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Recruiting for Diversity: A Complete Guide

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Diversity recruitment is a strategic, targeted approach to hiring that has major benefits for organizations. From the boardroom to everyday employees, more and more companies are seeing the benefits of doing so, as it delivers competitive advantages, drives increased innovation, and leads to better financial performance. By focusing on diversity recruiting and making it part of the company’s values, your organization will not only see new perspectives, but new voices and experiences within the workforce as well, which pay major dividends.

In this post, we’ll examine what diversity recruitment is and why it’s important. We will also examine how to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into the recruitment process.  

The post includes tips on how to build a diverse recruiting pipeline and how diverse recruiting increases diversity and inclusion. We’ll provide key steps  to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce.

Defining Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Today, workplaces of all types are focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. But oftentimes, employees are unsure of the different definitions inherent in a diversity, equity, and inclusion program. Here are some simple definitions of each term.

Diversity is the differences among us, whether identity characteristics, beliefs, or lived experiences. From politics to ability to nationality, diversity has many forms and perspectives.

Equity is the process of supporting differences and particular needs of individuals and groups. It’s about providing fair and equal access and opportunity, resources, and situations that foster success. It’s also about creating a space where diversities are respected, and tools are available that empower all.

Inclusion typically has three elements within the workplace. A lack of any of these three elements means the workplace is not fully inclusive:

  • A sense of belonging and acceptance for all individuals, regardless of their identities or experiences
  • Respect that people feel from others
  • Support from the organization to achieve their utmost potential

Diversity and inclusion in recruitment involves creating the structures and processes that attempt to reduce or eliminate biases. While some of these biases may be obvious, there are also unconscious biases that are not fully articulated.

Unconscious bias can be thought of as learned stereotypes that are unintentional but ingrained in our beliefs. They cause us to form opinions on candidates based on first impressions — a name, a hometown, or physical presence.

Despite intentionality, these biases can creep into the decision-making and shape hiring decisions. When you recruit for diversity, you use tools and processes that overcome these biases and level the playing field.

What Is Diversity Recruitment?

Diversity recruitment is an intentional practice designed to hire candidates free from inherent biases. These biases may be against an individual candidate or a group of candidates that share the same identity characteristics.

It’s a merit-based approach to recruitment that seeks to find the best, strongest, and most qualified candidates. It’s done in a way that allows all candidates an equal opportunity, regardless of their identity or background.

Diversity hiring is a powerful way to ensure that your workforce reflects the identity of the communities your organization represents. It also helps develop a workforce that brings people from different identities and backgrounds to the work. These identities may include gender, socioeconomic level, race, sexual orientation, experiences, and ethnicities.

Recruiting for diversity requires a commitment throughout the organization. It’s an approach and a value system that needs to permeate each phase of the hiring process — sourcing, screening, interviewing, and selection. It’s also important that the commitment to diversity does not end with the recruitment process.

In fields such as engineering and technology, diversity recruitment can be challenging. Using recruiters committed to diverse hiring practices is one way to source and hire talented candidates.

Is Diversity Recruitment Legal?

When done correctly, diversity hiring is legal.

Various laws govern hiring and secure the rights of people in protected classes. These acts include the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protects hiring without regard to age, color, disability, national origin, race, or religion.

Some hiring managers worry that a focus on diversity in hiring is somehow discriminatory. Typically, the concern is that reverse discrimination becomes an issue in such cases.

However, if all other conditions are equal, it is legal to recruit, hire, or promote someone from a protected class. The problem arises when there’s a difference in qualifications or qualities. If a member of a protected class is advanced because of protected status, problems can arise.

That’s why approaches like quotas – e.g., “We need to hire five women in our sales department” – are problematic.

Why Is Diversity Hiring Important?

Having a diversity recruitment strategy has multiple benefits for the organization and the people who work there. Here are a few of the key advantages of having a diversity-focused recruitment approach.

New Perspectives

With varied backgrounds and experiences at the table, your workforce will have a richer array of tools at their disposal. Many industries have historically had homogenized workforces, with workers with similar experiences and identities. By bringing in employees from different experiences, you’re likely to add new skill sets to the mix.

