When organizations are looking to increase diversity amongst their employees, the first step is to look at talent acquisition practices. How can you attract and hire employees with backgrounds and experiences that differ from the employees you already have?

We have gathered a selection of actions in two domains:

  • Increase talent pool diversity
  • Decrease bias in recruitment

Increase talent pool diversity.

Many organizations’ talent pools are fed by their own employee referrals. In a time where there is a “war for talent”, organizations even give monetary bonuses to employees whose referrals are successfully recruited.  

Affinity bias and discomfort with what is “different” result in homogeneous networks. When referring to future candidates from those networks, it is no surprise that candidate profiles are similar to your workforce. This makes employee referrals an ineffective strategy for HR departments that are looking to expand their candidate pool.  

Let’s explore three actions that will help increase talent pool diversity.

Action 1: Assess your applicant pool.

To improve diversity in your applicant pool, first gain insight into your current situation.

Gather data to measure and assess diversity gaps. This data will help you prioritize and define targeted actions with a big impact. Go through the following checklist to assess your talent pool diversity.

Data collection:

  • What do you know about diversity in your talent pool? Which socio-demographic applicant data do you have access to because candidates share it on their resumé or during an interview?
  • What data do you save anonymously in a database that allows you to process the data further?
  • Does the data go beyond age and gender? Do you look at other characteristics like ethnicity, parental status, educational background, etc.?
  • What are ways to gather more data, keeping in mind the privacy and data protection laws? Who can help with this task?

Data processing:

After collecting data, what happens to it? What does your process look like and who is involved?

  • Do you regularly check what you can learn from this data?
  • Do you regularly report conclusions to senior management?
  • Do you follow up with certain trends e.g., the lack of candidates representing a certain age group, or only receiving candidates from the same university?
  • Do you investigate the root causes for trends? e.g., your organization gives guest lectures at only one university or is present at job fairs in certain regions…

When collecting and processing personal data, always check which data protection regulations apply. This can be your organization’s own Candidate Data Privacy Policy, or national or international law (e.g., GDPR in European legislation).

Data protection laws allow you to collect and save personal data when it is:

  • Non-mandatory for candidates to provide this data. This means they always have the option “I prefer not to say”.
  • 100% anonymous.

These guidelines allow you to map your candidate pool without endangering the candidate’s privacy. Always explain to candidates why you are collecting this data, i.e., to improve diversity, it is an opportunity to showcase your commitment to DEI.

Action 2: Sourcing candidates.

Be proactive in sourcing candidates from diverse backgrounds and experiences.    

Inclusive Communication

A recommended quick win to source candidates with profiles that differ from your usual candidates, is reviewing and rewriting your job advertisement and website texts to make them more inclusive.

You can find a step-by-step manual to do so here. (LINK to doc made by Ilse & Anouck)

Communication with candidates goes beyond your job postings. Pay attention to the entire hiring, selection, and onboarding process.

Have you checked the language you use in:

  • Private LinkedIn messages to possible candidates
  • Emails candidates receive after applying, including general automatic replies or personal emails from recruiters
  • The language you use in a first screening call

Gender is a popular element to consider when checking for inclusive language. Recruiting female employees is a challenge in many sectors, so a gender focus makes sense. Tips and tricks are widespread which makes it an easy topic to start with.   

We encourage you to look beyond gender.

  • Besides women, what other groups are you not reaching with your job advertisements?
  • Have you considered age, educational background, socio-economic background, ethnicity, first language, religion, caring responsibilities, etc.?
  • Have you checked your language for historical and socio-cultural references that might exclude or offend candidates?

Find partners

Recruiting from your or your employees’ networks is not an effective strategy for a diverse talent pool. To advertise broadly, expand your network and connect with new networks, look for external partners.

Partner #1 Organizations or networks of people belonging to minorities or underrepresented groups

Recruitment does not have to be their core business. You can make valuable new connections by networking and gain insights by listening and exchanging experiences. This can benefit your recruitment efforts in the future.

Give back to these networks by offering mentorship to their members. You can establish a personal connection between your organization and diverse talents, make a difference in someone’s career, and maybe even find a good match for one of your job openings.

E.g., A Seat At The Table. A mentoring program for underprivileged young people and a leadership program for students and young professionals.  

Partner #2 Professional organizations that aim to match candidates with organizations that carry a heart for DEI can directly help you find suitable candidates.

You both have the same goal: finding the best possible match for candidates from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Candidates have enjoyed coaching and have a great deal of self-knowledge and insights about their added value. A true win-win.  

E.g., Nestor. An employment agency for people over 50 of age and pensioners that matches motivated mature employees with flexible long-term assignments.

De werkplekarchitecten. An independent not-for-profit that trains, coaches, and guides underprivileged candidates to find a place in the labor market.

Keep Dreaming. A non-profit working towards increasing ethnic diversity and racial equality in workplaces, supporting both individuals and businesses.

Partner #3 Open access diversity job boards and social network groups

Candidates who browse these platforms self-identify as belonging to an underrepresented group in the workplace. They are actively looking for an inclusive employer. Depending on the job board, they might have specific experiences or backgrounds that can be valuable to your organization.  

These job boards help you reach new networks and allow you to show you are a diverse employer looking to expand your talent pool.

E.g., Diversifying. A UK-based purpose-led careers platform for people to find jobs with employers who are serious about diversity and inclusion, and for employers to showcase their jobs to a diverse community.

KifKif Job forum by the intercultural movement KifKif that builds a solidary, democratic, and intercultural society. It collects job postings from organizations and institutions that have a warm heart for diversity.

Action 3: Composing a shortlist.

You know what your talent pool looks like and how to find diverse candidate profiles.

How can you make sure you transfer the diversity in your talent pool onto your shortlist?

1. Set targets

Define clear, appropriate, and realistic targets for shortlists before selecting candidates. Use your DEI Strategy as a guide to define the balance you need to create change in your recruitments.

Apply the “Two in the pool” method suggested by Johnson et al (2016). This method shows that at least two diverse/minority candidates are needed to create a realistic chance for the minority candidate to be hired.

2. Compose your shortlist

The next step is to dive into your candidate pool to select candidates for your shortlist.

Take into account:

  • the objective job requirements and skills needed
  • the identified gaps from your DEI scan that are in your DEI Strategy

Beware of bias in the recruitment process. Find more information on how to avoid the negative impact of bias as a recruiter or hiring manager here. (LINK to doc 2.2 Decrease bias in recruitment)

After making the first selection, check your shortlist to include diversity in candidates. Did you apply the “Two in the pool” method?

Reaching the set diversity targets for your shortlist can be difficult. In this case, review your candidate requirements critically.

  • Why are you losing candidates with a diverse profile?
  • Are there specific requirements that form a barrier?
  • Can you change or redefine your requirements to make a more diverse shortlist possible?

Are you working with a recruitment agency? Inform them about your desire to have a diverse shortlist.

Challenge recruitment agencies you are working with. Ask them about the diversity among their own recruiters, their awareness of the importance of DEI, and their eagerness to work with organizations that address diversity needs.

3. Motivate your choices

What if you do not meet the diversity targets for your shortlist?

  • What is the reason?
  • Who is accountable? How can you hold them accountable?
  • Is there a possibility to rereview the shortlist?

Some CEOs require a personal email from recruiters or hiring managers to explain the lack of diversity in a shortlist. This can seem like an extreme action, but it is one way of keeping your recruitment team on their toes.

What tools does your organization have to install accountability? Reflect on this with your team of recruiters and hiring managers.

Many organizations invest in their talent pool and talent pipeline and consider it a job well done once they manage to attract diverse talents.

Successfully recruiting candidates with different skills, points of view, and experiences is only the first step. Do not forget to invest in an inclusive culture to ensure retention. Discover actions to build an inclusive organizational culture here. (LINK to Pillar 4)


Fetcher. (2020). Diversifying workplaces starts with diversifying candidate pipelines. Retrieved from https://fetcher.ai/blog/diversify-talent

Inclusion Now (2020). DEI Scan Methodology.

Johnson, S.K., Hekman, D.R., & Chan, E.T. (2016). If There’s Only One Woman in Your Candidate Pool, There’s Statistically No Chance She’ll Be Hired. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/04/if-theres-only-one-woman-in-your-candidate-pool-theres-statistically-no-chance-shell-be-hired

Platts, M. (2021). Diversifying your talent pool – how and why? Retrieved from https://boden-group.co.uk/resources/employers/diversifying-your-talent-pool-how-and-why/

Decrease bias in recruitment.

