Candidate attraction

Focus on job descriptions, advertisements, and identifying new channels. Use debiasing tools and provide an authentic representation of what it feels like to work in the organisation.

Employer recommendations

➖Avoid biased language in job advertisements. Make advertisements welcoming and inclusive, and avoid biased language.  AI enabled debiasing tools include:

  • The Totaljobs Gender Bias Decoder is a free tool which evaluates the content of a job advert for ‘hidden’ gender specific words.
  • Textio converts job descriptions to include gender-neutral language, validates the job description & shows how it compares to competitors.
  • Applied is a paid tool that assess job adverts in their entirety for language that is
    biased against women, people of colour, working class people and older people.

According to Harvard Business Review  'Research shows that masculine language, including adjectives like “competitive” and “determined,” result in women “perceiving that they would not belong in the work environment.” On the other hand, words like “collaborative” and “cooperative” tend to draw more women than men. Software programs that highlight stereotypically gendered words can help counteract this effect, says Iris Bohnet. “Then you can either remove the words and replace them with something more neutral,” or strive to strike a balance by using the same number of gendered descriptors and verbs. “Go back and forth between the words ‘build’ and ‘create,’” for example. The goal here is to “explore and see how [these changes] affect your pool. Learn by doing.”

🔦 Atlassian found that its job descriptions and person specifications were a potential barrier to attracting diverse candidates, so Atlassian adopted an intelligent text editor that uses AI to grade jobs and track words that could lead to positive and negative outcomes. It recommends specific language to use and plays a huge role in how applicants view job descriptions.This then enables the rewriting of job descriptions to appeal to candidates from groups that are not well represented. Other AI tools were used that could spot patterns in data that helped uncover hidden preferences for certain candidates, which can then be alleviated. Using this software, Atlassian was able to increase the percentage of females among its new recruits:Female new recruits rose from 10% to 57% with 22.9% of technical roles filled by women, an increase from 10%. Case study sourced from Inclusive Recruitment: Leading Positive Change, NHS Employers.

➖Focus on potential and avoid being overly prescriptive in job advertisements. Be clear between "Essential Skills" and "Desired Skills" (challenge the perception of "Essential"). This is a Language/ tone checklist from The Clear Company to support hiring managers when drafting or editing job descriptions. 'Rigid hiring criteria can be a barrier to a diverse workforce by excluding candidates who do not fit a specific profile. Underrepresented candidates who are not an exact match for background, experience and skills listed as requirements for a role may not even bother to apply', Gartner, 2022.

Focus on skills. Read about 'Why IBM Chooses Skills Over Degrees'. The US based Multiple Pathways Initiative is a multi-year targeted effort to reform companies’ hiring and talent management practices to emphasize the value of skills, rather than just degrees, and to improve equity, diversity and workplace culture and has nearly 80 Business Roundtable member companies participating (including Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Accenture, American Express etc). In 2022 the Multiple Pathways Initiative released a set of resources to support employers to implement skills-based talent management strategies at their companies:

➖'Instead of working within the confines of the narrow description of what the company needs, which often leads to a small, homogeneous candidate pool, organizations should also explore criteria that are “adjacent” to traditional hiring specifications. Exploring these adjacencies can augment talent pool size by revealing more diverse candidates. For instance, certain roles have skill sets that overlap; understanding how skills you are sourcing for roll up into larger skills taxonomies can help to identify more adjacent, nonobvious candidates', Gartner in 'Tactics for Recruiting Diverse Candidates'.

➖Look internally as well as externally. Make a business case for investing in short-term development programs to upskill existing underrepresented talent to fill skills gaps and attain faster ROI.

➖ Offer flexible work schedules and remote work options in job advertisements. Consider advertising all vacancies as open to both full-time and part-time or flexible options. Read this Zurich case study about what has happened since Zurich began offering all jobs on a part-time or flexible basis.  From January to November 2022, 45% more women were hired into senior roles at Zurich UK compared to the same period in 2019 (62 to 90). 2022 saw 17% more women hired into senior roles than in 2021.

Provide clear evidence about how your organisation supports part-time and remote/hybrid working with real case studies.  

'At Telstra, HR leaders realized the key to increasing the number of women in leadership was to support flexible work policies. To make Telstra’s EVP more attractive, they launched an initiative called “All Roles Flex.” Since the launch of “All Roles Flex,” the number of women joining Telstra exceeds the number of women leaving, ending a retention issue that had persisted for some time before this initiative came into being (see Case Study: ‘All Roles Flex’ Approach (Telstra)). Although flexible working policies have the potential to be powerful tools for the retention of female talent, their effectiveness depends heavily on the degree to which the organization correctly implements them. Making flexible working the norm throughout the organization and ensuring managers are adequately trained are two useful tactics to increase the efficacy of flexible work policies'.Gartner in 'Tactics for Recruiting Diverse Candidates'.

🔦Download a free ‘happy to talk flexible working’ logo from the UK Working Families website.

