Are These 8 Mistakes Ruining Your Inclusive Recruitment?

Published by:
Kayla Ihrig
November 16, 2021
min read

By this year, it’s a social faux pas for an organization to not have an articulate company line about their dedication to inclusive recruitment. It’s probably on their website, in the employee manual and maybe even in the company's core values. 

But is actual, data-back, implemented inclusivity present in the inclusive recruiting process? 

Even those with the best intentions will fall short without making a researched-backed plan and correct implementation. 

Inclusive hiring practices don’t naturally evolve on their own; the decision must be made to value and cherish the development of a diverse team, and a plan must be implemented by leadership and hiring managers. 

Despite genuine intentions and sensitives, there are 8 common mistakes that many well-meaning companies still make around inclusive recruitment. 

Before we dive into the most common mistakes, let’s first quickly discuss what inclusive recruitment is and why it’s so essential for hiring the correct people. 

What is inclusive recruitment?

Inclusive recruitment is the process of widening the recruitment net to catch more candidates, and removing arbitrary obstacles that certain demographic groups encounter in the recruitment process. 

The moral concern at the heart of inclusive recruitment is straightforward - workforces should reflect their surrounding community, in terms of: 

  • Gender 
  • Religious background 
  • Ethnic background 
  • Race 
  • Socio-economic upbringing 
  • Age 

For example, imagine if every tier of every workforce was 50% female and 50% male. 

We have to imagine that because that is not how our reality looks. Statistically, female candidates are less present in advanced company roles and most likely to be overlooked for promotions compared to their male equals.

And likewise, every other demographic statistic follows suit. 

The lack of inclusivity creates uphill battles in the recruitment process for many, but it’s straightforward to address when it’s fully understood.

Why is inclusive recruitment important?

The traditional corporate workforce is a generally homogenous group, and those outside of the normative group are disadvantaged in the recruitment process. 

These are candidates who are disproportionately affected by the common types of (conscious or unconscious) biases that lead to: 

  • Gender discrimination 
  • Racial discrimination 
  • Parental status discrimination 
  • Age discrimination 
  • Religious discrimination 
  • Name discrimination 

…amongst others. 

The necessity is clear: focusing on inclusive recruitment is essential to improving access to opportunities and workplace diversity. 

What recruiters might not know is that it's also a huge win for organizations

The traditional hiring process relies heavily on poor performance metrics and lets in a substantial amount of bias. This process directly leads to organizations hiring the wrong candidates. 

Companies that have used Applied for inclusive recruitment have found that 60% of their hires would’ve been overlooked using a traditional hiring method. Look at your own hiring numbers: how many people has the traditional method missed? 

The traditional process must be changed, and learning about inclusive recruitment must be the foundation for that change.  

8 most common inclusive recruitment mistakes

Once realizing that your talent acquisition positions many candidates at a disadvantage, you’ll be eager to make changes to the hiring process immediately. Make sure you don’t fall into more pits of bias quicksand by making one of these common recruitment mistakes. 

1. Relying on employee referrals 

The allure of employee referrals is clear: the candidate comes to you, is already primed by the contact who referred them, and is enthusiastic about the interview opportunity that they’ve been handed. 

But, therein lies the problem: employee referrals are a major inclusion misstep.

Ask yourself: who will employees refer? They will refer people who they grew up with, went to university with, did internships with. They will refer people like themselves, furthering the homogeny of your organization. (Forbes

Instead of opening the doors wide to the public, employee referrals create a shortcut for similar people to enter an organization above the public.  

In addition to not offering the same availability to the public (the group which all organizations should strive to look like), there’s another landmine to employee referrals that can sneak by even the most diverse companies. 

A recruiter for a diverse company might feel the risks that employee referrals pose to their inclusive hiring process are subdued. After all, a diverse workforce will refer diverse candidates, wouldn’t they? 

The data proves otherwise: white males are statistically more likely to be referred over women and candidates of color. 

