Article · 6 minute read

Supporting Better Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) Outcomes Through Hiring Activity

By Katie Herridge 8th August 2022

“When everyone is included, everyone wins.”
Jesse Jackson, Politician, Civil Rights Activist

Hiring activity is the first stop for ensuring good DE&I across your organization. 

The benefits of hiring a more diverse workforce are now widely accepted:

  • A mix of skills that leads to increased knowledge, innovation and creativity.
  • A better employee experience.
  • Increased employee retention and career development.
  • Improved bottom line and return to stakeholders.
  • Greater engagement and productivity.
Not a ‘should do’ but a ‘must do’

Accompanying the clear benefits are legal ramifications that can land an organization in hot water if they get DE&I wrong. Laws such as the 4/5th Rule in the USA and the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) in the UK protect employees and candidates, ensuring that organizations must pay due attention to how they hire. 

Think more diversely about diversity

Strategies to boost DE&I have a tendency to focus on one aspect, such as ensuring a more even gender split at board level or encouraging applications from neurodiverse candidates. A truly diverse organization employs people of different cultural and social backgrounds, ages, genders, disabilities, religions, sexual orientation and varying levels of professional experience.  

Top hiring tips for better DE&I
Get the job role right

Be clear on how the job role should look. This is fundamental to ensuring the overall process is free from bias and that you can make defensible decisions about who you have hired and why. 

  • Are you incorporating a multi-method approach to how you formulate job role specifications?

  • Do you carefully review wording of job descriptions to ensure they are free from bias and clearly state the competencies and requirements of the role?

To get this right, implement a multi-method approach that involves a variety of stakeholders such as managers, current job incumbents, etc. Ensure consistency is maintained by using methods such as structured interviews, card sorts and role profiling tools. These will allow for clarity on exactly what the role entails and define the competencies that are most important. 

Wording on job descriptions should clearly layout the competencies required, along with any additional requirements of the job such as where the work will be completed.

Weigh up the benefits of a hybrid approach

WTW data illustrates that the percentage of employees working in a remote/hybrid model is set to rocket to 56% from 9% just three years ago. This trend for a more flexible style of working will open up many roles to a wider candidate pool.   

However, allowing greater flexibility in where and when someone can work may not always equate to increased diversity across all groups. 

  • Have you given due consideration to how increased flexibility could encourage/discourage applicants from different groups?

Home working can appear attractive to more socially affluent, older groups who can afford a suitable space to work from home, or those with additional caring responsibilities who may be looking for the increased flexibility that a hybrid, flexible working pattern allows.  

To make hybrid work effectively from a DE&I perspective, think about your strategy in relation to individual needs rather than a forced one-size-fits all approach. If there are particular groups you need to attract as part of your DE&I strategy, take time to think about how hybrid could work best. Prepare to be flexible to people’s needs.    

Increase inclusivity at the application stage

Where and how you target applicants can make a real difference to how diverse your initial applicant pool is. The positioning of where you advertise for roles can affect the social status, ethnicity and other characteristics of your applicant pool. For early careers recruitment, consider the non-traditional Universities you may fish for talent and consider capturing passive talent from alternate sources. Many talented individuals are not presented with the opportunity to bring their talent to the surface. It’s important to look for ways to open up opportunities across social groups wherever possible.

Candidates from different groups want to look at the external face of your organization, most likely your website, and see representation. It is difficult to attract diversity at the application stage if all candidates see when they look at your company profile is people that are different to them.      

  • Are you giving thought to how you target and where you advertise roles to ensure you are reaching a wide variety of applicants?

  • Do you collect data and regularly review the diversity of your applicant pool, including aspects such as social mobility?

  • Can applicants see your pledge to diversity, such as stories of individual career paths that demonstrate what DE&I means within your organization?

Monitor applications regularly to know that you are receiving applications from a wide variety of candidates. If you are not seeing a good spread, try something different. Look at your existing pool of employees and see where you already have good diversity that you can showcase. Adding some diversity success stories to your company’s online profile can encourage applicants from more diverse backgrounds.

Include objective data

Decision making is prone to bias. Whether we are conscious of the views we hold or are subject to unconscious bias, it’s clear that the use of more objective forms of data over human opinion can help support better DE&I outcomes. However, there is a balance to be struck between utilizing objective data that allows diversity to flourish versus automated AI software which risks introducing bias. AI software for use in screening has recently come under review in the UK in relation to concerns that it may be discriminating against neurodiverse people or ethnic minorities.    


