How to Drive a Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Recruiting Process

Every talent acquisition executive worth their salt knows the benefits of prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). Companies with a solid strategy for DE&I are likely to have:

It benefits every company to go beyond simply promoting equality in the workplace. They need to be intentional, putting real dollars and resources into their DE&I efforts. They may “think” or “hope” that DE&I will happen organically. But without dedicated resources, there will be no impact.

What does this intentional approach look like when it comes to acquiring more diverse talent? Here’s my take on the specific changes leaders can make to their hiring practices to cultivate an inclusive and equitable talent pipeline.

Two Dimensions of Diversity: Inherent and Acquired

Influential research from Coqual, formerly known as the Center for Talent Innovation, found that leadership teams exhibiting multiple kinds of diverse backgrounds and experiences outperformed their competitors. 

Specifically, the firm found better financial performance among business leaders who exhibited two-dimentional or “2-D” diversity, meaning they represented a strong mix of two kinds of diverse backgrounds:

Inherent Diversity, defined as ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other traits acquired at birth.

Acquired Diversity, defined as the result of experience — “Working in another country can help you appreciate cultural differences, for example, while selling to female consumers can give you gender smarts.”

Inherent diversity isn’t a trait one can control, but acquired diversity is, such as being part of and building a multiracial community. 

“Employees of firms with 2-D diversity are 45% likelier to report a growth in market share over the previous year and 70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market.”

– Harvard Business Review

Best Practices for Implementing DE&I in Your Hiring Process

Implementing a DE&I program is easy to say, but hard to do. That’s because the modern hiring process typically starts far later than it should to improve diversity. This leaves recruiters scrambling for candidates within a limited pool and little opportunity to factor DE&I into the talent acquisition process

However, there are a number of strategies you can use to improve your hiring process and cast the widest net possible. 

1) Develop Your Employer Brand to be Welcoming and Inclusive

Let’s start with the top of the recruitment funnel, where you want to position your company as a diverse and inclusive employer. Effective employer branding can go a long way toward spreading that message.

The goal should be that your employer brand makes everyone think of your company as a career destination for them. Whether it be women, people from varying races or ethnicities, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, or veterans. Everyone should feel that they can be successful working at your company. 

2) Rewrite Job Descriptions to Attract More Diverse Talent

To better understand our own hiring efforts at ZoomInfo, we recently used a software tool to score our job descriptions for diversity-friendly language and learned that they had a negative score. As a result, we rewrote many of our sales job descriptions to make them more gender neutral. 

For example, removing overtly masculine terms such as ‘competitive’ and ‘aggressive’ helped attract more women to apply. This same method can be used to weed out other description discrepancies based on age, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

3) Conduct Better Candidate Outreach

The need to connect with individuals already in the consideration phase of job hunting is equally important. Here are some ways to reach underrepresented groups through candidate outreach and engagement efforts: 

Leverage Diverse and Inclusive College Programs

Seek out and cultivate relationships with educational institutions for underrepresented groups, such as: 

Post On Job Boards for Underrepresented Groups 

Build your company’s presence on diversity job boards including:

  • Minority job boards
  • Female job boards
  • LGBTQ job boards
  • Disability job boards 
  • Veteran job boards
  • Job boards for candidates with a criminal record

Cultivate Equity in Employee Advocacy and Referral Programs 

Word of mouth is still the most effective way to market your company as a potential employer. Engaged employees who are both deeply rooted in their community and ready to recommend your company as a great place to work, can be excellent sources for diversity hires.

4) Organize a Diverse Interview Panel

Once your company is more attractive to a wider talent pool, you should start to receive more diverse applicants. Your next priority is to ensure that the panel of individuals conducting interviews are equally as diverse.

There are two reasons for this. First, if you have the same people interviewing candidates — making the same decisions — you’re going to end up with the same profile of people working in your company. And second, potential candidates should be able to picture themselves in decision-making roles at your company, starting with the hiring experience. If they don’t see other people who look like them, they are going to question whether they can be successful.

5) Account for Unconscious Bias 

The recruiting process at your company should anticipate and account for unconscious biases. Effective unconscious bias training for recruiters and hiring managers goes beyond increasing awareness of biases and their impact. It can also train recruiters and hiring managers to manage their own bias, make meaningful changes to their behavior, and even track their progress. 

On the enterprise scale, companies are also considering AI solutions to eliminate unconscious human bias in the hiring process at scale. 

To me, the DE&I programs at ZoomInfo have nothing to do with making us a better company or more profitable (those are just great side-effects). They have to do with treating everyone better. We have to be willing to continuously educate ourselves and others — which might include uncomfortable but important conversations. I believe in having a diverse, equitable, and inclusive team. DE&I is about being a better person and improving the lives of all of us.