5 Tips to Help You Attract Candidates for Diversity

By Inge Woudstra

Our way of seeing the world creeps into everything we do – including recruitment.  This may be a problem if we want to attract a vibrant, more diverse pool of candidates rather than those who are just like us.  The stories we hear from our clients confirm this: many companies tell us that the CVs they receive don’t reflect the diverse society we live in. They quickly tend to realise that they need to broaden their recruitment funnel, but they don’t necessarily know how.

Let me share with you 5 tips to help you attract candidates for diversity.  These are changes we recommended to our clients to reduce bias in the attraction process.  Once implemented, these changes make all the difference.

  1. Reach out to those you know in your target group
One company was keen to recruit recent female graduates with a STEM background. They visited Women in STEM events and STEM conferences and advertised at women’s engineering associations. However, none of that worked. Our advice to them was to find a target group that already knows them and understands them. So they contacted the women’s network at their local university and asked them to advertise their vacancies. This had a massive impact on applications.
  1. Communicate what you offer applicants
It’s important to make it clear why you are an attractive employer for your target group. One company I worked with offered internships for STEM students at their local university. They added a new webpage, advertising the same internship using words that they knew were more attractive to women (and no less attractive to men), targeting female STEM students. They added a special internship category, naming it ‘women’s graduate internship’, and showcased their D&I achievements and desire to develop a better gender balance. They also highlighted the learning support available and focussed the job description on the impact of their work on society.
  1. Show them what it’s like to work there
Another way to attract candidates with diverse backgrounds is to make it easier to get to know your company and find out what it’s like to work there.

Another company I worked with started offering informal ‘meet the employer’ coffee mornings.

They also added shorter internships at an earlier stage in a student’s career, creating new opportunities to get to know the company and the business. On the internship webpage, they invited people to get in touch with them for an informal chat if they had any questions. They found that potential female candidates took up that offer and whilst on the call, the recruiter would take the opportunity to provide positive feedback and encouragement to candidates who doubted they would meet the application requirements.  The recruiter reassured them, taking the opportunity to share some ways to highlight their experience and qualifications during the application process.

Later on, the company also added an informal tour to the application process, so that candidates would have a chance to meet the team and ask questions.

  1. Build relationships with your target group
A great way to build a more diverse network of candidates is to maintain a relationship with them after the first meeting. For example, once your organisation’s recruiter has met a potential candidate from their specific target group (for instance at a university event, one of your own coffee mornings or at a short 1-week internship), make it a point to keep in touch and show an interest in their further development. When the individual is ready to graduate, you could then reach out and invite them to consider your organisation for their future career.
  1. Support your new recruits
Attraction is half the story, of course. Retention is the bigger challenge. So one of our clients supported their new joiners by teaming them up with a buddy, and introduced them to a peer of similar background or identity to support them further.

In addition, team managers were actively trained in managing more diverse teams. This helped raise awareness of the challenges that candidates from underrepresented backgrounds tend to encounter when they start work, and how starting work may be different from the managers’ own prior experience.

Lessons learned
Having implemented these changes, one of our clients shared this lightbulb moment: ‘I have realised that attracting a wider range of candidates is the same as attracting new clients. You have to network, build relationships and impress them. The key thing I learned was that – just as with attracting clients – you need to keep your attention on it all the time, the moment you focus on something else, you will lose out on diversity of candidates again.’

As with many other biases that creep into processes, the most important part is to become aware of them and then to come up with different ways to address them.  This involves thinking about who you wish to attract and figuring out why you have been unsuccessful in doing so.

If you would like us to help you review your recruitment practices and give you a few easily implementable tips that will change your recruitment process,  let us know.  We will be delighted to help as much or as little as you want.