Different perspectives ensure that different ideas are brought forward, and that new solutions to problems emerge. For example, employees with different lived experiences and professional backgrounds can provide insights into certain markets. Those thoughts can shape product development, marketing, customer service delivery, and more.

Better Decision Making

New perspectives also lead to better decision making. When a decision is made within an organization, the first thought that comes to mind isn’t always the best answer. But sometimes it’s the best one that’s proposed before everyone agrees that it’ll work. 

Groupthink is a common problem for organizations that have team members who look and think the same way. One of the benefits that comes from having a variety of perspectives and voices is that when there’s a problem or a need for new ideas, you’ll get a variety of answers. You’ll also have people who can challenge the status quo and offer a new way of thinking. This leads to more thoroughly thought out decisions.

Better Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a measure of how connected employees are to their employer and its mission. Studies show engaged employees are more productive, care more about their work and improve teams and outcomes. In fact, a Gallup study that questioned 1.4 million employees found that a higher level of engagement correlates to 22% higher productivity.

When employees see organizations are committed to diversity and inclusion, they are more likely to be engaged. This is because they feel included. A sense of belonging allows a team member to feel seen and understood within the organization, and they feel as though their contributions are more valued.

Stronger Employee Recruitment and Retention

Diversity recruitment can be an important component of your employer brand. By committing to a DEI program for recruitment, you send a message to current and potential employees.

A recent Glassdoor study indicates that 76% of those seeking a job consider workplace diversity an important factor. The study also indicated that nearly a third of respondents would not apply for a job at a business that lacked diversity.

With more engaged employees, diverse organizations can reduce operating costs by lowering turnover-related expenses.

Improved Cultural Awareness

When you hire a more diverse workplace, you invite opportunity. Diverse teams bring new cultures and perspectives to the office. From a work perspective, these experiences can influence work and how work is done.

Diversity  can also manifest itself in different ways, from foods brought for lunch to holiday observations. Employees from diverse experiences and backgrounds will bring these experiences to the workplace.

It’s important that those from diverse backgrounds do not feel obligated or under a microscope, however, in bringing their experiences. They should not bear the burden of educating their colleagues unduly or feel pressure to share their identities.

Enhanced Productivity and Problem Solving

A 2020 McKinsey study indicates that diverse workplaces outperform the average employer by an average of 25%. Diversity fosters more communication and awareness among employees. With more knowledge, more insights, and more skills available, there’s a distinct competitive advantage.

This also applies to problem solving as an organization. Because employees are engaged, they can collaborate and have thought-provoking discussions with one another. These times when a variety of perspectives come together to solve an issue are often when innovative solutions arise.

Better Financial Results

An earlier McKinsey study showed that companies that are more racially and ethnically diverse are 35% more likely to have higher returns. Similarly, a Boston Consulting Group study showed those companies with diverse management teams have a 19% increase in revenue.

Diversity comes in many forms, but the impact of diversity is consistently positive. A study by BoardReady showed companies with at least 30% women board members saw higher profits year over year.

Better Company Reputation

Similarly to how DEI efforts improve recruitment, prioritizing diversity as an organization can improve a company’s reputation. Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion can gain a competitive advantage, as they can better understand and serve a wider range of customers, employees, and partners. In addition, companies that celebrate diversity are often seen as more socially responsible.

How Do You Incorporate DEI in Recruitment?

Your organization may wonder how to start tackling a new commitment to DEI in recruitment. By following some diversity and inclusion recruitment best practices, you can begin to change the approach — and the impact on the workplace.

Here are a few tasks to focus on as you incorporate DEI in recruitment.

Get Leadership Commitment

Change begins with leadership. Your C-suite and senior managers need to commit to DEI in recruitment. These organizational leaders need to commit long-term with the resources and support that generate success.

Leaders need to speak about the importance of diverse recruiting. They need to be exemplars, following the same procedures and committing to diversifying their hires.

Set Goals and Measure Success

To be successful, diverse recruiting strategies need goals and measures against those targets. Data will be critical to measuring the impact of your efforts, and you will need to develop ways to track key metrics. Note that applicants and employees do not have to indicate identity characteristics, which can skew numbers.

