Diversity recruiting is the practice of hiring candidates using a process that strives to be free from biases for or against any individual or group of candidates. It is still merit-based recruitment and still aims to find the best possible candidate, but it’s structured to give all applicants, regardless of background, an equal opportunity.

When diversity comes up, for many, two groups come to mind – women and people of color – but diversity is much broader than gender or color- it includes age (see Ageism: Recruiting and hiring at the Intersection), disabilities, neurodivergence, and more.

Note that the definition of diversity recruiting above says it “strives to be free from biases.” One of the most important aspects of effective diversity recruiting is the recognition that bias is pervasive and for the most part unconscious. We cannot escape it but can only strive to be aware of it and control for it. For example:

Given two resumes that were identical except for the names of the candidate (John vs. Jennifer), STEM professors perceived the “female” candidate to be less competent and were less willing to mentor her or hire her as a lab manager. They also recommended paying her, on average $4,000 per year (13%) less than the “male” candidate.

Similar results have been shown with resumes carrying stereotypically Black or Hispanic names.

No one is exempt from bias – bias is in the culture and no one who grew up immersed in bias can avoid acquiring it. For those who are not in historically marginalized groups, unpacking and unlearning behaviors and inherent biases that are nearly invisible requires substantive and sustained efforts including not only awareness but acceptance of the fact that bias is there. Blind resumes, blind interviewing, and self-education are key tools that can be used to overcome bias.

Why is this important? Besides the simple “moral case” (it’s the just, right, fair thing to do) studies have shown that diverse companies have higher revenue, higher ROE, and greater creativity and innovation (as measured, for example, by patent registrations).

While diversity recruiting is a start, the principles above must carry through into the organization’s culture. Diversity professionals use the initials DEI – diversity, equity, and inclusion – and some go farther to DEIBJ, adding “belonging and justice” to the formula. Diversity can be reduced to a numbers game only as a short term and likely non-lasting strategy – how many people from marginalized groups are employed? But we have found that if the diversity recruiting strategy is not followed up by an inclusive and inviting environment, those numbers will show significant churn. Too often, a closer look at the numbers against the levels of the organization chart will show that people from marginalized groups are concentrated at the lower levels and get fewer and fewer as you move up the ladder.

Inclusion and belonging show up both publicly and privately. In recruiting efforts, and in every job description, mention that inclusion is a company value; show pictures of diverse people in your public materials, and educate everyone from the shop floor to the C-Suite on how to demonstrate inclusion and how to avoid faux pas that go in the other direction.

Finally, remember that organizational culture is generated from the top – the best-crafted DEI efforts will fail if the top of the organization does not demonstrate their personal commitment and does not go beyond performative efforts. Wherever the responsibility for DEI is in the formal organizational structure, in practice everyone is responsible.

Seasoned recruiters from DEI focused boutiques generally have a massive network of candidates they can leverage at any point to find very selective candidates. Many businesses looking to build out their diverse workforce will often rely on the experience of a search firm to find, vet, and hire diverse talent.



BrainWorks is a prominent boutique executive search firm offering a 29-year track record of successfully sourcing and placing top talent. By harnessing proven strategies, collaborating with stakeholders, and leveraging a diverse and talented candidate network, BrainWorks helps businesses find, attract, and ultimately hire talented professionals that create differentiated results. To learn more about how Brainworks can help you, contact us.

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