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Inclusive Hiring: Building Your DEI Recruiting Strategy

By Jennifer Crump | Last updated: May 15, 2021
Key Takeaways

A DEI recruiting strategy is a deliberate campaign designed to eliminate intentional and unintentional bias from your hiring processes — and it's an essential component of a thriving workplace.

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The majority of executives and employees believe that inclusive hiring should be a priority. It isn't just because it is the right thing to do — increasing evidence also suggests that it makes good business sense as well. A Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Strategy can help you create a more diverse workforce, but it can also help drive innovation and revenue. It's a win all around for employers, and it is something to be mindful of in the modern workplace.

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For example, research suggests that diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets and are 1.7 times more innovative than their less diverse counterparts. They also see 1.4 times more revenue.

What is a DEI Recruiting Strategy?

As a hiring strategy, DEI recruiting is not a public relations campaign or a marketing strategy. It is a deliberate campaign designed to eliminate intentional and unintentional bias from your hiring processes and ensure a diverse pool of applicants and new hires.

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People are often drawn to others who are familiar to them, who look like them or share similar backgrounds. These unintentional biases can relate to ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or culture. Your DEI recruiting strategy must address and eliminate these accidental biases. The idea is to give everyone an equal opportunity but maintain a hiring protocol based on merit.

The end goal of a DEI recruiting strategy is to create a workforce that reflects the actual diverse makeup of society and includes people of diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Here are a few tips to consider when you are brainstorming how to build your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) recruiting strategy.

Start at the Source

Assess your current hiring practices. If you're failing to attract a diverse pool of applicants, the way you source that pool might be the problem. Start with job postings. Are you using inclusive language? Conduct a word association with an informal or formal focus group. What images do some of the words in your existing ad descriptions bring to mind? The results may surprise you. Many job ads are geared specifically to a narrow cultural group or gender, and the individual or team coming up with the descriptions may not even be aware of that fact. Rewrite these job descriptions to be more inclusive. Utilize a freelancer who specializes in writing job descriptions. Be sure they echo your workplace culture as well.

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Consider writing ads that target a specific demographic which you currently lack in your workforce. Look carefully at your ad placement. Are job postings being placed in locations that will naturally locate a diverse pool? If not, you need to divert your advertising to sites where they will attract a broader range of applicants. Encourage your existing workforce, particularly those from diverse backgrounds, to share job ads in their networks as well.

If you leverage a recruiting firm, ensure you hire one that doesn't just tout its focus on diversity, but actually has a proven record of producing diverse applicants.

Create a Diverse Hiring Team

It helps to foster companywide diversity when your leadership is diverse. The same is true of your hiring team. Recruit a hiring team that represents a broad range of ethnic, cultural, gender and other backgrounds. Provide diversity, equity, and inclusion training for your interview teams, including a discussion of conscious and unconscious bias.

Remove Bias from the Interview Process

There are several ways to evaluate your interview process for its capacity to support DEI. Start by asking candidates the same questions in the same order. Ensure the questions are targeted to competencies related to the job rather than personality characteristics or interests.

Evaluate responses based on responses rather than overall impressions to avoid the possibility of unconscious bias. Called the Halo Effect, this occurs in an interview when a solid overall impression of an interviewee positively influences the opinion that they must be suitable for the job. To avoid this, interviewers should assess all candidates' answers for a single question rather than evaluating one candidate at a time.

In addition to questions related to job skills and knowledge, consider adding DEI-related questions to your slate of interview questions. This provides an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of DEI to your company. However, it also allows interviewers to evaluate whether a candidate is a good fit for your company culture when it comes to DEI.

Finally, get feedback from candidates on the interview process. Good questions to ask include whether they see the process as fair and if they felt respected.

Be Introspective

Word spreads quickly about companies on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed. If workers don't see you as an inclusive company, you will have difficulty attracting a diverse workforce. Building for diversity means taking a hard look at internal practices, so make an audit of your current DEI practices part of your work to build a DEI recruiting strategy.

Consider how existing company policies might appeal to or discourage diverse applicants from considering your company in this audit. How do you refer to religious holidays? Do you offer a more flexible schedule that caters to various cultures and activities?

The audit should also look at current processes for promotion and raises. Are they fair and equitable? Are there clear metrics attached? Is there inherent bias in the process? Or, is there a possible perception of bias? Leverage exit interviews and hiring site posts for some insight into these perceptions about your company. Also, consider interviewing those who stay with the company for their perspective. What was different about their experiences? A DEI survey distributed companywide can also provide valuable data and insight into both perceptions and practices.

A Thriving Workplace

Building an effective DEI recruitment strategy is a challenge and requires effort. There are various components to consider, and it may involve shaking up a lot of your company's current hiring practices. However, it can be a rewarding one in terms of company culture and your bottom line. A diverse workplace is a thriving workplace — and your DEI recruitment strategy is the key to it all.

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Written by Jennifer Crump

Profile Picture of Jennifer Crump

Jennifer Crump is a former freelance journalist and author and now full-time content writer and strategist. She contributes to magazines and blogs throughout North America on issues related to business, training, financing and workplace safety.


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