Secrets of a Brighter Workplace


Tips on how to understand, recruit and keep the best people for your business


22 tactics to use when recruiting to improve diversity

Addressing unconscious bias and stereotype threat

improving diversity video

How diverse is your organisation? To what extent do your employees reflect the diversity of your customers? Do you struggle to recruit from a particular target group – women, disabled people, those from black and minority ethnic groups etc?

The barriers for any group can be both internal – in the practices and approach an organisation uses to recruit and select its employees, and external – in the way an organisation is perceived by its target group/s.

A construction industry client of mine, for example, is frustrated by the fact that the majority of their job candidates are male. Which perpetuates the male-dominated culture within their organisation. Which, in turn, may be the very thing that’s putting off women from applying.

Internally, unconscious bias may be at work, meaning that assessors are, without realising it, more inclined to hire people who reflect the current make-up of the organisation.

But there are practical steps you can take as an employer when recruiting to address both internal and external barriers to diversity.

Here are 22 top tips and tactics you can use when recruiting to tackle diversity issues in your organisation.

Unconscious bias and stereotype threat

You’re probably familiar with the term unconscious bias (if you’re not, check out my previous blog on this very topic). Unconscious bias amongst recruiters and assessors can be a real barrier to diversity within an organisation.

Without realising it, unconscious bias can lead recruiters to hire ‘more of the same’ – candidates who look like them, sound like them, behave like them. Meaning that candidates who don’t – are a different gender, ethnicity, age etc – are discriminated against.

But candidates themselves can also suffer from something similar. Something called ‘stereotype threat’.

Stereotype threat is when a candidate receives or perceives cues from advertising, say, or the behaviour of an assessor or the way the selection process works that makes them acutely aware of stereotypes that might be ascribed to their gender, their ethnicity, their disability.

This has a knock-on effect of making them less likely to apply to an organisation they perceive to be, for instance, very male-dominated (“As a woman, I’m not going to succeed there”) or they might perform less well in an assessment centre if they’re the only woman in the room.

Here are my tips to addressing these and other barriers to improving the diversity of your organisation:

Identify the barriers to diversity

1. Identify what is the issue you want to address. Is it gender diversity, ethnicity, socio-economic group, people with disabilities etc?

2. Measure and monitor diversity statistics at every stage of the recruitment and selection process. This will help you to:

3. Identify where in the process the problem lies. Are too few women applying to roles? Or do disproportionate numbers of women drop out during the selection process, for instance?

4. Talk to candidates who have been through the recruitment and selection processes. How do they feel about the business, the process, and what could be changed?

5. Validate your selection process. Does it predict good performers in the role (and is therefore legally defensible)?

6. Validate individual parts of the process. Does the telephone interview, for instance, predict good performers in the assessment centre?

7. Try to establish the cause of the problem. How is your organisation perceived by your target group? Is there evidence of unconscious bias amongst assessors?

Reach out to the group you’re targeting

8. Ensure your marketing materials portray people from the group you’re targeting.

9. Review the language used in recruitment materials, e.g. job descriptions, to remove any gender bias. For example, the University of Manchester were trying to get more women onto a medical course. By changing ‘dissecting a cow’ to ‘dissecting a horse’ on the course details, they saw numbers of women applying increase significantly. (Equine care having more female associations than husbandry).

10. Use social media to tell good news stories. For example, Greater Manchester Police’s employees talk about their experience of working for the organisation on local community radio, to help people in target communities understand how they may fit in there.

11. Target advertising at specific groups, for example, advertising jobs in media outlets which are likely to be accessed by the target group.

12. Make a statement in adverts that your organisation welcomes applications from the target group.

13. Provide opportunities for the target group to learn more about work opportunities e.g internships or open days.

14. Provide training opportunities for the target group, for example, work placements and apprenticeships.

15. Work with specific organisations, like ‘Women in Business’, or key leaders in local communities to grow confidence in your organisation. For example, Civil Service Northern Ireland Fast Stream are working closely with Queens University to improve the potential diversity in their applicant pool for the next graduate fast stream campaign.

Remove barriers to recruitment

16. Review recruitment tools to ensure they’re not disproportionately impacting your target group.

17. Train assessors in objective measurement and unconscious bias.

18. Adapt sifting stages to ensure anonymity, e.g. anonymous CVs.

19. Use multiple selection measures.

20. Represent target groups on selection panels.

21. Use structured measurement and hold managers accountable for fair decisions.

22. Consider positive action approaches for targeted diverse groups. For example, Greater Manchester Police offer application form and interview skills training to applicants in specific diversity groups for student officer roles as part of their Positive Action programme.

What steps are you currently taking to address the barriers to diversity in your organisation? How might you employ some of the tips above? I’d love to know.

One Comment

  1. realtekh says:

    nice……….thank you for your sharing

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