The business case for increasing the diversity of employee and leadership cultures within organizations – including the ways in which a diverse workforce enhances workplace environment and leads to increased productivity and problem-solving among employees – has been well-documented. Still, no matter how intentional your organization might be in its desire to diversify its workforce, understanding the systemic, cultural and institutional barriers to making progress in this area – especially when it comes to attracting applicants marginalized by race – is critical.

Hiring managers and recruiters should consider the following factors as potential barriers to diversifying their leadership and staff cultures:

  • unconscious/implicit cultural bias, or unconscious feelings we have towards other people which lead to judgements based on culture, identity, etc., and which are often informed by messaging, cultural trends, and societal influences.  Unconscious bias can adversely impact all stages of your recruitment process.
  • workplace/team/department cultures that do not support diversity, equity & inclusion and/or where there is no investment in pursuing DEI goals
  • an unwillingness to understand and challenge systemic, structural and institutional factors adversely impacting applicants identifying as members of historically underrepresented groups (those marginalized by race; ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, dis/ability, socioeconomic status, etc.)

Given the reality of these challenges, here are proactive steps recruiters and hiring managers can take to enhance their potential to recruit diverse employees:

  • post jobs via diverse venues (including social media) to include outlets frequented by professionals of color, women, LGBTQIA+ groups, people with disabilities, etc.
  • establish professional relationships with job centers and alumni associations and affinity groups serving as resources to diverse candidates in relevant industries/fields of interest to your team’s work and supporting professionals of color, women, LGBTQIA+ groups, people with disabilities, etc.
  • review position announcements to ensure there is content expressing your organization’s support for DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) ideals while referencing ways in which you and your department value diversity and see it as an asset to its practices
  • communicate your desire to attract applicants with demonstrated experience supporting organizational DEI objectives and/or who can contribute to the advancement of your DEI goals
  • evaluate required qualifications to ensure that they are amenable to a spectrum of skillsets and credentials necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the role and that will attract a diverse applicant pool rather than be limiting or restrictive
  • consider how you are weighing the value of all credentials, experiences and skillsets and/or how you are ranking applicants in order to determine if there are patterns of bias that put applicants of color, women, etc., at a disadvantage
  • go beyond including the required EEO content on your position announcement and communicate your organization’s commitment to DEI; its dedication to recruiting a diverse workforce to include communities marginalized by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. and that it strongly encourages such job seekers identifying as members of such groups to apply.
  • represent a positive, supportive workplace climate within your organization when possible.
  • include references to diversity-centered benefits and policies within your organization that would appeal to a variety of cultural groups, identities, lifestyles, etc.
  • ensure information about anticipated and current open positions is shared with attendees at job fairs attracting high numbers of diverse job seekers
  • on initial review, avoid looking at applicant names on resumes and other materials to discourage biased reactions that may impact your judgement
  • solicit referrals for open positions from colleagues while ensuring that all applicants submit materials in the same manner consistent with your policies to ensure equitable, fair treatment of all applications
  • complete bias training exercises to become better acquainted with any blind spots you might have in recruitment processes
  • create an inclusive, equitable, respectful team/department culture that is dedicated to increasing its diversity and which welcomes diverse talent
  • continue to participate in learning opportunities and DEI educational activities in order to become better informed about challenges and opportunities to prioritize DEI values in all aspects of your recruitment and business practices

Building your organization’s capacity to recruit diverse applicants to open positions takes investment, intention and commitment.  Where is your organization in its journey toward increasing the diversity of its employees and leadership?