5 strategies for hiring diverse candidates

As of next year, companies on the Nasdaq exchange will be required to have at least two board members that identify as female, LGBTQ+ or a member of a racial minority group, or explain why not in a report. This ‘comply or explain’ model differs to other measures intended to increase diversity at the executive level, such as mandate quotas or specific targets. These reports are intended to provide positive benchmarks for reporting and encouraging diverse hires across different sectors, ensuring flexibility for smaller listed companies or those facing other pressures restricting the ability to achieve the diverse targets. The flexibility granted by this style of reporting allows companies to hire candidates for skills and experience, as well as their diverse backgrounds, moving beyond a token hiring to achieve a mandate or quota. As societal groups and investors are increasingly placing greater pressure on corporate boards to meet diversity targets, there is a clear need to prioritise the hiring of diverse candidates to the board and executive level. Let’s explore five effective strategies that businesses can incorporate into their recruitment process to attract candidates from diverse backgrounds.

1. Explore Non-Traditional Backgrounds

When assessing candidates solely on traditional performance indicators – educational background, years of industry experience, previous company – you effectively narrow down the talent search to a finite group of people from within the industry who all have similar experiences and thought processes. This lack of cognitive diversity can lead to stagnation within an organisation, with staff approaching challenges in the same manner. To improve diversity of thought across the organisation, consider removing some of these traditional indicators in a bid to actively diversify the talent pool and attract a wider range of candidates. There are many talented professionals from outside of the industry or from similar verticals that can bring unique perspectives to the company.

2. Challenging Unconscious Biases

Reviewing your internal recruitment process and how your company approaches interviews can be an effective tool for challenging biases and improving the objectiveness of the overall process. During the outreach phase of the recruitment process, simple changes can play a positive role in appealing to a wider talent pool and removing any unconscious bias. Consider changes such as: avoiding traditionally ‘masculine’ word choices, removing terminology such as ‘maternity’, or rephrasing language that could be considered ableist, stereotyped, or outdated. More conscious word choices in a job listing have been found to be an effective way of increasing applications from a wider range of candidates. Similarly, removing demographic characteristics from résumés can help ‘blind’ the recruitment process and ensure candidates are chosen on their core skills and abilities. Improving the diversity of panellists at the interview stage can also be a positive way to remove any bias and ensure that candidates feel represented throughout the process. Alternatively, hiring an external search firm can help to bring more structure and control to your company’s recruitment process. Search firms can be an effective way to trial different language choices and techniques throughout the process, helping to remove any unconscious bias from your internal procedures.

3. Technological Adoption and Advancement

The technological boom has seen global industries develop and diversify, rapidly adopting innovative technologies and embracing change. Exploring investment into modern practices and technology can help attract talent with new skillsets, whilst helping to future-proof your organisation. Tech and innovation can be a signaller of a modern company, one with values more likely to align with that of emerging talent that has the capability to tackle the issues of tomorrow. However, tech skillsets are in high demand as each industry seeks to adopt digital technology and modernise. The sooner a company starts to appeal to and hire from the digital talent pool, the less likely it is to suffer the consequences of a skills shortage.

4. Invest in Internal Talent

Whilst building effective external recruitment strategies is essential to long-term growth and success, investing in existing talent is also a key contributor. Often when attempting to diversify, particularly at the executive level, instinct is often to look externally for developed talent. This often overlooks highly-skilled staff members who have the potential to be exciting future leaders. According to a recent McKinsey study, women and people of colour comprise 64% of entry-level roles, but only 34% of the executive suite. It’s clear that there is underrepresentation at a senior level and companies must play an active role in tackling this. Investing in internal talent and developing a strong executive succession pipeline ensures there are progression channels for talent to emerge from within, helping to improve staff retention and job satisfaction. Leadership training and leadership assimilation can help the development of these internal talents and ensure they become effective leaders.

5. Company Values

Reviewing your company values and beliefs, particularly after the challenging time during the pandemic, is essential to ensuring that there is alignment with top talent pools. Post-Covid 19, employees are looking for a better work-life balance and now require more from their employer. Increasingly, surveys are reporting that respondents are more likely to apply to jobs if they were attracted to the company purpose and values. Candidates are now more conscious of their career progression routes, with topics such as equality and sustainability playing a major role in why people explore certain job roles. As industries face global changes, supply shortages, sustainability issues and ESG demands, it’s vitally important that prospective candidates understand what role you’re playing in creating positive change. Ensuring people can align with the company vision and values is critical to retaining existing employees and attracting new talent with the skillsets to tackle future challenges.

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