Using the Recruiting Process to Create a Diverse Workforce

Written by James O. Rodgers

Recruitment is an integral part of Diversity Management, but it’s easy to mess up the recruiting process. Companies often use recruiting to meet artificial needs: “We need more people of color, so we’ll recruit a person of color.”

Instead, recruitment needs to be about finding the right talent and the right fit for your organization. These are the criteria that lead to long-term positive benefits.

Artificial Criteria and Artificial Needs

Under the rubric of diversity, people lean toward recruitment as a seemingly easy way to bring diversity into the workplace. But these people are using the wrong criteria to meet the wrong needs. When a company is only looking to diversify their profile, they don’t go to the marketplace looking for the people who best fit their business; they go to the marketplace with some artificial criteria. Artificial criteria focuses on surface-level diversity, like race and gender. Artificial criteria can only meet artificial needs.

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For example: maybe your company operates in an area where the Hispanic population is growing, so you decided to recruit some Hispanic workers. It’s easy to accomplish that goal, but it has no long-term positive impact on results. This is just another way of making your company look good rather than be good.

The Importance of Fit

The real criteria for recruiting is: can we find the best and brightest talent that will likely fit our organization so that they will be supported once they get here? When you use artificial criteria to meet artificial needs, you ignore the importance of fit. When you’re recruiting someone, you need to make sure that their personality matches with the organization’s culture.

The net result of overlooking the importance of fit? You recruit someone, and six months later, they leave, simply because they don’t fit. That person might have talent, and they might even have diversity of perspective, but as long as there’s a mismatch between their personality and the company culture, you’ll never get the best out of them.

What’s Your Perspective?

If you’re going to recruit, part of the criteria that you need to look for is, “What value is this person going to bring to the team?” The primary value that you want a recruit to bring is diversity of perspective – that’s intellectual diversity; that’s diversity of thought.If you want to discover the perspective that someone can bring to your team, you have to ask open-ended questions. You could say to your candidate, “Give me an example of a time when you were working with a team, and everybody seemed to be going down one path, but you saw it differently, and you asserted your point of view to change the outcome.” Most people think of their difference of perspective as a negative, but a question like this gets them to focus on it as a positive.

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You could be even more direct. Ask the candidate, “What is your perspective?” What I mean by perspective is, how have you been conditioned to face problems, to look at the world, to look at challenges, and make decisions?

For example, if I’m an engineer, I always approach problems from the engineer’s perspective. That means I have an objective point of view. I look at a situation and ask, “What are the major problems? What are the components of the problems? How can I use this information to solve the problem?”

Reality Check

When you’re recruiting people, the last thing you want to do is entice them to join the organization without telling them what they’re getting into. Because fit is so important, the interviewer needs to give the interviewee a reality check about the organization they are looking to join. Every company has a unique culture. You have to prepare your recruit for that culture, or else you can’t make sure you have a good fit.

If you don’t tell your candidate about the culture upfront, they might get into the organization expecting one thing. If they run into something different, that’s going to be a ticket for them to leave. Now you’ve wasted recruitment, hiring money, and the six months the candidate was onboard, because they got surprised. It’s not that people don’t like change – they just don’t like surprises. If they know what to expect, they can mentally prepare for it when it comes up. It’s still a little uncomfortable, but at least they knew it was coming.

The goal of recruiting is to get the right people on the bus, instead of just getting people of the right color or gender on the bus. The right people have to bring the right value, and they have to fit. Artificial criteria won’t find these people.