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Equitable Hiring Practices

Author: Shelina Sarin 

Securing top talent is key to reach high levels of employee satisfaction, sustain high-growth, and remain successful as a business. However, from attracting talent, evaluating candidates, conducting interviews, extending offers, and onboarding new hires, acquiring top talent is one of the most difficult aspects of running a successful business.

One of the challenges to successful hiring is creating an inclusive candidate experience.

Top recruiters who embed equity throughout each stage of the hiring process reach a wider pool of qualified candidates, provide a better candidate experience, and contribute to organization-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals. The ROI of equitable hiring practices for companies is significant. Research shows that companies that are focused on DEI have 2.3x higher cash flow per employee over a three-year period.

In order to reap the benefits of DEI, it is imperative that organizations work with both current and prospective employees. There are 6 key practices that organizations can implement to ensure an equitable hiring process and candidate experience.

1. Attract a wide pool of applicants

According to Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers said that a diverse workforce is an important factor when choosing an employer. Attracting candidates from diverse experiences, identities, and personalities can be a daunting task for the best of recruiters. There are two small steps recruiters can take to attract diverse talent.

The first step starts with the job description. A job description is a key resource candidates use when deciding to apply for a position or not. To attract applicants from diverse backgrounds, recruiters must write inclusive job descriptions. Inclusive job descriptions avoid gender-coded words that might disinterest applicants, highlight an organization’s commitment to DEI, include wage expectations, and offer a clear process to request accommodations.

Inclusive descriptions also omit arbitrary job requirements such as years of experience and skills that can be learned on the job. In place of subjective job requirements, recruiters can paint a picture of what success on the job looks like, and focus on the outcomes the candidate should achieve opposed to requirements. For example, instead of 10 years of experience as a Marketing Manager, recruiters can write, “experience designing and implementing successful marketing campaigns”. The change from arbitrary to outcome-focused job requirements encourages candidates with similar skills, but different experiences to apply.

The second step is finding candidates. As a recruiter, you might ask employees for referrals, post a position through your alma mater, or share job postings within your network. To attract a diverse candidate pool, you want to go beyond traditional attraction methods and the networks you are in. Posting job opportunities to diverse professional networks and job boards allows recruiters to reach beyond their network and attract candidates with different experiences.

2. Enable participation from the diverse pool of applicants

You’ve designed inclusive job postings and successfully shared them through diverse channels attracting a wider pool of applicants. If you have done this well, you will receive applications from a variety of candidates that offer a breadth of skills and experiences relevant to the position. This diverse group of applicants will bring with them unique abilities, perspectives and strengths. Employers need to be equipped to facilitate the realization of those strengths in their workplace. 

According to estimates from Hiring for Talent, there are 411,600 Canadians with disabilities who are currently unemployed but able to work. Additionally, 3.8 million adult Canadians report being limited in their daily activities due to a disability, a lack of accommodation or a difficulty with accessibility. This is an untapped labour pool that demands specific considerations from employers and HR professionals. 

Beyond using inclusive language in your job posting, your post or site should explicitly state that you welcome applications from people with disabilities. You should also explain who applicants should contact if they need accommodations during the application process. This individual or department should be available through multiple channels of communication such as phone and email. 

Now you need to prepare yourself for the accommodations that may be requested throughout the hiring process. Some accommodations people may request before interviews include: 

  • Advance copies of interview questions
  • An American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter
  • A quiet setting 
  • Interview scheduled during a time of day when the applicant is most focused or best able to communicate
  • Location suitable for someone using a mobility device
  • Various communication styles and methods that may include speechreading, use of hearing aids, understanding straightforward language as opposed to figures of speech, not making eye contact or using Augmentative or Alternative Communication devices. 

