Skip to content
Person on gradient background
Louisa BenedictoJan 30, 2024 12:54:45 PM9 min read

The 6 rules of inclusive hiring

The 6 rules of inclusive hiring

In today’s dynamic workforce, building a culture of inclusivity is imperative to a successful and progressive organisation. While many organisations focus on enhancing inclusivity within the day-to-day culture, it is just as important to implement inclusivity within the hiring process for an end-to-end strategy.  

Inclusive hiring goes beyond the realm of box-ticking: it fosters innovation, creativity, improves employee engagement and wellbeing, and is beneficial to the overall performance of a company. In fact, 81% of employees who reported to working in an inclusive environment also said they are happy in their jobs, illustrating the correlation between belonging and wellbeing. 

HR professionals, talent managers and business leaders play a crucial role in shaping a culture of inclusivity – for both existing and potential employees. This guide presents six key rules for inclusive hiring, offering actionable takeaways to create a workplace that champions diversity and promotes equal opportunities for all prospective talent.  

Rule No. 1: Ensure your environment is ready to diversify 

Louisa Benedicto, Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability at Hays, North America, says: “Businesses often want to attract more diverse talent but they are not doing the work to make sure that they have a culturally inclusive environment to facilitate this.

“If a company is facing a loss of employees from a particular group, this attrition is often because the environment wasn’t welcoming for them in the first place”, Louisa continues. A quick look on Glassdoor or the responses from employee exit interviews will provide the feedback to confirm this. 

So, how do companies ensure their environment is ready to diversify before trying to attract the diverse talent? “Consult with your ERGs (employee resource groups) to identify existing challenges and concerns; review your engagement scores and filter them down by diverse populations, and run feedback circles to spot opportunities”, advises Louisa.  

Organisations should also segment their employee data by each protected characteristic, such as race, gender, sexuality, disability and age, to identify blind spots and establish the interplay between identity groups.  

Key takeaways 

  • Leverage existing data, such as employee feedback and engagement scores, to understand your current employee demographic 
  • Filter your employee data by each protected characteristic, such as race, gender, sexuality, disability and age, to identify whether certain groups are at a greater disadvantage 
  • Involve – or establish – your ERGs to identify existing employee concerns and challenges, and address them. 

Rule No. 2: Diversify your recruitment channels and job descriptions 

Businesses should begin by diversifying their recruitment channels. In addition to the traditional recruitment platforms, branch out to niche job boards and partner with organisations which advocate for underrepresented groups.

Seek out partnerships with businesses that support DE&I in the workplace. This approach allows you to target candidates at various touchpoints, widening your scope to include those who may not be reached through traditional means. 

Be aware of exclusionary language in your job descriptions. Like person specifications, job adverts often contain both words and images that project stereotypes of men and women, different cultures, ages and other social groups based on factors such as disability, sexual orientation and social background.  

For example, a study by Collier and Zhang found that adjectives like ‘strong’, ‘competitive’ and ‘determined’ were associated with masculinity, while descriptors like ‘sensitive’, ‘understanding’ and ‘support’ were associated with femininity. Stereotyped images and phrases used in job adverts reinforce existing assumptions and biases about the types of people you are seeking to hire, so you should seek to avoid these.  

“We have to rethink the barriers that we are creating in job adverts and job descriptions, in order for us to be able to find the diverse talent pools we are often looking for”, explains Louisa. “For example, a job advertisement might say ‘you must have five years of experience and a bachelor’s degree in order to apply’, but years of experience doesn’t denote ability to do a job.  

“I’ve interviewed thousands of candidates, and I can tell you I’ve met people with one year of experience who are as capable as people with 10 years. We also know that many of our equity deserving communities face many barriers to entering university, so it’s already counting out a lot of diverse folk by asking for a degree”, Louisa continues. 

Key takeaways:  

  • Utilise a variety of recruitment platforms – both conventional and niche - to target candidates from different backgrounds 
  • Partner with organisations who have ED&I at the forefront of their strategy, or who advocate for underrepresented groups 
  • Job descriptions should be focused on the skills required – not the candidate’s personal background, length of employment or educational history 
  • Review job advertisements to remove stereotypical or gendered language, which can exclude certain groups.  

Rule No. 3: Make the application process accessible and transparent 

Review your application process to ensure it is accessible and inclusive. Instead of adapting your process based on an applicant’s request, be proactive and build accessibility into your existing recruitment processes. Offer candidates the option of different assessment formats and provide accommodation for candidates with disabilities. Accessibility adjustments include:

  • Offering on-site interpreters 
  • Providing applicants with relevant information ahead of the interview, including the format of any exams and expected timeframes 
  • Using spaces that are easily accessed by wheelchairs 
  • For online interviews, using video call services that are accessible for hard-of-hearing or deaf applicants, such as the live captions offered on Zoom 
  • Offering extended answer times for applicants’ responses, which could be helpful to many neurodivergent candidates 
  • Keeping candidates updated on the progress of their applications. This helps to reduce candidates’ stress and anxiety, even if the update is, “there is no update”.  
  • Providing constructive feedback to unsuccessful applicants. While this can be time-consuming, it contributes to an overall representation of being an inclusive employer and positively enhances the candidate experience. 

