Guide to Finding and Attracting Diverse Talent

This guide explains how to make Diversity, Equity and Inclusion a core focus of your hiring approach.

What do we mean by Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, also known as DEI, is a hiring and employment strategy that focuses on creating an inclusive experience for all. 

It’s more than just about raising awareness, it’s also about proactively creating new hiring and employment methods that are fair and equitable.

Hiring Diverse Talent should be at the core of every business, not just an add-on or afterthought. As a startup, companies should factor it into their hiring plans immediately and design their approach to ensure it’s a permanent facet of their recruitment technique.

In this guide, we’ll take you through:

  • What hiring diverse talent means
  • How to remove bias from your hiring process
  • Why hiring diverse talent is a promise for the future
  • How to improve your diversity strategy

What Hiring Diverse Talent Means

Hiring Diverse Talent is the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc. 

When it comes to hiring and your business, inclusion is the bare minimum. It’s not just about hiring different races, genders, etc., it’s about ensuring that everyone who applies to your available roles has an equal and open opportunity. 

It’s also about being critical and unbiased when it comes to your hiring techniques, ensuring that every step of the process focuses on the quality of the candidate, not their race, gender, or ethnicity. 

How to Remove Bias From Your Hiring Process

We’ve discussed this in-depth before. Often, even experienced recruiters can mistake unconscious biases for gut instinct, excluding a candidate for reasons they can’t entirely put their finger on. 

One of the best ways of avoiding unconscious bias is including this question in your hiring process: 

“Do I have a specific reason for excluding this candidate?”

If you can’t answer that question, your feeling is coming from unconscious bias. Our key steps to hiring diversely and avoiding these pitfalls are: 

  1. Create a strong, clear interview process
  2. Anonymise as much as possible 
  3. Look at skills and abilities, not personal information 
  4. Remember that intuition that cannot be explained is more often than not a bias
  5. If your hiring manager rejects a candidate, ask why 
  6. Break down their answers and write them down in a shared document
  7. Then, ask them: ''Give me two reasons why you are rejecting this candidate”
  8. Document your process so it can be used for every future hire

One of the most important assets you can have in hiring diversely is scorecards

With clear metrics and measurements, you can fully assess why you liked or disliked the candidate, and why exactly you are choosing to hire or exclude them. It also levels the playing field, ensuring that every candidate is assessed by the same metrics.

Additionally, and more importantly, it also ensures that no matter who is interviewing the candidate, they are being assessed by the same metrics. 

This is vitally important if you want to ensure that you hire diversely and with equal opportunity.

It’s also important that when you extend an offer that you do so in a considerate and empathetic manner. Not only does this provide a more open experience for the candidate, but it can also improve your chances of them accepting your offer. 

Everyone Working Together

Hiring Diverse Talent is not the responsibility of one person. Every member of your team must also make it a priority in their recruiting process. But how do you do this? 

From Day One, you must make a clear, indestructible recruitment process that your recruitment team fully understands and is on board with. 

Have clear, understandable action points that all of your team can be aligned on. This way, no candidate gets left behind and your whole team can contribute to your hiring process. 

We’ve spoken about this before, but predictability and efficiency not only ensure you have a full pipeline of talent, it also provides a considerably better candidate experience for every applicant. 

If you have a clear, understandable hiring process with logical, unbiased steps, each of your recruiters can offer a hiring process you can be proud of. 

Listen Up 

You will not reach your goals in DEI if you don’t accept and listen to feedback. To do this, you need to focus on three areas: 

  • Hired Candidates
  • Rejected Candidates
  • Employees

As soon as your onboarding process is complete, ask for feedback. Make it anonymous, and make it comprehensive. You need this feedback to be able to improve your hiring process and create a more inclusive experience. 

Rejected candidates, although much less likely to reply, can give you highly valuable information. They are much more likely to be candid in their responses — they’ve nothing to lose. 

Sites like Glassdoor, personalised feedback forms, and even automated email outreaches after the end of the application process can give you golden information about where you’ve dropped short in your hiring process. 

For your employees, no matter the size of the company, you should be sending out anonymous feedback surveys once per quarter — you need an up-to-date temperature check on every sector of your business, and you need it to be honest. 

Diversity can be a really tough topic for many to bring up, especially those who have had a negative experience before. 

Create an open, safe place for people to anonymously present their thoughts, feelings, or problems, to ensure that you get the full, honest picture from your team. 

As Hannelore Cannesa-Wright, one of our Talent Partners and DEI representatives explains:

When it comes to understanding what Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion mean to your employees and your company, regularly requesting feedback shows that you value their perspectives and the issues which are important to them, and will work continuously to address them.”


Although everyone in your team should keep DEI in mind at every step of the process, it’s also vitally important that you delegate someone in your company as the chief representative for DEI issues. 

If you’re a small company, this can be a voluntary role. For larger businesses, it will pay off considerably if you choose to hire a DEI specialist to oversee every aspect of not just your hiring process, but your business as a whole. 

Why You Should Hire Diverse Talent

Aside from ethically being the right thing to do, hiring diversely and having a solid DEI policy is good for your business. 

A report by McKinsey shows that companies with high levels of diversity have greater financial returns. The report explains that: 

"More diverse companies, we believe, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns." 

