How to Build an Inclusive Hiring Process

Recruitment is about finding the best people for your business and if you're a hiring manager, you'll know some roles have seemed impossible to fill. I know I’ve struggled to hire people for senior roles in the past. This experience has made me think about how we hire people and potential limitations of the traditional approach.

A common theme that I’ve noticed is that businesses have a singular approach to recruitment. Does this translate to the best candidates? Are your campaigns reaching a broad audience or are you excluding groups and communities with your approach?

Let's start at the beginning and look at how we approach writing job descriptions. Each business has its own culture and identity. For example, we all have different names to describe roles in in the business. You might have decided that everyone is an associate, an ally, a coequal or a compatriot but when writing your job ads, think about how that reads to an external audience.  One of the most important things when bringing in new staff is creating a sense of belonging and having easily understandable job titles in your adverts will mean you don't alienate candidates before they even apply. 

The language used in  job specs can make or break this.

You need potential candidates to be able to envisage themselves doing that role, which they won’t be able to do if they can't comprehend what that means. Don’t use unnecessary jargon, potentially culturally insensitive or gendered language because these could be very off putting to different groups and communities. Be humorous where appropriate, it shows a human side, but remain professional.

When describing responsibilities, be concise and accurate. Seemingly endless bullet points aren’t engaging and can come across as overwhelming. Don’t be negative. For example phrases such as ‘candidates without X,Y and Z will not be considered’ try and maintain a positive tone, for example, ‘we’re looking for candidates with X,Y and Z’. 

Widening the Talent Pool

There are often references made to a Hewlett Packard study which found that men apply for jobs if they meet 60% of the requirements, whereas women generally will only apply if they meet all of the criteria. Think about how you word your requirements, this could help remove barriers that impede women and minorities from applying. By doing so you’ll gain access to a wider talent pool. 

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Next, review your application process.

Ask yourself this:

Is the application process too long and complicated?

Do the tests or demonstrations exclude people who find these things challenging but could be perfect for the role?

Within the process is your messaging clear and friendly?

Analyse each step of the process and understand what value it provides. If it's not providing value or key insights do you really need it?  You want your candidates to feel welcome and unnecessary barriers can lead to people feeling like outsiders, which is contrary to the sense of belonging I mentioned before.

Consider the content of your website. This is the window to your shop and if your content is not engaging it won't draw candidates in. If your imagery and copy is inclusive and representative, potential candidates can get a sense of comradery and empathy. This is key to engaging and enticing people to apply. Make sure that your blogs and articles showcase your business’ competency and values. They should be relevant and fit into a considered content strategy.


Navigating Biases 

We all have our biases, we have lived experiences which shape how we view the world and the people in it. One way to bypass these would be to anonymise CVs. Realistically name, location (if inappropriate should be filtered out before sift phase), school/university, date of birth, marital status etc. should have no bearing on your decision and will add nothing to your shortlisting. Before you review any CVs you should set clear criteria to assess candidates against. Where possible you should carry out your shortlisting in pairs. This will allow you to challenge each other's perceptions and keep to the criteria set.

Once you have your shortlist, consider what interview approach suits your needs. For a technical role it could be that you want to set a task and then have a walk through to discuss the approach. I know a Design Manager that prefers to assess candidates with an audition process where they work as part of a team to come up with a design or a solution to a problem. The team comprises the candidate and existing staff, this allows the candidate to showcase not only their ability but also acts as a chemistry session. 

Something to remember is that not everyone has the same needs in preparation for and during an interview. Make sure firstly you check in advance if there are any reasonable adjustments required. In the current climate online interviews are becoming more commonplace. With that in mind I would recommend baking in a little extra time to compensate for potential connection issues.

Look at the applications you receive, identify trends in terms of where groups and communities  are sufficiently represented and then look at which are under represented. The key is taking this data and understanding why. Once you know why you can start looking to bridge gaps and stop missing out on great talent. 


Author Bio


Paul Alexander is a Quality Assurance Manager and accessibility and inclusivity advocate. He champions inclusive design practices and has spoken at a number of events on accessibility and inclusive in design.