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How to Ensure Diversity in Hiring Through Pipeline Management

Diversity in your hiring pipeline leads to better teams and stronger bottom lines.

Research shows that diversifying the workplace increases creativity, productivity, and workplace satisfaction.

However, even when executives try to hire a diverse workforce, they may fail simply because the candidates applying for their open positions are more of the same. This is what’s known as a hiring-pipeline problem, and it is a big stumbling block for many companies.

How can employers ensure diversity in their hiring pipeline?

1. Check the language.

The problem: Job descriptions may use gendered language – with the effect of shutting out female applicants.

For example, job titles (e.g. “policeman”) or job descriptions (e.g. “manning” a desk) may be explicitly gendered. An occasional stray word may seem innocuous enough. However, studies have found that overtly “masculine” job descriptions perpetuate stereotypes about who can and can’t perform certain tasks. Even seemingly gender-neutral words and phrases can convey gendered expectations. For example, the job-descriptors “hunter” and “ninja” are almost exclusively used for men. Although they could theoretically refer to anyone, they tend to discourage female applicants.

The solution: A little copy-editing in your job descriptions goes a long way to increase diversity in your hiring. One company that stopped calling their employees “hackers” – a word perceived as masculine – received a 500% increase in female job applicants.

2. Rethink recruitment reach.

The problem: When hiring managers actively recruit candidates, they tend to frequent the same set of colleges.

Recruiters tend to focus on the Ivy League and other similar private universities despite the fact that many researchers suggest that the quality of the graduates is equivalent. Because of this focus, African American, Latinx, and female faces tend to be underrepresented in the recruitment pool.

The solution: Think outside the recruitment box and diversify your talent base. Recruiting at HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities), often overlooked by employers, helps employers to tap into a pool of 300,000 talented African American candidates. (Google and Facebook both actively recruit from HBCUs for this reason.) Similarly, recruiting at women’s colleges will yield a similar pool of qualified and talented female candidates.

3. Make diversity in hiring (and a diverse workforce at large) visible.

The problem: Companies may have an external face that looks fairly homogenous.

One recent survey found that more than half of female applicants look for gender diversity clues before accepting a job. A lack of diverse faces on a company website or diverse names in a company’s leadership team (whether ethnicity or gender) can signal to diverse applicants that there is no space for them in the company.

The solution: Companies must also ensure that their marketing reflects the diversity they have already. One study found that when hiring ads display black employees in supervisory positions, corporate recruitment began to reach more black applicants.

4. End exclusion culture that quashes diversity in hiring.

The problem: Companies may have an internal culture that alienates groups and prevents current employees from recommending their employer to others.

It might sound obvious, but improving diversity in your hiring pipeline may need to start with making sure that the existing culture is diversity friendly. Exclusion can manifest itself in both subtle and overt ways. Subtle ways can include: getting left off an email, getting asked to make the coffee run for a meeting, or feeling that their colleagues start speaking differently when they enter a room. More blatant expressions of exclusion may be a lack of understanding of family concerns, public transit support, or job security.

The solution: Executives must work hard to establish a clear commitment to making company policy as friendly as possible to a diverse workforce. For example, in the United States there are more than four times more single mothers than single fathers. So, companies looking to recruit women should put a robust system of child-support benefits in place. These cues are visible in the job search and will increase recommendations from current employees.

5. Ask for soft skills.

The problem: If the front of the pipeline is a resume submission or a skill-based task, qualified, diverse applicants may be turned off.

Success at the majority of modern jobs is based not on “hard skills” (such as past experience in sales) but on “soft skills” (such as assertiveness or being a team player). Despite this, most hiring managers tend to focus on hard skills to the exclusion of soft skills. This is a problem for diversity in hiring, because hard skill-based assessments on the front of the funnel, or even a focus on hard skills in the job advertisement, may dissuade female and non-White applicants from applying.

The solution: Lead with a soft skills-based assessment that gives everyone an equal shot at success. Need the perfect test that has been proven to be bias-free to help encourage this diverse pipeline? Check us out!