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5 Reasons Why Hiring Diverse Candidates Is Still Hard in 2021

The business case for hiring diverse candidates is well established. Companies with a strong, measurable commitment to diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry averages, according to research from McKinsey. Nevertheless, creating a hiring process that brings in diverse candidates is still difficult for many companies. Here’s why diversity hiring is still hard for many companies. 

Recruiters are overstretched 

Recruiters spend very little time thoughtfully considering resumes. The average job posting attracts 250 applications. A high-volume hiring event can bring in tens of thousands of applications. Regularly, recruiters only spend about 7 seconds reading each resume. 

It’s not that recruiters don’t care: ask any recruiter and they’ll tell you that they would love to spend quality time getting to know each candidate individually. But the demand of hiring fast means that recruiters must create shortcuts to process each application efficiently. Unfortunately, these shortcuts are often based on bias. Applicants get screened based on how similar or recognizable their background is to the recruiter or to the existing employee pool, using heuristics like education, extracurriculars, or professional association. 

To mitigate this problem, recruiters can use an AI diversity recruiting solution that assesses the results of an objective skills test. A merit-based, automated ranking tool takes data from the skills assessment and delivers a list of candidates ranked against each other. No one is eliminated based on their educational background or professional credentials: instead, recruiters receive a list of the top-performing candidates from the skills test, after their capabilities have been validated. 

The application process is exclusive

Some companies may not even be aware that their application process is causing diverse candidates to self-select out. For instance, 9% of candidates with disabilities drop out of job applications early because there are usability issues with a careers page or the actual application. Beyond technical issues, the language in a job description can also be alienating. Huffington Post reported that the term “ninja” plays into male stereotypes, attracting more male candidates to apply instead of women. “While companies may not be doing this intentionally, unconscious bias is directly affecting the types of candidates who apply for the job,” writes one expert.

Luckily, there are some easy ways to make sure you’re being more open to diverse candidates. Run your job descriptions through a tool like the Gender Decoder to make sure the language you’re using is gender-neutral. Make sure your company’s website is compatible with a screen reader, and use alt-text on images to describe them. If you’re interviewing a candidate with limited mobility, offer an online interview so they can still participate in the process without difficulty. 


Not offering an inclusive application experience might be hurting diversity hiring in your organization.

Employee referrals can be limiting

Employee referrals have long been seen as the holy grail of recruiting. Referral candidates are cheaper and faster to hire and tend to be more satisfied and engaged than the average employee. However, referrals can limit your diversity hiring. White men are 40% more likely to be the recipient of an employee referral, which can lead to a homogenous workforce. 

Make sure your referral candidates go through the same vetting process as everyone else. Limit the number of referral candidates you’re willing to accept. Some companies also open their referral program to non-employees, asking spouses/partners, former employees, friends, and even the general public to contribute to their candidate pool. 

Lack of institutional support

Diversity is often seen as an “HR problem.” Companies may express support for building a more diverse workforce, but that’s as far as it goes. “When the mandate for hiring diverse candidates falls on diversity and inclusion officers, but isn’t considered a business priority from the CEO, it becomes very difficult for recruiters to bring in diverse candidates,” writes Fast Company.

Diversity needs to be a company-wide, holistic commitment. One way to ensure diversity in hiring is to institute key metrics and dedicated resources that make it possible to encourage diverse candidates to thrive from the start of the hiring process to the end of their employed tenure. Create metrics that incentivize recruiters to focus on building meaningful diversity into their hiring practices. Set aside a budget and other resources to pool nontraditional candidates. Make sure that the entire organization realizes that hiring-as-usual practices aren’t going to deliver the results needed for diverse candidates to find a place at your organization.

Employer branding doesn’t attract diverse candidates

Companies that fail to highlight diversity and inclusion in their company culture find themselves at a significant disadvantage when trying to attract candidates. Not only are you missing out on great diverse candidates who self-select out of the process; Millennials and Gen Z cite the importance of diversity in their careers, and 77% of them want to work for multidimensional companies.

Use your employer branding initiatives to showcase how your culture elevates and empowers employees of all backgrounds. Articles, blogs, and employee testimonies can put your company on the map for candidates that may never have considered working for your organization. Highlight ways your company supports community initiatives and is committed to personal development. The more human you can make your organization, the greater appeal you’ll have to candidates from all walks of life.

Emily Heaslip

Emily Heaslip

Emily Heaslip is a wordsmith extraordinaire, weaving narratives that captivate and compel audiences across digital realms. With over eight years of experience in the art of storytelling, Emily has mastered the craft of freelance copywriting, infusing SEO strategies and content marketing tactics to craft captivating tales for brands such as HelloFresh, ADAY, and BlackRock. As the founder of Emily Heaslip Copywriting, Emily channels her creative energy into delivering unparalleled copywriting services that resonate with clients and audiences alike. Her journey from journalism to global relief efforts has imbued her writing with depth and authenticity, setting her apart as a versatile writer with a unique perspective. When she's not crafting captivating content, Emily can be found mentoring budding writers, sharing her wealth of knowledge and experience to empower the next generation of storytellers. With a passion for words and a talent for communication, Emily continues to inspire and connect through the power of storytelling.

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