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Lessons in Leadership

Equitable Interviews: A Guide for Fair Candidate Selection

Diversity, equity, and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords — they’re essential for promoting fairness and creating a work environment where people of all backgrounds, identities, and experiences feel welcome.

Making sure someone feels welcome at your company starts well before their first day. Inclusion starts with a fair hiring process and equitable interviews. Here are a few things you can do to find diverse, qualified candidates and ensure a fair interviewing process.

5 Tips for creating a fair hiring process

Write inclusive job ads

In a 2022 SHRM study of workplace equity, 74.4% of respondent organizations welcome diverse applicants “to a great extent,” but only 35% say they’ve adopted recruitment practices that attract diverse applicants to the same extent. Attracting diverse applicants starts with inclusive job ads. But how do you create an inclusive job ad?

First of all, use inclusive language throughout. For example, say “parental leave” instead of “maternity leave” when talking about benefits. Avoid excessive corporate speak and industry jargon to be more inclusive to skilled candidates who might have less experience with your specific sector. 

Consider limiting the number of job requirements you list to get more interest from qualified applicants who might self-disqualify due to your strict parameters. Also, consider including pay rates in your job ad. Pay transparency provides clarity for jobseekers and attracts more applicants.

Offer flexible interview options

The interview process can be stressful for many jobseekers; however, it can also be a serious barrier for some applicants. 

For example, not all candidates have the flexibility to leave their current workplace during the day to interview for a new position. Some may have childcare needs or transportation challenges. Keep these things in mind when scheduling interviews. 

More ways to offer flexible options that accommodate a range of applicant needs:

  • Make after-hours or weekend interview slots available for those with schedule conflicts.
  • Consider offering virtual interviews, and provide instructions or tips for success, as not everyone will have experience with video calls.
  • For in-person interviews, provide candidates with information on getting to your office using public transportation.

Train your interviewers and standardize interviews

Everyone involved in the recruitment process should be trained on interview skills, inclusion, and bias. Ideally, your interviewing team should include managers as well as members of underrepresented groups, as diversity in hiring panels decreases unconscious bias. 

Having a standard set of questions to ask also helps ensure equitable interviews and prevent instances of discrimination. When you ask all candidates the same questions in the same order, you can focus on relevant factors and more easily compare candidates to one another without skewing your opinion with extraneous personal details.

Focus on skills and competencies

The reality is not every qualified candidate is an obvious fit when you just look at their resume and experience. Someone who lacks the educational background or work experience you’re looking for could still be a great fit for the job. 

Choose interview questions that focus on skills and competences rather than direct experience. Employees with varying backgrounds often contribute fresh perspectives and can be a huge asset to your organization—so be open to applicants who‘ve had a less traditional career path.

Invite unconventional candidates

As you open your mind to those with nontraditional career paths, consider how you can include other types of diverse candidates in your hiring process. Employers are required by law to avoid discriminating against someone based on their identity, but some organizations are taking steps to explicitly invite applications from underrepresented groups. 

Are you open to hiring someone who has reentered the workforce after incarceration, or do you have restrictive background check requirements? Are you eager to make accommodations for individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment? 

Make it clear on your website and job ads that you value diversity and are seeking candidates with different backgrounds and experiences, and you’ll get more applications from diverse jobseekers.

Ensuring equal opportunities for all applicants

Fair interviewing and other inclusive hiring practices help you attract more diverse candidates during the recruitment process, and studies prove the benefits of diversity in the workplace. SHRM’s 2022 study shows workplace equity is stronger among organizations with higher percentages of women employees and higher percentages of employees of color. 

Diversity is important for attracting talent, too. In a survey by workplace review website, Glassdoor, 76% of jobseekers said a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job opportunities. Data also suggests a correlation between diversity and financial performance

Review your hiring practices, and incorporate some of the above advice for equitable interviews. For more recruitment resources, check out our tips for interviewing best practices, and download our interview invitation template.

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