hiring for diversity

5 Unconventional Strategies to Use When Hiring for Diversity

If the last year taught us anything, it’s that we must re-examine any foregone conclusions we have about the workforce. The global pandemic, focus on racial inequity, and a looming “great resignation” are affecting every organization. As a result, organizations must now navigate talent strategies that will still advance their diversity agendas.

We are now collectively writing a new playbook for work. One of the most critical chapters will address how organizations can sustainably ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion—starting with recruiting. To drive change, we will need to break the mold of the way we recruit.

Certainly, unconventional times call for unconventional measures. The truth is that the systems in place led us to today’s lack of representation in the workforce. We need to reimagine our hiring strategies.

During the past couple of years, I worked with my team at Mathison to study the equitable hiring strategies of hundreds of employers and featured findings in my book, Hiring for Diversity. Mathison’s 2021 Diversity Hiring Study revealed that 62 percent of underrepresented job seekers observe bias in the hiring process. Twelve job-seekers communitiesfrom people with disabilities to those formerly incarcerated—are all underrepresented in the workforce.

Here are five unconventional strategies for mobilizing your diversity recruiting. Each of these strategies is not only possible for any organization, but they also require no monetary investment.

1. Clarify what you mean by diversity—and be inclusive.

Research repeatedly shows that leaders have vastly different definitions of diversity. Many only acknowledge physical, visible aspects of diversity, which leave entire communities out. I recommend shifting your emphasis to underrepresented job-seeking communities and building awareness of each group across your organization. These groups include people you may not think of such as older and experienced workers, refugees, and immigrants. You may also include the LGBTQIA+ community, people with disabilities, veterans, and formerly incarcerated individuals. Don’t forget to solicit the Black, Hispanic, Latinx, Indigenous, and Native American communities. In addition, women, the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and working parents also merit inclusion.

2. Empower your people to be aware and reach to underrepresented communities.

Your organization’s awareness of and advocacy for different communities really depends on each team member. Explore a more holistic definition of diversity as an organization. Then, prompt each team member to reflect on their personal awareness and have them reach out to each community. Mathison designed a free assessment that your team can leverage to visualize their reach and awareness of each community mentioned.

3. Institute an alignment meeting for every new role.

Much of the bias and inequity in hiring rests on existing job requirements and processes that everyone agrees to upfront. To ensure everyone concurs about the most accessible requirements, host a 15-minute alignment meeting with all hiring stakeholders. In this meeting, ensure that the job role is aligned with the most essential requirements. Also, secure the agreement of everyone as to the hiring process, and the role each will play. Doing so helps drive accessibility and consistency in the process and enables to get buy-in from everyone involved.

4. Send interview questions to job seekers in advance.

This idea might come as a surprise! But the purpose of interviews isn’t to catch job seekers off guard or to test their improvisation abilities. It is to see if they have the skills and experience needed to be successful on the job. Sending questions ahead lets job seekers come prepared, present their best selves, and feel empowered by and confident in the process.

5. Ask job seekers for their feedback on how to make the process more inclusive.

It doesn’t matter whether you extend an offer to a candidate or not, or if they accept or decline. This is the time to ask for feedback—to see where you can make your process more accessible and inclusive. Mathison’s research revealed that 67 percent of applicants reported completing an interview and never receiving feedback. This is a simple step that most employers never think to take. It is the best time to learn from job seekers what is missing—in the job description, hiring process, and more. Not to mention, the nature of asking this question signals that you are listening.

To sum up, these are just a fraction of the creative and unconventional ideas that make hiring for diversity more equitable and inclusive. In the new playbook for inclusive hiring, it requires us to stray from the norm and lead with empathy. There is so much more to discover. I, for one, am excited to see the growth of this new, human-centered list of ideas.