Diverse teams have better performance and innovation, but it’s not always easy to find talented people with a different perspective. These inclusive hiring tips could help.
Inclusive hiring goes beyond a social justice issue. It’s a strategic imperative for businesses that want to perform well, attract and retain talent, and be seen as an employer of choice.
Companies that invest in diversity, equity and inclusion are 35 per cent more likely to have financial returns above the industry mean, have employees who are 43 per cent more committed to their company and have an average tenure three times longer than the median period.
Also, the cost of a bad hire is significant. It can negatively affect employee morale, client relations and stress levels for supervisors. Replacing an employee costs from one half to two times their annual salary. Losing a star employee – someone who goes above and beyond – can cost up to two to three times their salary. So hiring well is critical to business success from a number of angles.
When it comes to inclusive hiring, many HR professionals have the will, but don’t always know the way. However, by making small changes – such as using the right language in your job ads, having a structured approach to shortlisting, and being clear on the interview process – you’ll have a better chance of attracting the right candidates. This enables you to bring people with the right skills, attitude and aptitude into your business.
What is inclusive hiring?
Inclusive hiring is about actively embracing a wide range of qualities and perspectives that candidates from all backgrounds and experiences could bring to your organisation.
A big hiring risk is advertising and running interviews in a way that means only people who’ve done similar roles before will succeed in the interview.
We know that of the three elements that make for a strong candidate – technical skill, attitude and aptitude – only technical skill can be trained. Enthusiasm and intelligence are innate.
Inclusive hiring enables us to broaden the talent pool beyond ‘those who’ve done the job before’ and allows us to give opportunities to underrepresented groups.
Currently in Australia, women represent only 32.5 per cent of key management personnel across the ASX200.When you introduce intersectionality, the statistics are even worse. For example, Indigenous workforce participation is 57.1 per cent compared to 77 per cent for the non-Indigenous population. And there has only been one Indigenous CEO of an ASX500 company ever, appointed in early 2022.
People with disabilities also face large barriers to workforce participation, with only a 53 per cent employment rate. So what can you do to leverage the talents of these underutilized groups? Here are three tips.
Discuss inclusive work practices with your HR peers at AHRI’s Diversity and Inclusion conference on 27 April. Book your spot today.
Tip 1: Clearly define the skills needed for a role
Often there can be a disconnect between a job description and the questions that are asked in an application or job interview.
For example, some employers talk about wanting candidates from with diverse experiences, but then ask questions that require very specific experience, such as asking for a long technical stack, which is unlikely for many people to have, thereby cutting out potential diverse hires. A long list of ‘nice to have’ skills can deter people with the core competencies from applying too, as they might feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of requirements.
In our recent What Women Want report, a respondent told us, “When the questions are so restrictive, it turns me off even bothering to apply, even though I feel my skills and experience would be relevant, transferrable and value adding to the role they are seeking to hire [for].”
To avoid cutting out potential star players before they’ve even applied for a role, consider:
- Focussing on transferrable skills. Technical skills can usually be trained on the job, transferrable or ‘soft’ skills, such as leadership experience, creative thinking or commitment, can come from multitude areas. For example, a new mother returning to the workforce may bring an ability to prioritise work and a strong sense of resilience to the table. A team leader from outside the industry may bring different creative thinking and strong management skills to a new industry.
- Remove minimum years of experience. This can prevent out-of-industry hires and often discourages women and people with a more varied background from applying.
- Avoid referencing a specific industry. Innovation, revenue and performance increase when you attract workers with diverse career backgrounds. Specific industry experience may not be necessary to perform at the job, so consider whether industry experience will impact their ability to deliver the role.
- Treat people like individuals. Algorithms that assess capabilities through keywords reduce applicants to a number and don’t allow for nuanced understanding of transferrable skills. Some studies are now showing that using AI to assess candidates perpetuates bias.
- Highlight accessibility options. Be clear about what support and adjustments you will provide for people who are neurodivergent or live with disabilities to encourage applicants from those groups.
Tip 2: Use compelling language
There are some language tips you can use to increase the inclusiveness of your job ads and make them more encouraging for women and other underrepresented groups to apply for.
For example, try:
- Using active language. This means the subject of the sentence comes before the action (the verb). For example: ‘Employees (subject) will have the opportunity to learn and grow (verbs) via our development program’, instead of passive language, such as: ‘Learning and growth are offered to employees via our development program.’ Active language is easier to read and understand, and for people speaking English as a second language it is easier to translate the content.
- Shortening sentences to 14 words or less. It’s said that readers take in up to 90 per cent of your content on a first read. When sentence length reaches 43 words, understanding drops to less than 10 per cent.
- Use non-academic words. You don’t want to alienate a candidate by using unnecessarily complicated phrasing.
- Make your language family-friendly, so parents can see there is a place for them in your organisation (i.e. talk about flexible work options).
- Avoid jargon or acronyms, as this can feel exclusive and give the impression of an ‘us versus them’ culture. Even those that know and understand technical jargon still prefer to read, and engage more deeply with, content that’s written in Plain English.
Tip 3: Host inclusive interviews
Once the job ads are inclusive and set up to attract diverse candidates, the interview itself is the next opportunity to ensure you are being inclusive and offering opportunities to a diverse range of candidates.
When interviewing for inclusivity, there are a few key tips to improve the process.
- Use a diverse panel to conduct interviews. A breadth of opinions and voices helps assess candidates more fairly and identify diverse skills.
- Adjust for interviewer communication preferences. Understanding the thinking preferences of interviewees can help to avoid confirmation bias from occurring (i.e. hiring people who think like you). Asking a range of questions and enabling introverted candidates time to think before responding can make the world of difference, as can providing candidates with preparation materials beforehand. Enabling flexibility with interview times also demonstrates your commitment to ongoing flexibility.
- Ask the same questions, in the same order. Unstructured ratings are poor predictors of on-the-job performance, whereas using the same order of questions for each interviewee can help to remove bias.
- Hire for values not cultural fit. Cultural fit is a way companies inadvertently promote homogeneity and allows bias to drive decisions. Assessing candidates on their values will ensure they are aligned with the direction the company is heading.
- Hire for potential. Research from the University of Kent found that men are more likely to be hired for potential, while women are more likely to be hired for their past performance. Ensure you are actively considering potential for all genders.
Change won’t happen overnight, but making a conscious effort to remove barriers through inclusive job advertisements, facilitating more inclusive interviews, diversifying your shortlist and perhaps even setting diversity targets, can go a long way into seeing impactful change in your organisation at a cultural level.
What are some of your best inclusive hiring tips? Let us know in the comment section below.
Gemma Lloyd is the Co-Founder and CEO of WORK180, an organisation that helps to advance women in the workplace.