Talent Sourcing: How Organisations Are Attracting Bigger, More Diverse Candidate Pools Using This Sourcing Strategy

Published by:
Joe Caccavale
August 10, 2022
min read

Inclusive Job Description Template

How can you you stand out from your competitors in a tight talent market?

Below, we'll share our talent sourcing strategy that has helped organisations:

  • Increase diversity by 3-4x
  • Find 3x as many suitable candidates
  • And boost applications by 15%

You don't need to spend any extra budget or invest in special software to source a bigger, more diverse candidate pool...

By being more strategic and inclusive in your talent sourcing, you'll attract more candidates from a wider range of backgrounds.

Does your open role appeal to your target audience?

The first step in your talent sourcing strategy should be to start thinking like a marketer.

We’ve all heard the old marketing cliche - ‘it's about selling a lifestyle’...

And when it comes to selling jobs, the same rule applies.

Think of jobs like any other product…

Just like with a car or a new perfume, you need to make sure you’re selling the sense of identity and the lifestyle that a job represents.

When ‘selling’ a job, you’re also selling:

  • The identity that comes with that role
  • The company
  • The lifestyle that person would be living 
  • The salary and other benefits
If you’re not attracting the type of candidates you want, then ask yourself: what can I change about the job to bring them in?

For example, instead of wondering where all the female developers have gone, you could look at the role you’re advertising and assess whether or not it would actually appeal to them at all, and what you could do to change this.

You can put your heart and soul into candidate sourcing, but you're wasting your time if the job itself isn’t a good match.

Jobs are like products - so you need to adapt them to appeal to your target market.

Take this example: you might be looking to attract more women to your company. However, if you demand that they be able to travel constantly, you risk deterring the very people you set out to attract since women are less likely to leave their children.

Key takeaway: Make sure to sell the lifestyle and benefits of a job, and ask yourself whether or not the role appeals to the kind of people you’re looking to attract.

The science behind high-converting job descriptions

The words you use in your job descriptions will have a direct impact on the volume and diversity of applicants.

Here at Applied, we’ve found that by optimising job descriptions, you can boost applications by +15%.

Don’t list too many requirements

The first thing you’ll want to look at is your requirements.

Research has shown that generally speaking, women won’t apply for roles unless they meet 100% of the criteria, whereas men who will apply meet only 60% of the requirements.

This doesn’t mean they’re less determined or qualified - women are more socialised to follow the rules.

Take a look at the results of the survey below…

Survey: 'Why didn't you apply for the job?'

We can see that double the number of women listed “following guidelines about who should apply”, as their reason for not applying when compared to men.

And the #1 reason for both genders not applying for roles: “I didn’t think they would hire me since I didn’t meet the qualifications, and I didn’t want to waste my time and energy.”

If you list too many requirements, some candidates will see them as rigid rules whilst others will see them as faint guidelines.

Risk-averse (but talented) candidates are likely to qualify themselves if they don’t think they could meet the steep list of requirements you set out.

What requirements should you list? Here at Applied, we believe that skills are far more valuable than impressive-sounding degrees or previous employers.

Not only are education and experience weak predictors of job performance - they’re also incredibly tricky to separate from socioeconomic status.

So, if you’re looking for a sourcing strategy that supports diversity, we’d recommend listing 6-8 skills, values and working characteristics instead of specific background requirements.

Here’s what this looks like for one of our growth & Partnerships roles…

About you:

  • Empowered by an entrepreneurial environment - you’re a self-starter, can work autonomously but can motivate and influence other teams when required.
  • Resilient and determined, able to pick yourself up after a set back, work out what went wrong and have another go.
  • You will be energised by the prospect of talking to customers and enjoy working out what makes people tick.
  • Passion for improving workplaces - whether it’s diversity and inclusion or culture, you’ll love what you do and want a world where everyone is free to be their true selves in a job they love
  • A love for learning - in a startup, none of us have all of the answers, so an openness and willingness to constantly learn is essential.
  • Driven and proactive - following up with clients to keep the momentum of conversations going, and not letting things slip through the net.
Key takeaway: keep your list of requirements short, skill-focused and ditch the ‘nice-to-haves’.

Minimise gendered language

Keeping gendered language under control is a simple step you can take to significantly improve the diversity of your candidate pool.

Certain words and phrases tend to be subconsciously associated with a particular gender.

