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Inclusive Sourcing Strategies: A DEI Guide for Agency Recruitment

Blog Inclusive Sourcing Strategies A DEI Guide For Agency Recruitment

With the same old strategies, recruitment gets stale. DEI in recruitment is a hot topic for a reason: not only is it necessary to maximize sourcing potential, but it’s also the right thing to do.

Reaching people who’ve been overlooked and excluded should be part of your strategy. But it’s not always obvious what the best DEI practice are for recruitment agencies (rather than in-house HR teams).

In this article, we'll talk about how valuing diversity in hiring can open up more opportunities for a larger talent pool. We'll cover all you need to know to make diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in recruiting a sustainable part of your agency's hiring culture, from an overview to practical actions you can incorporate into your process.


1. What is DEI in recruitment?

DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) are a set of three values to make work better for more people. DEI policies help meet the needs of employees regardless of ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, neurodiversity, sexual orientation, or any other part of their identity.

Diversity is the variety of different people who make up a workforce. Sometimes it’s used only to examine who’s represented in senior positions. (No points for a high level of entry-level diversity when leadership’s all the same.)

Equity refers to policies and procedures that ensure everyone’s treated fairly. It’s not the same as equality, where everyone’s treated the same. Equitable treatment looks at people’s different circumstances and bases what’s fair on that.

Inclusion is the cultural value that lets all people feel their input matters and their perspectives are respected. High inclusivity means employees don’t have to hide part of who they are at work.

DEI is often talked about from the perspective of company policy, e.g. promoting more women to a “boy’s club” C-suite.

But DEI requires a different tack for recruiters. Finding ways to identify and attract talent from underrepresented groups is a whole other challenge.

Here are a few practical examples of DEI in recruitment:

  • Removing “years of experience” limits on a role, promoting a wider range of age diversity
  • Creating equity with a video interview process, opening the job to candidates who can’t travel or work nontraditional hours
  • Avoiding job ad phrases like “culture fit,” which could signal a lack of inclusion

And that’s just the start. There are several key components of effective DEI in recruitment.

  • One is creating a diverse candidate pool. Examples of diversifying your sourcing can include posting to diversity-focused job boards (like DiverseJobsMatter or The Professional Diversity Network).
  • Another point is ensuring inclusive recruiting practices. These include making job ads clear and concise, removing bias from interviews and evaluations, and training consultants on being warm and welcoming to all candidates.
  • It’s also important to track DEI progress. One example: reach out to candidates for their own opinions on how your DEI efforts are working out.

With that said, let’s delve deeper into some of the practicalities of DEI for recruiting.

2. The importance and benefits of DEI in recruitment

Why is DEI important in recruitment? From the candidates’ perspective, it makes all the difference in the world. Trusting their recruiter to be sensitive to their particular needs makes it easier for them to walk into the perfect role.

From a client’s perspective, they’ll benefit from a wider talent pool and a more accepting culture:

  • A McKinsey report found companies with more ethnically diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to outperform their competitors
  • One study saw companies with strong DEI bring in 2.3 times more cash flow per employee over 3 years
  • Research found that work teams that were more gender-diverse outperformed less-diverse teams by around 50%

Recruiters working with marginalized groups will find some gems: candidates who are bright and capable, just overlooked.

3. Implementing DEI-friendly recruitment strategies

There are a few winning strategies to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion as a recruiter.

Enhance diversity at the top of your sourcing funnel first. Most candidates will view your agency first through job ads, your website, or your social media presence. Showing off your DEI focus here can be a robust talent acquisition tool.

Be clear on how your branding fits in with your overall DEI strategy. Try showcasing your agency’s DEI values on your website, or spotlighting the diversity of your own team on social media. This sends a signal to potential candidates that your business values diversity and inclusion.

Also, keep your job ads inclusive. This could be anything from the stock photos you use to removing language that could be seen as exclusionary (e.g. corporate jargon or words like “digital native” that hint at age).

Minimize bias throughout the recruitment process. If you don’t focus on addressing bias at every stage, there’s a risk that candidates will walk away when they see you’re not really “doing the work.”

One idea is using blind resume reviews, redacting information that could unconsciously influence an interviewing or hiring decision. AI tools like MeVitae can get the job done.

And try reconsidering what you look for in a candidate to begin with. Is a university degree really needed for the role? What about making it remote to grant opportunities to a worker with a disability?

Have honest conversations with your client and see if there’s flexibility on some requirements.

Another way to promote DEI is by reaching out to diverse communities and organizations for referrals. This can involve partnering with diversity-focused job boards, hosting information sessions at universities with high percentages of students from underrepresented groups, or working with local community organizations.

It’s also important to have internal conversations about DEI. You can’t assume that everyone at your business understands the value of diversity right off the bat. Invest in training for managers and consultants on addressing unconscious bias.

Use data to measure the effectiveness of your DEI recruiting strategies. Data-driven recruitment can help you see how your DEI work pays off.

This information can be used to inform decisions like investing more in a diversity-focused job board or increasing the number of sourcing channels you use.

4. What to consider when recruiting diverse talent

To work well with a diverse talent pool, you can’t just place them in a role and hope it all works out.

Remember that you’re working with candidates who might be “the only one in the room.” It’s not fair to them to avoid your due diligence on whether a job is really a good fit.

Before making that placement, consider the following:

  1. The client’s company culture and if it values inclusivity
  2. What the client will do to retain or redeploy candidates

DEI needs to be sustained at all stages in order to be successful. Consider what you know about your client’s company culture. If they have all the signs of valuing DEI - like having affinity groups or publicly posting diversity metrics - it’s likely a safer choice to place your candidate there.

But if DEI hasn’t come up at all and the culture seems homogenous, it might not be a good sign. Ask your client what they’ll do to retain or redeploy diverse talent. Some companies will give you a strong answer on this, but others won’t prioritize it at all.

Think carefully about whether the candidates you place will feel valued and included in their new roles.

5. Final thoughts

Diversity, equity, and inclusion pay off in spades. Not just for the candidates who need it most, but for teams and companies: it promotes increased creativity, adds to profits, and improved company culture.

To implement DEI into your recruitment strategy, consider tactics like conducting blind resume reviews, partnering with diversity-focused organizations, and holding unconscious bias training for your team. These are just a few ways to bring in the best talent without leaving anyone behind via bias.

Your recruitment process will be both better and fair thanks to DEI principles. Use a few of these suggestions to increase the caliber and quantity of applicants, and to promote a more inclusive work world.

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