The value of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is indisputable. To put it simply, DE&I is one of the most important competitive advantages a company can invest in. This has led to engaging and ongoing discussions about what role we as recruiters play in furthering the work to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment.
The surface-level reality is that recruiters hold the “keys to the kingdom” for job opportunities. We are a force multiplier in the effort to create more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces. We are partnered with a network of hiring managers, and we talk to dozens of candidates every day. By making it a priority in the hiring process, we can maximize our impact on DE&I.
But if you dig a little deeper, there’s more to the story than that. Our responsibility as recruiters to impact DE&I has layers, and I want to unpack a few for my colleagues to consider.
We have a responsibility to educate.
While it’s true that recruiters can influence the demographics of a company greatly, we are not the final “yes” on the selection of a candidate; the hiring manager is. So, when working to enhance diversity in the workplace, one of the primary responsibilities of recruiters is educating our clients.
As the saying goes, change starts at the top, so when a recruiter has audience with leaders looking to grow their teams, understanding their DE&I goals (especially understanding the static “snapshot in time” of DE&I at their organization) and helping their team work towards those goals is imperative.
The word is out that diversity drives innovation and therefore revenue growth. So often, the hardest battle isn’t in getting hiring managers to agree that DE&I matters—most if not all of our clients understand the value proposition of investing in DE&I. But while they may understand they need to round out the diversity of their workforce, they might not always know how to. Unfortunately, some hiring managers still regard DE&I as “checking a box.” They don’t have a specific goal or outcome in mind, or maybe they don’t have a clear picture on the current demographics of their workforce. Regardless of the limitations, a recruiter’s first step forward is to educate the hiring manager on how to set and achieve the right DE&I goals.
We then must challenge our clients to be accountable for their goals and create recruiting strategies that promote DE&I, including methods towards removing bias through hiring panel programs and inclusive interview experiences. For example, a client may want to target candidates from a top-5 MBA program, which will indubitably limit their ability to interview a group of diverse candidates. They may want diverse candidates but choose someone most like themselves at the end of the interview rounds, citing “culture fit.” A recruiter has an obligation to encourage hiring managers to be honest with themselves about their biases and challenge them to be accountable for their goals every step of the way.
We must understand DE&I ourselves.
Easier said than done, of course. To begin with, we need to remove bias—both conscious and unconscious—from our recruiting strategies. We must cast wide nets, utilize inclusive job descriptions, and understand that diversity is not a monolith. What is diverse for one population might not be for another company. There are so many dimensions to DE&I, and understanding these dimensions and the intersectionality of these dimensions can only benefit the recruiting process.
There’s a popular expression: Diversity is being invited to the party; Inclusion is being asked to dance. I’ve heard this updated lately to add: Equity is being asked to contribute to the playlist. As recruiters, we play an important role in the party. We’re inviting people into the party. We have an obligation to make them feel welcome and ensure that once they arrive, they want to stay because these other layers of DE&I are being not only honored but celebrated.