Start building a recruitment strategy around DEI

We often hear “diversity matters”. But, is it fully integrated into our companies, culture, and processes? There’s more to it than just saying “We hire candidates with different backgrounds.” 

Have you ever put your hiring process under a magnifying glass to spot if there are any bottlenecks to your recruitment being DEI oriented?

Let’s see why DEI is important:

  1. Companies with more than 30 percent of women on their executive teams are significantly more likely to outperform those having between 10 and 30 percent women, and these companies in turn are more likely to outperform those with fewer or no female executives. (Diversity wins, McKinsey & Company, 2020)
  2. Companies that reported above-average diversity on their management teams also reported innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity—45% of total revenue versus just 26%. (BCG Diversity and Innovation survey, 2017)
  3. 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering employment opportunities, and more than 50% of current employees want their workplace to do more to increase diversity. (Glassdor hiring survey, 2020)
  4. 2 in 3 employees and job seekers (66%) trust employers the most when it comes to understanding what diversity & inclusion really look like at a company. (Glassdoor hiring survey, 2020)

Improving diversity in the workplace is not an easy task, but knowing where to start might be.

With companies investing more and more in D&I, great expectations are set upon the recruiters and talent acquisition specialists to include D&I more in their recruitment processes. The aim is to hire top-tier diverse talent while implementing good recruitment practices and minimizing the bad ones. 

Hiring a diverse workforce brings numerous different perspectives to the company, enriches the pool of talents, and skills, helps companies understand people of different backgrounds, and gives them an advantage over their competitors, as already proven. 

To start with, every phase of the hiring funnel must be thoroughly analyzed to see if it is aligned with the company’s D&I goals. It is important to recognize the obstacles that may endanger the recruitment process at the very start. 

Here are some suggestions:


Researchers Danielle Gaucher, Justin Friesen, and Aaron C. Kay did a study in 2011 to understand the influence of words on the female to male applicant ratio. The study found that “Job ads using more masculine wording were perceived by women to be less appealing than the same ads using more feminine wording regardless of whether they were male – or female-dominated occupations”. What could be an example of this? A job ad for, let’s say, Sales Manager written like this: “We are looking for a confident, self-driven Sales Manager to achieve company objectives, who is efficient in setting sales goals and strongly analytical with performance data, with the problem-solving mindset”. Sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it?

It could also be written in (somewhat) total opposite like:  “We are looking for a positive and motivated Sales Manager to attain company goals, who is well-organized when it comes to setting sales goals and with high analytical skills for performance data. Creative approach to problems and optimistic mindset are always welcome”. 

A University of Waterloo and Duke University study found that “male-coded words like “ambitious, confident, decision, logic(al) and superior,” tend to attract male applicants while female-coded words like “compassion, emotion(al), interpersonal, sensitive, and warm” tend to attract more female applicants.”

The point is – think about what type of words you use to describe job positions in your adverts and in which percent. Bonus tip: always seek feedback from colleagues/other employees on the content of the job ad to remove any bias that may appear.


It is the dream of every recruiter and hiring manager to find all the best candidates in one place. But, where’s the fun in that?

Sourcing feels like constantly doing research. Even if there were a place where all the best candidates can be found, there’s a question of missing out. What if there are also good candidates out there, but not in this exact place?

Mistake No 1 – Never rely solely on referrals

Relying solely on referrals almost shuts the door for diversity. It might seem easier to have candidates referred by other people or employees, however, networks and job boards are there for a reason. Think of how many great candidates are missing an opportunity to apply to a job in your company and how much of new, fresh minds you are missing purely because they are in the “network” or reach of the people who usually refer the candidates to you.

Mistake No 2 – Never have only one source of finding talents

Speaking about inclusion, sourcing should always include more than one way to reach candidates with different backgrounds, experiences, etc. Not all the perfect candidates for your company are out there on Linkedin. Some of the very experienced people are registered at job boards or use no social media so you’ll need to expand the sourcing options. If you recognize yourself here knowing that you have been using only one source to reach talents, ask yourself “What am I missing? How can I enrich our talent pool and expand sourcing options?”


Here I’d like to highlight the following – a diverse interview panel. What does it exactly mean?

It simply means that, during the first interview, the candidates don’t have much opportunity to “peek into” diverse representation in your company. 

Key mistakes to avoid:

Mistake No 1 – never have only one person conducting the interview

Mistake No 2 – avoid homogenous interview panels. Bring in interviewers with different perspectives and backgrounds and from different departments. 

About 4 in 5 Black (80%), Hispanic (80%), and LGBTQ (79%) job seekers and employees report a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers (Glassdoor’s D&I workplace survey, 2020). 

The candidates must know that your organization celebrates and cares about diversity and this is one way to show them you do! 


There is no place for bias in recruitment. The only seat available says “Reserved under the name – Objectivity”. Many unconscious biases can occur during interviews, such as forming an opinion about a candidate based solely on first impressions or preferring one candidate over another because they dress similarly as we do or they said that in their free time they read the same type of books we do. It is important to spot these and prevent them in the future. But, the future is now. There is no longer time to sit through numerous meetings to discuss how to reduce bias in recruitment. Companies need to act fast. 

To improve the talent assessment process it is recommended to use personality assessments. These can help identify the best talents regardless of any factor (gender, age, background, etc.) 

The decision-making process can often be the hardest part of recruitment. Knowing this, personality assessments can help make decisions easier, relying on the data rather than intuition. All of this is possible provided the proper assessment is used and done right, in combination with the interview and/or other candidate assessment methods or skill-based tests. 


If you’ve heard The Smiths’ song, you’d know they asked the right question. No time to wait.

Think about the ways you can make your recruitment more DEI-oriented. 

  • Explore the diversity of the candidates you already have in your pipeline
  • Explore what does Employer brand say about being DEI-oriented and how does it affect your recruitment
  • Use metrics to measure DEI in hiring
  • Think of if you ever tried to proactively find underrepresented candidates
  • Educate yourself and your recruiting team more on spotting and reducing unconscious bias.

Each time you think of how you do hiring – think of it as a door. Are they open wide enough to all the candidates regardless of their background, age, gender, and more?

Start as soon as you can. Start now.

Author: Aleksandra Fuštić

Publication: HR World Magazine No. 8 (2022)

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