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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Johnson, Ph.D.

Equitable and Inclusive Recruitment and Hiring Practices (Part I)

Approximately 76% of US employees report that a diverse workforce is important when evaluating companies and job offers (Glassdoor). Likewise, most Generation Z (born between the late 1990s and early 2010s) assess an organization's core values, social responsibility, and leadership diversity before applying for jobs or accepting offers (Handshake). Thus, companies who want to remain competitive in today's marketplace must create diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) work environments. Here are some of our recommendations to attract talent from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

1. Create Inclusive Job Ads

Incorporate diversity into various parts of your ad, particularly the beginning. Ads that only include generic Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statements do not convey a culture of inclusivity. A well-crafted diversity statement highlights your company's commitment to DEI principles, leaving job seekers more optimistic about applying to your company.

Often, job descriptions read like wish lists and include too many required qualifications that few people have. This strategy discourages highly qualified candidates, especially women, who tend to apply only if they meet all the criteria (Mohr). Also, consider scrapping "preferred" qualifications. A skilled associate's/bachelor's level candidate with five or more years of increasingly responsible experience might not apply if they see "master's degree preferred (Perlmutter)."

Last, job ads should be more than a list of demands (Perlmutter). Include what your company can offer candidates. For example, describe how your company is unique and its commitment to employee mentoring and professional development.

2. Actively Recruit

Advertising is a passive process that consists of simply posting job announcements. Nonetheless, advertise smartly by ensuring you have an engaging job announcement and then broadcast in venues that specifically focus on underrepresented candidates (e.g., the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Career Center).

Recruitment is an active process that includes networking through formal and informal networks. Everyone in the company (not just the recruitment team) could help identify potential candidates by posting announcements to listservs and contacting colleagues and fellow alums. The recruitment team should contact unions, professional associations, and attend conferences, especially those geared toward underrepresented populations (e.g., the National Association of Black Accountants National Convention and Expo). Design inclusive recruitment material to disseminate at these conferences. Consider hosting open houses and information sessions.

3. Bias Training for the Recruitment Team

Anyone involved in talent acquisition should understand how unconscious or structural biases affect the search and selection process.

Even the most well-intentioned hiring manager may have biases that could negatively influence the search. One way that biases emerge, for example, is when candidates are rated differently based on their potential. Robin Ely, a Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, states, "When they talk about what it takes to be successful, managers will often say, 'I know it when I see it.' What they're really saying is, 'I recognize the qualities I value, which just so happen to be the qualities I have.'" (Gerdeman). These biases can be challenging to recognize and dismantle when ingrained in a company's culture. For example, what constitutes achievement and potential in academic settings are often rooted in antiquated structural systems that disadvantage underrepresented faculty (e.g., the number of publication citations or student evaluations). Diversity among your recruitment team can mitigate the systemic biases that emerge during a search.

Hiring managers should also be trained to spot discriminatory language in letters of recommendation, which may shape or influence how candidates are evaluated. For example, research suggests that women are often described as hardworking, caring, and compassionate rather than accomplished, intelligent, or skilled. This biased language may make recruitment teams decide that a candidate is "not a good fit."

4. Understand Group Behavior

Recruitment teams should understand the psychology behind groups and why groups sometimes make bad decisions. For example, pressure to conform or appear agreeable, especially among more junior team members, may lead to an outcome where everyone feels safe concerning their membership on the team. This results in a person selected who may conform to unspoken organizational norms and biases, but who may not be the best candidate for the job. When groups have too much cohesion, become isolated and less transparent, have biased or overly authoritarian leadership, or have decisional stress (e.g., time pressures), it can lead to irrational or poor decision-making. (Forsyth). Being cognizant of these "flags" can help the group stay on track and make decisions in the best interest of the candidate and the company.

In June, we will share Part II of our recommendations so your organization can create spaces where employees feel accepted, supported, respected, and connected.



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