Career Advice

How To Attract Diverse Talent

Jerry Seinfeld has a comedy routine about how men try to catch the attention of women by honking the car horn and yelling to them from construction sites. Meanwhile, women are seeking guidance from articles like ‘Where to Meet Men’ — and the irony leaves men screaming, “We’re here, we are everywhere!”

This is the same frustration felt by talented, diverse job seekers trying to land their next job—they’re here, they are everywhere. But there is a disconnect in the recruitment process and employers are missing them.

We know there are myriad benefits to making your workplace more diverse and inclusive, so how can your company make more meaningful gestures to attract diverse talent?

Focus on inclusion, not tokenism 

Diversity can quickly become lip service, as we know by the sheer number of companies that continue to have massive underrepresentation of women and people of color at all levels. So if you want to build a diverse workforce, you must do more than check off some boxes – you need to thoughtfully create a company culture that will draw a range of candidates. And then you have to keep them.

It’s not enough to say you want to be diverse and inclusive. You must show that you will genuinely value these employees as crucial to your mission and success.  That takes consistency and isn’t something that’s accomplished overnight through diversity training.

Your diverse employees, like all others, should feel valued for their strengths, not just recognized for their differences. And that should be reflected in your brand.

One of the critical lessons companies must learn is the difference between diversity and tokenism. Tokenism is merely a symbolic effort. When organizations hire one woman or person of color and parade them around as a symbol of their diversity efforts, it’s clear that they’re not committed to a meaningful attempt to change their company’s culture. This kind of thinking leads to checkbox diversity – turning it into a to-do list – instead of real, substantive change.

Your diverse employees, like all others, should feel valued for their strengths, not just recognized for their differences. And that should be reflected in your brand. A company’s recruiting material needs to highlight your mission, values, culture, and the reasons the most talented people would choose to work for your organization. It’s often beneficial to sit down with your team to discuss ways to highlight the diverse range of people, talents, and skills in your company. But that diversity must also be part of your workplace’s everyday experience. False advertising won’t help you maintain a diverse workforce.

Write job descriptions that include—not exclude

Did you know that women tend to only apply to jobs if they meet 100% of the listed qualifications, whereas men will apply if they meet just 60% of them?

According to Harvard Business Review, the top reason women chose not to apply for a job was the belief they wouldn’t be hired for not meeting all the qualifications. It had nothing to do with confidence or their ability to perform the job at its highest level. They understood the qualifications to be requirements and chose to remove themselves from the process.

Did you know that women tend to only apply to jobs if they meet 100% of the listed qualifications, whereas men will apply if they meet just 60% of them? If so…you could be excluding half of your candidates before the interviews even begin.

The language used in a job ad—that is, phrases, terms, and style—should be as neutral as possible to ensure the highest number of applicants. For example, gender-neutral wording has been proven to help engage 42% more candidates. Avoiding superlatives and extreme modifiers like “best of the best,” “world-class,” and “rockstar” will also keep employers from alienating applicants such as underrepresented groups who come from populations where such phrases aren’t common. The National Center For Women & Information Technology has many useful tips like these to consider when writing job descriptions for roles in every industry.

Another group you may be alienating are people with disabilities, who have an unemployment rate twice as high as those with no stated disability. Many job descriptions list details such as “good manual dexterity,” “ability to walk, sit, and stand for long periods,” “ability to lift 20 pounds,” or “own a vehicle”—often for jobs that don’t require those “skills.” This language can be off-putting to all candidates, including those with invisible disabilities, who might have not any issues excelling in the role.

So, when writing job descriptions, ask yourself, “Would I ever compromise on this qualification based on experience, education, creativity, or another factor?” If so, be clear about whether it’s a requirement or a preference – otherwise, you could be excluding half of your candidates before the interviews even begin.

Proactive outreach is key 

Don’t assume that if you build it, they will come. If you want to attract diverse talent, you must be proactive in your efforts to reach women, people of color, the differently-abled, and any groups that are underrepresented in your location, industry, and job functions.

Utilize niche job boards…Let these tools do the work of reaching a diverse audience for specific roles so you can focus on selecting the most qualified candidates from a pool you know is highly diverse.

