Numerous factors have been driving businesses of all sizes to hire from increasingly diverse pools of candidates. Firstly, a well-known McKinsey study stated that inclusion and diversity (I&D) leaders and organizations are more likely to outperform competitors who are yet to prioritize inclusivity initiatives.
And with the widespread global talent shortage, it’s important to highlight how an inclusive working environment can reap other rewards too, like a positive employer brand image that can attract top candidates. There are also other benefits, such as tax credits (Work Opportunity Tax Credit) and deductions, to consider.
However, as a CEO working to build pathways to employment for under-resourced communities, I’ve noticed companies still have a long way to go to improve their hiring practices to get these results. Here’s how they can go about it.
Understand The Needs Of Under-Resourced Communities
Often, recruiters start with a more inbound approach to attract diverse talent, focusing on perfecting job descriptions and removing coded language.
Shawnee Williams from Illinois Equity Staffing highlights, “When it comes to making more inclusive and equitable job descriptions, it’s vital to clearly define must-haves and nice to haves avoid gendered language.”
William continues, “We always recommend and challenge the employer creating the job description around needing a college degree requirement or not. For example, 70% of African American individuals and 78% of Hispanic workers don’t have a college degree. Adjusting a job description to allow to not require a college degree opens up a lot of talent through a skills-based hiring approach.”
This is very important, but it is also vital to actively investigate the unique challenges individuals from underprivileged backgrounds face. Companies should turn to their own employees for insights. Asking team members from underrepresented groups about the challenges they faced during the job search process can help when designing more effective and inclusive hiring practices.
If companies do this, they’ll notice a recurring pointer arising: Job seekers from marginalized communities can often experience elevated interview anxiety due to financial problems, finding the proper attire, and arranging child care, among many other reasons.
Therefore, from the get-go, businesses must ensure that interview timings align with the commitments of this untapped pipeline of job candidates. Many are single parents, managing multiple jobs, and grappling with busy schedules and difficult circumstances. Even offering a simple checklist or explaining the interview format beforehand could improve turnout and leave less room for unconscious bias to seep in.
During the interviews, a diverse interview panel can help these candidates feel more comfortable, while interviewers genuinely showing an interest in the candidate’s background and skills can help boost confidence. And the more conversation-like the interview feels, the more it will ease their nerves and help the interviewer establish a human connection.
Prioritize Skill-Based Recruitment
In a nutshell, skilled-based hiring focuses on evaluating candidates based on their specific skills and abilities relevant to the job instead of their educational achievements or past roles.
Companies like Google, IBM, and Walmart have been implementing skills-based hiring practices. Meanwhile, the governors of Alaska, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Utah have eliminated college degree requirements for many jobs in local government.
Using employee skill assessments and role-specific tasks—like debugging code issues or creating marketing campaigns, for example—can help reduce hiring bias and better predict performance than formal interviews. This is because focusing on objective skills and competencies rather than relying heavily on subjective factors can lead to fairer evaluations and more diverse hiring choices.
Additionally, industries and technologies are evolving rapidly, meaning job roles and requirements are changing daily. Embracing skill-based recruitment empowers companies to identify candidates capable of bridging skill caps in the organization, thereby minimizing disruptions in daily operations.
Diversify Sourcing Of Candidates
Companies need to remember that not all job seekers, especially those from underserved communities, use LinkedIn or Indeed as their primary platform for job searching and networking. In fact, over 50% of the job candidates we help employers find through our platform don’t use those channels.
This is still partly due to the prevalent digital divide, stopping job seekers from underserved communities from having reliable internet access and creating barriers to maintaining profiles on professional networking platforms. Plus, traditional methods like word-of-mouth referrals are still very popular, so some candidates might not view these platforms as a crucial aspect of their job-seeking strategy.
That’s why businesses need to expand their recruitment efforts to reach a broader range of candidates by collaborating with local community centers, job training programs, and nonprofits. This way, they can reach job seekers who might not be active on platforms like LinkedIn. Another recruitment technique is to attend job fairs, community events, and partnerships with non-profit organizations to tap into a broader talent pool.
Melissa O’Dell, Executive Director of Defy Ventures, a nonprofit organization, says, “The unfortunate reality is that people with criminal histories are often excluded from economic opportunities, which increases the likelihood of recidivism.” She continues, “ But companies can benefit from this labor force and create a more equitable society at the same time because many individuals who have had contact with the judicial system have amazing skills and talents.”
Plenty of information already exists about adopting more inclusive hiring practices. But what should be included is the need to research and understand the needs and challenges faced by underprivileged communities first-hand. Only then can organizations tailor their recruitment strategies to bridge existing gaps, prioritize skill-based assessments, and focus on reaching candidates where they are. By seeking to proactively create a more diverse pool of potential hires, businesses can meet their organizational inclusion goals and stay ahead of global talent shortages.
This article includes a client of an Espacio portfolio company