6 Ways to Do a Better Job Hiring Diverse Talent

Two-thirds of executives now recognize diversity and inclusion as critical, up 10 percent from 2014. Companies that prioritize diversity and inclusion can boast improved engagement and improved revenue and profits. Employees from different background and experiences can also enhance an organization’s culture.

If that doesn’t capture your attention, here are some more stats:

  • 67% of employees want to join a diverse team of employees
  • 35% of diverse companies outperform homogeneous ones
  • 70% of diverse companies capture new markets

Got your attention yet?

What company wouldn’t want these benefits? But how do you achieve these outcomes? Maybe you’ve tried to recruit diverse candidates to apply to your open positions, and you can’t seem to get any traction.

Let’s look at six ways to do a better job hiring diverse talent.


1. Get leadership buy-in

Success for hiring programs starts from the top down. You need buy-in from your company’s management. If your managers and senior leadership don’t support diversity and inclusion, then you may be swimming upstream.

Your company’s leadership mindset needs to support diversity and inclusion. This leadership mindset should be established and shared internally and externally in a written commitment and aligned with operational practices. Developing leadership and corporate training on diversity and inclusion makes your company more attractive not only to your current employees, but also to potential new hires.

From a practical standpoint, company leadership helps you structure diversity hiring and training programs. Additionally, leadership can contribute any financial or personnel resources toward these programs. When you’re creating or expanding hiring programs, it’s not just nice to have support from above, it’s often fundamental to the programs success.

2. Integrate diversity into your company culture

Once you have leadership buy-in, you have to integrate diversity into your company’s culture. Candidates must physically see your commitment to diversity – it has to be apparent. If you have to defend your commitment to diversity, you may have to rethink your hiring priorities and bring diversity to the forefront.

Candidates often check out a company’s website and social media presence when considering applying at that company or before interviewing. If you have a social footprint or blog on your website, this a great way to showcase diversity as part of your company culture. Make sure you make and keep a good impression around your company’s diversity and inclusion online.


3. Review word choices in job descriptions

Check your job descriptions. Are you using gender-neutral wording? Are your descriptions inclusive? Or do you use gender-coded words, such as “competitive,” which can be interpreted as male or “supportive,” which can be interpreted as female?

Are you sticking to old hiring practices? Are you clinging to a checklist of requirements where you may be missing out on qualified candidates with non-traditional backgrounds?

Don’t prejudge your candidates just because they don’t meet your requirements to a tee. You may have a woman who has been out of the workplace raising kids. You may have a veteran who has just returned home after a tour of duty. Start looking more broadly and think about how to attract and retain these non-traditional candidates.


4. Leverage your internal employee network

Employee referral programs are an effective way to get talent in the door. In fact, a third of employees get their jobs through an employee referral. How can you make sure that your employee referral program encourages diversity?

A recent study by Payscale found that white males were the most likely to get a referral in an employee referral program, with white females, black males, and black females trailing behind. Specifically, white males were 40 percent more likely to get a referral, white women were 30 percent more likely to get a referral, black men were 17 percent more likely to get a referral, and black women were 13 percent more likely to get a referral.

Although this study reflects a larger population, it does show that white males tend to benefit more from employee referral programs. Companies need to be cognizant of internal biases in referral programs and encourage diversity. How can you get your employees to refer employees that don’t look like them? How can you reward your employees to refer diverse candidates for your organization?

Companies can make some changes to their employee referral programs to encourage diversity. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Ask your employees to refer more diverse candidates. For example, give them the challenge to refer five women over the next month, or seven employees that are people of color over the next two weeks.
  • Consider doubling the incentive for referring candidates from currently underrepresented groups in your organization.
  • Organize referral-a-thons or open mic nights. Make it a social thing!
  • Set diversity hiring goals and share them with your employees. Celebrate when you hit those goals.


5. Tap your employees’ social connections

Using strategy and technology, you can also leverage your employees’ social media connections. We often refer people that look just like us – that’s where implicit bias comes in. If employees don’t know anyone off the top of their head to refer for that open position, that’s it. End of story.

Most employees are well-connected across social media platforms, but they don’t know if someone in their social media universe may be a good fit for that open position. And they’re not going to spend the time to find out.

With a referral tool like Teamable, you can find stellar candidates through all of your employee’s networks—not just LinkedIn. You can create rich profiles unique for social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or GitHub. We’ve found each employee offers up to an average of 1000 unique connections.


6. Acknowledge, reward, acknowledge, reward

Rewarding your employees with cash for referrals is fine. However, from referral to reward can take a long time. By the time the employee refers someone until that candidate is hired and completes a trial period, we could be talking months. Talk about delayed gratification!

You need to make it easier for employees to refer candidates. Think about acknowledging and rewarding the process of making referrals as opposed to limiting your rewards to successful hires. By rewarding the process with incentives, whether it’s concert tickets, bring your dog to work day, or a work from home afternoon, you are incentivizing your employees to refer more often. You’re also creating a buzz around referring solid candidates.

In addition to incentives, be sure you acknowledge your referring employees as well. Send out an email recognizing their efforts. Give a shout out at the next team meeting. Write a personal note. People like acknowledgment – not only are you building buzz around your referral program, but you’re also giving praise to your current employees.

If you want to have a diverse workplace, you need to look at how you’re recruiting your candidates. Look at your leadership and your culture. Build your diversity from the inside out. Walk your talk. Explore your employees’ connections. Reward your employees’ participation in the referral process, not their results.

You’ll start seeing benefits at your company that go beyond diversity and inclusion.

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