 Key takeaways: 

  • Build accessibility into your existing application processes – don’t wait for candidates to ask for adjustments 
  • Take steps to be inclusive of all disabilities: mental, physical and neurodiverse.

Rule No. 4: Anonymise CVs  

Anonymising CVs is a powerful way to mitigate unconscious bias within the initial recruitment stages. By removing identifiable information about candidates, such as names, gender pronouns, addresses, university names and photos, hiring managers can ensure that candidates are assessed based on skills and qualifications, as opposed to personal biases. 

More and more recruiters are leveraging AI technology, like Textio, Ideal and Noirefy, to help mitigate bias in recruitment and increase efficiency. AI can be used to speed up CV screening and highlight gender bias within job descriptions. However, AI algorithms can be coded with human bias, so this tool still requires human oversight to ensure the technology is being used in alignment with your organisation’s values. “Organisations should use AI to perform low-level work that speeds up your recruitment delivery time - don’t use it to recommend one candidate over another”, says Louisa. 

Key takeaways: 

  • Remove identifiable candidate information from CVs, such as names, addresses and gender pronouns, to reduce risk of unconscious bias. 
  • Utilise AI technology to screen CVs and flag potential biases within job descriptions but avoid using AI to make final decisions; these should be made by a human.

Rule No. 5: Be mindful of biases at interview  

Build an interview panel that represents a variety of backgrounds within your business. This will ensure there are diverse perspectives on the panel, contributing to a more well-rounded candidate evaluation process, and thus reducing the risk of bias.  

Candidates should be assessed based on a consistent evaluation framework and a standardised set of questions, which promotes fairness. Before taking part in screening candidates, interviewees should also undergo diversity and inclusion training, such as unconscious bias training, to enhance their awareness and mitigate biases.  

Remain mindful of the following biases, which can occur at interview:  

  • Affinity bias: Coined by social psychologist, Tony Greenwald, affinity bias – otherwise known as “the mini-me effect” - relates to the unconscious preferences for individuals who are similar to us, whether in culture, background or personality. For example, hiring managers may be more likely to hire a candidate who graduated from the same university as them, worked in a sector they are familiar with, or who share similar interests. 
  • Confirmation bias: Devised by psychologist Peter Wason, this term refers to the tendency to look for information, or interpret behaviours that confirm existing thoughts and beliefs. For example, reading specific details on a CV or application form may inform a ‘first impression’ of a candidate. 
  • ‘Halo effect’ and “horns effect”: Founded by psychologist Edward Thorndike, this bias occurs when we find one attribute particularly attractive (halo) or unattractive (horns) about a person, which predisposes us to think favourably, or unfavourably about that person. For example, if a candidate is very well presented in interview, we may assume that they will also put together well-presented client presentations, and vice versa. 
  • Stereotype threat: Coined by researchers Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson, this bias occurs when an individual is at risk of confirming negative stereotypes about their own group and being judged based on group membership, as opposed to individual merit. For example, a black candidate is more likely to be aware of their social identity in an interview situation when the interview panel is all white. The anxiety of confirming a negative stereotype can then affect their performance. 

Key takeaways: 

  • Your interview panel should represent a wide variety of backgrounds 
  • Ensure your interviewees undergo DE&I training to help mitigate their own biases 
  • Develop a consistent and standardised set of questions to promote fairness. 

 Rule No. 6: Set realistic DE&I hiring targets 

“Companies often set DE&I recruitment targets which are near impossible, for example ‘X% of people should look like X in senior leadership’”, explains Louisa. Since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, there has been a fight for diverse talent, especially at senior levels, but only so much talent exists at this level”, she continues.

We encourage organisations to set goals and intentions, but these targets need to be made in relation to the execution of the recruitment strategy. When we remove the barriers that have been created and make it a fairer playing field for everyone to apply and be assessed, diversity will follow.  

Examples of realistic, meaningful DE&I recruitment targets include: 

  • We are going to create meaningful relationships with five groups that represent the LGBTQ community. We are going to give back to them and share our job openings  
  • We are going to follow a competency-based interview process for 100% of candidates, and any candidate scoring higher than 75% will be hired. 

Key takeaways: 

  • Despite good intentions, companies often set unrealistic DE&I recruitment goals 
  • Review your organisation’s targets and set quantifiable targets that are in line with the recruitment strategy, ensuring they are realistically achievable.

Louisa Benedicto

Louisa Benedicto is Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I), Corporate Social Responsibility, and Sustainability at Hays – covering the Americas region including Canada, the U.S. and Latin American Countries.