How White Normative Recruiting Fails: Increase Your Diversity Performance

That's not a valid work email account. Please enter your work email (e.g.
Please enter your work email

 The Problem

Organizations are intent on committing to diversity and set out to hire diverse talent. They put out a job description, but their efforts fall flat. They receive no contact from diverse candidates — or receive communication from diverse candidates who don’t fit the bill. What can they do? 

The Cause

For starters, it’s essential to understand that we live in a White normative society, and, in most cases, the approach to recruitment may be White normative.  

What is White normativity? It’s the fact that we live in a White dominant culture. A White normative society shapes our institutions, media, and the way we see ourselves and each other.  

Take, for example, how the great majority of products and services available to us are designed for those who are melanin-challenged. Very few are designed for people of color, and those aren’t widely available. Hair products are a prime example. Beauty professionals who can cut or style the hair of those who are melanin-enhanced are few and far between, except in areas that people of color predominantly populate.  

The “White Dominant Culture and Something Different” worksheet  by the Partners for Collaborative Change provides an excellent description of this notion of the White dominant culture.  

From a recruiting perspective, the fact that we operate in a White normative society influences how we write job descriptions, advertise job positions, interview candidates, and establish our compensation packages. 

The Solution

Recruit diverse people in a White normative society requires distinct strategies and a specific mindset for each phase of the talent-life cycle. Strategies such as:

1. Engage in the groundwork for attracting diverse employees.      

Make sure the geographic community in which your organization exists provides the products and services desired by the people you wish to attract or you are willing to make arrangements to provide them. We know of people of color who have taken jobs and left because they could not find a barber to cut their hair.

2. Create a reputation that the organization is welcoming, inclusive, supportive, and a place to grow.   

Be visible in the community as an organization that wants diverse people for the diverse perspectives they bring. Make public statements about your commitment to diversity. Give presentations at conferences about your diversity efforts—partner with organizations that provide support for diverse populations. Publicly recognize diverse employees for their accomplishments.

3. Prepare for diversity.

Ensure that your organization’s policies and procedures are inclusive and equitable. Use bias-free language. Provide information on your website and other social media sites about how the organization pays more than lip service to workplace diversity and works to create an environment in which any individual can feel welcome, respected, and able to participate fully.  

4. Recruit with intention.

Hiring managers are accustomed to operating in a White normative society. This usually means job descriptions and advertisements are written and communicated in ways that won’t attract qualified, diverse candidates. Remove any overt or implied bias from job descriptions — such as gendered words (“salesman”). Focus on top competencies needed. Look for recruitment opportunities outside the box, such as advertising in ethnic newspapers or at networking events geared toward diverse groups. 

5. Hire with intention.

Mask faces and names in applications and resumes before reviewing. Take steps to de-bias yourself and anyone in the interview process. Ensure consistency and fairness in questioning, focusing on the real needs of the job. Remove invasive or irrelevant questions — such as “Do you have a family?” Involve diverse employees in the hiring decision. 

6. Retain with sensitivity.

Retention increases when people feel that they belong. Belonging can be enhanced by promoting allyship. Ensure that the views of underrepresented staff members are sought and heard. Remember, compensation isn’t just about money. As defined in Corporate Compensation Partners’ article “Compensation: Outline and Definitions , compensation is a system with components that include commissions, overtime pay, bonuses, profit sharing, merit pay, stock options, and benefits. Do not assume all employees value money overall. Consider what an employee needs or values. Some value work-life balance over an extra $5,000 of pay. Some may need assistance with a childcare situation that money cannot resolve. 

7. Establish accountability.

People and organizations do what they are held accountable to do. While there are EEOC rules (in the U.S. at least) that require non-discrimination, following those rules does not guarantee diverse people will be attracted to or remain with your organization. And we know that there are people who do not feel welcome in their organizations and do not challenge a discriminatory situation for many reasons.

The Great Resignation movement is making this more and more evident every day. Establish diversity-specific goals in the areas of business, process, people, and technology. Partner with an organization dedicated to equality to hold you accountable for achieving those goals.


You can successfully recruit diverse candidates if you use strategies that respect other cultures and seek out the strengths of those who bring different life experiences and viewpoints. Follow the guiding principle of embedding equitably and inclusion at every step of the talent life-cycle while keeping an eye on the organization’s overall goals.

Make sure you are not being “performative” and talking the talk but “genuine” and walking the walk. I challenge you to benchmark your performance today, implement the above strategies, and measure your performance a year after their implementation. I’ll bet you’ll be pleased with your results.


James T. McKim, PMP, ITIL, is the founder and managing partner at Organizational Ignition.



Get the top recruiting news and insights delivered to your inbox every week. Sign up for the Recruiter Today newsletter.

By James McKim