Among the measures to consider are:

  • Applicant Numbers – how many candidates from identity groups applied for positions?
  • Candidate Progression – how many candidates from groups advance to each stage in the hiring cycle?
  • Representation – how many employees do you have from identity groups compared to industry or locational benchmarks?
  • Retention – how many employees remain employed during a time period (typically yearly) and are there trends among demographic cohorts?
  • Promotion – how many employees are promoted from different identity groups compared to others?

Look Internally

Existing employees are an incredible resource for building more diverse teams. If you have employee identity groups, connect with them to understand how to improve diversity recruitment.

Feedback and advice from existing employees can help build a more diverse employee pipeline and improve the interview process.

Conduct Blind Resume Reviews

Unconscious bias can frequently manifest itself in the resume review process. Candidate names, addresses, and educational background can influence how reviewers perceive candidates.

By eliminating non-essential information from all resumes before they are reviewed, you can eliminate unconscious bias. Talent management software can do this automatically for submitted resumes.

Train for Unconscious Bias 

As discussed, unconscious bias can have an outsized impact on your diversity recruitment. These learned patterns, despite being unconscious, can become automatic elements of decision-making.

The reality is that bias, unconscious or not, can add prejudice and discrimination into your hiring processes. You can take a proactive approach to combat unconscious bias by educating employees about it.

Employees trained on unconscious bias can prevent it from shaping hiring decisions. A more intentional and considerate approach will benefit the entire process.

Diversify Interview Panels

Interview panels should be constructed to help assess candidates who may be qualified for the position and be good employees. Candidates may be more at ease in the process if they see employees who are part of underrepresented populations.

How Do You Build a Diverse Recruiting Pipeline?

The candidate pipeline is an essential component of any diversity strategy. The pipeline is the pool of candidates, both for existing jobs and potential jobs, that may apply.

Here are some diversity recruiting strategy examples for improving your candidate pipeline.

Diversify the Brand

Taking a hard look at your employer brand is a good way to grow your pipeline. Candidates are more likely to apply if they see a commitment to diversity.

Look at your employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed to know what is being said. Take steps to market the commitment to diversity on social media and in other channels.

Use Technology

Platforms help you create more diverse recruitment processes by using intelligent tools to track resumes and cover letters. Screening technologies can remove data that contribute to biased reviews.

Explore New Channels

Closely review the locations where you post jobs. Posting on your own website, LinkedIn, and industry sites alone may not be enough to attract diverse candidate pools.

There are multiple platforms that cater specifically to candidates of diverse identities. By leveraging these available platforms, you’ll often increase your presence and reach untapped pools of potential applicants.

Make Job Descriptions and Advertisements Inclusive

An important step in developing a more diverse candidate pool is to take a close look at your documents related to job postings. Job descriptions, titles, advertisements, and other materials may discourage qualified diverse candidates.

Wording may need to be carefully constructed to appeal to all candidates while not alienating others. In some cases, it may make sense to write materials to appeal to certain diverse populations intentionally.

Stay Connected to Candidates

Not every top-choice candidate will choose to join your organization. However, that does not mean you should end the relationship.

Even if a candidate declines your employment offer, it may benefit you to remain in contact with them. New opportunities may arise. Having an existing relationship with vetted, highly valued candidates can reduce search time and expense.

How Can Recruitment Strategies Increase Diversity and Inclusion?

Does recruitment enhance diversity and inclusion within an organization? Does a diverse and inclusive workplace improve diverse recruitment?

It can seem like a chicken-or-the-egg question. In practice, both recruitment and organizational culture influence each other.

Organizations need to consider that diversity initiatives need to be immersive and complete. The entire organization needs to be committed to the initiatives that create a diverse and inclusive workplace.

A Robert Walters white paper showed where businesses believed diversity strategy should reside. The results indicated three areas primarily responsible for creating a diversity strategy:

  • Senior management (56%)
  • Human resources (35%)
  • Marketing (9%)

To be effective, however, diversity and associated values needs to be ingrained — a natural component of what the company is and believes. It needs to be a part of recruitment, but also performance evaluations and organizational strategic priorities.

Organizations should take a close look at their mission, vision, and values statements to ensure that commitments to diversity are included. If they are not, consider revising. Many companies today are also creating separate DEI statements as part of their foundational statements.

A commitment to diverse hiring should not be seen as a one-time exercise. The commitment should be a persistent, normalized part of recruitment, one that is valued and believed.

Consider incorporating diversity recruitment into overall organizational diversity strategies. There are many interlinked initiatives that can tie directly to diverse recruitment. Mentorship programs, minority vendor programs, professional development, and leadership development initiatives can all relate to diverse recruitment.

5 Steps to Recruit a More Diverse Workforce?

If you’re looking to make an immediate impact, here are five things to do to jumpstart your diversity recruiting efforts.

1. Make It a Priority

Your recruitment strategy quickly becomes clear to candidates and employees alike. By being intentional and outright about your commitment to diversity, you let all interested parties know the organizational commitment.

Diversity recruitment is a serious commitment. For example, your HR team will need to understand the objectives and their roles in the process. They will need language, definitions, and data to be effective in diverse recruiting.

Key stakeholders — including leaders, board members, partners, and leaders — will need to understand the importance of this work. They will also need to know the business’s reasons for the investment and commitment.

2. Use Structured interviews

Structured interviews are designed to remove unconscious bias. They use a predetermined set of questions asked by the same people in the same sequence.

This approach also uses a rubric or other system to track interviewers’ responses to pre-defined qualities and attributes. It’s an interview process that requires guidance and training, but it can enhance diverse recruitment significantly.

3. Become Involved With Other Organizations

Community is a powerful component in workplace recruitment, retention, and inclusion. By partnering with organizations that focus on identity groups, your company can build connections and pipelines that deliver.

Positioning your business with different professional, community, or civic organizations requires time and resources. Consider joining organizations, sponsoring events, and increasing the organizational presence to connect with potential applicants.

4. Look at Your Content

Every element of your recruitment marketing should be considered through a diversity lens. These elements include your job posting website, your social media, and your human resources pages.

Take a look to ensure that diversity is reflected in the messaging and content of these elements. They convey powerful, yet often subtle, indicators to candidates.

5. Create a Diversity Hiring Checklist

For every open position, use a diversity hiring checklist to ensure your HR staff and hiring managers are following procedures. The checklist may include information about job descriptions, job postings, hiring committees, interview questions, and selection processes. They may include training sessions with interview teams, data tracking, and post-hiring evaluations.

Using a checklist ensures compliance and consistency. It also acts as a reminder of the importance of diversity within the recruitment process.

5 Key Steps to Retain a More Diverse Workforce?

When you have a more diverse workforce, one challenge is to keep it diverse. Employee engagement and retention are important factors for employers to consider. Here are five ways to retain a diverse workforce.

1. Remember Inclusion

Inclusivity is often overlooked when it comes to retention. Inclusive workplaces allow employees of all identities and backgrounds to feel valued and included. Programs and policies that create inclusive workplaces are as critical as the recruitment initiatives your organization adopts.

2. Practice Pay Equity

Pay equity, across gender and other identity traits, is essential. A level playing field over pay means analyzing data and adjusting to address gaps. Managers and finance officials must prioritize pay equity by identifying patterns and correcting trends that lead to inequity.

3. Develop Employee Resource Groups

Employee resource groups (ERGs), sometimes called affinity groups, provide a sense of belonging to employees with a shared identity. ERGs may be based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other characteristics.

ERGs can have a social focus, act as a mentoring group, or meet with organizational leaders. They can provide a perspective and a voice to strategic initiatives, including recruitment. Having senior leaders endorse and sponsor ERGs can help demonstrate a commitment and value to the groups and their roles.

4. Strengthen Onboarding

Onboarding is a direct extension of the recruitment process. Onboarding is one of the first impressions you make on employees and can influence belonging, employee engagement, and employee retention.

5. Create Referral Programs

Employee referrals are a powerful way to identify candidates. However, these programs often contribute to homogeneity.

Instruct employees about the goals of your recruitment programs and the groups from which you are looking to increase representation. Referral programs that involve financial bonuses can incentivize finding ideal, diverse candidates.


Using strategic, intentional approaches, can transform your recruiting processes and, ultimately, your workforce. If your recruitment approach needs revamping or you’re ready to drive innovation and propel business growth, consider partnering with a talent network committed to DEI like OSI Engineering where diversity is central to everything we do to empower our clients and help deliver tomorrow’s most advanced technology innovations.

It’s a strategic commitment to finding candidates of various identities and backgrounds that will enhance business outcomes.