10 March 2021

5 mistakes in diversity recruiting and how to avoid them

The need for progress around diversity has never been more urgently felt than now. Especially when it comes to diversity in recruiting.

When equalizing the hiring playfield, which means that everyone has an equal chance to get hired, both diversity and inclusion become a result of an organizational mindset in which we care about who someone actually is and is capable of, rather than their background.

In this blog, I will share with you the 5 most common mistakes in diversity recruiting and how to avoid them. This way you can move your organization toward intentional and sustainable diversity, in a natural manner!



Where to begin?

In a world in which diversity is such a hot topic, why are we still evaluated based on our gender, age or race, etc., rather than our potential, skills and personality? Around 61% of employees don’t believe their workplace is inclusive – I mean, that is literally more than half. How crazy is this?

So, what are the things that are definite DONT’S to ensure diversity when it comes to hiring? What can you do to tackle these problems? Well, let me tell you!

DON’T focus just on diversity

Many companies are applying what is called positive discrimination. Within a work environment, positive discrimination is the act of favoring someone based on a “protected characteristic” – for example, age, race, gender, etc. . I certainly wouldn’t want someone to hire me solely because I’m a woman in my early 20s. Candidates want to be hired for their potential and what they can bring to the team in terms of skills. That’s why instead of focusing on these “protected characteristics”, you should care about equalizing the playfield and diversity will then naturally follow.


DON’T post biased job descriptions

Before even receiving applicants, there is a possibility of unconscious bias already being present in your job descriptions. These descriptions are a key piece in every company’s hiring strategy and are especially valuable to communicate your employer brand. They are, after all, the very first impression the candidates get about your company. That is why the wording you use within job descriptions is of utmost importance. So, how to make job descriptions more inclusive :

Step 1. Pay attention to the adjectives you use. The use of words that are either masculine or feminine in job descriptions can perpetuate gender inequality. What’s the danger of this?

There is a chance that you (even if you are not directly targeting specifically male/female applicants) accidentally perpetuate stereotypes. To avoid this, you could for example use the Textio bias meter. They make use of data science to help reveal any hidden gender bias within your job descriptions and suggest alternatives to make the text more gender-neutral. After all, not only do well thought out descriptions draw a more broad and diverse applicant pool, but it also helps you hire more inclusively.

Finally, if you want to ensure that also the first stages of the application review process are also free of bias, I strongly suggest you use Blind Hiring (read more about this in our blog about why we decided to include blind hiring in our product).

Step 2. Try to use less buzzwords. When you’re writing up a job description, it’s important to keep in mind that using company jargon can disadvantage those who do not share the same specific knowledge about the terminology as you.

Can you imagine that 66% of young adults based on reading job descriptions did not understand the role they were about to apply to? That is why it is important to keep the job description direct, clear and written in a simple language. What I mean by this is that you should try to avoid company jargon like “core competency” or “leverage”. The danger of this is that if you use buzzwords excessively, you will likely turn away a pool of diverse candidates.

If you want to practice what you preach when it comes to ensuring inclusivity, it’s important to ensure that your job description is easily understood by anyone.


DON’T forget that hiring managers unconsciously play the biggest role in hiring bias

Most companies focus on debiasing the applicant screening process. Sadly, that does not solve the possibility of bias creeping in later on. That is why it’s important to educate the hiring managers. You can do this by following these 2 steps:

Step 1. Standardize the interviews they conduct (this can actually help remove bias). By doing so, you will make sure that everyone gets an equal opportunity to showcase their potential during the interview.


Step 2. Provide them with additional info, apart from what’s written in their resumes (for example an assessment). Based on this information, the hiring manager has more relevant information to create their first impression, and also to base interview questions on, while still paying attention to the candidate as an individual.

DON’T continue with the same old hiring practices

When looking for a new team member, we often tend to prioritize candidates who are similar to the people we already have in our teams. Or we hire someone based on a gut feeling that this person will be a fit with our current team. Or maybe simply because that person is a friend. Unfortunately, decisions that are guided by subjectivity often do not lead to the best outcomes. Not only does this result in lack of diversity, it also results in an increase in mishires.

Why? Because we tend to overlook candidates who do not fit, so to say, what we had in mind when a job vacancy was posted. I would like to mention that it is absolutely essential to not rely only on traditional hiring methods when hiring if you’re looking to move your organization toward D&I that is intentional and sustainable.

Traditional hiring methods cannot capture the full potential of the candidate. In fact, often the information within CVs can overcloud our judgement and lead to hiring decisions that are heavily influenced by personal bias.

To avoid this, it is important to:

It’s important to mention that diversity hiring is all about making fair hiring decisions that are based on objective insights. When presented with demographic characteristics, we often form incorrect judgements about someone’s fit for the job based on our personal unconscious bias. One way to avoid this is by using neuroscientific assessments that place focus on measuring personality traits and cognitive skills. This way you are able to make hiring decisions that are free of personal bias. I’d like to add that insights from psychometric testing are primarily data driven (so, more objective) & improve diverse hiring.

DON’T preach what you don’t practice

To leave best (or actually worst) for last – never preach what you don’t practice as actions speak louder than words. Don’t just sit around and wait for the next big news event or scandal to drive the conversation about diversity. Instead, align your words with your actions and ensure transparency about your company values.

Make sure that diversity, equity and inclusion are core values at all times. Not only when the next breaking story about discrimination airs on TV. After all, creating a diverse team certainly is a necessary first step towards creating a company that hits or even exceeds its performance goals, but it’s far from enough.

Diversity recruiting covers more than gender or age, it also means being transparent about your hiring decisions and ensuring that equality, diversity and inclusivity are a company-wide and holistic commitment, not only a publicity stunt when “shit hits the fan”.

To conclude

Taking diversity and inclusion seriously, is serious business! I hope that after reading this blog, you will be able to avoid these 5 mistakes when it comes to diversity and inclusion in recruitment. Next time you’re looking for a new colleague, remember, they are there to be a part of your team and your journey, and want to feel included!

Curious how we can help you achieve this? Get in touch with us and let us walk you through it!

Cheers, Anete