And so if used in excess, your job description may be signalling that a man or woman would be a better fit.

This effect is very much real and measurable: Openreach's research found that women were 50% less likely to consider roles that have a coded gender bias.

When female participants were presented with a feminine-coded job description as part of the study, interest in the role increased by more than 200%, with 60% stating this was because of the way it was written.

We’ve also seen the impact of gendered language on our own job descriptions here at Applied…

Gender coding effect on diversity of hires (chart)

Most commonly used masculine terms: 

  1. Analyse
  2. Competitive
  3. Active
  4. Confident

Most commonly used feminine terms:

  1. Support
  2. Responsible
  3. Understanding
  4. Dependable
  5. Committed
Key takeaway: since men aren’t as deterred by feminine coded language as women are by masculine language, try sticking to either neutral or feminine coded job descriptions

Check your job description’s reading burden

Reading burden is a measure of how difficult your text is to read.

If you want to be sourcing talent from diverse backgrounds, you’ll need to ensure that the reading burden of your job description matches the level required for the role itself.

Candidates may be non-native speakers, neurodivergent, reading on a small screen or simply in a hurry.

You might also want to reign in any jargon - whilst industry-standard acronyms are absolutely fine (SEO, B2B etc), using niche terms isn’t going to increase the number of applicants.

Key takeaway: use short sentences and scrap the jargon. 

 Want to craft high-quality, inclusive job descriptions that attract a bigger, more diverse pool of talent? We built our Job Description Tool to help you quickly spot and replace things like gendered language and reading burden.

Applied Job Description Tool

Don’t be shy about salaries and benefits

Most organisations don’t list salaries on their job descriptions…

Even though most candidates agree this is the most important factor in deciding where to work.

The most important information on a job description (chart)

Being transparent around salary will help candidates who may be on the fence decide whether or not the job is for them… and sets an open, positive tone from the first contact.

Key takeaway: if you aren’t already, be open about salaries! Chances are this is something your competitors aren’t doing.

Are your referrals harming diversity?

Referrals are a staple of talent sourcing and for good reason.

However, referrals have their downsides.

Referred candidates are more likely to get hired… but they’re not more likely to be promoted.

They also do little to promote diversity:

Referred candidates tend to be similar to the hirer (in terms of age, gender, education, ethnicity, etc) and as a result, diversity gaps are perpetuated.

Payscale found that all else equal, referral hiring programs tend to benefit Caucasian men more than any other demographic. Women of colour fare the worst: they are 35% less likely to receive a referral. They also found that men of colour are 26% less likely to receive a referral and Caucasian women are 12% less likely to receive one”.

How referrals impact diversity (chart)

How to attract talent using referrals (the right way)

You can (and should) still use referrals for sourcing talent.

However, you’ll want to build a diverse network and make sure financial schemes are open to people outside of your business to cast a wider net - you’ll be able to tap into new networks and a more diverse set of candidates.

You could even try asking people you already know from minority groups to share roles. Since referred candidates tend to mirror the referrer. 

Pinterest tried this and saw a 55% increase in candidates from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.

A few quick tips on building your pipeline and network:

  • Spend 70 mins per day on LinkedIn adding new connections (this can even include other recruiters).
  • Make sure there’s a place on your website for candidates to register their interest 
  • Get heads of functions active on social media
  • Host events for specific demographics e.g. software engineering for women
Key Takeaway: make sure to diversify your network if you want to diversity your talent

Job boards are expensive, so use them wisely

For a 30-day single job posting, you'll probably pay around $200-$300

Although expensive, this is worth the investment - both women and ethnic minorities tend to use job boards rather than their networks.

So if you’re looking to improve or maintain diversity, you’ll want to make sure job boards are a part of your sourcing strategy.

How job seekers find roles (chart)

Beware: not all job board boards were created equal.

Some will bring higher quality, more diverse candidates than others.

If you’re looking to fill specific diversity gaps, then you might want to look at specialist job boards.

Specialist job boards

And if you’re just looking to source the best candidates possible, then start tracking your job boards!

Want your talent sourcing to be as data-driven as your marketing? Try using UTM links to see which job boards attracted which candidates.

You’ll likely find some are naturally better than others - then its just a case of doubling down on these.

We’ve also done some of the digging for you, check out our job board reports below.