How employee referrals harm diversity (chart)

The research doesn’t beat around the bush: the most effective hiring is anonymous, and this inclusive recruitment mistake is one to be avoided. (ResearchGate)

2. Job description is a mess

Problematic practices with recruitment may seem like an external-facing corporate issue, but they actually start before that, within your own company as someone sits down to draft the job description. 

Inclusive hiring has to start with an inclusive job description. The language, requirements, and structure of the job description are going to inform who applies and who the company is ultimately made of. 

Don’t underestimate the impact of the job description in inclusive recruitment. From who applies, to how qualified they are, and how interested they are in actually accepting the position at your company - it all starts at the description and seeps into your hiring process like an oil spill. 

Here’s one breakdown of how language in job descriptions positions a certain group at an advantage: 

"Why didn't you apply for the job?" (chart)

An un-inclusive job description will be riddled with unnecessary industry jargon, gendered language and reading burden. 

Not sure how long your position description should be? Or what language to remove? Or what feelers will be predictive of your specific listing? Let us help you write the perfect, inclusive job description. 

Let’s say you’ve written a flawless, inclusive job description - what next? Typically, it’s another roadblock and recruitment misstep. The resume.

3. Still using traditional CVs

Removing traditional resumes from the recruitment process may sound like a foundational change to the hiring process, and it is.  

Moving away from such an unquestioned part of the hiring process is a foundational change, but it’s worth remembering that if you want foundational change to happen, change will have to happen.  

And, frankly, there’s no place for typical CVs in an inclusive recruitment process. Resumes are a cornucopia of bias in hiring:

How bias affects CV (chart)

Anything that is not proven to be an effective metric should be removed from the recruitment process, including resumes. Resumes must be anonymized as well, along with the rest of your inclusive hiring process.

4. Not anonymizing yet

Anonymizing, or “blinding” candidates is a simple but highly effective inclusive recruitment practice. 

Recruiting that’s not anonymous is not inclusive. 

Until a candidate with a Black-sounding name has the same callback rate as a candidate with a white-sounding name, the system is biased, un-inclusive, and cannot exist with a system that values fairness and equality. 

Callbacks by ethnicity (chart)

How many open positions does your company have right now? How many quality candidates are going to slip through the cracks of your hiring process? Our research says about 60%. Book an Applied demo today. 

A company that wants to hire diverse talent simply cannot keep using resumes with the most common sources of recruitment discrimination: 

  • Names
  • Photos 
  • Age 
  • Educational institute names 
  • Previous company names

You’re not just protecting candidates from discrimination; you’re also protecting your hiring team from focusing on the wrong information. 

If these sound extreme, ask yourself: if a candidate previously worked at Google, what does that say about how they’ll perform in your specific role? 

The answer is nothing. Status isn’t a predictive measurement, yet Google still sounds impressive to namedrop and, without anonymization, will impact their odds when stacked up against a candidate who worked for a small no-name non-profit doing the exact same tasks that they’d do in this position. 

Previous company name, university name, and previous work title are all examples of poor indicators that are prominently displayed on resumes. Inclusive recruitment evaluates candidates based on skills, and gauges them fairly using a scoring rubric, which leads right into the next common mistake.

5. No scoring rubric developed

Recruitment processes can go on for weeks. Every candidate deserves the same energy, focus, and honest assessment that the first candidate received, which dictates the need for a scoring rubric. 

A scoring rubric ensures that all candidates are assessed in the same way on the same criteria. 

On top of ensuring the same standards were used, it also offers structure and meaning to otherwise vague interview questions. Here’s an example: 

Example scoring criteria

The scoring rubric isn’t just used in interviews, either. It’s also used for gauging applicant work samples, which leads right into our next inclusive recruitment mistake. 

6. Not using work samples

There’s been a lot of discussion about what are poor predictors of performance, and you may be wondering, what’s a good indicator then? 

Two words: work samples. Work samples are the single best form of assessment of potential team members who will perform in a role. 

Requiring applicants to submit work assessments will result in a better pool of applicants from the get-go. 

