Inclusive Hiring: Practices to Build a More Diverse Team

By Kristen Harris

As a firm that helps companies recruit marketing and creative professionals for their internal teams, we’re often asked about diversity. Questions like “can you help us improve the diversity of our team” or “can you provide diverse candidates” are much more common today than a few years ago. 

We embrace the positive intent behind these questions and work hard to support and educate our clients. There is plenty of research showing that a diverse team is stronger, more impactful, and more successful, so we welcome these conversations. With the overlapping crises of 2020, many companies took a hard look at how diverse (or not) their workforce is. As a result, hiring for DEI-related positions spiked in 2020, with many corporations adding new diversity-focused posts to their leadership teams. 

But change is hard, and building a more diverse team requires intentionally inclusive hiring practices. Companies often have a standard hiring process–based on best practices or “how it’s always been done.” There’s no time like the present to review and evaluate your hiring process to identify areas where you can build more inclusive practices. First, one note…

Every hiring process needs to be legally compliant. To ensure you’re following current local, state, and federal law, work with your HR professional or attorney. We are not legal professionals, and that’s not the focus of this article.

…back to the topic at hand. Beyond simply complying with the law, there are points within the hiring process where a relatively minor adjustment can greatly impact who is considered and hired for the role. Here are three areas to review within your hiring process.

Creating and promoting the job description. 

How your descriptions are crafted and where they are shared can impact who applies for your role. This matters because you can’t hire someone who never makes it to the point of consideration. For a whole article on this topic, see Inclusive Hiring: Five Tips to Attract More Diverse Applicants for Your Open Role.

Reviewing and filtering resumes. 

Once you’ve attracted applications for your job, you need to narrow it down to the best candidates for the role. People are either filtered in or out at this critical point, included for consideration or excluded from moving forward in the hiring process. 

  • Review resumes without names. Often called “blind hiring,” there is plenty of research that shows how removing the name can reduce unconscious bias when reviewing resumes. Have someone in an HR, talent acquisition, or administrative role block out the names on all resumes before passing them on for review. If you are working with a recruiting firm (like ours), inform them that you would like all resumes to be submitted without names. Each resume can have a number or letter for identification. 

  • Consider unconventional candidates. Whether it’s a difference in work experience, industry, training, higher education institution, degree, or lack of a degree, consider candidates different from your current team or what you may have had in mind when the job description was created. By definition, diversity means variety; if everyone fits the same mold, it’s impossible to build a diverse team. If a candidate can do the job and accomplish the outcome either as you envisioned or in a different way, they are worthy of consideration. 

Interviewing and selecting finalists.

As you narrow down all of your applicants to the small group to move on to the interview stage, consider how you are conducting interviews and evaluating candidates. 

  • Include more people in the hiring process. Have candidates meet with several people on your team, either in groups or individually. This helps overcome individual patterns or biases, which are often unconscious or unintentional. The more people who meet a candidate, the more points of view you have on whether they’ll fit your role and team. Of course, this does take time, so figure out the balance of including additional interviewers without creating a burden for your team and the candidate. For example, have 2-3 team members conduct the first interview for multiple opinions, then have 3-4 different team members do the second interview and make a final recommendation.

  • Use a consistent scoring matrix to evaluate candidates. When you have several interviewers considering multiple candidates, it’s essential to have a consistent evaluation method. This reduces emotional factors and emphasizes skill set and ability to do the job. Create a simple scoring matrix based on the job description. For example, if you have ten must-have requirements, put those on a chart and give a copy to each interviewer; for every requirement they have, the candidate gets one point. Or rate them 1-5 on each requirement. Maybe must-have requirements are worth two points, and nice-to-have items are worth one. The point is to create a matrix that works for you and that every interviewer uses, so each candidate is evaluated on the same criteria by multiple people. With this type of scoring system, evaluation becomes more objective rather than subjective. This can level the field for candidates that fit the job requirements but may have less traditional backgrounds or experiences.

  • Use validated assessment tools. There are many well-validated assessment tools available that can help you evaluate whether a candidate is a good fit for your role. These tools can provide insights into suitability for the role that may not be easily evaluated via resume or interview. Be sure you are using a validated assessment tool that has gone through extensive research and testing, and that you are using it consistently. If you use an assessment for one candidate for the role, use the same assessment for all candidates. Remember, the results of these tools are just one piece of information about the candidate, and they can contain inherent biases. Use them in conjunction with other evaluation methods, not as the sole determinant of hiring.

 Creating more inclusive hiring practices will benefit your business, whether you are focused on expanding the diversity of your team or struggling to find qualified candidates in a tight talent market. Making minor adjustments can help broaden your pool of applicants and reduce unintentional bias in the hiring process. Change is hard, and hiring is even harder. If you need digital, marketing, or creative people for your team, we’re here to help!