  • Are you fully aware of the challenges and pitfalls of using AI software (face recognition, biometrics, VR etc) in selection?

CVs and lengthy biodata forms are still very popular at the application stage.  Even when aspects of data such as name and gender are removed there is still an opportunity for this information to add bias to a process. Aspects such as the school attended, hobbies and clubs have all been shown to influence a recruiter’s decision making. One way to use data wisely and to be more objective in decision making is to bring the use of valid assessment data forward to the very front end of the application process. 

  • Are you using objective assessment data to check and balance your selection decision making?

Processes that put assessments right at the forefront have better outcomes when it comes to both Return on Investment and DE&I. This allows hiring managers to see those that are likely to be best for the role, regardless of any background characteristics they have. 

Our client Fujitsu removed lengthy online applications and bio data from their selection process, adding assessment as an initial screener.

As a result, they boosted their DE&I outcomes with a 19% increase in complete applications by Black, Asian, minority-ethnic candidates, saw a 20% increase in social mobility and a 400% increase in the number of successful candidates with a disability.

Choose the right assessment

Assessment choice should be clearly linked to the requirements identified during job analysis. In addition, there are a number of other factors that should always influence assessment choice. 

  • Validity – look for assessments that have high validity data. Validity is fundamental to the effective application of tests in the workplace. It helps ensure the assessment is fair and that what it is measuring validly affects performance on the given task/role.

  • Fairness – reputable assessment providers will have analysis on the fairness of the assessment against different groups. Take some time to look at the manual or talk to your supplier about their data.

  • Preparation – ensure the assessments you are using provide candidates with adequate opportunity to prepare/practice. This allows candidates to fully understand the assessment process and highlight any concerns they have about their ability to sit the test under standard conditions.

  • Accessibility – take time to familiarize yourself with the range of adjustments that can be considered for candidates with diverse needs. Think about accessibility from the very first point of contact through to final interview/assessment center stages.  Ensure the process provides an opportunity for diverse needs to be disclosed without prejudice and for candidates to request any required adjustments.
Support DE&I at interview and beyond

As we’ve noted above, objective, valid assessment data can help funnel a more diverse candidate pool through to the latter stages, but how do organizations ensure that interviews remain free from bias and that diversity is not lost right at the point it matters most?  

In recent years, there has been a trend to utilize AI at the interview stage.  However, we would recommend that caution should be applied before implementing such processes… This can result in biased results against gender, race or neurodiversity. 

  • How are you ensuring all candidates have the same interview experience, regardless of interviewer?

  • Are you utilizing objective assessment data at the interview stage?

The key is to implement a standardized, structured approach to interviewing. Doing this will significantly increase the validity of interview (Sacket at al 2021), ensuring that the questions being asked are clearly measuring the competencies outlined in your job analysis.  

Our recommendation would be to introduce standardized interview guides generated from assessments, such as the Wave Interview Guides. This helps utilize objective assessment data, reduces preparation time for hiring managers and provides consistency in questioning. 

Implement clear scoring criteria

The criteria used to score interviews and assessment exercises must also be objective and consistent. This helps alleviate bias creeping in at the final stage.

Investing time to fully train hiring managers and those involved in interviews and assessment days to be able to score responses consistently increases the overall validity of your selection process. 

A model such as the WAVES (Watch & Write, Assign, Value, Evaluate and Summarize) Model can provide an excellent framework to help increase consistency. 

Monitor and request feedback

To fully understand if your hiring process is contributing positively to overall DEI, undertake regular monitoring practices and request feedback from candidates and those you employ.  

  • How are your processes being monitored and what active strategies have you put in place?

Remember that not all diverse characteristics are visible, and that candidates or employees are under no obligation to disclose aspects of their lives such as neurodiversity or sexual orientation to you.

Feedback for candidates can form an important closing point for unsuccessful candidates, providing them with clarity on why they were unsuccessful for the role and ensuring a positive candidate experience regardless of outcome. 

Supporting DE&I through hiring activity

With the right strategies in place, organizations can use their hire activity to positively support DE&I. Thorough job analysis, avoidance of fully AI-driven methods, upfront assessment and monitoring are all key to this.  

Find Out More

For help and advice ensuring that your hire activity is best supporting DE&I, get in touch today.

Useful reading list and resources: