Increasing Diversity in Leadership in your Workplace Series - Part I


Cory Hutchison

There are several distinct filters in the career pipeline that prevent diverse candidates from rising into positions of leadership in a company. A holistic, strategic, dedicated approach to recognize and address all of the filters at each step of the process to reap the benefits of diverse leadership.

The benefits of diversity in organizations (Forbes) and in leadership (McKinsey) are well known and backed by numerous studies, but how are they achieved? In this series we will be providing strategies that you can implement in your own organization to dismantle each of these filters which are preventing talented, diverse candidates from progressing through the ranks of your company. First up is the very beginning of the pipeline, prospecting:

Traditional Prospecting Doesn't Work

You can't hire for diversity if you're not seeing diverse candidates, and traditional hiring practices rely heavily on referrals and posting to job boards. Both of these approaches consistently fail to attract diverse candidates.

Referrals are a great way to find good quality candidates that have already been vetted by someone you trust, but they are a terrible way to attract diversity. This is because most of our networks share our background, interests, skills, experiences, etc. In other words, our networks are filled with people just like us, which is the opposite of diversity.

Job boards fail because minority and female candidates are far more likely to undersell their skills and be deterred by a long list of requirements and qualifications. While it is possible to reduce the bias in online job descriptions, applicants through traditional job boards typically skew white and male, which will fill your pipeline with candidates both similar to each other and your current employees.

Cast Your Net Where the Fish Are

The way to find great minority and female candidates is not to passively post a job description and then wait for applications to pour in. If you want great diverse candidates, you need to put in the work to go out and find them, do outreach, and build relationships into a network.

There are many minority professional organizations with presences online and in-person:

Show up to a meeting. Reach out to an organizer, and let them know what you're looking for. It's very likely that members of the organization are open to a new role or even actively looking for a job. Even if there's no one who fits your profile at that time, it is important to maintain this relationship so that when the perfect candidate does show up you are the first person to hear about it.

This is so much more effort than just posting to a jobs board or letting your current employees do your prospecting for you through referrals, but consider the return on the investment. As a minority job seeker, which approach do you think would make more of an impression?

  1. A generic LinkedIn message talking in general terms about the role.

  2. A LinkedIn message that references specific skills or experiences in your background and ties them to specific requirements for the role, while dropping a mention of the diverse and inclusive culture?

The second approach requires time, thought, and will greatly reduce the number of candidates you are able to reach out to in a given day, but the conversion rate of those fewer contacts would go through the roof. It is not about the quantity of the candidates that you see but the quality, and intelligently targeting your efforts to the groups that you are looking to attract to your company will ensure that you end up with more diverse and high-quality candidates in your pipeline.