A Simple Way to Improve Diversity Efforts in Hiring

Despite commitments to increase diversity in hiring practices, many companies still struggle to actually make change. Candidate pooling is a simple way to fix this.
Headshot of author Vikas Agrawal
Vikas Agrawal
Expert Columnist
October 19, 2021
Updated: May 24, 2022
Headshot of author Vikas Agrawal
Vikas Agrawal
Expert Columnist
October 19, 2021
Updated: May 24, 2022

Attracting diverse talent is a key objective for many business leaders nowadays. Beyond the ethical argument for diversity, management is finally coming around to the idea that a more diverse workforce is a more effective and more profitable one. 

Boston Consulting Group found that organizations whose staffs exhibit above-average diversity are more innovative and more profitable. But it turns out that you can’t just will your way to diversity in tech hiring. To wit, Nasdaq estimates that more than 75 percent of listed companies wouldn’t meet the organization’s new diversity and inclusion goals if they were implemented today. 

Some business niches have farther to go than others. For example, VC funds are highly homogeneous (and white), which trickles down to a subconscious bias in favor of white-owned startups, blocking funding for minority-owned businesses. This scenario has barely changed in recent years. The percentage of Black VCs only rose from 3 percent in 2018 to 4 percent in 2021, and that of Latinos actually dropped from 5 percent to 4 percent.

Further, recent broader conversations about racism and social justice have done little to advance diversity in workplaces. According to one recent study, 57 percent of ethnic minority professionals believe that efforts towards diversity, equality and inclusivity DEI had stalled at their organizations within just a few months of the Black Lives Matter protests of last year.

So, when it comes to recruiting more diverse talent, can recruiters do a better job by sharing pools of underrepresented candidates who qualify for relevant positions?

 

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Candidate Pooling

Currently, one company or recruitment firm may put a lot of work into finding qualified, diverse candidates, but only one can be hired for any given role. The other excellent candidates could be the perfect fit for the company next door, but how would they ever know? The answer is to create a shared talent pool for pre-qualified, diverse candidates who weren’t perfect matches for an opportunity with one company but might be for another.

What’s Impeding Diversity Goals?

Many recruiters default to the typical claim that the company can’t find a qualified candidate who is a woman, a person of color, LGBTQ, or who otherwise hails from an underrepresented sector. This struggle tends to arise because of self-perpetuating feedback loops, however. Recruiters naturally favor candidates who resemble whoever was successful last time. Usually, this means white, university-educated males within a certain age range. 

HR teams also often advertise open jobs in the same channels every time, which are likely to keep bringing in the same types of candidates. Brian Dixon, one of the first Black partners at a VC firm, cautions, “If you do not publicize the jobs that are available at your venture firm, then you are intentionally being exclusionary. It does not matter how much Black talent is available for hire. People can’t get a job that they don’t know exists.” 

Companies generally use the same tactics to compete on the same channels for the same pool of applicants. As such, many businesses expect that qualified minority candidates will see the job posting and submit an application rather than preparing to actively seek out diverse talent. 

It doesn’t help that, as a general rule, enterprise recruitment prioritizes speed over increasing representation, cementing processes that are designed for scalability and efficiency rather than diversity. This dynamic also leads to an unwillingness to revamp hiring processes that “work.” Ultimately, going out to search for diverse candidates may be regarded as both time-consuming and non-scalable.

Worse, once hired, many enterprises don’t realize that they have policies, protocols, and/or a corporate culture that could put off minority talent. For example, a lack of flexibility towards single parents or a culture where off-color jokes are tolerated can destroy any diversity hiring initiatives a company may undertake. 

Post-Covid, many Black workers may be reluctant to return to the office because remote working gave them space to realize just how many microaggressions they have to endure on a daily basis. “I’m accustomed to the constant reminders that ‘You’re different.’ But the reminders add up. It’s almost like water torture, each drop is frustrating-yet-bearable, but after a certain point it drives you insane,” one minority employee told BuiltIn when responding to the State of Diversity in Tech report.


Time for Something New

There’s no magic bullet, but it’s clear that the old ways aren’t working. One possible solution, however, is for companies to join together their talent pools to help each other extend their search.

Currently, one company or recruitment firm may put a lot of work into finding qualified, diverse candidates, but only one can be hired for any given role. The other excellent candidates could be the perfect fit for the company next door, but how would they ever know? The answer is to create a shared talent pool for pre-qualified, diverse candidates who weren’t perfect matches for an opportunity with one company but might be for another.

The potential benefits are significant. "In the long term, a diverse hiring pipeline can completely reshape your company culture for the better and reflects well on your employer brand,” says Ilit Raz, CEO of HR tech company Joonko. “That leads to increased retention, lower time-to-hire, and reduced recruitment costs."

Raz and her team came up with the designation “silver medalists” for candidates who are pre-qualified for a position, meaning they passed at least two hiring stages with a company. Pre-qualifying candidates serves recruiters and candidates alike; it creates a lean hiring pipeline for recruiters and lets candidates benefit from previous success and not start from scratch every time.

 

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

As things stand, one company may invest significant resources into advertising a position, gathering diverse applicants, vetting their backgrounds, following up on references, and may even put them through pre-employment tests. 

Although a number of candidates could be highly rated, only one can get the job. Now those pre-vetted, diverse candidates will sink back into the general talent ocean and someone else will need to do all the same work all over again. It’s clearly not an efficient process.

“Company leaders shouldn’t have to spend hours scouring job boards and Google searches to find the talent they need. Beyond the fact that this isn’t a good use of their time, it’s also a haphazard and unreliable way to go about identifying the right third party expertise,” says Katie Marchetti, managing director for BluWave. 

“This is why companies should look into trusted resources that have proprietary lists of pre-vetted candidates who meet their specific needs,” she continues, “be they individuals or bigger consultancies for projects that need more resources.” 

Companies might wonder why they should allow others to benefit from their hard work, but that view would be short-sighted. As the entire high tech and corporate world becomes more diverse, DEI will naturally move from a distant goal to the norm, making it easier for everyone to meet their diversity goals. 

A more diverse business ecosystem naturally pushes forward more diverse candidates. This will eventually produce more minority C-suite executives and, in turn, provide a better, fairer workplace. 

Small Change, Big Effects

Let’s get real: Shared talent pools won’t transform diversity in hiring overnight. We still need companies to act to stamp out microaggressions, enact policies that are favorable to working mothers, and ensure support for all races and genders in the workplace. We also need to build the pipelines that will attract more underrepresented talent into the recruiting pool in the first place. 

But changing the dynamics around recruiting can make a difference. Establishing a shared talent pool helps HR personnel and recruiters alike find the talent that’s out there. Broadening access to a collection of qualified candidates removes the convenient excuse that there’s a lack of qualified diverse talent, and over time this will trigger a sea change in the American workplace.

 

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