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10 Ways to Attract a Better, More Diverse Applicant Pool

A diverse workforce can bring new ideas, fresh perspectives, and improve employee engagement. However, employers sometimes find it a challenge to attract the right talent. To help, here are some best practices for recruiting and hiring a diverse workforce.

#1: Understand which groups are underrepresented.

Take an honest look at your current workforce and assess where you may be lacking in diversity. This can help inform your strategy for seeking talent in other applicant groups.

#2: Tap into a wide variety of recruiting methods.

Relying on one or two recruiting methods may limit the quality and diversity of your applicant pool and increase the time it takes to fill the open role. In addition to using online job boards and asking for employee referrals, consider organizations, online forums, social media, trade groups, and schools that serve communities that are underrepresented in your current workforce.

#3: Consider using government resources.

The federal government has resources to help connect employers with certain groups of applicants. For example, the VETS program provides employers with assistance in finding qualified veterans in their area, and employers that hire veterans may be eligible for tax credits. Additionally, the federal government's Workforce Recruitment Program connects employers to a database of college students and recent graduates with disabilities seeking employment. There are also tax incentives available for employers that hire and accommodate workers with disabilities. Contact your tax advisor for more information.

#4: Use inclusive language.

Ensure that job advertisements and job descriptions use language that encourages all groups to apply and avoid keywords or phrases historically associated with a particular gender. For example, if the position has specific physical demands, focus on the task that needs to be done, rather than how it's done (such as, the position requires "moving" 50 pounds, instead of "lifting" 50 pounds). Employees with disabilities may be able to perform the essential functions of the job with an accommodation, such as using a cart, dolly, or mobility aid. Additionally, avoid language that could be construed to indicate a preference based on age or another protected characteristic. For instance, "this job would be ideal for someone young/recent college graduate." If the pay is lower, you can say that the job is entry-level or simply list the wage or salary. Never assume a worker wouldn't be interested in a job based on their age or the salary offered. Also, include an equal opportunity statement that demonstrates your commitment to diversity and inclusion.

#5: Avoid inflating job requirements.

Identify clear job-related criteria by which you will assess applicants and apply the criteria consistently. If your educational requirements exceed those needed for the position, it may be difficult to fill the role and you may be overlooking otherwise qualified candidates. For example, not every job requires a bachelor's degree, but many employers include it as a qualification regardless of the position. Inflating educational requirements may also undermine the value of on-the-job experience and important skills that are developed outside of the classroom. Further, the practice may lead to discrimination claims if it excludes certain protected groups who tend to graduate college at lower rates.

#6: Introduce "blind auditions" into your hiring process.

Blind auditions can help prevent biases from impacting hiring decisions. For example, you can make it a policy to remove names when giving resumes and applications to the person who decides whom to call in for interviews. This can help reduce the potential for discrimination, since you're unable to act on any biases related to gender, race, or national origin because the individual's identity is completely unknown.

#7: Diversify the selection committee.

Include a diverse group of company representatives in the screening and selection process to help prevent biases from affecting hiring decisions. Train decision-makers to avoid basing decisions on explicit and implicit biases. If you use technology to help screen and select candidates, make sure the data it uses is accurate, job-related, and from a diverse pool. For example, if information from your current workforce is the only data used, relying on such a tool may create a barrier for groups that are not already well represented in your workforce.

#8: Evaluate screening and selection procedures.

Employment tests should be job-related and consistent with business necessity, and should not disproportionately exclude applicants in a protected class. If your selection process screens out a protected group, determine whether there is another test available that would be equally effective in predicting job performance. Before implementing pre-employment tests, it's a best practice to validate the tests for the positions and purposes for which you plan to use them (see the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures for information on validating tests). Review tests when job requirements change to ensure continued validity. Also, train decision makers on how to use the results effectively and closely monitor hiring decisions to spot any potential issues early.

#9: Provide reasonable accommodations.

Under certain laws, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants and employees with a disability, or for sincerely held religious beliefs and practices, unless doing so would cause undue hardship. Some laws require accommodations in additional circumstances, such as when an employee has a pregnancy-related condition. A reasonable accommodation is a change in the work environment or in the way work is customarily done that enables an individual to perform the essential functions of the job and enjoy equal employment opportunities. Employers sometimes forget that these accommodations may also be required for applicants.

#10: Review policies and practices.

At a minimum, ensure that policies and practices comply with applicable federal, state, and local nondiscrimination laws and are free of both implicit and explicit biases. Additionally, think about whether your practices truly foster diversity and inclusion. Solicit candid feedback from employees and adjust your practices if needed.

Conclusion:

To demonstrate that you value diversity and inclusion, ensure all employment practices are free of discrimination and tailored to attract and retain a broad demographic.

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