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Embracing inclusive hiring: here are three tips for getting started

Inclusive hiring practices give companies access to a wider talent pool, but where do we start? In this blog, Simone Rensch, Search Director at The PIE Exec Search, explores what inclusive hiring is, and provides three tips for getting started. 

This summer, I went to a recruitment festival. RecFest is one of the largest events dedicated to the talent acquisition profession, bringing together 5,000 professionals in a field in Knebworth Park for a day of insights, networking and fun (there were ice cream vans, games, DJs and much more!). I was bombarded with information, technologies and insights on trends in the TA profession. The common thread throughout the day was inclusive hiring. 

Companies and organisations worldwide are increasingly recognising the benefits of a diverse workforce and the importance of inclusive hiring practices. Recruitment is about so much more than simply filling vacancies, of course. It’s about creating a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion, ensuring that everyone has equal opportunities regardless of their background.

By embracing inclusive hiring practices, organisations can tap into a larger talent pool resulting in more diversity within the company, fostering innovation and embracing diversity of thought. Additionally, candidates seek employers who truly embrace diversity and inclusion. If employers don’t exhibit inclusive hiring practices, they will inevitably exclude great candidates. But what is inclusive hiring and where do we even start? 

It can seem intimidating, I know. 


So, what is inclusive hiring? 

Inclusive hiring is the practice of actively seeking, attracting and hiring candidates from diverse backgrounds, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. It’s about creating an environment where individuals with varying perspectives and experiences are not only welcomed but also empowered to contribute their unique skills and insights.

We know diverse teams perform better. Research from Deloitte, Boston Consulting Group, the Harvard Business Review, Forbes and more all show the same thing: more diverse and inclusive companies are more innovative and, therefore, more profitable.

Interestingly, the recruitment process is all about excluding people to find the right person for the role. But there are various things we can do to improve our recruitment practices, making them more inclusive. Here are three tips for getting started. 


Step 1: Recognise your bias and implement bias training 

The first step to getting started is looking at your, and your team’s, bias. This is deeply ingrained – often unconscious – and we need to accept it, take responsibility and manage it. We often find comfort in people who look like us and have similar backgrounds or interests. According to Nicklas Pyrdol, CEO & Talent Acquisition Advisor at Pyrdol ApS who spoke at Recfest, hiring managers will ask easier questions to candidates who look like them or have similar experiences, compared to candidates who come from different backgrounds. This is especially true if the interview is not structured systematically. “What happens is you treat candidates differently,” Nicklas said. “White men who look like the hiring manager get easier questions than someone who isn’t, because of the unconscious bias.”

During interviews, focus on structured, competency-based questions that assess a candidate’s skills and qualifications objectively. Avoid asking questions related to personal characteristics or life situations that are not relevant to the job. Establish a diverse interview panel to evaluate candidates from different perspectives, and ensure that your selection criteria are consistently applied to all applicants.

Unconscious bias can seep into the hiring process, affecting decisions very easily. We, as humans, are wired to have biases and exclude others based on certain factors. By implementing bias training for your hiring team to raise awareness and mitigate biases, you have made a massive step in the right direction. At Recfest, Tribepad, a hiring and recruitment software company, presented a report called ‘Stop the Bias’. It found that most candidates are concerned biases are impacting their employment opportunities, including age, personal appearance, disability, gender and race. Hiring teams can also consider things like blind CVs (that do not disclose gender, age, race etc.) to help avoid one’s bias affecting the decisions of inviting candidates to interview. 

There’s a lot of research on the different types of bias and how to avoid them in more detail, like this one. We could write a whole blog post on unconscious bias (and perhaps we will!). 


Step 2: Review and revise your job descriptions

The next step is to review and revise your job descriptions. Did you know terms like ‘sales ninja’, ‘go the extra mile’ and ‘rockstar’ have been shown to exclude certain groups of people? I didn’t realise until I recently started looking into the role of inclusive language in the hiring process. 

Sometimes, subtle language or requirements can unintentionally discourage certain people from applying. Avoid using gendered language, and ensure that the qualifications you list are genuinely necessary for the role. We often see clients include the ‘nice to haves’, but we would recommend you stick to the skills and qualifications that are necessary for the role, and use the interviews to assess the rest. It has been proven that a lot of candidates, especially those from minority backgrounds, will only apply if they tick every box on the job description. To widen the talent pool, we need more candidates to throw their CVs into the ring. 

Jargon and corporate language in a job description are also some of the biggest barriers to getting more diverse candidates to apply – they simply feel unqualified and lose interest if the job description is multiple pages long. Keep the job description short, and to the point and use inclusive and simple language. 

Tools, like Develop Diverse, can help you identify words and phrases in your job descriptions that are not inclusive, boosting your chances of catching the attention of candidates from various backgrounds.


Step 3: Expand your recruitment channels

To attract a diverse pool of candidates, you need to diversify your recruitment channels. While traditional methods like job boards and referrals are effective, they may not reach underrepresented groups. Consider partnering with organisations that specialise in connecting employers with diverse talent, like an exec search firm that goes beyond just sifting candidates who apply for the role, attending career fairs targeting specific demographics, and leveraging social media platforms to promote job openings to a wider audience. 

Of course, we want the best person for the job. But we need to acknowledge that some people don’t apply for jobs we want them to apply for. Widening the search, and ensuring the company and process are inclusive gives you the best opportunity to find the best person for the role. 

Additionally, it may be worth considering how you are screening candidates. If we continue to only sift candidates based on their written CV and a cover letter, can we assess their competency for the role? We can consider asking for work samples or tests instead/or in addition to the traditional CV and cover letter. For example, if we are recruiting a sales operation manager but only judging them based on their written cover letter, will we exclude people based on their written skills (what if they are dyslexic?), even though it’s not a crucial part of the role and they may have amazing data analysis skills and experience designing CRM systems?

Similarly, interviewing well is not the only thing we should judge. Some people are very good at getting hired – their CVs and LinkedIn profiles are polished, they interview well and ask the right questions. But this doesn’t always mean they are good at the job itself. Having external help to sift candidates can also help massively. 

Diversity and inclusive hiring are so much more than buzzwords; it’s a strategic imperative for businesses. By embracing inclusive hiring practices, you can tap into a wider talent pool, increase diversity and, as a result, improve both business and employee experiences. 

We hope these three steps help you to start thinking about your hiring practices. As you take these steps, you’ll be on your way to building a more diverse and inclusive culture that can help your company thrive in international education. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve already taken the first step – you’re showing an interest in inclusive hiring practices.  At The PIE Exec Search, we are actively educating ourselves and are happy to have a chat about what we have learned and how we can help you take these steps.