Don’t be afraid to change up how and where you recruit. Recruiters often stick with the same legacy schools or job boards year after year and wonder why their results don’t change. Instead of recruiting the way it’s always been done, think about how you can use this outreach to find the candidates you’ve been missing.

Here are some proven ways to reach out to a more diverse applicant pool:

  • Take advantage of college recruitment programs. Many of these programs focus on women and minorities and are one of the best ways to increase diversity. Try spending time recruiting at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), women’s colleges, or bilingual career fairs. College campuses are full of talented and diverse individuals that you can engage early in their careers. And next time you are on campus for that networking activity or recruiting event, try reaching out to faculty or department heads to inquire about their brightest students. Competition is stiff for the best, so you can gain an advantage by proactively identifying your next intern or entry-level hire.
  • Utilize niche job boards – like or – which specialize in attracting job seekers from underrepresented groups. Let these tools do the work of reaching a diverse audience for specific roles so you can focus on selecting the most qualified candidates from a pool you know is highly diverse.
  • Network in specialty groups like Women Who Code, National Society For Hispanic Professionals, or National Black MBA Association. Members of these organizations take their careers seriously, and it’s easy to connect with them through LinkedIn or regional events. Let them see what you are about and who you care about hiring. You can even volunteer to be a guest speaker at meet-ups, highlighting the diversity efforts your company is making and gaining invaluable feedback in the process.
  • Hire a specialist. More and more companies have created roles such as “diversity specialists” and “diversity managers” to guide employee recruitment, retention, and engagement. The key is empowering them to make recruitment recommendations, weigh in on hiring processes, and have other team members share hiring and promotion decisions with them to promote social accountability. When others know they have to explain such decisions, they are more careful to focus strictly on performance and to consider all qualified candidates, which tends to reduce bias that might have previously affected such choices.

Go blind to limit bias

Unconscious biases are everywhere, not just in the business world. Did you know that before the 1970s, women made up a mere 5% of the U.S’s top 5 symphony orchestras? These numbers changed drastically later in the 70s and the 80s when they began to hold blind auditions in which musicians played behind a curtain, obscuring gender, ethnicity, age, etc. Remarkably, when performers were judged on talent alone with no regard to their appearance, the number of female musicians in those top 5 orchestras increased from 6 percent in 1970 to 21 percent in 1993.

So why not apply similar “blind” techniques to the business world? Research shows that minorities who “whiten” their names on resumes, for example, are up to 75% more likely to receive an interview request. Resumes with male names are 40% more likely to get an interview request.

To help overcome this gender and racial bias, employers have found success by removing applicant’s names, photos, and personal details from their applications and screening tests. Other employers have refrained from using in-person or video interviews early in the hiring process to keep bias based on appearance from affecting hiring decisions.

It’s clear that bias – unconscious or not – still runs rampant in the hiring process, and blind techniques can help level the field so that the most qualified candidates (based on performance) rise to the top.

Utilize referral programs with caution

Numerous sources claim that referral programs have quality, time-to-hire, and employee retention advantages over other programs. However, there is continued debate on the effect that referrals have on workplace diversity since employees typically refer candidates ‘like’ themselves. If your current team members are similar in age, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, it’s pretty easy to guess that your referrals will be homogenous.

This is why it’s imperative to build a referral program after you’ve improved the inclusivity of your company culture and current hiring processes. It’s much easier to receive quality referrals from a diverse range of talented professionals when you’ve already laid the groundwork for diversity to flourish.

There are also various types of referral sources outside of current employees. Consider asking your clients, partners, LinkedIn connections, and thought leaders in your space if they know anyone who would be a valuable addition to your workforce. Most people would not put their reputation on the line unless they genuinely believed in someone. And having an endorsement from a trusted source can help you tap into high-quality candidates.

Once you start seeing results from your referral program, assess it for its effectiveness. Who is using it? What kind of employees are being referred to your company? Could you do a better job of diversifying the referrals you get?

In summary

There is no shortage of effective recruitment methods to improve diversity in your workforce. After all, diverse candidates are everywhere. But you could be sabotaging your efforts with non-inclusive company culture, dated hiring processes, unconscious bias, and poorly worded job descriptions.

Of course, once you’ve recruited a talented, diverse team, challenges remain. The next step to creating – and reaping the benefits of – a diverse workforce is retaining your new employees.