Bias has been a DEI buzzword for many years, and rightfully so. It has a big impact on how we interact with colleagues and leaders and influences the fairness of processes and practices in organizations.

Let’s explore bias and how you can hack bias in the recruitment process.

Action 1: Understanding bias.

The first action is learning about bias yourself. Understand where it comes from, what the impact is and how you can recognize bias in your own behavior and that of others.

We will get you started with some highlights.  

Bias is a prejudice in favor or against a thing, a person, or a group compared with another.

Biases are thinking errors. Our brain needs a lot of information to assess and react to situations but is not capable of processing the necessary information fast enough.

The result?

  • It takes shortcuts to categorize and streamline information and speed-up reaction time
  • It fills in the blanks of information with stereotypes and past experiences to accurately assess a situation

Besides limitations in information processing, biases are also influenced by our personal experiences, upbringing, education, history, etc. They are embedded in our thinking, and our society and often become part of the norm. This is how they sneak into organizational structures like recruitment processes.

Want to learn more about biases? There is endless content available on- and offline, much of it to increase awareness.

To tackle the negative impact of bias at work, you need to increase conscious decision-making. Behavioral change requires time and is most effective when you use multiple learning methods.

An interactive eLearning tool like Inclusion Now’s Hack Your Bias® program can help you overcome bias and develop confident inclusion. With its concrete tools and different approaches, you can create long-lasting behavioral change.

Start hacking your bias today: https://www.inclusionnow.eu/elearning

Bias can have a positive or negative impact on the recruitment of candidates. No matter the impact on the individual candidate, it always endangers fair and equitable recruitment practices and is a “must” when working on DEI.

If you want to decrease bias in recruitment, you need to explore ways to impact 1) people and 2) processes.

Action 2: Hacking individual bias.

Unconscious biases lead to wrongful assumptions and incorrect assessments of candidates, either positively or negatively. Candidates are labeled by recruiters and hiring managers and treated based on these labels instead of on accurate assessments of their character, experiences, and skills.  

Time to HACK your bias in four steps:

  1. Halt
  2. Acknowledge
  3. Challenge & change
  4. Keep on doing it

Step 1. Halt and be willing to examine your biases

The first step is to take time to think before you act.

Bias sneaks into our thoughts when we assess candidates quickly, without conscious thought or reflection.

There are multiple biases that can influence candidate screening and selection. Some common biases are:

  • Confirmation bias: you notice, focus on, and accept only the information about a candidate that is in line with your existing beliefs, and ignore contradictory information.
  • Affinity bias: also called the similar-to-me effect, a preference for candidates who look or behave like you, and share your ethnicity/background/education/gender/age.
  • Halo effect: a tendency to prioritize a candidate based on a positive first impression or not job-related qualities you perceive about that person.
  • Horns effect: a tendency to dismiss a candidate based on a negative first impression or information that is not related to their performance ability.
  • Gender bias: a preference for or a negative attitude against candidates of a certain gender, based on stereotypes of perceived gender strengths.
  • Ethnicity bias: a preference for or a negative attitude against a candidate based on their racial or national background, cultural heritage, religious belief, language, custom, or traditions.

We tend to judge candidates on things that are not related to their ability to perform well on a job. Biases can be based on personal beliefs and therefore different for everyone. Examples are candidates’ names, age, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation.

Step 2. Acknowledge what you are thinking & feeling

Once you manage to halt and realize your assessment could be biased, try to become aware of your assumptions, beliefs, and opinions.

Have the courage to recognize and acknowledge your biases towards a candidate and explore where your biased thoughts are rooted.

Remember that multiple biases can influence a situation at the same time.

Step 3. Challenge & change your perspective

Challenge what you believe to be true about a candidate. Can you back up your opinions with checked facts or are they not more than (stereotypical) assumptions?

Take time and effort to unlearn your automatic go-to’s and actively reframe your opinions and beliefs.

Step 4. Keep on doing it

To change your behavior, keep repeating the HACK to make the new behaviors your own.

“If you have a brain, you have bias.”

Biases exist on an individual level, but the responsibility to hack biases in the workplace is shared between individual employees, leaders, and the organization.

