Diversity in the workforce has become a must-have. Consumers demand that the brands they support have workforces that reflect their consumer bases. Companies with diverse employee pools are more financially sound, more innovative, and more productive.

The bottom line benefits are obvious — yet even so, recruiting initiatives at many companies still fail to include methods that appeal to a diverse range of races, religions, gender identities, and sexual orientations.

“The broken hiring process begins with recruiting,” says Jori Ford, senior director of SEO and content marketing at G2 Crowd, a review website for business software and services. Ford identifies as black, Korean, and queer — a rare figure of representation in the tech sector.

“Too often, managers hand recruiters job descriptions with a type of person already in mind,” Ford says. “We all fall into certain categories, but as human beings, we can’t fully be personified by any set of attributes. The keys to recruiting diverse hires are: a strategy centered around balanced cultural understanding, exposing candidates to the inclusive and egalitarian nature of the business early on, and developing an approach to answering questions that candidates may have, even before they ask.”

The Blind Hire

Oftentimes, executives notice a lack of diversity in the workforce and instruct recruiters to fix it without offering any direction. Recruiters react by directly targeting and prioritizing diverse candidates, which is in itself a form of discrimination.

By contrast, blind hiring — in which a candidate’s identifying information is removed from the process as much as possible, so that decisions are made based on merit and fit rather than biases — offers a more egalitarian, if imperfect, approach.

“Despite its shortcomings, blind hiring is a good practice that, with some tweaks, can support diversity as well as cultural fit within a candidate pool,” Ford says. “Many organizations employ blind hiring as part of the initial stages of recruitment and have seen success. The concern for many is that this type of process won’t support cultural fit. However, these concerns can be addressed by centering company culture around inclusion. When given standardized, open-format questions, candidates can demonstrate what they value without having to reveal who they are in a face-to-face meeting.”

Recruiters can get caught in a trap, trying to fill internal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) quotas rather than finding the best person for the job. While the hearts of these recruiters might be in the right place, their methods are not.

Fords advice to the quota recruiters: “Stop it.”

“Quotas minimize value within a business,” he explains. “Smart companies know that investing in qualified candidates is imperative to the future of the business. It is a fact that more diverse companies perform better financially. So why should building a pipeline that increases diversity be different from any other business investment?”

The Questionable Practice of Targeted Recruiting

In response to the demand for more diverse candidates, staffing agencies have sprung up that promise to deliver. Some professionals question the ethics of agencies that target candidates based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, or other factors that might categorize a candidate as a “minority candidate.”

“I think that it really depends on their method of recruitment,” says Ford. “However, the fact that these candidates are being labeled as ‘minority’ candidates is definitely not part of the solution.”

Ford points out that recruiting services should, by definition, be blind. After all, their ostensible goal is to find the right person for the job, regardless of their demographic information. Agencies do the exact opposite when they focus only on a candidate’s “minority” status — a status Ford rejects, preferring term “underrepresented” to designate traditionally excluded populations.

“If you can’t tell, I don’t like the term ‘minority,’ the root word being ‘minor,’” Ford notes. “Recruiting for ‘minorities’ is inherently flawed. These candidates are by no means inferior or less than.”

To avoid being part of the problem, recruiting agencies that promise diverse candidates should first drop words like “minority” that can “demean their clients,” Ford says.

Next, “these firms can invest in building the pipeline, speak to candidates about diversity and inclusion, and most of all, support a blind hiring process,” Ford elaborates. “Don’t put forth ‘minority’ hiring strategies — put forth diversification and applicant pool expansion strategies while ensuring [to] promote their services to underrepresented candidates equally. Invest in the blind platforms that many of their customers can’t and ensure contracts that support final-state interview decisions based on scoring and objectivity.”

When it comes down to it, recruiting underrepresented candidates by targeting them for their underrepresented status is, in itself, a form of bigotry. Diversifying your workforce in this way is self-defeating. Instead, focus on expanding awareness of job opportunities to a more inclusive set of candidates. The key is not in redirecting your talent pipeline, but to make sure it has as many openings as possible on the candidate side.

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