3. Overcome unconscious bias in candidate review 

An organization’s commitment to unconscious bias in recruiting begins as soon as an applicant submits their application for the position. These applications often include a resume, cover letter, portfolio if applicable, and references, all of which can contain demographic information that can allude to a candidate’s identity. As recruiters become knowledgeable of a candidate’s race, age, religion, lifestyle, or other demographic information, their unconscious biases can lead them to prefer, or write off candidates despite their qualifications. Recruiters can combat their unconscious biases by adopting anonymous hiring – a process where any identifying information about a candidate such as name and address is redacted in order to prevent unconscious biases within the application review process.

Prioritizing anonymous hiring not only prevents discrimination at that initial stage of the review process, but also promotes a larger and diverse pool of candidates. When organizations communicate to prospective candidates in the job description or job board that they are implementing anonymous hiring, they showcase the organization’s commitment to DEI – a key value-add for top talent.

4. Create an equitable interview process

Interviews are spaces in which even the best recruiters can struggle with prioritizing candidate qualifications over personal preferences. Similar to application review, as recruiters learn more about a candidate’s identity, personality, and lifestyle, their unconscious biases can lead them to choose a candidate they prefer over a candidate that is qualified.

There are practices organizations can implement in the hiring process to tackle biases. Within this process, recruiters should consider using a candidate scorecard, standardizing the interview process, leveraging multiple interviewers, and communicating their DEI commitment in interviews.

A standardized interview process is a practice in which organizations mirror the interview process for each candidate. Every candidate is asked the same questions and allocated the same amount of time. A standardized interview process not only helps streamline conversations, but also levels the playing field for all candidates being interviewed.

Interview scorecards are rubrics in which recruiters grade all candidate responses against a predetermined scale. Iris Bohnet, Director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, says, the goal of an interview is for the “interview to become a third independent data point”, where interviewers are able to objectively further assess the candidate after the initial screening process. These scorecards allowed for all interviewees to be fairly assessed against one another.

Humans are naturally biased – a fact that demands additional measures in hiring to uphold equity. A practice to further combat bias is to run dual interviews. In dual interviews, a candidate is interviewed by two recruiters, using the same questions and scorecard. The two interviewers or a third party would then review the scorecards to determine which candidates are successful. The goal of dual interviews is to complete objective evaluations of candidates and ensure the scores provided reflect the candidates true contributions. What might be a bias for one interviewer, may not be in another. In comparing the two scorecards, an organization can arrive at one source of truth.

In the interview, it is valuable for interviewers to illustrate company culture. This might include speaking about the organization’s DEI goals, mission statement, and core values. By introducing the organization’s culture to candidates, recruiters can spark a genuine interest and response from the candidate, but also create expectations on both parties’ behalf.

5. Extend an offer

When evaluating candidates, we recommend recruiters compare each candidate horizontally. In a horizontal evaluation all candidates are evaluated against each other question by question to allow for objective review within each interview category. If recruiters used a scorecard, horizontal review should be completed category by category.

Extending offers to candidates requires additional considerations from the employer,  including fair compensation, benefits, and advancement opportunities.

6. Onboard new hires seamlessly

Your hiring process extends well beyond making an offer. Onboarding new hires can be an exciting time for both people leaders and employees. Ensuring that new team members have adequate support ensures that they are poised for success. Support might look like a designated peer mentor to champion an employee in their new workplaces, an opportunity to meet colleagues to engage socially, and bi-weekly check-ins to ensure team members understand their role and how to grow.

It is imperative that incoming employees understand the DEI support and expectations within your organization. Reviewing your DEI program, education opportunities, and policy is critical for new hires to grow with your DEI efforts.

Organizations need to pay close attention to each step in the hiring process in order to build and sustain their DEI goals. An equitable hiring process will look different to each organization. Partnering with organizations such as Lunaria Solutions provides recruiters with the confidence and support to create hiring processes suited for a business’ unique needs. 
In our 8-week program sample, we include key resources like a candidate survey and DEI policy template that recruiters can use as they improve their hiring practices. You can download the first 3 weeks of our 8-week DEI program here.

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