Here’s what job board tracking looks like in the Applied Platform:

Applied Job Board Tracking

Headhunting and proactive searching

87% of the global workforce is open to new jobs…

But 70% are passive candidates.

So, if you’re not actively sourcing candidates by reaching out, you’re seriously missing out.

Yes, a large percentage of those who you reach out to will ignore you. 

However, this is likely because either the job itself isn’t a good fit, or your message isn’t personalised.

Step 1: Know your role

First, make sure you understand the role you’re selling. Remember  - jobs are like products, they need to appeal to your target market.

What skills do they need?... actually need, not to be confused with nice-to-haves.

Is this job signalling that only a certain type of person would fit in? And if so, what can be done to change this?

Here are a few things to think about that could sway candidates:

  • The company’s mission
  • The company’s growth
  • Workplace culture
  • Career advancement
  • Learning opportunities 
  • What the team will be working on

Step 2: Begin to map the market

For the next step, list 50-60 businesses who you think might have people with the skills you’re looking for.

You could try looking into:

  • Lists of top companies in your industry
  • Databases like CrunchBase 
  • LinkedIn - look at the people who appear under  ‘people who looked at Company X also looked at…’
  • Your competitors

Search for possible candidates by filtering using keywords and job titles, then add them to a sheet or CRM.

Step 3: Divide candidates into 4 buckets

Your shortlisted candidates should fit into one of four categories (or buckets):

  1. A great match
  2. Possible match 
  3. Probably not right but might be able to refer a great candidate
  4. Not right for the role 

You can then follow up and prioritise based on which bucket candidates fall into...

How to categorise candidates

Step 4: Stop to do a quick diversity check

If diversity is top of mind for you (which it should be), then you may want to take a minute to make a few tweaks at this stage.

People from minority backgrounds who you’ve categorised as being not right may be worth following up with for referrals. 

You could also consider moving candidates from minority backgrounds from the possible bucket to the ‘have to talk’ bucket.

If you’re assessing everyone fairly once sourced, these adjustments should help push more people from minority backgrounds through the funnel, without giving anyone an unfair advantage.

Step 5: Create conversion-optimised collateral

Your job descriptions will be seen by a lot of people, so make sure they’re properly optimised.

Summary: high converting job descriptions 

You could also create an information pack about your company and culture to send out to interested candidates - a brochure of sorts.

Making contact… a few lessons from sales

Selling a role is similar to selling a product/ service, and since sales best practices have been refined and data-fied over time, you’d be silly not to use them in your candidate sourcing.

When it comes to your initial outreach message, be transparent. Use your 300-character LinkedIn connection request note to let candidates know you’ll be following up X number of times. 

Persistence is key: 50% of sales happen after the 5th contact, but most salespeople give up after just 2.

Switch mediums to boost engagement: Changing up the medium you use to contact candidates could improve the response rate. Make sure you’re using a mix of LinkedIn, email, InMail, good ole’ fashioned calls, etc.

Personalise your message: Although the more personalisation the better, if you’ve got 100+ candidates to contact, you probably don’t have time to write a completely personalised message to each one. If you draft semi-personalised messages for each of the four buckets you created earlier, this should be enough. If the job is attractive and relevant, you should get a decent number of responses.

Here’s the cadence we recommend for the ‘tick every box’ candidates.

Recruitment outreach cadence

Some useful tools for headhunting

  • Dux Soup - automatically adds lists of people on LinkedIn
  • GEM - creates automatic followups and email sequencing
  • LeadIQ - find the numbers and emails for people on LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator - is great for searching and InMailing
Key takeaway: be persistent and varies in your outreach - and make sure your messages are personalised.

How to pitch to candidates who get back to you

Remember your objective: you want to get them on a call or to apply for the job. 

Find out what the candidate’s interests are so that you know which parts of the role need emphasising to seal the deal.

A common mistake we tend to see is recruiters using these emails/ messages to assess candidates. The purpose here should be to find out what they want. Not what you want.

If you’re explicit enough about the job does/ doesn’t entail they’ll qualify themselves out anyway.

Applied is the essential platform for fairer hiring. Purpose-built to make hiring ethical and predictive, our platform uses anonymised applications and skills-based assessments to improve diversity and identify the best talent.Start transforming your hiring now: book in a demo or browse our ready-to-use, science-backed talent assessments.