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How to Center Inclusion to The Hiring Process

Veleisa Burrell


Start on the Right Foot: Be Sure to Center Inclusion to The Hiring Process

How do you make inclusion in the hiring process front and center in your organization?

For potential employees, the hiring process is often the first way they are introduced not only to the company itself but also its human resources team and the potential leader(s) they would work with as part of the team. The hiring process overall can be a stressful period, one in which both interviewers and interviewee are evaluating each other for fit. When a company is not fully aware of how to center inclusion in the hiring process, what is a challenging process can turn into applicants self-selecting to not pursue a role due to insensitivities, perceived lack of diversity and overall negative impression of the company. Fortunately, there are several strategies companies can integrate in the hiring process to ensure a positive and inclusive hiring process. 

Inclusion in the Hiring Process Begins with Leadership

The traditional hiring process - creating the job description, posting to job boards and sites, perhaps working with an internal or external recruiter, bringing in candidates for a series of interviews, and ultimately providing an offer to the best candidate - is familiar to most who have worked in professional environments. Inclusive processes begin before the job description is created, and come from the organizational culture and example set by leadership. 

Both in human resources and within the department requiring a new employee, inclusivity requires that leaders think beyond the traditional process to pinpoint opportunities to ensure all qualified candidates are reviewed and the process is as open, fair and equitable as possible. Leaders should be able to clearly define what diversity and inclusion practices are applied at their company and how it’s measured. Without a clear understanding from leadership, inclusion in the hiring process can be a non-starter. 

Best Practices for Centering Inclusion in the Hiring Process

With a clear go-forward from leadership, the hiring process centered around inclusion begins. Best practices include: 

  • Ensure that hiring processes do not exclude based on lack of keywords and phrases or required skills tests- many companies use software that scan for specific keywords and phrases, removing the applications and resumes of those who do not match. While this may be convenient for human resources, it could dismiss potential matches whose experience may not be specifically worded based on criteria for which they have context. It is imperative that companies that are committed to inclusive hiring processes do not set their parameters so narrowly that they eliminate talent before they even get in the door. 
  • Expand qualifications beyond the “right” degree and experiences - the best person for the job will not always come wrapped up in a bow. Often a person’s career trajectory can look vastly different than what a hiring team expects, but the skills and experience earned is applicable to the job at hand. Hiring teams must interrogate their own thinking to consider that the best candidate may not look exactly like them, or even what they thought they would. Have recruiters expand beyond social platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed to network in person at professional groups based on affiliations like race/ethnicity, industry or social connections like Greek letter organizations. So long as the person can meet and exceed expectations, we must remove our blinders about the “right” degrees, connections and previous work experience. 
  • Go beyond the usual in sourcing interview panel members - very rarely will employees work only within one business unit, so it makes business sense to invite members of different departments and seniority levels to be part of an interview panel. This also helps bring racial and ethnic diversity to the process if the department doing the hiring is skewed. Once the initial questions of background and how a personal handles stress have been asked, these panel members bring a unique perspective to helping a company discover the talents and qualifications of candidates. Additionally, by increasing the diversity of a hiring panel, candidates are more likely to see themselves reflected and be more open and personable in an interview. 

As outlined above, centering inclusion in your hiring process requires forethought and consistently being aware of how a company’s processes, team members and tools can hinder or help. Companies like Pinterest are setting the standard for thoughtful and deliberate leadership on inclusive hiring, and with planning and support throughout the company, we can all meet and surpass their example. 

Want to know more about how you and your current employees can improve inclusion in the hiring process? Sign up to rate, review and take surveys on your experiences as an underrepresented professional at today. 

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