How to be inclusive at each stage of the candidate journey
Lay the foundation for an inclusive candidate experience with these four steps.
At each stage of the candidate experience, there are opportunities to drive better results around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). To attract and hire diverse talent, you have to pinpoint where the gaps in your recruitment process lie – and then take action to close those gaps.
The candidate experience has four stages: application; screening; interview; and offer. And within each stage are myriad experiences depending on a variety of factors, such as success (or failure) moving through the process as well as communication (and follow-through) about next steps.
These moments represent opportunities to delve deeper into how candidates feel your organization has treated them – insights that you can leverage to then design and improve your process.
Step 1. Attract diverse talent at the application stage
To start, fostering inclusion in the candidate experience requires taking a close look at your sourcing and attraction strategies – as well as your talent brand strategies.
If you aren't investing in or building an external presence in diverse communities (e.g., establishing a diverse pipeline), you may not find success attracting and hiring diverse talent.
Here are a few ways to do that work:
- Articulate your DEI strategy. Commit to a clear vision and communicate how you’re going to – deliberately and intentionally – meet diverse candidates where they are. Not having a well-articulated DEI strategy can come off as lip service or less than authentic to diverse candidates.
- Invest in diverse communities. Reach out and foster relationships with community and education partners, such as historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Doing this well reflects authentic action on the part of your organization, and will help to push your presence beyond what people know about you from your brand and/or product.
- Communicate about your culture and what your organization is doing to actively move the dial on your DEI metrics. What you’re doing (or not doing) speaks volumes, especially when it comes to what people have heard about your hiring practices.
- Eliminate any barriers to applying. For example, make sure your careers site is accessible to people with disabilities and use gender-inclusive language in your postings.
Step 2. Avoid bias at the screening stage
The screening stage is a balancing act between speed and process. For recruiters, there’s a desire to provide a top-notch experience, but that’s often at odds with the volume of applications that need to be reviewed in order to move the hiring process forward.
This tug between speed and process also creates opportunities for bias to creep in. Bias can derail your entire interview process – ultimately hindering your organization’s ability to hire employees with diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Read more: How to reduce bias in interviews
To promote DEI – and remove bias – at the screening stage, your recruitment team can:
- Select non-traditional candidates that meet the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) of the job versus those who meet an education or other requirement that may not be necessary. Making sure you are focusing on the critical KSAs will help to limit the tendency to overlook talent that may come from non-traditional spaces or backgrounds.
- Consider removing personal information from resumes, such as candidate names, addresses, and/or graduation dates, before sharing them with hiring managers. The key here is to present a diverse and equitable pool, but without the information that might incite bias.
- Utilize application software to screen resumes. But, be sure that the software is screening relevant information based on the candidates you’re looking for – and that you aren’t inadvertently screening out qualified candidates. Periodically spot-check your rejected applicant pool to ensure the software is up to date (and using the most relevant keywords or algorithms) so that you aren’t reintroducing bias into the screening process.
- As for additional screening mechanisms, use technology to automate (or email) questionnaires instead of conducting phone and video screens. This can also help remove bias from the process.
The screening stage is also where technology can start capturing data about recruitment processes – data that will help you identify additional experience gaps that need to be closed.
Step 3. Prepare hiring managers for the interview stage
At the interview stage, recruiters are responsible for guiding applicants through the remaining (and most critical) steps of the process.
Meanwhile, hiring managers can help candidates feel connected to your organization – even before they join. They’re critical for communicating your organization’s value proposition, as well as what it means to belong.
At this high-stakes phase, hiring managers can make or break the candidate experience – a time when experience gaps can mean losing your top candidate(s).
This makes collecting and analyzing candidate feedback all the more critical for identifying gaps and determining what you should be doing differently.
For example, your data might reveal that you need to:
+ Train your hiring managers, specifically on interview bias and inclusive hiring practices. Consider who is participating in the process and ensure that everyone has been adequately trained.
+ Establish protocol with interviewers to create consistency across the process and alignment with recruiters. Utilize rubric-based interviewing to help eliminate interviewer bias.
+ Diversify your interview panel with panelists representative of your organization. Representation helps diverse candidates make decisions about joining your organization.
+ Work to not overextend your diverse employees. Instead of asking your diverse employees to interview candidates time after time, leverage their expertise and insights at scale (think: webinars, podcasts, and other employer branding opportunities).
“Representation helps diverse candidates make decisions about joining your organization.”
Closing experience gaps at the interview stage will help ensure that your most qualified, diverse candidates are engaged and interested ahead of an offer.
Step 4. Make equitable offers
The offer stage is the time for your organization to exhibit its commitment to the advancement of diverse candidates – as well as its persistence in making equitable offers.
An offer is the entry point for setting an equal playing field. If you want diverse talent to join your organization, you have to make a fair and equitable offer. Otherwise, they’ll either always be playing catch up on pay, or they’ll accept another (better) offer elsewhere.
Also, remember to audit your offers to ensure that you’re achieving your DEI metrics. While this is a reactive tactic, it’s a helpful way to level set, measure, and improve the offers you extend in the future.
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