3 Steps to Build a Diversity & Inclusion Strategy in Recruitment

When building a D&I recruitment strategy, there are 3 key areas that should be addressed. Read this blog to find out what they are...


Written by Ben Thomas, Associate Talent Director

Having a strong Diversity and Inclusion Strategy is key to a high performing recruitment function and in turn, key to a high performing business. Studies have shown that building a diverse workforce is not simply the right thing to do from an ethical point of view but is crucial to performance. Companies that employ a diverse range of people with different backgrounds and different ways of thinking consistently outperform those with a more homogenous workforce.

In this article I’m going to highlight three key areas to look at when building a D&I recruitment strategy and highlight some practical steps that can be used as a jumping off point.

1. Remove Potential For Bias

Step 1 is to assess your current process and seek out areas where a recruiter’s or hiring manager’s judgement has the potential to be influenced by conscious or unconscious bias. Approaches you could take, and questions to ask include:

  • Review your job adverts to ensure they are readable, clear and free from bias, software such as Textio can help with this.
  • Implementing blind recruitment at point of application – at Instant Impact we use software that automatically removes all identifying features from a candidate's application until it has been reviewed and progressed.
  • Ask yourself whether traditional CV screening is needed for the role - could work-sample questions or assessments be a better way of identifying the best skills match rather than making assumptions based on listed experience.
  • Create relevant structures for your interview stages with a clear scoring system – This will allow hiring managers to prioritise candidates on objective skill and behaviour based criteria rather than feel or the elusive “team fit”.
  • Unconscious Bias training - make sure recruiters and interviewers are trained to know and recognise unconscious bias in themselves and others.
  • Make it easy for candidates to disclose the need for any reasonable adjustment into your process - These could range from neurodiverse candidates needing a different task or interview structure to show their potential, to candidates with religious beliefs being given breaks within a series of interviews or tasks to observe prayer times.

2. Understand Gaps

Once you have taken steps to remove bias from your processes it is essential to build an understanding of where your business needs to be focusing further and then use this to build further D&I objectives. Steps you can take to build this understanding include:

  • Survey your current workforce – go beyond just asking about gender and ethnicity, introduce categories that will allow you to really understand backgrounds. Remember the aim is to build diversity of thought not simply what the eye can see.
  • Gather the same data from candidates applying - this will allow you to assess your attraction strategy but also to break down this data through the pipeline and see if there are any stages that seem to be disadvantaging anyone.
  • Gather market intelligence - look at the roles you are recruiting and the candidate pools available. This will help you assess what good looks like when setting D&I goals, it can also prompt discussion on whether you need to approach your resource need in a different way if the candidate pool lacks diversity.
  • Implement both Candidate and Interviewer Feedback Surveys – allowing those within your process to make you aware of issues and suggest improvements.

3. Be Proactive

Now that you understand your D&I needs and goals, you now need to take proactive action to attract, hire and retain diverse candidates. The best way to approach this is to first plan out, “What would we do if time and cost was no issue?” From here you can then prioritise the approaches to get the most return on your time and investment or try different approaches at different times to assess their impact. New candidates are never going to find you unless you find them first, approaches you could take include:

  • Widen where you advertise - this could be through job boards or if you are looking to reach specific demographics running recruitment advertising campaigns on social media which allow you to tailor your target audience.
  • Look at how you advertise – are you adverts and application processes relevant to the roles you are looking to hire? Ease of application, time, type of device, critical information and overview of the process can all help here.
  • Engage with groups – this could look like partnering with new organisations such as the 10,000 Black Intern Campaign, through to engaging with more informal support networks such as a Women in Tech LinkedIn group.
  • Be proactive and targeted with your Headhunting – bring tailored messages about your opportunities directly to candidate's inboxes and LinkedIn messages.
  • Widen the talent pool – certain talent pools may lack the volume of diverse candidates you need, proactively assess the skills you require, are there neighbouring industries or roles that won’t produce a plug and play candidate but that someone could make a successful transition from. Searching on skills alone can 10x your talent pool and opening up a wider and more diverse group of people.
  • Build up future leaders – if the talent pool is still too tight, we then must take a long term over short term view. Consider what you can do at more junior levels where you can hire candidates without experience but with the potential to become future leaders in the business.
  • Assess your employer brand – when a candidate does land on your careers page does it feel welcoming and inclusive? Ensure that your D&I policies are available for candidates to see and that successes in D&I are highlighted and celebrated.
  • Build a retention plan – it is all very well attracting and hiring diverse candidates, but it is vitally important to make sure that they have the support to succeed in the role. This could range all the way from ensuring parents are supported in the business, to making sure that a disabled candidate has the correct tools and technology available to them.