How To Hire Diverse: Three Ways to Create a Well-Represented Candidate Pool

Are you a Human Resources or Talent Acquisition Professional struggling to attract a diverse talent pool? 

According to the LinkedIn Global Report on Recruitment, Diversity in recruitment is becoming a fast priority for employers who are struggling to attract and retain key talent.  Over 78% of companies indicated they are prioritizing diversity to improve culture, and 62% are prioritizing diversity to boost financial performance.

It’s no secret that creating a well-represented candidate pool can bring several benefits to a company.  Those benefits can range from more available talent, to increased employee retention.  Employers can leverage a well-represented candidate pool to overcome key challenges like the global talent shortage.  Canada will face a growing skills gap in the near future and business leaders need to adopt a number of strategies to address it, according to a recent IBM virtual roundtable. As a result, it is becoming increasingly important that employers leverage diversity and inclusion to attract and retain talent. 

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This article looks at the concept of diversity recruitment, major diversity recruitment misconceptions, a formula for effective diversity in recruitment, the challenges of creating a well-represented candidate pool and specific tactics to attract underrepresented candidates. 

While tactics and strategies are of key importance to effective execution of diversity in recruitment, perhaps the most important piece to consider is the intention behind the initiatives. 

The current state:  diversity recruitment in practice, a real-world example. 

The Chief Executive Officer of one of the region’s largest employers called me.  He is an experienced, capable and smart leader.  He is conscientious wants to do the right thing when it comes to diversity and inclusion, but he doesn’t know where to start.

The CEO is an educated, middle aged white male and he is worried about the makeup of his leadership team.  He recognizes that there is no diversity at the top level of his organization.  He is growing concerned with the lack of diverse perspectives and committed to affect change.

The CEO tells me he needs to hire a Black or brown person to join his team.  He is clearly uncomfortable when he says this.  The words Black and brown are a whisper.  He cringes and lowers his tone a little when he says them. 

He goes on to explain that he has been looking for this diverse talent for months.  He has even tasked the Human Resources Team to only bring forward underrepresented candidates.  They have not been successful in their efforts. 

The purpose of his call to me is to ask if I know a Black or brown person who would be suited to join his team.  The CEO says they don’t even have to meet all the role’s qualifications.  He says they just need someone they can train. 

What is Diversity Recruitment? 

Diversity recruitment means ensuring the recruitment and selection process is free of bias related to race, gender, sexual orientation and religion. 

Diversity recruitment means hiring a candidate based on their skills and qualifications.  It encompasses all parts of the recruitment process; where job vacancies are posted, how ads are written, the training and makeup of the hiring team, the interview process, and the candidate selection criteria.  Effective diversity recruitment allows underrepresented candidates to be assessed based on merit and protects them from bias.   

Diversity Recruitment Myths

When it comes to diversity recruitment, there are myths that often stand in the way of successful programs.  These misconceptions are widely held and explain the misguided efforts of the conscientious CEO. 

Myth 1: diversity recruitment means selecting a candidate based on their identity.

Diversity recruitment practices should not lead a company to hire based on an individual’s identity.  In fact, hiring a person based on their belonging to an underrepresented group is just as illegal as screening out of the process based on their identity.

Myth 2: diversity recruitment means I must give someone less qualified a chance

Increasing diversity in recruitment does not mean that you will need to hire someone who is less qualified for the role.  In many cases, underrepresented candidates who are rejected from hiring processes are more competitive. 

According to the York University Institute for Social Research, 8.8% of Black women with university degrees are unemployed, compared to 5.7% of white women with high school diplomas.  Consequently, it is not the availability of qualified candidates that is responsible for the underrepresentation of marginalized groups.  It is that the organization chooses not to hire from underrepresented groups.

The challenge, therefore, is not that underrepresented, BIPOC professionals are less qualified or competitive.  The greatest challenge face by recruiters and hiring managers is an inaccurate view of what someone should look like.

Myth 2:  Diversity recruitment means I must give someone less qualified a chance.