➖Highlight your organisation's commitment to D&I. Bring statements to life by showing what your organisation is actually doing - be specific by showcasing your D&I strategy, impact reports, the actions being taken and related policies - studies show that candidates prefer detail rather than generic statements.  Consider what progress indicators are laid out in your D&I strategy and what content and data do you have available for potential candidates. Read more about how candidates evaluate an organisation on D&I using Glassdoor and other review platforms.

➖Provide training for recruiters and hiring managers (eg. require evidence of completion before a hiring manager can submit a new requisition) to support them to mitigate bias at the attraction and selection stage.

➖Consider targeted recruitment programmes such as:

  • Return to work or experienced professional programmes; or
  • Development programmes for certain roles/skills.

 Identify new recruiting channels and understand attraction drivers for underrepresented talent pools. Work with employees from ERGs to understand their job search preferences and identify untapped or undervalued recruiting channels for candidate outreach. Understand the attraction drivers for underrepresented talent pools and create compelling messages in the job postings that appeal to these candidates. Participate in job fairs, conferences, and events targeted at underrepresented groups in tech. Connect with organisations and communities that focus on diversity in tech {for a list see HR + RECRUITMENT: Useful Tools for Recruiting Representative, Diverse Talent} Consider job boards and platforms targeting diverse candidates. Visit this open source directory with various job boards to consider. Advertise roles on a range of sites, and track which candidates came from where to ensure that job boards are helping - not hindering - efforts to diversify. 

➖Reach out to non active candidates from underrepresented talent pools and engage with non traditional platforms for sourcing to generate a robust pipeline of underrepresented talent.

➖Ensure advertisements explicitly state that the organisation welcomes disabled applicants. Offer and make adjustments for persons with a disability. Watch this video with Mark Lomas, Head of Culture at Lloyd's of London, about the importance of making reasonable adjustments and how aspects of the recruitment process impact disabled candidates. Consider proactively making adjustments such as not just saying that the document can be provided in a different format upon request, but make it available in different formats so screen reading software can read it. Can your recruitment process allow for the application to be submitted using a CV and Cover Letter rather than an application portal? If this is not possible, how can prospective candidates with disabilities engage with you to make the request. Having a point of contact and number can be a helpful workaround for this.

➖Consider how you use employee referral programs: The 2022 Social Mobility Employer Index recommends that 'employers should not pay employees for recommending people within their networks for jobs. Referral schemes risk recreating workforces that lack diversity and is a practice we discourage. Any employers who use referral hiring must ensure a diverse set of people join through this route, and to do that will need to monitor the data on who gets hired. But it is extremely difficult to execute such a scheme in an ethical, inclusive way, and thus we continue to urge employers to not use such referral schemes in their hiring practices'

➖Internship and mentorship programs. Establish internships and mentorship opportunities specifically aimed at attracting diverse talent. This allows potential candidates to gain exposure to the company culture and work environment.

Make opportunities open and attractive to returners / offer 'supported hiring' opportunities. Put in place the structure and resources to support and track returners through the recruitment process: to measure success, identify any barriers to recruitment, and ensure returner support is in place from day one for successful hires. Offer Line Manager coaching or support for returners and those who have come through the supported hiring route. Read related guidance from Women Returners.

➖Invest in strategic partnerships for senior management talent search.

➖Consider the 'Total Skills Market' - see '5 Best Practices for Recruiting a More Diverse Workforce', Gartner.



➖Offer scholarships and education support to students from underrepresented backgrounds pursuing tech-related degrees.

➖Be transparent about pay and benefits. Include salary bands in job adverts and avoid asking applicants how much they earn. These steps can help to close pay gaps by making it harder to pay differential rates.

➖Representation matters. Highlight testimonials and success stories of employees from a range of backgrounds to show representation and growth opportunities within the organisation. Share the details of the established employee resource groups.

Use diverse imagery:
  • Free diverse stock images are available from UKBlackTech and WOCinTech. Organisations may copy, distribute, and display the images as long as these are attributed to UKBlackTech/WOCinTech.
  • Take photos of groups of people candidly around organisational workspaces. Showcase a mix of people (variety of ages, ethnicities, gender, abilities).
  • Be authentic and honest. According to Stephen Frost and Danny Kalman, in their book 'Inclusive Talent Management', 'There is no point trying to communicate how diverse you are as an organisation if the mug shots of your board and executive team are clearly all white men. This is about real, authentic, and to a large extent public communication'.

➖Consider how you position your culture. Kate Headley, development director at The Clear Company, commented, “We work with many leading UK employers who are all competing to hire the best talent, but it’s very common to see many of them doing so by promoting the 'work hard, play hard' culture that isn’t appealing to a large portion of the population and is, more importantly, a biased approach. Not only does this limit the pool of talent available, but it also has the potential to damage an employer’s reputation as a great place to work. However, in most cases, employers simply don’t know they’re not being inclusive' Talint International article.

➖Use social media to attract applicants. Actively manage the organisation's social media presence and showcase the organisation's D&I activity. Encourage employees to share opportunities and talk about their work experiences using posts and blogs on platforms like LinkedIn and Glassdoor.

Request diverse shortlists. Ask recruiters to actively seek diverse candidates and require recruiters to provide diverse shortlists.