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The Ultimate Guide to Diversity Hiring

Diversity hiring isn’t just something companies should give lip service to in public, nor should it be an item placed on a to-do list only to be forgotten as other priorities take precedence. Diversity in hiring is an absolute must for the health and longevity of your organization because both talent and consumers alike are using the diversity of companies as a barometer by which to judge them—meaning less diverse companies miss out on both loyal employees and customers. 

However, for diversity recruiting to lead to a strong workforce that moves your company into the future, you have to do it right. It's not enough just to check off a couple of boxes and then claim victory. You need to truly understand the importance of diversity in hiring and the strategies that can make these efforts successful. Continue reading to learn why diversity hiring is so important for your business, as well as common mistakes to avoid for the best results.

Diversity Hiring

What Is Diversity Hiring?

Although some companies have the mistaken perception that diversity hiring is all about getting talent from certain groups for its own sake, this couldn't be further from the truth. The fact is, diversity in recruitment is designed to help correct the lack of opportunities for people from underserved communities caused by both conscious and unconscious bias. The result of stripping this bias out of the process means diversity recruiting helps organizations find the best person for a job, irrespective of the characteristics they have that aren’t relevant to that job—such as race, gender, age, ability status, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. By taking proactive steps to remove barriers that have long held underrepresented groups back, organizations can level the hiring playing field and provide equal opportunities to all qualified candidates.

Why Is Diversity Hiring Important?

A diverse workplace environment is great for employees and for an organization itself. As a result, diversity hiring is extremely important for companies to adopt for a number of reasons, such as:

Attracting and Retaining Talent

Thanks to the demographic shift of younger generations, the workforce has become more diverse than ever before. For example, CNN Money reports that 56 percent of the 87 million millennials in the United States are white, compared to the 72 percent of the 76 million Baby Boomers. This has led to a huge shift in not only the candidates out there looking for jobs, but their expectations of what companies should be offering in those jobs.

As communities become increasingly diverse, prospective employees have begun to approach their job searches differently. Accepting a position is not just about the tangibles anymore, so if all you have to offer are salary and benefits, that's just not going to cut it. Talent today expects their workplace to be as diverse as their communities, and they will not accept anything less. In fact, according to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 62 percent of people want to work for companies that have demonstrated a commitment to diversity and inclusion in their workplace, and are moving away from the ones that don’t hold these values.

Similarly, diversity and inclusion play a huge role in keeping the employees you hire. Even if you’re able to attract talent without having a diverse workforce already in place, you're much less likely to retain these employees. As a result, according to a survey conducted by Deloitte, companies that have embraced diversity and inclusion enjoy a 22 percent lower turnover rate than those that have not.

The writing is on the wall: If you want to attract great talent and retain it today, a strong diversity hiring strategy is imperative to meet your staffing goals.

Bottom Line

Implementing diversity hiring best practices is not only good for staffing, it’s good for the balance sheet. Simply put, companies that are more diverse earn more money. McKinsey & Company found that organizations with gender diverse staffs outperform their less-diverse competitors by 25 percent, while more ethnic diversity leads to a 36 percent financial advantage. Of course, we know adopting diversity, equity, and inclusion values is just the right thing to do, but if you need to make a business case for diversity hiring to get a leadership buy-in, facts like these will certainly get the attention of the C-Suite.

Employee Engagement

Working in a diverse environment makes employees happier than when they are in a less inclusive one. This is extremely important to keep in mind because research shows 58 percent of people are actually willing to accept a pay cut to work in an environment that makes them happy. A happy employee is an engaged employee, so when the workplace makes the effort to become more diverse and inclusive, it boosts productivity, creativity, and the all-around morale of the workforce.

Fresh Perspectives

Having more underrepresented voices at the table helps companies avoid missteps that can chip away at their credibility among both consumers and talent. For example, Walmart recently came under fire for being racially insensitive after selling Juneteenth ice cream under its Great Value brand. In a similar incident in 2018, H&M was criticized for releasing an advertisement with a black boy wearing a T-shirt that read “coolest monkey in the jungle.” Unilever also found itself in hot water in 2017 for a Dove body wash ad on Facebook that critics believe implied using the product would wash away blackness.

The companies may not have gone into these situations with bad intentions at all, however, if there were more people from underrepresented communities in the room, there would have been voices involved in the decision-making process that would have warned them of the mistakes they were about to make, and the bad impression they would leave on people of color, as well as their allies.