Hiring Team Bias

Hiring managers and interviewers, continue to get in their own way and trip themselves up by assessing the person’s affect, packaging, and pedigree when your only goal is to assess the person’s qualifications. 

Our biases and hanging on to common misconceptions lead us to disqualifying candidates who fully meet the requirements of the role.

A Formula for Effective Diversity Recruitment 

Effective diversity recruitment means focusing on the creation of a well-represented candidate pool, eliminating interview team bias and a selection process that moves the team towards the most competitive candidate. Jennifer Tardy describes the formula for effective diversity recruitment:

[Well-Represented Candidate Pool] + [Interview Team Bias Eliminated] = [Select Most Competitive Candidate] 

The Challenges of Creating a Well-Represented Candidate Pool

The first step to executing the formula for effective diversity in recruitment is creating a well-represented candidate pool.  This means you’re taking extra steps to promote inclusivity through all phases of your recruitment.  Ultimately it moves the organization from a homogenous candidate pool to diversity among its applicants.

There are 3 primary challenges employers face when it comes to creating a well-represented candidate pool:

1.Employers aren’t sure where to start.

The idea of embedding diversity into recruitment can seem really daunting.  When an employer doesn’t have any experience in this area it can be difficult to take the first action step.  It can also be scary.  The employer might be concerned they will offend someone, for example. 

2. Continued use of practices that actively exclude underrepresented candidates.

You may unintentionally continue to exclude qualified candidates from the recruitment process by using practices that actively exclude underrepresented candidates.  For example, employee referral programs encourage current employees to refer a candidate to the organization. 

If the organization lacks representation, it can be assumed that the referral program won’t help to solve the problem.  People are drawn to people like them, consequently, social circles can become a reflection of the individual’s preferences and appearance.  Similarity bias is a term used to describe the type of unconscious bias whereby human beings are naturally drawn to, and ultimately prefer, people who are similar to them.

 3. Employers often default to what they are familiar with.

They continue to use familiar job boards.  This means they continue to access the same groups of people over and over again.  Often this candidate pool is representative of the current workforce. Using the same source, inevitably leads to more of the same.    

The job seekers visiting the job board you currently use to post job ads may be overrepresented in the same areas where their workplace is already currently overrepresented.  This perpetuates the issue of lack of diversity. 

There are ad-hoc efforts, like the earlier mentioned CEO, where a hiring manager does their best to ‘figure it out’ with no real strategy or plan.  This isn’t an effective use of time.

Recruitment challenges infographic

The Benefits of a Well-Represented Candidate Pool

Companies should prioritize diversity in recruitment because it’s the right thing to do and because it has a tangible positive impact on the bottom line. 

When employees bring their entire, authentic selves to work, they’re free to be more creative, energetic, and collaborate more effectively with coworkers. Creating a more diverse workforce allows for better decision-making through differing perspective, 

Companies that are more diverse have better retention and are more likely to be seen as innovators in their industry.

3 Ways to Create a Well-Represented Candidate Pool

When it comes to creating a well-represented candidate pool there is really no one-size fits all solution or easy fix.  As an employer, you should make sure to understand your own unique needs and diversity goals. 

The actions you take to build you well-represented candidate pool can be simple and low-cost.  The important thing to remember is that working with diverse, underrepresented candidate effectively is going to take some consistent effort and time.  That is, if you really want to do it right.

Here are 3 specific ways you can create a diverse candidate pool:

1.Build strategic relationships.

To build a well-represented candidate pool, you can connect with community groups and organizations for underrepresented professionals.  This allows you the opportunity to understand some of the challenges, and opportunities facing underrepresented groups.

On top of this, connecting with organizations supporting underrepresented groups demonstrates the employer’s proactivity and overall willingness to learn. 

These strategic relationships can lead to increased knowledge and allow you to rethink existing practices around recruitment, identity and eliminate any potential unfair barriers

Where to start with building strategic relationships: You might start with a connection you have in the local community and ask for an introduction.  If you find you don’t have the relevant connections, your local YMCA can be a great place resource. 

2.Write inclusive job ads.

