How to Increase Diversity Through Improved Recruitment and Hiring Practices

Although there have been a number of initiatives to increase diversity within the workforce, many organisations remain quite homogenous in terms of factors such as ethnicity, gender and cultural background. Even well-established global companies such as Google have been found to have low levels of diversity, while smaller firms that don't monitor or regulate these things will often be staffed with people from very similar backgrounds.

Increasing diversity in the workplace is not just a concern about improving equal opportunities. Diversity recruiting makes practical sense too. It improves the range of knowledge within the business, broadens the collective experience and increases the likelihood of new perspectives and untried ideas. In a competitive marketplace, recruiting a diverse workforce could give you the edge over rival businesses and give you greater sustainability.

But how can companies effectively improve diversity recruiting?

One of the reasons that workforces are less diverse than one might think is that recruiters often exercise unconscious bias during the recruitment process. We tend to have an innate leaning towards those similar to us in terms of culture and background as well as making assumptions often without realising it ā€“ men will be better than women at tech jobs or those involving physical labour, young people will learn new skills quicker than old people, etc. - that manifest themselves in the recruitment selection process. There is also evidence that those with white sounding names are nearly 75% more likely to hear back on applications than those with an ethnic minority sounding name. As the job selection process often begins with a review of CV's or resumes before moving onto the first round of interviews, this subtle bias plays a part right from the start.

There are a couple of good ways to tackle this. One thing to do is to develop your diversity networking in order to improve your diversity sourcing. One reason that diversity recruiting levels remain low is that not enough minority or female candidates apply for the roles in the first place. If you want to have more diverse candidates, you need to reach out and build relationships with individuals and groups that will help target those under-represented and encourage them to apply for positions. Organisations are starting to use this approach as a way of tackling homogeneity in the workplace. For example, as part of a Recruiting for Diversity initiative, Harvard University implemented what it called 'Proactive diversity recruiting' which involved improved networking and advertising among a wider range of external groups to improve the diversity of candidates.

The second thing you can do is to alter your recruitment process and do a skills screening as the first step. Currently, most companies will do this during the latter part of the recruitment process. But evidence suggests that beginning with a short skills test not only improves diversity recruiting, it also reduces both time and costs.

This skills-based hiring approach levels the playing field as it works as a 'blind hiring' method that gives everyone an equal chance. Recruiters can then eliminate the least suitable applicants at the start of the process without any selection bias creeping in. We at Hundred5 have developed an example test that takes around 10 minutes to complete and offers immediate feedback. It's something that recruiters looking to improve their diversity recruiting strategy as well as streamline their recruitment processes can tailor to suit specific positions.

Hundred5 skill tests are also a great way of being able to advertise job roles. People can often be put off writing applications or cover letters, or amending their CV's, but a 10 minute challenge adds a bit of fun. If you score well and get good feedback, you are more likely to spend time applying for the position.

These sorts of tests have performed well for improving diversity recruiting where they have been used. GapJumpers carried out a multi-company trial with a skills-based test where the company drew up interview shortlists based purely on scores. Using this 'blind' process, 60% of the applicants who were not white, male, able-bodied and from elite schools progressed to the interview stage, compared to only 20% using traditional CV screening. In another UK test, a supermarket chain managed to save 73,000 of recruitment admin time as better skills matching meant fewer interviews carried out.

One of the most high-profile cases has been consumer-goods company Unilever. Since switching to artificial intelligence-based skills testing a year ago, applications to jobs in their North American branches more than doubled and there was a 'significant' increase in hiring minorities. Moreover, the average candidate hiring time reduced from four months to four weeks and employers spent 75% less time reviewing CV's.

So the benefits of using a skills test to improve both diversity recruiting and efficiency are clear to see. With the Hundred5 skills test, you can build your own unique test, share on various social channels to attract applicants and then analyse the results (See how). It's designed to make the process as simple as possible, for both recruiter and applicant. If you can also focus on improving your diversity networking at the same time, you should be able to maximise your reach and have a pool of candidates from a variety of backgrounds ā€“ ethnicity, gender, age, disability ā€“ who will be judged first and foremost on the basis of their skills for the job.

So if you are an employer who is keen to maximise the skill levels of your workforce and are interested in diversity recruitment best practice, and you don't fancy the prospect of endlessly thumbing through piles of CV's, the skills test approach is something well worth considering.

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