7 Ways to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Hiring

Authors: Ahmmad Brown and Sarah Crawford

In today’s competitive job market, employers can deploy a range of strategies to attract and recruit diverse talent. The following recommendations – broken into the recruitment, candidate evaluation, and process maintenance phases – offer best practices and considerations to develop a recruitment and hiring protocol to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) throughout the process.

Apply a DEI Lens to Your Recruitment. The work of retaining top talent begins before you even post your job. In most cases, the job description (along with your website and other marketing materials) is one of the first interactions potential candidates will have with your organization. 

1. Update job descriptions and requirements to attract a diverse applicant pool.

Before advertising a job opening, evaluate the position description and requirements to reduce bias and increase the pool of talent that could apply and compete. Unnecessary experience and education requirements will limit your ability to attract a wide array of talent and bring new skills, experiences, and perspectives into your organization. Consider the job description, especially if you have not updated competencies and requirements lately. What skills and competencies are required to be successful in executing the role and responsibilities? How much experience is needed, and how broadly can experience be described? For technical roles, are there options to train high-potential candidates for specific technical requirements? Pay close attention to how you define qualifications and competencies and the use of tests and other evaluations for hiring. Is the language inclusive and designed to attract a diverse candidate pool? Have you avoided phrasing and words that tend to discourage women and people of color from applying?

2. Be intentional about outreach and recruiting strategies.

DEI objectives should be a part of every step in the recruitment and hiring process and should specifically include outreach to diverse communities and organizations. Identify organizational needs–such as languages, relationships to different immigrant communities, communities you aspire to serve. Then build recruitment strategies designed to fill those needs. Recruit explicitly to reach diverse audiences. Go beyond personal contacts, word of mouth, and usual posting avenues. Use recruitment firms and platforms that can reach more broadly. Develop sustained relationships with diverse communities, industry associations, and affinity-based networks to seek out talent from underrepresented groups. Deploy strategies specific to the roles you are recruiting for rather than using generalized DEI posting tactics for all jobs.

Make Your Screening and Interview Process Fair and Equitable. Racial, gender, and other biases can arise in candidate evaluation – as human resources professionals and hiring managers across industries know well. You can counteract these biases by implementing hiring processes that emphasize inclusivity and avoid the pitfalls of groupthink.

3. Establish a diverse hiring committee and provide necessary training.   

Establish a hiring committee that is charged with handling all steps of the process, including outreach, recruitment, interviews, and selection. Ensure that the committee’s membership is diverse, for example, by race, gender, function, and level. A committee can serve the organization as a whole – for all hires over a certain period of time — or can be specifically developed to fill a job opening. The committee should follow a consistent process and be involved in initial screening, interviews, and evaluation. Make sure that the committee members have training and tools to fairly screen, interview, and evaluate candidates based on objective criteria – including an understanding of how to identify and disrupt bias in hiring.

4. Implement a diverse interview slate policy.

A diverse interview slate policy ensures that the “slate” of finalists receiving interviews with the final decision maker is diverse. This is more than just ensuring an overall diverse applicant pool. Define the diverse interview slate in advance. For example, a diverse interview slate might be defined as a pool of interview candidates that includes multiple women and multiple people of color to ensure the default does not favor white men. A human resources official can review the candidates included on the interview slate and determine whether the slate satisfies the policy. The hiring committee should not have access to self-identification data, nor should they “guess” or assume identity. If the slate does not reflect the policy, take steps to expand the interview slate.

5. Hiring committees should use objective evaluation criteria and avoid groupthink.

Consider options to remove names and other identifying information from applications and resumes before the committee reviews them. Require that all individuals involved in interviews use standardized, behaviorally-anchored questions that relate to the job. Panelists should evaluate candidates independently using objective criteria before conferring. Ensure that screening, evaluation, and interview practices are equitable and inclusive and provide fair opportunities to all qualified applicants. Ensure consistency and accountability across the organization for hiring managers to practice the same protocols – there can be no exceptions, which can lead to disparities and perceptions of unfairness.

Create Accountable and Effective Tools to Keep Your DEI Goals On Track. Achieving DEI goals requires commitment and attention to DEI outcomes and DEI processes. Your work does not end with the completion of any single hire or recruitment cycle. Rather, you will want to track your organization’s progress over time in relation to clearly defined DEI by creating an infrastructure and processes to collect data at all stages of your hiring process. Remember to be transparent with your key internal and external stakeholders about your progress over time. This will build trust with your current employees, and indicate your commitment to DEI for future candidates.

6. Conduct a barrier analysis on each step of the hiring process.

Conduct an analysis to determine whether any step in the hiring process favors or disfavors candidates based on gender, race, ethnicity, or other criterion.
Evaluate measures of representation at different phases of hiring: – Who are the applicants?
– Who are the applicants who meet minimum qualifications?
– Who is selected to proceed past the initial screening?
– Who passes any tests or other steps?
– Who is included on the interview slates?
– Who receives offers?
– Who is hired?

Use metrics for each step of the process to ensure there is no adverse impact in your selection practices. Each step of the selection process should use job-related factors and criteria. If there is no adverse impact of any step in your process, the individuals selected at each phase should generally reflect the demographics of the job applicants in the pool. Ask applicants to self-identify and track demographics of applicants and hires, including who passes initial screening, who the finalists are, who receives an offer and who accepts and is hired. For individuals you reject, use disposition codes to track the reasons they did not advance. If you see a significant disparity between the demographics of the applicant pool and the candidates who are selected for hire, determine what is happening at each step, what criteria are being used, who the decision-makers are, and any tests or requirements that may be leading to particular groups being screened out at a particular step. In other words, identify barriers that may be causing the disparities, and determine whether changes to the hiring process could help to ensure equity.

7. Use benchmarking to set transparent goals and evaluate hiring over time. 

Regularly analyze your workforce demographics by department and level within the organization: – Where does your workforce reflect the diversity of the available talent pool, and where does it fall short? 

– Who is in entry level positions?
– Who is in leadership?
– Who are your highly compensated employees?
– Who are your low wage employees? 

– Are there unexplained gaps?
– Who declines offers and why? Are they disproportionately women and/or people of color? What are their reasons? 

Get feedback from staff on what is working well in your hiring process, and what is not working and make improvements. In setting hiring benchmarks, evaluate the appropriate measure of the qualified, available applicant pool. Consider aspirational measures, such as having your organization reflect the constituencies it represents. Benchmarks typically vary by job group and may include national measures for jobs you recruit nationally for, and also potentially your local labor markets. The Census and other data sources provide demographic data by occupation, industry, geographic area, etc. Growing numbers of employers are moving toward public reporting of workplace demographics to build in greater transparency and accountability for meeting DEI benchmarks. As the old saying goes, what gets measured gets done.

When employers are intentional, transparent, and accountable in efforts to implement best practices like these, they can make great strides to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organizations through improved hiring protocols.


Working IDEAL provides trusted and innovative advice on inclusive workplaces, diverse talent, and fair pay. Our audits and assessments apply the best thinking on how to promote gender, race and other forms of equity in your pay practices. Our robust quantitative and qualitative reviews go beyond basic compliance to align effective compensation strategy