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Diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace

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2 Diversity and inclusion in the recruitment process

From the candidate’s perspective, the beginning of the recruitment process and their interaction with your organisation, is often the job advertisement.

A photograph of a person holding their hand out to shake hands, with multiple people behind watching.

Writing inclusive job adverts

The job advert writing process has to start with a good job description. This gives you a detailed breakdown of the role, from which you can take key elements to include in your advertisement. Norman (no date) asks two simple questions for your job description checklist:

  • have you defined – as clearly as possible – what the job role is and the skills it requires?
  • could someone outside your organisation easily understand what is needed?

The language you use in your ad is important as it can directly impact on its inclusivity. Make sure you don’t use industry jargon or gendered/ageist language.

Activity 3 What is wrong?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes for this activity.

Look at the following paragraph from a job advert. How could it be improved?

‘We’re looking for a digital native to collaborate with and support both colleagues and clients. You must have access to your own vehicle and be prepared to work and play hard in our hectic but nurturing office space.’


To help you identify the problems with this paragraph, watch this short video from Monster. This film contains a lot of detail so to catch everything, you may find it useful to pause as you watch!

Video 2: How to write job ads with diversity and inclusion
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Certain phrases can be alienating to particular groups of applicants, for example:

  • ‘Digital native’ describes a young person who has grown up with access to computers and technology, so could be off-putting to older applicants. Likewise, an environment where you work hard and play hard, might not feel inclusive to applicants with children or other caring responsibilities.
  • Words like ‘collaborate’, ‘support’ and ‘nurture’ are gender-coded words that could align more closely with what female applicants are looking for. Total Jobs offers a useful gender bias decoder [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , which allows you to check your proposed text for bias.
  • ‘Must have access to your own vehicle’ is potentially discriminatory to applicants with disabilities. A better phrase would be ‘access to reliable transport’.

Demonstrating your commitment to inclusivity

As well as the importance of the language you use, a second takeaway from the Monster video you’ve just watched is to consider how you might reflect your organisation’s inclusivity in your advert.

Perhaps you could include a version of the diversity statement you considered in Week 5, or provide a link to your diversity and inclusion policy, or a relevant web page on your site. For example, the Open University includes the following:

We value diversity and we recognise that different people bring different perspectives, ideas, knowledge, and culture, and that this difference brings great strength.

Alongside the text, another consideration is the imagery you use when you advertise the vacancy – make sure it will appeal to a wide range of candidates, including images of people who reflect the diversity you are aiming to achieve.

You should also ensure that any information you make available is in a format that works well with a screen reader.

Positive action vs positive discrimination

In the UK, positive discrimination i.e. giving preferential treatment to someone due to a protected characteristic rather than their suitability for a role, is not legal.

However, positive action is legal. This means that you can encourage job applications from under-represented groups, for example by placing your job adverts where they are more likely to be seen by that group. Also, if you have two equally suited candidates for a vacancy, you can legally select the candidate who is under-represented, as long as you can justify your action, e.g. with evidence from equality monitoring data (Kings College London, 2021).

This is also covered in section 159 of the Equality Act, 2010. You can find the link in Further Reading.

Artificial intelligence in the recruitment process (AI)

Large employers are increasingly using AI during the recruitment process, but as Rouse (2021) explains, this can also have inbuilt biases that limit inclusivity. For example,

  • Facial recognition software can’t always pick up on skin tone, gender, expression or body language, which can have a negative effect on scoring.
  • AI applications that use word association elements can create results that are gender biased.
  • Number of years of work experience generally aligns with age, so programming AI hiring software to weigh this metric to measure skill can prevent entire demographics from even being considered.
  • Enunciation, body language, and facial expressions are all potential characteristics that are scored by AI hiring software. A wide variety of disabilities can impact on how a person presents during a phone or video interview, which could exclude them from the selection process.

Solving these issues can be as simple as altering a line of code, so coding engineers need to be focused on inclusivity too. Another way to monitor the software is to periodically use it to score a candidate and then carefully analyse the score for any signs of bias.

Using apprenticeships to target diverse talent

Apprentices can be employed at different levels, from school leavers and university graduates to people looking for a career change. They can be a useful way to invite greater diversity into your team.

Software company Datactics – recruiting apprentices

Datactics have found that apprenticeships are a ‘great way to find people who are at different stages of life, or may be from different socio-economic backgrounds, and would like the opportunity to gain a qualification alongside employment.’

At a recent roundtable, sponsored by the Open University and the HRDIRECTOR (HRD) publication (HRD, 2020), a range of employers explored diversity in apprenticeships. They agreed that apprenticeships were a good way to hire individuals from different backgrounds, but that more work was needed to promote them effectively. For example, many people ‘don’t realise the broad spectrum of opportunities that apprenticeships now cover’ and they are often seen as a ‘second rate progression track’. One delegate felt that apprenticeships are ‘invisible, intangible to most sections of those communities that we’re trying to reach through diversity’. Despite this challenge, examples were given of apprenticeships attracting more mature applicants, those with disabilities, individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and more ethnically diverse talent. To read the report in full, find the link in References.

Depending on the size of your organisation, your HR department may offer training on inclusive recruitment processes – so this is worth checking.

Next, you’ll look at the job application process itself.