Diverse teams are smarter. Working with people who think differently forces you to challenge your assumptions, focus on facts, and overcome blind spots that could be trapping you in stale ways of thinking. That’s why non-homogenous teams outperform their peers by up to 35%.

Unfortunately, however, ineffective recruiting strategies and unconscious bias can sometimes undermine your efforts before they yield the results you’re looking for. Most companies already know that building a diverse workforce takes intentional effort, strategy, and a willingness to deal with uncomfortable questions. But how do you practically implement a program that yields tangible results?
These 12 ideas will give you a good head start.

Start With Strategy

Before you can implement changes to your sourcing and screening process, you need to know where you’re heading. Hiring strategies should actively support diversity initiatives from the top down. Here’s what you can do to move the needle:

  • Get comfortable with new ideas.
    Talking about diversity might make you feel uncomfortable. That’s okay. Be willing to have conversations about difficult topics and to rethink previous assumptions from new perspectives.
  • Promote executive sponsorship.
    Adoption of new initiatives and ideas must start at the executive level and flow throughout the organization. When leaders value and promote diversity, it becomes part of the organizational culture.
  • Consider current diversity metrics.
    Take a look at diversity metrics both at the organizational level and within individual departments. These might include:

    • Workforce demographics, both holistically and within teams
    • Percentage of diversity sourcing tactics for each hire
    • Overall hires per quarter
    • Diversity training participation
    • Career advancement percentages
  • Evaluate employer branding.
    Does your employer branding make your company an attractive option for diversity candidates? Branding images, employee stories, and messaging can all paint subtle pictures about how much (or how little) you value diversity. You can also attract diverse candidates by intentionally creating a culture of authenticity and open-mindedness where employees can confidently be themselves. Cultural elements such as paid parental leave, holiday policies that include diverse belief systems, and benefits that cover domestic partners can all support those efforts.

Broaden Your Candidate Sourcing Efforts

Next, take a close look at where and how you recruit. Unconscious bias can creep in through the back door if you are sourcing only from a narrow pool of candidates. Cast a wider net by proactively recruiting among diverse candidate sources:

  • Write inclusive job ads.
    Rethink the wording of job ads so that the appeal to the broadest number of candidates. For example, women often respond negatively to words like “ambition,” so you may attract more female candidates by choosing a different word.

    Women are also less likely than men to apply for a job posting if they do not meet 100% of the requirements. One way to overcome this challenge is to eliminate rigid requirements that aren’t strictly necessary. For example, does the candidate absolutely need a minimum of five years of experience? If someone with four years could conceivably perform well in the role, leave the specific number out of the job ad.

  • Partner with diversity organizations.
    Look for ways to build relationships with organizations that promote diversity hiring. For example, offer internships through schools to build interest among target segments, or reach out to advocacy groups that connect diverse talent with prospective employers.
  • Choose search criteria strategically.
    Use inclusive terminology, and consider whether you may be inadvertently skewing search results toward a single demographic. For example, a study of LinkedIn talent searches showed that recruiters almost always view twice as many male profiles as female profiles. It’s not an intentional bias, but it happens all the same. Using search phrases like “women in tech” or “STEM Women” can help you find more female candidates who fit your talent needs.
  • Advertise in diverse media.
    If you always advertise in the same places, you may unintentionally be targeting a narrow audience that fails to include diversity candidates. Consider advertising your open roles with diverse cultural, religious and ethnic publications and websites.

Reduce Bias During the Screening Process

Even if you have a diverse stream of candidates flowing into your talent pipeline, you still have one more hurdle to clear as you work toward greater diversity: a biased screening process. Old-school screening methods lean toward intuitive decision-making, which can introduce unconscious bias even when you have the best intentions. To overcome this challenge, try the following:

  • Automate initial resume screening.
    Use AI tools to automate your initial resume screen so that all candidates who meet the requirements are included in your shortlist. While this is not a foolproof process, it can still help eliminate unconscious bias based on things like candidate names or backgrounds.
  • Remove identifying information from resumes.
    Once you have your short list of resumes, remove names and demographic information before evaluating them. Again, this is a simple way to remove unconscious bias and promote screening based on your job description.
  • Implement blind assessments.
    Remove identifying information from skills tests and other assessments so that you can evaluate them more fairly. If you are noticing a theme here, it’s because we all have internalized biases that we aren’t aware of. Even when you endeavor to make fair, unbiased decisions, these subconscious influencers can still be at work. The best way to eliminate them is to remove identifying information that may unintentionally sway a decision.
  • Standardize the interview process.
    Ever heard of the “beer test” for recruiting? It may be time to scrap it. The best person for the job may not necessarily be the person you like the most. Instead of going with your gut, use a standardized interview process that includes an assessment rubric. Each person who interviews the candidate should use the rubric to gauge how well he or she meets the qualifications for the job.

As you work toward a more effective diversity recruiting strategy, take a long hard look at what’s working and what isn’t in your current recruitment process. Proactively pursue diverse pools of candidates and consider what message you are sending – either consciously or unconsciously – through your brand messaging, job descriptions, and interactions. And listen to your employees. You may be surprised by the ways various demographic segments perceive your culture and employer brand.

If you learn something that makes you uncomfortable, let that motivate you to take the next step forward.

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