Sometimes the language and tone of a job ad can lead to a candidate screening themselves out of the process.  As an employer, this means your job ads could be sending away strong candidates.

Writing an inclusive job ad means spotting red flags and potential misunderstandings.  It means writing an ad which is focused on the skills required of the job while attracting your ideal candidate, no matter their race of where they’re from. 

Where to start with writing inclusive job ads: Have someone with a different background than you review your job ad and identify potential red flags which you may have missed.  For example, language which specifically targets one gender can feel exclusionary to the other. Remove words like manpower.

Many job ads make the mistake of describing a person, rather than a job.  Focus on describing the role and let the individual decide what they can do. 

Some questions to consider are you write the job ad are:

·       Are you describing the person or the job?

·       Are you describing the outcomes or the activities?

·       Are you saying what you want or what they want?

·       Do you focus on satisfying criteria or selling a dream?


 3. Source candidates in new ways. 

To increase candidate pool diversity, employers should advertise to new and different locations.   This means overcoming the desire to post jobs to the same job boards and locations that you have always used.  After all, more of the same actions are likely to mean more of the same results. 

Instead, you should source candidates from new locations with different talent pools and different value propositions.  A niche job board, targeted for underrepresented candidates is a great place to start. 

It’s okay to use the job board you have used in the past. But those advertising efforts should be expanded to different audiences, through the use of different job board. 

Where to start sourcing candidates in new ways: You can start by posting your job ad to a niche job board. is a job board that connects underrepresented job seekers with employers who value diversity and inclusion.  It provides Canadian employers with access to a pool of diverse talent. allows employers to expand their talent pool by actively and proactively connecting with underrepresented job seekers.  This increases the talent pool of diverse candidates and allows the organization to reach its diversity, equity and inclusion goals.

Strategies to hire diverse talent

The desired state:  diversity recruitment in practice, a real-world example.

The CEO wanted to do the right thing and hire diverse talent to join his leadership team.  His approach, however, was ineffective and possibly illegal.  In his conversations and actions, the CEO clings to the common diversity recruitment misconceptions. 

With misconception 1, candidate is selected based on their identity.  When the CEO asks if I know anyone who is Black and brown, the selection process becomes flawed.  Here he walks the line between diversity and inclusion and tokenism. In fact, if I didn’t know the individual and his values, I may have seen the request as tokenism rather than a genuine commitment to inclusion.

With misconception 2, the hiring manager assumes they must give someone less qualified a chance.  The CEO thinks he will have to train someone less qualified for the role.  When in fact, there are many qualified underrepresented candidates.  Due to things like similarity bias, however, the CEO may fail to see the full value of the underrepresented candidate. 

To move from the current to desired state of diversity in recruitment, the CEO should move away from his reliance on the common misconceptions to guide and shape his thinking.  Instead, he should move towards understanding the formula for effective diversity in recruitment, and its complexities.

 The formula for effective diversity in recruitment is [Well-Represented Candidate Pool] + [Interview Team Bias Eliminated] = [Select Most Competitive Candidate] 

Conclusion:  The key to effective diversity in recruitment lies in the intention behind the actions.

Even a well-intentioned leader can be misguided when it comes to diversity in recruitment.  Therefore, taking tangible actions like building strategic relationships, writing inclusive job ads and posting jobs to different job boards are important to the success of diversity recruitment initiatives.

It is important to note that even the most seasoned leader may make mistakes when it comes to diversity and inclusion.  What truly matters is an ongoing willingness to learn, accepting accountability and the intention behind the actions.   The risk of mistakes will become less and less, as the leader becomes more surrounded with diverse perspectives to challenge current ways of thinking. 

A simple action you can take is to explore  HireDiverse is committed to connect underrepresented job seekers with employers who value diversity and inclusion.

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Shauna Cole

Shauna Cole is the founder of She is a Human Resources Consultant and Instructor at the University of New Brunswick. She’s been featured by CBC, The Canadian HR Reporter, CareerBeacon, The Maritime Edit, Jobscan and more. She founded to connect underrepresented job seekers with employers who value diversity. Join her on LinkedIn or watch her videos on Youtube.