Diversity Recruiting

Not just a nice-to-have, or the right thing to do, or a smart business decision—it's a necessity.

Understanding DEI

The concept of “diversity” has been yanked around every which way—so what are we actually talking about? Let’s break down three foundational concepts that are foundational to building your strategy: diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Put simply, diversity is the range of human differences. To embrace it means to embrace those differences. In the context of recruiting, consider two dimensions of diversity: inherent and acquired (the latter is also referred to as cognitive diversity). Inherent diversity includes the traits we’re born with, like race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and ability (though some of these traits may change throughout life). Those differences we gain over time and through experience—education, career path, work experience, veteran status—constitute acquired diversity. The Harvard Business Review posits that companies whose leaders possess at least three inherent and three acquired diversity traits have what’s known as two-dimensional diversity—enabling an environment where differences are valued from the top-down.

Diversity, though, is only part of the equation. You can have a diverse team, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone—especially those from marginalized backgrounds—feel supported or even comfortable. Enter inclusion. In the words of DEI educator Vernā Myers, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” Inclusion, then, is made up of the methods and behaviors that recognize and celebrate diversity. Successful inclusion means that beyond the hiring process, team members are welcomed, valued, engaged, and empowered to bring their full selves to work. 

Equity, a crucial lens in diversity recruiting, helps ensure both diversity and inclusion. It asks us to acknowledge that not everyone starts from the same place—that different advantages and barriers exist for different people. An example: one study found that candidates with “white-sounding names” receive 50% more interview callbacks than candidates with “African-American-sounding names. Employing an equitable hiring process identifies—and ideally, addresses—these imbalances.

Why does diversity recruiting matter?

Let’s start with the business case and its growing body of research. Among the benefits of a diverse organization: increased profitability and outperformance of less-diverse organizations. A 2019 McKinsey report found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity outperformed organizations in the fourth quartile by 36%. In the case of gender diversity, those in the top quartile were 25% more likely to have higher profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. 

There’s no shortage of data to suggest that a more diverse company also means a stronger ability to innovate. One 2015 study concluded that London companies with diverse leadership are more likely to develop new products and reach international markets than those with more homogenous management. 2011 research conducted in Spain found that companies with higher gender diversity were more likely to introduce novel solutions and radical innovations into the market over a two-year span. The list of evidence goes on—and returns to the idea that diversity of employees means diversity of intellectual firepower, thought, and perspective. 

Beyond creating a clear competitive advantage, diversity recruiting is one strategy for tackling unconscious bias, defined as “the mental processes that cause us to act in ways that reinforce stereotypes, even when in our conscious mind we would deem that behavior counter to our value system.” In recruiting, unconscious bias often means leaning towards a candidate who might fit an existing workplace culture—and away from those with less-familiar profiles. When overlooked, unconscious bias fuels a cycle of exclusion that leaves underrepresented talent behind.

Where do I start?

Begin with your branding

2020 research on racial justice and branding indicates that 60% of people will boycott a brand whose values don’t align with their own—jobseekers included. Imagine: A potential candidate spends five minutes on your organization’s website or social channel. What do they see? How does the language read? Does the organization go beyond posting a black square on Instagram? Consider how your organization is (or isn’t) communicating its commitment to diversity—be it a response to current events, concrete information on existing D&I programs, or future plans to ensure diversity efforts stick in the long run. 

Widen the pool 

The job posting is live. You’ve heard from a number of qualified candidates. But before you move forward, have you considered the racial and gender makeup of your candidate pool? Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review suggests that reengineering the norm of a candidate pool by including more diverse candidates gives women and minority applicants a stronger chance to advance in the hiring process. A broader, more diverse group also mitigates the possibility of tokenizing women and minority candidates—in other words, including underrepresented candidates solely to create an impression of inclusivity and prevent criticism. (And in addition to promoting certain stereotypes, tokenism has been linked to depression, stress, and lower job satisfaction.) In a nutshell, a more exhaustive pool transforms diversity recruiting efforts from symbolic and performative to sincere and effective.

Partner up

Going back to the same few sources for candidates? Consider tapping into other networks that can help spread the word about your openings—from local schools to non-profit and business organizations. In identifying new partners, you’re likely to find untapped candidates. As a partner for early-career recruiting, Parker Dewey can help you tap into a network of more than 400 schools, professional associations, and non-profit organizations nationwide. Micro-Internships support employers in fulfilling their talent needs and build entry-level pipelines from underrepresented populations—helping organizations identify candidates with grit, determination, and skills to thrive. Learn more about how Parker Dewey can help your organization provide equitable access to untapped candidates.