partners, and customers to ask for diverse candidate recommendations. More than 40% of all referrals will come from outside your company, so take full advantage of your network and the many connections which it holds!
Job Interview – Mask Candidate Data to Ensure Equitable Treatment
Now that we have an equitable and diverse candidate pool pulling from multiple sources, we need to get to the interviews! Interviewing is full of potentials for bias, or decisions made outside of available data. In order to ensure equity through the recruitment process, we can use a strategy known as masking, or “blocking out some of a job candidate's personal information to conceal anything that could negatively affect a hiring decision.” There are many pieces of information on a standard resume which have no influence over qualifications and open up the candidate to be unfairly discriminated against. By removing this information, we remove the opportunity for bias to take hold.
One of the easiest pieces of information to remove is candidate name. Names can tell us, or give us enough information to assumewe know, gender, ethnicity, even age. Chinese, Pakistani, and Indian-sounding names receive 28% less callbacks than names perceived to be white. And “black-sounding” names receive a staggering 50% fewer callbacks for interviews than traditionally “White-sounding” names. Candidates who have realized this have already started “Whitening” their resumes; black applicants with a whitened resume went from receiving 10% interview callbacks up to 25% callbacks, where Asian applicants jumped from 11.5% to 21% with a whitened resume. The opportunity for discrimination has become so great that the candidates themselves have had to work to circumvent the process; we owe it to them, and to ourselves, to eliminate this aspect of recruitment altogether.
Job Interview – Standardize Interview Questions to Promote Fairness
The final technique we’re going to employ is standardizing interview questions, or “structuring interviews with a standardized set of questions allows for a more fair and impartial way of assessing candidates, which also helps remove unconscious biases.” Many times, as we engage in conversation with a candidate, we may wish to ask about something they said, or seek further information. While it may seem like this is a fair practice to allow all candidates the opportunity to shine, the reality is that it creates an uneven playing field - if one candidate answered 10 questions and one answered 20, how can the two be considered remotely equal? Further, even if you ask similar questions, wording can be extremely important. Leading questions, or those which encourage the respondent to answer in a certain way, are detrimental to the interview experience because they can trap or trick candidates, even unintentionally. “Tell me about a time when you were faced with a difficult situation at work” and “Tell me about a time you caused a difficult situation at work” are almost identical, yet one sets the candidate up to fail by insisting that we start with a mistake they caused. If you ask a question to one candidate, make sure that it is asked in an identical way to every candidate.
Better than questions, offer your candidate a hypothetical task they may be faced with and ask how they would solve it. Not only does this remove potential for bias, but it offers a great deal of information on your candidate’s work style and thought process. While it may seem like you’re limiting yourself, studies have shown that structured interviews are twice as effective at predicting job performance as unstructured interviews – and they’re more equitable to boot!
Hiring can be difficult, and hiring with a focus on diversity is more difficult than most. But utilizing these techniques, you will be able to increase the accessibility and interest of your job post, collect a diverse talent pipeline from multiple sources, and ensure that every applicant is guaranteed a fair interviewing experience. Implement these strategies and expand on them, and in no time at all you’ll be surrounded by motivated employees from more backgrounds than you can count!