Many organizations offer awareness sessions or concrete courses for employees to learn how to hack their biases. You can read more insights about unconscious bias programs at work here: www.inclusionnow.eu/blog  

Action 3: Hacking bias in interviews.

Bias occurs in different stages of the recruitment and selection process.

Recruitment interviews are the perfect scene for bias to sneak up: an individual recruiter with a basic set of questions, free to lead the interview as they like without guarantee of consistency across candidates.  

When questions are determined at the moment, not all candidates have the same opportunity to showcase their fit for a role. This endangers equality and fairness in the recruitment process. The n°1 best practice to hack bias in interviews is to standardize the interview process.

3 Tips to standardize an interview:

  1. Determine a fixed list of questions in a fixed order, for all interviews for this specific job opening.
    • Make sure the questions are aligned with what defines success in this role.
    • Check questions for bias together with your team.
    • Use an interview scorecard that grades candidates’ responses to each question on a predetermined scale.
  2. Include a work sample test in which candidates solve a real-life problem. This allows you to compare candidates’ skills more objectively.
    • Follow a skills checklist, and a detailed list of necessary skills for the job.
    • Try to quantify skills that are present by rating candidates on a numerical scale.
  3. Use multiple angles of assessment
    • Compare answers to questions horizontally. This means looking at the answers from all candidates to the same question at the same time.
    • If possible, ask a colleague to attend the interview to get a different perspective on the answers. They can guarantee you do not diverge from the set list of questions and can challenge your biases and assumptions.

Do you find it difficult to check bias in how your questions are formulated?

  • Ask your team to look at the questions, and discuss each question together. Different perspectives lead to new insights into your own biases or blind spots
  • Ask an external DEI expert to examine your questions. They are not only trained to spot bias but can also check the questions for exclusive language.

Action 4: Hacking bias in hiring decisions.

In most organizations, only a few people are involved in the final hiring decision. This leaves room for biased decision-making.

Why? Individuals do not like to think of themselves as biased and therefore have little awareness of their own preconceptions, assumptions, and blind spots.

To decrease bias in hiring decisions:

  • Make reviewers aware of biases

A small group of decision-makers can be homogenous and sensitive to affinity bias.

When hierarchy is involved, the chance of conformity bias where someone changes their opinion of a candidate depending on the response of others, increases.

  • Reduce the influence of peer opinions

Make sure interviewers do not have access to comments of previous interviewers and are not influenced by someone else’s view.

  • Challenge interviewers’ assumptions

Whenever you hear stereotypical statements or assumptions, ask the interviewer if they checked the statement or assumption with the candidate.

  • Compose a diverse hiring panel

Even with a standardized interviewing process, it is highly valuable to compose a diverse hiring panel to counter bias and have different points of view to help decide. Ask each member of the panel to report their opinion independently of that of others.

Using software to avoid bias in the recruitment process is becoming increasingly popular.

Powered by artificial intelligence, it can:

  • Help with the screening of candidates
  • Eliminate unconscious bias of recruiters
  • Assess the entire pipeline at the same time, so there is no need to manually eliminate a lot of candidates from the start via biased processes.

Be critical when using AI-powered software. Always check how technology was created. If the software is fed with a biased dataset, this will result in a biased output, making the software useless for unbiasing your recruitment process.


Agarwal, P. (2018). Here Is How Bias Can Affect Recruitment In Your Organisation. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/pragyaagarwaleurope/2018/10/19/how-can-bias-during-interviews-affect-recruitment-in-your-organisation/?sh=4f9b30c11951

Carnahan, B., & Moore, C. (2020). Actively Addressing Unconscious Bias in Recruiting. Harvard Business School. Retrieved from https://www.hbs.edu/recruiting/insights-and-advice/blog/post/actively-addressing-unconscious-bias-in-recruiting

Fetcher (2020). Diversifying workplaces stats with diversifying candidate pipelines. Retrieved from https://fetcher.ai/blog/diversify-talent

Inclusion Now. (2022). Hack Your Bias® Program. Retrieved from https://www.inclusionnow.eu/elearning

Polli, F. (2019). Using AI to Eliminate Bias from Hiring. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/10/using-ai-to-eliminate-bias-from-hiring Wang, K. (2022). 7 Tips on How to Reduce Bias Hiring. Retrieved from https://www.searchlight.ai/blog/how-to-reduce-bias-hiring