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Inclusive Recruitment: How HR Can Pioneer Change

Inclusive recruitment has rapidly become a top priority for many businesses. But when faced with organizational barriers or lack of buy-in, what can HR teams do to get back on track?

Understanding inclusive recruitment (and the barriers against it)

HR and recruitment teams are uniquely qualified to spearhead diversity and inclusion at their organizations. Yet all too often, these teams are met with little buy-in from senior leaders and a lack of autonomy to enact meaningful change.

‘Inclusive recruitment’ might be earmarked for discussion, but when it comes to putting plans into action, the process grinds to a halt.

To find out why let’s pull back and first define what inclusive recruitment actually is.

Inclusive recruitment refers to the process of finding, interviewing, and hiring employees across a broad spectrum of backgrounds, races, genders, sexualities, ages, and schools of thought. To be truly inclusive, though, recruiters need to look beyond arbitrary quotas and genuinely welcome diversity in the workforce; ensuring that new recruits feel secure and valued in their workplace, too.


Here’s why that’s so important…

Inclusive recruitment attracts top talent

From the outside looking in, an inclusive recruitment process is attractive for potential employees.

After all, today’s job-seekers are more and more attuned to workplace D&I; they want their corporate teams to reflect the world around them.

In fact, 64% of candidates say that diversity is an essential factor in accepting a job offer — so what message are you putting out there right now?

But it’s not enough to exhibit inclusivity in your recruitment process if the wider company culture fails to reflect the same.

To keep the talent you’ve acquired through your inclusive recruitment efforts, HR teams need to foster the right environment for equal opportunities. Who gets selected for promotion? What’s your maternity and paternity leave like?

These are important questions to ask. Not only do they help shape your inclusive recruitment drives, but they keep top talent in place within your teams.

Inclusive recruitment and its role in commercial success

Homogenous teams are held back by groupthink: making decisions in a way that prioritizes consensus over individuality. And this is dangerous for the business. Why? Because when everyone thinks the same way there are fewer opportunities to shake things up and create your most innovative work. 

So if you’re being asked to build the most high-performing, competitive teams (and we’re betting you are), inclusive recruitment should be your focus.

Would you class your workplace as an inclusive environment?

Have your leaders been trained on inclusive values? Are your D&I goals tracked and updated on a regular basis? Do you provide each recruitment candidate with a level playing field, regardless of their race, gender, socio-economic standing, or physical ability? 

If you answered no to any of these questions, you’d probably be in the majority. 

But just because we’re all in the same boat, doesn’t mean we’re on track (or on course to get anywhere good).

HR tips to put inclusive recruitment top of the agenda

Creating an inclusive working environment is an ongoing and iterative process. That said, there’s no time like the present to start building a workplace that advocates for diversity and inclusion.

1) Write inclusive job descriptions and cut the jargon

When writing a new job posting, use plain language to define the job and its requirements clearly. Do you really need someone with a specific degree or number of years’ experience, or can you instead list the skills you associate with those qualifications? 

Requiring a certain level of education or years of experience can disqualify otherwise excellent candidates. In fact, many women will only apply for a job if they feel they match the criteria 100%.

Try to stay away from technical jargon in your job descriptions, too. Could someone outside of your company easily understand the job posting?

To double-check for clarity, run your job description by someone outside of your company and ask if it makes sense to them. If not, take their feedback and adjust accordingly. 

2) Proactively widen your search for applicants

If you usually source your applicants through employee referrals or the same few career fairs, you’re likely to have candidates who are very similar to your current employees.

When you look at new applicants, ask yourself: will they bring a fresh perspective to your team, or do they come from the same background as many of your current employees?

And if you see that a particular group is missing from your candidate pool, be proactive. Look into ways to connect with and support those groups. You can also post your openings on new job boards to connect with a different group of applicants. 

3) Plan and run accessible interviews

Before the interview, make sure everyone on your team is prepared. That includes getting the team on the same page about things like:

  • What questions you’ll ask
  • The role of each interviewer
  • How you’ll objectively rank each applicant’s answers
  • How the room will be laid out
  • How long the interview will last

When you invite new candidates to interview for a role, make sure to ask whether they need any accommodations for accessibility as well. 

By preparing ahead of time, you put your candidates at ease and set them up for success. Remember to create the right tone, ask the right questions, and assess candidates based on the right — unbiased — criteria. 

4) Seek out a more diverse (and representative) recruiting team

As we mentioned before, groupthink is the enemy of progress. So little surprise then that a more diverse recruiting team can actually help increase in-house D&I in the long-run.


Looking for real-world evidence? In 2014, Intel asked two female team members and/or members of underrepresented communities to be involved in every recruitment interview. Before the new requirement, 31.9% of new hires were either women or people of color. Two years later, they were at 45.1%.

5) Be transparent about current D&I achievements and where you want to be in the future

No HR team can build a perfectly diverse workforce right away, and that’s okay. We’re all too aware of the obstacles and barriers that many organizations face. 

That said, it’s important to acknowledge that most companies have a lot of work to do. 78% of workers say their company lacks diversity in senior positions, and only 15% of corporate directors believe their companies score “excellent” for recruiting a diverse workforce.

So as you move toward inclusive recruitment, be transparent with your team, stakeholders, and — yes — future interviewees. Keep them well informed about your diversity and inclusion goals, where your company stands, and how you plan to enact change.

6) Lean on inclusive tools to build a diverse workforce

With the right training and policies in place, you’re well on your way to creating lasting change at your company through inclusive recruitment. Technology can take those efforts one step further by minimizing the effect of unconscious bias on your recruiting and hiring practices.


AI-powered recruiting tools like Headstart’s diversity-driven Applicant Matching and Management System can help you find best-fit candidates to build a diverse, inclusive, and talented workforce, without human bias. How? Headstart’s machine learning creates unique candidate-role fit scores — not letting gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or age get in the way.

7) Encourage other leaders to take unconscious bias training

83% of corporate directors believe that companies should be doing more to promote gender and racial diversity — and that change has to begin with leadership. 

But how do you convince established senior staff members that their worldview may be obstructing your inclusive recruitment efforts? It starts with unconscious bias training.

Unconscious bias influences your hiring decisions when you judge a candidate — either favorably or unfavorably — based on criteria that are irrelevant to the job. It shows up when we find ourselves sorting resumes into yes and no piles based on the zip code a candidate lives in, what college they attended, and even their name. 

Remember: No matter how entrenched these unconscious biases are, they can be trained out.

And there’s not a single organization under the sun that’s entirely immune. 

Big-name companies like Vodafone and KPMG have gone on record to share their stories of unconscious bias in the workplace — overlooking highly-qualified female job candidates, or gender imbalances that “worsened with each step up” the organizational ladder.

For other examples of unconscious bias in the workplace, check out our dedicated blog post on the subject.

But no matter how entrenched these unconscious biases are, they can be trained out. But it’s you, as HR, who’ll need to push for that change.

Pioneering change as an HR team — inclusive recruitment is within your reach

Diversity and Inclusion may feel like an uphill battle at times — and it is. Dismantling, then rebuilding, established recruitment practices won’t happen overnight. 

But in moments of near defeat, remember Martin Luther King Jr., one of the first (and greatest) inclusion champions, said “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward”

So just keep pushing.

Headstart is on a mission to transform the way organisations hire! We are the world's first diversity driven Applicant Matching and Management System. We use Machine Learning and Data Science to transform the recruitment process, enabling clients to find the right high potential employees regardless of gender, ethnic status, sexual orientation or age.

With major brands like Accenture publicly supporting our mission, Headstart is already improving the recruitment experience for candidates around the world.

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