Hiring for Diversity: A Guide to Get You Started

September 7, 2017

Hiring for diversity is easier said than done, and I know I’m not alone in wishing there was an obvious solution. But however hard it might be, there’s no denying just how important diversity in the workplace truly is. Based on a 2011 Forbes study, out of the 321 global enterprises that were surveyed, 85% agreed or strongly agreed that diversity is crucial to fostering innovation in the workplace. Census data tells us that by 2050 there will be no racial or ethnic majority in our country, and there are many studies that prove that a business comprised of diverse individuals increases that business’ market share and makes for a more qualified workforce. Knowing how crucial it is not only to the bottom line, but also to your company’s culture, what can we, as employers, do to increase diversity in the workplace?

It’s a monumental question, typically followed by an even bigger challenge – choosing where to start. Although there’s no magic key when it comes to hiring for diversity, there are things we can do to make moves in the right direction. Through careful examination of hiring and interview processes, and by setting specific diverse hiring goals, you’ll be taking the first and most important steps towards achieving a diverse organization.

Here is our guide to getting started:

Identify where in your organization diversity gaps exist

Conduct  an assessment of your current workforce (i.e. certain age groups, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc). Are there specific teams or functions within your company that are especially lacking in any of these diversity dimensions? Based on this assessment, what dimension(s) of diversity are you going to focus on hiring for over the course of the next quarter, 6 months, year?

Audit your interview process

Find out where the “problem” exists – look back at one of the last roles you hired for, and dissect each stage of the recruiting and interview process to identify where candidate diversity falls short. Are you simply not getting enough diverse candidates into the top of the funnel? Or perhaps you’re doing a great job of moving diverse candidates through initial stages, but realize they’re falling out of the interview process after the 1st on-site interview.

Taking a look at the various stages of an interview process, there are many insightful questions you can ask yourself as you attempt to establish where the diversity hiring breakdown occurs. Here’s an outline you can use in your own process:

Sourcing for new candidates

  • Are your recruiters actively reaching out to a  diverse candidate pool? If they’re not, where is the roadblock for them? Are they having trouble finding diverse candidates? Is the geographical location a hindrance?
  • If recruiters are reaching out, are diverse candidates responding to their outreach? If not, what can be done to increase response rate? Does the messaging or the job description need to be tweaked? Do follow-ups need to be more frequent or personalized?

For more information on writing unbiased job descriptions, check out this guide from NCWIT here.

Review of inbound applicants

  • What is the ratio of non-diverse applicants to diverse candidates that you’re receiving? If it’s skewed towards non-diverse, what can you do as a company to outwardly attract the diversity you’re seeking?
  • Ratio aside, how many of the diverse candidate applications are we responding to? If that number is low, is it because the candidates truly aren’t a fit?

Phone screens and on-site interviews with hiring managers, peers, leadership, etc.

  • What percentage of diverse vs non-diverse candidates are getting pushed through to the next step? If the candidate is withdrawing, did you debrief with them to get his or her feedback on why?
  • What’s the feedback from everyone involved in the interview process for non-diverse vs diverse candidates? If a diverse candidate received negative feedback and was ultimately passed on, what was the specific feedback? Was it rational? Is that feedback tying directly back to the qualities/skills that person was responsible for vetting out?
  • How many of the finalists are diverse? A Harvard Business Review study revealed that when there is only 1 minority candidate in a pool of 3 or more, the chances of that candidate being hired is close to zero.


  • If diverse candidates have rejected your offers, have you gone back to have a follow up conversation and gather their candid feedback as to why?
  • Was your offer to the diverse candidate as competitive as it would have been for a non-diverse candidate in the same role?

Come up with a plan for how to fix the problem

Now that you’ve completed your audit and have uncovered problem areas, you need to work to implement a fix. For instance, you might uncover that diverse candidates soar through the initial phone screens, but once they meet with hiring managers or teams on site, teams are passing.

Sit down with the interview panel to make sure they are clear on what qualities and skills they are responsible for vetting out in the candidates. We recommend that you create a consistent candidate scorecard for the panel to use when interviewing to help them stay “on-task” when relaying feedback, encouraging them to focus only on how well the candidate measures up to the 4 or 5 key areas of skill previously decided on, rather than on things that are irrelevant to the candidate’s ability to do the job (i.e. “the candidate was a little too shy for our culture”, or “his accent could be distracting to customers”).

Create a diverse hiring goal

Now that you’ve identified where the problem area is, it’s time to create a SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound) diversity hiring goal. The most important things to keep in mind when creating a goal are:

Make sure you create a goal that is realistic

If you haven’t hired any female engineers in the last year, then it’s unlikely that you’re going to hire 4 in the next three months. Instead, make the goal that out of the 3 open headcount you have this quarter for engineers, that at least one of them will be a female. It might seem like a small step, but that one female hire is going to feel like a huge win, and it’s progress!

Make the goal known to everyone at your company and ask for their help in achieving it.

When you’re open about the fact that there’s a diversity problem, whether it’s on one team or across the entire company, you make it everyone’s responsibility to help in changing that. Whether it’s encouraging employees to tap into their networks for diverse candidate referrals, or asking them to speak out on behalf of the company’s mission to diversify its teams, share your goal and make the achievement of it a shared effort.

Create a “deadline” for your diversity hiring goal and make sure the entire interview committee is aware of it.

Whether it’s over the course of 1 quarter or 6 months, setting a timeline is important in creating urgency and assessing progress.

Set checkpoints so that you’re always aware of the progress you and your team are making towards your goal.

For example, if you’re giving yourself 6 months to hire 3 ethnically diverse candidates on your sales team, set a monthly reminder leading up to check in on where things stand. If it’s the end of month #1, and there are 5 sales candidates coming in for on-site interviews, how many of them fit the diversity profile you’re aiming for? If that number is less than 2, this is a good time to check in with the recruiter and interview committee to see where improvement can be made.

Pre-schedule a “goal debrief” with your interview committee at the end to discuss the results.

If you reached your goal, talk about what you all did differently to make this happen,  how you will implement these hiring practices across the organization, and set the next goal to continue on this path. If you didn’t, use this time to brainstorm on why and how you’ll do things differently going forward.

In 2017, creating a diverse workforce is imperative, not only for improving your bottom line, but also for boosting morale, culture and overall workplace happiness. We know this won’t happen overnight, but by implementing the steps outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to creating a more diverse and equitable work environment.

Something we missed? Let us know in the comments.

Sarah Duffy

Director of Talent

Sarah partners with OpenView’s portfolio companies to consult on recruitment strategy and to source and hire the top talent they need to scale their teams. Before joining OpenView, Sarah was Director of Recruiting at Betts Recruiting – a talent agency that specializes in pairing sales and marketing talent with software startups.