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Inclusive recruitment practices

By Included team

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We recently surveyed our newsletter subscribers to understand the pressing diversity and inclusion topics at the top of our community’s agenda. Reviewing our practical experience, we’ve gathered guidance and insight from our team at Included.

How can you attract a diverse range of candidates?

Plamena Solakova:  Do not overly rely on referrals! Studies by McKinsey show that men say their networks are comprised of 63% men; and women’s networks only include 38% women. In other words, men are more likely to recommend men for a job and if you’re looking to bring more women on board you will likely not be successful in doing so through referrals primarily. Also, LinkedIn studies show that women are less likely to rely on networks and instead apply online.

Helen Corbishley: Some common themes that have produced positive results across industries include:

  • Widening the talent pool via interventions such as advertising outside of the usual channels
  • Underpinning this with recruitment and selection guidelines ensuring formal checks and balances to mitigate bias
  • Mobilizing monitoring data to paint a picture of where an organisation currently sits, and where it wants to be
  • Committing to, and fostering an open a dialogue on ED&I, with leadership at the helm

How can you foster inclusion and improve retention?

Helen Corbishley: Focus groups and interviews with current staff demonstrate that an organisation is seeking to listen to its people. Just the fact individuals feel they are being consulted and included in discussions surrounding ED&I has provoked a lot of talk about feeling valued.  Similarly, there are two main themes coming out of these consultations:

  • Communications and networking, or lack thereof, are often the biggest barriers to feeling included within a company.  Many employees feel a sense of psychological safety with their immediate teams, but with others who they interact less with, this feeling tends to dissipate.  This is something we need to be particularly mindful of in the current climate, as more of us work from home.  The good news is there are effective interventions which are high impact and low effort, such as randomly assigning employee ‘coffee dates’ each week to expose them to people they wouldn’t normally network with.  This has helped not just with improving psychological safety, but with knowledge of different areas of the business, diversity of ideas, creativity, career progression, mental health…. after all, who doesn’t want a pause for coffee?* (*other beverages are available!)
  • Many organisations would also benefit from greater transparency around salary and personnel decisions.  This is often neglected, or knowledge of the process is assumed, however it is frequently the cause of frustration, confusion and even resentment.  The more clarity there is surrounding this, the more motivating it can be for staff, and the less opportunity there is for proclamations of bias.

How can you debias your recruitment systems?

Vikki Barron: Included have been using BeApplied since 2019 to debias our recruitment process. The recruitment platform anonymizes candidates and their application, enabling the recruitment team to assess candidates based on answers to skills-based questions rather than using the traditional CV.  The approach means candidates are considered on merit alone and removes the opportunity for unconscious bias to influence recruitment decisions.  BeApplied analytics helps recruiters understand what talent they are attracting and who they need to work harder to attract, furthermore, the platform is a super helpful tool to process candidates through the hiring journey, ensuring an improved candidate experience all round.

Joe Caccavale from BeApplied also shared expert insight with us.

Anonymise your screening process: The more we know about a candidate, the more grounds for bias there are. No matter how well-intentioned we may be, everyone has unconscious biases – it’s an unavoidable part of being human. Rather than attempt to de-bias humans (which all of the research around bias training tells us is near-impossible), it’s far more effective to de-bias the hiring process itself. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, someone’s name, age or perceived ethnicity can all influence our perception of them. Given that this identifying information bears no relevance to someone’s ability, anonymising this irrelevant ‘noise’ will remove a significant degree of bias.

Use predictive assessments: Academic achievements and work experience may be the bread and butter of most hiring processes, but they’re actually poor predictors of job performance. Predictive validity is a measure of accuracy used in science and psychology – a means of quantifying how likely a given assessment is to predict future outcomes. The largest study around the predictivity of assessment methods comes in the form of the Schmidt–Hunter meta-analysis for answers – which summarises the findings of 100 years of research. According to this meta-analysis, the most predictive form of assessment is ‘work samples’. Work samples take small parts of the role and ask candidates to either perform or explain their approach to them. By directly simulating tasks instead of asking people about their experience, you can test skills without relying on flawed proxies like education and experience. This means that every candidate gets a fair chance to showcase what they can do regardless of how or where they acquired their skills.

Here’s an example of a work sample for a sales-based role:

Question: You have received a lead from the Marketing Department. They have arranged an initial introductory call for you which will last about 30 minutes. How would structure the call and what would success look like? What would you do to follow up afterwards?

Skills tested: Organization, Prospecting

Add structure to your interviews: Although we can anonymize the screening stage, interviews are much more difficult to de-bias completely. Ask all candidates the same set of questions in the same order – adding structure to your interviews to make them more uniform will mean you’re comparing like with like. As for the interview questions themselves, the best practice here is to use work sample-style questions to test skills, instead of probing into candidates’ backgrounds.

Give yourself a scoring rubric: Since we know human judgment is rarely objective, scoring rubrics are a must. Give yourself basic criteria to score against so that decisions are tied to objective requirements, rather than ‘gut instinct’ (which we know is usually just bias). For each work sample and interview question you create, you’ll need a review guide to score answers against. This needn’t be more complex than a simple 1-5 star scale – with a few bullet points noting what a good, mediocre and bad answer might include. For the most accurate, unbiased scores, have three team members score each assessment round – combining answers from a diverse crowd will generally lead to better results than a single individual.

Find more out about BeApplied here.


Delivering an inclusive recruitment process requires looking at your systems, your outreach, and your organisation’s culture. Take a look at our work on Systems and Leadership to help you get started on your journey,

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