Diversity and inclusion in the workplace have long been hot button topics aimed at promoting acceptance and inclusivity at work.
Recently it has generated even more attention from calls for social justice and racial equality led by social justice organizations, including Black Lives Matter.
In response, many companies have slammed racial injustice and have pledged support to create racial equality through donations as well as promising to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce.
The First Funnel, Gatekeepers of Diversity and Inclusion
Although diversity and inclusion-in-the-workplace initiatives start at the top, recruiters play a key role in who moves forward to the next round of interviews and, ultimately, who gets hired.
As someone who has worked in the recruitment marketing industry for over five years, I have found that for inclusion and diversity initiatives to move forward, recruiters need more training and need to understand the experience of Black and other ethnic professionals and what makes their experiences unique.
Recruiters are often the first point of contact between candidates and employers, and they often unknowingly act as gatekeepers for inclusion and diversity in the workplace.
They screen and qualify candidates before moving them along the recruiting pipeline, and if they aren’t culturally aware, they often screen out qualified candidates —including Black candidates.
“While ultimately the final hiring decision is up to the hiring manager, recruiters have the first line of sight to all candidates in many organizations. If biases exist within a recruiter, the slate that’s delivered to the hiring leader won’t have a chance of being diverse,” said Kimberly B. Cummings, founder of Manifest Yourself, a career and leadership development company for women and people of color.
Recruiters are people too and everyone holds Unconscious Bias.
Indeed, even at top consulting firms that have diversity and inclusion initiatives in place, some of their own recruiters don’t fully understand the meaning of diversity and inclusion. It’s even harder for them to see or understand the Black experience.
In fact, in an alarming experience, one White recruiter shared another company’s employer branding video, which focused on the experience of Black professionals and what their hair means to them, in a group chat. The recruiter couldn’t understand why their experience with their hair was being highlighted, and she thought it was inappropriate.
Situations like this further underscore the need for thorough and rigorous diversity and inclusion training for recruiters so diversity and inclusion in the workplace can advance.
How can a recruiter in a staffing agency or on a hiring team remove bias?
As with many modern problems, there are existing solutions in software. For the day-to-day changes, here are a few small steps recruiters and staffing agencies can take to be more inclusive in their hiring process.
Be open to other perspectives
We’re all different, but the things that make us different should be embraced and should be channeled toward productivity and achieving company goals.
This further reinforces the need for strengthened diversity and inclusion programs in the workplace.
Recruiters should strive to be open and understanding of all experiences and backgrounds. One way to do this is to get to know candidates and what they bring to the table.
Understand that one size doesn’t fit all
Companies and recruiters should understand that diversity and inclusion initiatives do not have a one-size-fits-all approach.
For example, your city demographics may not really need an affirmative action initiative to include a 50/50 split of ethnicities. Remain aware of your community and business needs specifically and compare to industry distribution. Ripple effects matter. Additionally, cultural differences impact the actions to implement these initiatives. These initiatives need to be tailored to each underserved minority and should cater to the specific needs of each group.
“It’s about having representation for all populations regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation while ensuring people in the organization feel their voices are not only heard, but they are understood and their experience is equitable to that of other races, genders, or sexual orientations,” shared Cummings.
Although underrepresented groups may have similar challenges for advancement and growth in the workplace, their problems are unique.
For example, a new mom returning to the workforce may encounter different workplace challenges than a Black professional who may not see career advancement opportunities.
The new mom may need a dedicated area for breast pumping and the flexibility to leave work early to be with her newborn. At the same time, a professional who wants to advance may do well with mentoring or a dedicated resource group to get to the next level.
So while both groups are experiencing workplace challenges, the type of challenge and the experience is different.
Work to eliminate unconscious bias
Unconscious bias is the underlying stereotypes or attributes that people unconsciously attribute to people or groups. This affects how they perceive and engage with that group. And whether it’s conscious or unconscious, this bias often impacts hiring decisions.
Something as simple as how your name sounds can bring with it unintended consequences. Studies have shown that people with stereotypically “ethnic” names need to send out more resumes before getting a callback.
One way to work around unconscious bias is to conduct blind screenings in the resume review process. This way, recruiters don’t know the candidate’s name, age, address, or any other information that could cause unconscious bias.
Include diverse professionals in the hiring process
To create more diversity and inclusion in the hiring process, make sure to include underrepresented employees in the interview and hiring process. Seeing someone that looks like you in a leadership role is very motivational and inspiring.
In fact, as a woman of color, there have been a few instances where I have accepted a job offer partly because I saw another woman of color in a leadership role. I felt drawn to the diverse and inclusive nature of the company.
Similarly, if you notice a key player that seems disengaged and only there as a presence, it could drive the decision to simply refuse an offer. As employers, it’s solely our responsibility to be deliberate and inclusive with our leadership.
Use diverse visuals in employer branding campaigns
Make sure to use diverse visuals in your employer branding campaigns and on your career site.
Representation matters, and when candidates see this reflected in your employer branding and marketing campaigns, it helps them feel more at ease in applying for jobs. Just knowing that the organization is striving to create an inclusive workforce can help to broaden the diversity and backgrounds of candidates applying to that company.
Try not to go too general though, the world’s most famous stock photo model found in many diversity images is found on almost every website! Pull your team together and make a personable, candid photo library for your company if you have the time.
Broaden the candidate pipeline
To find the best candidates for open positions and to advance diversity and inclusion initiatives, recruiters and hiring managers should work to broaden the candidate pipeline by posting jobs on diverse job boards.
“Companies and recruiters should work to broaden the scope of the sourcing model for more diversity and inclusion, Cummings said.
Companies can also outsource their recruiting needs to black-owned staffing agencies to get a more diverse pool of candidates.
More importantly, making a sustained effort to partner with diverse organizations and building and maintaining relationships with these organizations can also broaden the candidate pipeline.