A diverse workforce is one of a business's most important assets. Employees with different backgrounds and life experiences provide valuable new perspectives and ideas, but you can't sit back and wait for them to come to you. Every part of your hiring process needs to work towards the goal of diversity.
Diversifying your hiring process begins before you start accepting applications. The language used in a job description and the skills and experience required can easily discourage diverse applicants from applying in the first place. Words can be slanted in subtle ways that aren’t always obvious to people from different backgrounds, so debiasing your job description is crucial.
Overly specific requirements limit the number of applicants who believe they’re qualified. For example, research shows that men are more likely than women to apply for jobs despite not meeting all the requirements. Think seriously about what skills you really need new hires to have and what you can help them develop on the job.
You’re probably aware of research showing that when similar resumes are submitted under different names, those with stereotypically white or male names are more likely to result in callbacks than those with stereotypically Black or female names. While it may seem like the obvious solution is to hide names and other identifying information before directly comparing each applicant’s experience and skills, relying solely on this approach can lead you right back into the over-specificity trap.
Rather than thinking of the ideal hire as a puzzle piece that you can simply fit into a predetermined spot, focus on how both the new employee and the job can grow and adapt. Offering on-the-job training opens up a broader pool of applicants and improves employee satisfaction and retention. Inclusive mentorships require the mentor to consider new perspectives and be open to learning from the mentee while still providing support and a welcoming ear.
Paid internships are another excellent way to bring in new voices and help young people begin their career journeys. Note the “paid” bit: Accepting only interns who can afford to work for free drastically reduces the diversity of your applicant pool, and research shows paid internships are correlated with better career opportunities than unpaid ones.
While a debiased job description is an essential first step, you’ll need to do more to attract diverse candidates. Expand your networking efforts by reaching out to organizations that represent diverse groups and colleges and universities that serve historically marginalized students. Make a special effort to consider senior citizens, veterans, and other frequently overlooked groups.
Pay attention to local freelancers whose experiences can help you see your community with fresh eyes. Using a locally focused recruiting agency rather than a national company gives you more control and better insight into potential hires. Your community’s economy also benefits from efforts to buy and hire locally.
An Accessible Environment
Finally, remember that the office environment plays a huge role in retaining diverse employees, and being truly inclusive requires more than meeting the requirements of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Actions both small (having unscented cleaning products, allergy-friendly snacks, and religiously neutral office décor) and large (backing up your proudly stated commitment to diversity by refusing to ignore biased remarks) matter. Establish ongoing good practices and be ready to answer applicants’ questions with facts and examples rather than platitudes.
Adapting your hiring process to increase employee diversity takes time and care, but it's one of the best investments you can make in your business.
Guest Post by Linda Chase:
Linda Chase created Able Hire to help people with disabilities build rewarding, successful careers. She hopes Able Hire will be a resource for people with disabilities seeking jobs and for hiring managers seeking a better understanding of what people with disabilities have to offer.
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