Fewer applicants will apply because they won’t complete the assessments if they don’t actually want the job. This is a good thing for organizations. 

Hiring committees waste countless hours interviewing applicants who don’t actually want the position they’re interviewing for. For some positions, applicants can hit “apply” on LinkedIn and automatically have their application details uploaded in seconds, but that’s not a fruitful hiring process. 

After all, what’s the plan for those potential candidates? Light screening in the beginning, more intense screening as they move through the recruitment process? 

Inclusive recruitment turns it on its head. Better recruitment practices start with heavier screenings upfront in the form of work samples. 

If this process sounds like it will scare aware potential applicants, look at the data. Candidates who use the Applied system on average give it a 9/10.  

How candidates rate the Applied process (chart)

This data was pulled from 300,000+ applications. 

Wondering what goes into successful work samples? Grab your work sample cheatsheet here

Once you get those beautifully qualified and extremely interested candidates into your interview, make sure you ask the right questions. 

7. Counterproductive interview practices

What constitutes a counterproductive interview? Anything unstructured

The unstructured interview is a great enemy of an inclusive interview process. 

Entering an interview without a predetermined structure causes a domino effect that detrimentally affects the inclusivity: 

  • The interviewers all have subconscious reactions and assumptions about the interviewees, also known as unconscious bias 
  • Without structure, they react to these bias by asking different questions to every interviewee 
  • Interviewees that are perceived as being more competent are asked questions to their benefit 
  • Without a scoring rubric, the interview teams exits the interview with “feelings” and is most like to make the safe hire: the one that matches their existing workplace 

There are a number of biases that take over the decision making in that scenario:

Types of bias

Unstructured interviews pose a second danger that is inadvertently diverted by an inclusive interview process. 

How many times have you heard a colleague ask an off-the-cuff personal question in an interview? Not only are these types of questions harmful to the unbiased interview process, they also lead to accidental posing of illegal interview questions

Structured interviews protect both the candidate and the organization. 

8. Testing for culture fit

While culture may seem like an essential ingredient of an effective workplace, the research is actually very explicit: your most effective hiring decisions will be around skills assessment, not around culture. 

Specifically, we know that relying on typical culture fit interview questions is a mistake. 

As important as culture fit may feel to your organization, the data shows that it is simply not a good predictor of performance: 

Culture fit vs job performance (chart)

Culture fit is often used to disguise internal feelings of bias that individuals can’t attribute to someone’s work performance. 

Inclusive recruitment checklist

With the urgent needs laid bare, it’s essential to move through your recruitment process from top to bottom and make changes to ensure that your recruitment program is inclusive. 

Will convincing your organization to change be an uphill battle? Use the linked data and explanations from our resources blog to inspire immediate action, and book a free demo of our unbiased hiring software to make the transition painless. 

Inclusive recruitment conclusion

Many organizations have been trying to fix their diversity issues for a long time. Despite their efforts, all of the unconscious bias training or diverse workforce initiatives in the world won’t do the work that needs to be done. It all starts with who is brought into their organization (and how!). 

Having a truly inclusive environment and learning how to combat unconscious biases are complex, ongoing learning processes for companies, but inclusive recruitment is not. 

Inclusive recruitment isn’t shrouded in mystery or stress. It’s a path well-paved with research and results; one that benefits both candidates and companies. 

Inclusive recruitment is the future. Actually, for many companies, it’s already the present: they’re experiencing reduced new-hire churn, candidates with sharper skill sets for their positions, and a more diverse workforce. 

Is your workplace being left behind? Book a free Applied demo today so that you can finally start recruiting in an ethical, inclusive way. We’ll show you how to level the playing field. Find out for yourself by booking a demo. A better version of your organization is waiting on the other side of these inclusive recruitment practices.

Applied is the essential platform for debiased hiring. Purpose-built to make hiring empirical and ethical, our platform uses anonymized applications and skill-based assessments to identify talent that would otherwise have been overlooked.

Push back against conventional hiring wisdom with a smarter solution: book in a demo