Four things businesses can do to create a more inclusive hiring process

Article by Be Kaler Pilgrim

Openly greeting a job recruiter with a firm handshake, recruitment industry, new roleOver 90% of CEOs are white men. It’s a staggering statistic, but becomes less surprising  when you consider that men are 30% more likely to be promoted to managerial roles.

So how can we tackle this, you might ask? It’s not something that will change overnight, but a lack of inclusivity in the hiring process is an obvious and sensical starting point.

Unconscious bias in the recruitment process – whether it affects individuals from protected characteristics such as race and/or ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, religion or belief – hinders organisations and employees across every sector. With more diverse management boosting business’s revenue by 19% on average – improving inclusion is as much a business issue as it is a social issue.

As part of Futureheads’ ongoing mission to be a more diverse and inclusive business, and to help our clients with their own diversity journeys, we’ve been encouraging our network to shine a light on their recruitment experiences when it comes to diversity, showcasing good practice alongside challenges they have faced along the way.

We took to LinkedIn and ran a series of polls asking our audience about the latest policies their organisation had, or hadn’t, implemented to eliminate unconscious racial and gender bias from their hiring process. Over 700 people took part, leading to some very interesting learnings…

  1. Anonymous CVs

Candidates with “white-sounding” names are 50% more likely to reach the interview stage. This is where anonymous CVs come in and our audience agreed anonymous CVs to be the most important diversity measure for reducing the impact of unconscious bias during hiring.

But, with only 26% of participants voting that their organisation had implemented this measure, it’s clear that while companies are aware of the approaches required for reducing the impact of unconscious bias in the hiring process, these measures often aren’t actually put into practice.

  1. Diverse interview panels

Having a diverse interview panel was also high up the list with our audience voting diverse interview panels as the second most important diversity measure to eliminate unconscious bias. But, yet again, only 38% voted that their organisation had actually implemented this.

Diverse interview panels not only ensure that a varied range of perspectives, experiences and understanding is brought to the interview room, but it also makes the process far more positive for potential candidates from protected categories. After all, an interview is as much about showcasing the benefits of working at your business as it is about finding a star candidate.

  1. Inclusive job descriptions 

Inclusive job descriptions were the most likely to be implemented by organisations, yet ironically, this measure was considered by voters as the least important for reducing the effects of unconscious bias.

But inclusive job descriptions are not something to be overlooked, with language being a powerful tool for encouraging or, in turn, discouraging particular groups of candidates from applying to the outlined role. A bloated amount of “must-have” skills and gender-coded terms such as “dominate” or “rockstar”, for instance, can, unbeknownst to hiring managers, subconsciously discourage women and other protected characteristic groups from applying to roles.

  1. Taking a flexible and bespoke approach to hiring

By far the least adopted measure to be included in our audiences’ hiring strategies were structured interview questions, with only 16% of our audience voting that they have included this in their interview strategy. And while structured interviews are incredibly useful to avoid bias that might arrive in the moment during interviews, this won’t always be the best approach for all candidates.

Increasingly (and especially since the pandemic) more and more companies are seeing the benefits of a less structured and more bespoke hiring process, affording candidates the freedom to opt for an interview method that best fits their specific needs and requirements. The option, for instance, to be interviewed remotely, or for candidates to submit video or audio applications instead of written work makes the process far more accessible and inclusive for candidates with disabilities or neurodiverse conditions.


So, what did our LinkedIn polls reveal? On the plus side, they reveal that there is a huge appetite for discussions around EDI, showing that many businesses have moved improving inclusivity in the hiring process higher up their agenda.

But, as a caveat to this, it’s obvious that this increased conversation doesn’t always translate into action. The processes that businesses are putting in place aren’t necessarily the most effective measures. Rather, many businesses are falling for the temptation of just ticking the diversity box. The most effective methods, afterall, will require the most time and dedication.

Creating a more inclusive hiring process means recognising where the recruitment process has traditionally been biased and where it continues to leave those from protected characteristics at a disadvantage. EDI improvements won’t happen naturally and they won’t happen overnight, but building these methods outlined above into your long-term EDI strategy is the best way to ensure that our offices and boardrooms finally reflect the society we live in.

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