This results in teams with a variety of perspectives, which create conflict. In the end, having unique perspectives will help companies to refine their unique selling propositions and pivot when necessary. 

A group of diverse problem-solvers can outperform groups of high ability problem solvers, showing that diversity is a key driver of internal innovation and business growth. Also, companies with inclusive boards have a higher return on equity than companies that lack diversity and inclusion on boards.

How to Improve Your Diversity Strategy

At ACELR8, we often think about the right 'fit' when considering a potential hire. We learned that 'fit' does not mean hiring someone who is the same as your existing staff. 

Instead, the concept of 'fit' might be better understood by thinking of a puzzle, where the pieces mesh together, but with a focus on every piece being unique and contributing something that is otherwise missing.

Diverse hiring means taking special care to ensure procedures are free from biases related to a candidate's age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and other personal characteristics that are unrelated to their job performance. 

Solutions can be found in sourcing, use of channels, setting goals, altering the interview process, eliminating unconscious bias, and promoting diverse leadership and culture. Here are Eight Key Tips for Helping You Hire Diversely

Start with sourcing

Use your Boolean search string to your advantage. For example, a Boolean search of German surnames will lead you to German-speaking people. This can be of great benefit when you’re looking at more underrepresented candidates, but don’t entirely rely on it as it may be influenced by your own internal biases. 

For example, conducting a Boolean search of German surnames will present you with German candidates with conventional German surnames, but not those with foreign or less conventional surnames. Use Boolean searching to your advantage, but also use your intuition. 

Also, look into specific meetups and user groups and use social media groups on LinkedIn and Facebook to find talent. 

Furthermore, talent mapping can be a good method to proactively identify diverse talent. Creating talent maps can ensure that you have a strong pipeline of candidates.

Expand your network

By networking continuously, you can build relationships that will serve as a feeder for underrepresented talent across disciplines and interests and will give you an advantage when you are ready to hire. You can find examples on social networks, at referral programs, alumni networks, community agencies and organisations, as well as using relevant websites, webcasts and podcasts to your advantage. 

If you want to find people who are different to you, then you need to make a deliberate effort to seek out networks and communities beyond those you are already a part of.

Set diverse hiring goals

Discuss beforehand with your team what your goal is so that everybody is on board. An example is that of Google’s “three-thirds” hiring model, where you give three measurements on how to shape your team. For example, one-third of their employees have a background in the role they will take on, one-third in consultancy, and one-third in other fields. 

All of them bring something different to the table and have a different approach to problem-solving. Make sure not just to put more policies in place, but to make diversity a long-term goal for improving your business performance.

Create a diverse interview process

Use neutral language in your job postings. Make sure that your interview panel is diverse, and be creative with who you put into the panel. Make your recruiters accountable for adding diverse talent into the pipeline. 

Create a diverse leadership team

Use a top-down strategy and create diverse leadership within your company. The executive team should be a mirror of the employees in the company. This results in all employees feeling that their presence and contributions are valued, that somebody in the management team can relate to them, and that there are opportunities for them to progress in the company.

Create a diverse culture

Diversity starts and ends with the culture of a company. It needs to be a part of who you are as a company. One strategy is to ensure that you give equal salaries to employees performing the same roles. 

Other strategies include investing in onboarding and mentorship and integrating processes that encourage diversity into feedback. 

Be open about your ambitions: promote events about diversity, create a slack channel for your employees to discuss the topic, or sponsor third-party diversity events. Make sure to promote diversity beyond your own company by writing content on the topic and speaking at conferences with a focus on diversity. 

Be aware of unconscious bias

This is an automatic tendency or inclination to have a favourable or unfavourable attitude or belief about a particular category of people. 

The goal is to teach ourselves how unconscious bias can affect our perceptions, decisions, and interactions. Discuss the topic, define target criteria upfront and use it to structure interview processes to consistently evaluate candidates on these criteria. Avoid doing interviews when you are stressed, as this reinforces biases. 

Include a diverse interview panel and create an interview guide for your candidates, in order for the candidates to get an equal head start (e.g. Stripe did this).

Make diversity unremarkable.

People should feel included no matter their background. The end goal of a DEI campaign is for it to eventually become obsolete. 

As Chido Nyandoro, one of our Talent Partners and DEI representatives, explains:

The importance of diversity in hiring is to help your team identify and overcome biases when sourcing, screening, and shortlisting candidates, which may lead to discriminating against qualified candidates from underrepresented groups. 

Apart from this, it helps to ensure your team has a wider range of skills, talents and experiences that also represent your customers who are also from diverse perspectives, which means they will be better able to cater to your customer's needs.”

This creates the opportunity for each person to be more than their difference. That each team member can be themselves – their true selves. This is when you start to realise the full promise of diversity.

Be the Change You Want to See in the World

You, as a founder, have the possibility to make a difference in your company at an early stage. Diversity fosters creativity and innovation. You can build diverse teams by implementing diversity into your hiring and culture, and by ruling out unconscious bias. Making people aware of diversity and implementing this in your company lays the foundation for long-term success.

Need help? At ACELR8 we have a track record of building diverse teams and advising on diverse hiring strategies. Get in touch to find out more.

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