If you think people looking for a job won't care about your company's reputation, think again. Job seekers want to know that the company they work for cares about the things they care about, and treats workers with the fairness and respect they deserve. And they'll be sure to check before even applying for a position: A survey by CareerArc revealed that 61 percent of job hunters look at a company’s website before putting in an application, which makes adding your DE&I initiatives to your career page, along with diversity data, particularly important. Also, companies must create and nurture a positive employer brand to get prospective candidates excited about possibly working for them.

Additionally, your company's reputation surrounding diversity and inclusion has an impact on your ability to connect with consumers. People want to do business with organizations that are diverse, and they're willing to take their dollars elsewhere if you don't meet these expectations. Research from Russell Reynolds Associates found that 42 percent of consumers are actually willing to pay more for products sold by companies that have made a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and Adobe discovered that 61 percent of Americans believe it’s important for companies to create advertising that promotes D&I.

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Common Mistakes With Diversity Hiring

If you've already implemented a diversity recruitment plan, or you intend to, it's not going to be effective unless you do it right—and that means avoiding pitfalls that can hinder your progress. The following are some common mistakes with diversity hiring to steer clear of.

The GPA Requirement Mistake

Companies may expect early career talent to have a certain GPA in the hopes this requirement will attract high-quality candidates, but when it comes to diversity recruitment goals, it may shoot them in the foot. Oftentimes, college students from historically-underserved communities need to work full-time jobs while attending school full-time, which means their grades may suffer as they try to focus on their studies and making ends meet. As a result, this mistake may actually alienate the very people companies want to hire.

The Language Mistake

Since a job post may be the first interaction you have with potential candidates, avoiding the language mistake is imperative because the words you choose in your job descriptions can attract or repel talent. If you're not using inclusive language, it subconsciously sends the message that you're not interested in specific types of applicants. 

For example, a job post that has language generally associated with men, such as “ambitious,” “assertive,” “aggressive,” and “confident,” may turn off women who would've otherwise applied for the job. If you’re specifically trying to get women into your hiring funnel, it's best to use words that women may respond to more positively, such as “collaborate,” “understand,” “nurture,” and “interpersonal.” Similarly, to be inclusive to all genders, you should avoid using pronouns in your job posts, so instead of saying “he” or “she,” refer to readers in the second person, which gives you the opportunity to speak to them directly in a way that connects with everyone who sees the ad.

In addition to gendered language, pay close attention to language that may turn off people because of references to their culture, ability status, age, and race. Also, avoiding jargon will go a long way toward attracting more applicants, because many qualified candidates who have the skills you want may not be as familiar with the vocabulary of your industry as you are.

The Sourcing Mistake

We’ve all heard the old adage about insanity, so keep that in mind if you’re sourcing from the same ineffective channels over and over again and expecting to yield different results. To avoid the sourcing mistake, evaluate your channels to determine which ones are working and which ones are not. For example, if you're using the same job boards as part of your diversity recruiting strategy, yet you're not finding the talent demographics you need, it's time to switch things up. One effective way to do this is by going to where the applicants you want to attract congregate, such as job boards tailored to these specific groups.

Also, be mindful of the colleges you’re sourcing from when looking for early career talent. Some recruiters may think that going to only Ivy League schools is the best use of their time, but there are many institutions out there with the smart, talented students you want to engage with. For example, historically Black colleges and universities can be excellent places to find talent with all the skills and qualifications you’ll find in the Ivy League.

The Interviewing Mistake

The interviewing mistake can manifest in the form of the questions hiring managers ask. When people feel connected with someone because they have similar backgrounds, the interview may go much differently than it would with someone from a different demographic—oftentimes leading to unconscious bias and unfair hiring decisions. As a result, it's important for interviewers to avoid this by having standardized questions specifically about the job that all candidates answer.

Another common interviewing mistake that can hinder your diversity hiring is not being flexible enough with interview times. People who come from underserved communities may have to work more than one job, as well as irregular hours, which makes it difficult to come in for in-person interviews during business hours. You can avoid this interview mistake by being more accommodating to these candidates—allowing them to schedule virtual interviews on evenings and weekends—so they have the same opportunity to sell themselves that others get.   

The Biased Offer Mistake

You can be as careful as possible during the hiring process, but if you make this mistake when you do hire someone, you're not going to retain them long. Job offers need to be fair: No matter who you hire, you must pay what they're worth, as well as offer equitable benefits and opportunities for education and advancement. If an employee from an underserved community accepts a job at your organization only to find out later that they’re not receiving the same pay and benefits other people enjoy, that employee will leave to find a company that will.

Diversity hiring can benefit organizations and employees alike, but it's important for recruiters to use best practices to successfully hire and retain the talent they want. Using these diversity in recruitment tips can help you meet your goals, and avoid mistakes that can put you behind the eight ball.

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