31st July 2020

If you want to increase diversity don’t recruit with an ideal candidate in mind.

We have written before that in our line of work we see a lot of Position Descriptions that aren’t worth the paper they are printed on (or the kilobytes they take up). They are often jargon heavy, or woefully out of date, or simply a long list of tasks and activities or, worse still, all three. In short, they don’t tell us much about why the role exists or what the role is expected to deliver.

Even worse, when it comes to Diversity we experience hiring managers and in-house recruiters outline their preferences for people from certain companies. With specific levels of experience, and certain types of degrees. Which is really saying “bring us more people who are like us”.

By starting with a picture of an ideal person the goal of increasing diversity through the recruitment process is effectively set up for failure because the person doing the recruitment will, in order to ‘keep the customer happy’, start the search and potentially write the advertisement based on a bunch of superficial requirements and keywords. All done in an attempt to find this ideal person, who rarely exists by the way.

Focus on the work to be done

The biggest step you can take to increase diversity through recruitment is to get clear on the work to be done by asking the following five questions (these form the core of an effective PD by the way):

  1. What is the Purpose of this role?
  2. What are the three or four most important deliverables or outcomes of this role?
  3. What does ‘a day in the life’ of this role look like?
  4. What two or three key things should a person have achieved or experienced in their career to date to deliver at the level required by the job?
  5. To be regarded as a successful hire what will the person accomplish in their first 3 months or 1 year?

Keep the process simple and devoid of jargon and buzz words (read biases) that have nothing to do with someone’s ability to do the work. By starting with the work first, your recruiter is free to identify candidates with a background in any industry or organisation. Or with any education and experiences who could be successful in the role you are recruiting.

If you are genuinely trying to increase diversity through your recruitment process you must engineer out the biases of the hiring manager. So, please don’t be offended if a recruiter pushes back when you say candidates must have X years’ experience or a degree in such and such or have worked, or not worked, at a particular organisation.

Opportunities to increase diversity

Every time you go to market for a role you have an opportunity to increase diversity, or not. To upgrade talent levels, or not. To push back on conscious and unconscious biases, or not. But you must be willing to start with a mindset that there are many people who could do the job. Let your recruiter help you increase diversity by simplifying your position descriptions, and focusing on the work to be done, not the person you are trying to hire.

We have a template we use every time we take a brief on a role. It includes the questions above plus a few more. If you’d like a copy of it above click on this link to make a time to talk.

Likewise, if you would like to have an open-ended discussion on how you might improve the performance of your talent acquisition process in any way, feel free to get in touch. We are always happy to help our clients, or potential clients think through options and opportunities. We never charge for brainstorming. Through a free-flowing discussion of ideas we will find out whether or not there is a good fit between what you need and what we do well, or not. If there is, we can keep talking so that we bring you good choices. If not, we will be the first to say so.

Justin Miles

Justin Miles

Manager Partner, Melbourne at Generator Talent
Justin is the Managing Partner of our Melbourne office, an outcome focused leader with a track record of driving business performance through proven talent and organisation development practices. Justin’s methods and skills have been shaped by working with performance oriented leaders in great companies including PepsiCo, The Campbell Soup Company, Diageo, Rip Curl, Fonterra and Wesfarmers, in Australia, the USA and Latin America.
Justin Miles

Categories: Finding Talent

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