How to Show Candidates You’re Committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

A hiring manager asks leadership interview questions.

According to research from Monster, 86% of job seekers believe that a company’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is an important factor when considering an employer. Gen Z and Millennial applicants in particular have consistently reported that it’s a top value they look for in an employer.

It’s no mystery why younger workers are looking for a deep commitment when it comes to equity. Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z is the first majority-minority generation. In other words, more than half the members of this cohort do not identify as white. In addition, more than one in five, or 21%, identify as LGBTQ+.

For Gen Z, your company’s stance, from the use of inclusive language to flexible benefits policies to employee demographics, signals how they and their peers are likely to be treated in your workplace. “Millennials and Gen Z want to work for companies whose values are in alignment with theirs,” says Rahul Dooley, an HR knowledge advisor for SHRM.

But diverse images and a few words sprinkled on your company website are not going to be enough to satisfy today’s applicants. Even upping your game when it comes to DEI in hiring at the entry level may not be enough. Job seekers, especially younger Millennials and Gen Zers, want to see diversity at all levels, including leadership.

Why Messaging Alone Won’t Suffice

Not only is today’s applicant pool more diverse than ever, but they also have easy access to more information about potential employers. Top applicants, recent graduates, and younger applicants are the most likely to have the tech and research skills you want, and they are also the most likely to know how to employ those skills to make sure your DEI practices match your stated values and intentions.

From reaching out to former employees on networking sites to scouring social media for poor reviews and comments that might hint at a toxic, unwelcoming environment, you can bet that your most sought-after candidates are checking up on you.

So how do you make sure you are sending the right message to potential employees? The strategies below can help you get started.

1. Show Your Support

Get involved with community organizations and causes that bolster equity and social justice and make sure that your top leadership supports these initiatives.

Encourage employee resource groups (ERGs), or affinity groups, that allow employees with shared interests, challenges, and identities to work together on projects and share common experiences. Make sure to mention these groups on your website.

2. Revise Your Job Postings

We get it. You need new hires, and you needed them to start yesterday. It’s tempting to dust off your most recent batch of job descriptions and post them to job boards. But this is not going to help you attract a diverse applicant pool.

Instead, make sure that your job listings aren’t communicating unconscious bias by using gendered language that discourages talented candidates from applying. For example, descriptions like “aggressive” and “rockstar” tend to discourage women from applying. Instead, focus on skills and experience that are truly needed for the position.

Make sure that every job listing includes an equal employer opportunity (EEO) statement that encourages applicants from underrepresented groups to apply. Then, edit all candidate communications, online application forms and tests, automated responses, and the career page on your company website with the same degree of scrutiny to delete language that might convey bias. Add statements that make your desire to build an inclusive workplace clear.

3. Craft a DEI Hiring Policy

In addition to including an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement on all external communications, make sure you have a well-crafted EEO policy you can send to hiring managers, recruiters, and members of hiring committees whenever a new position is approved and a candidate search begins. It should also be included on your company website.

This policy should require hiring managers to employ inclusive language during all phases of the process, from job posting to job offer. For example, every representative of your company who communicates with candidates should include their preferred pronouns in email signatures and at the beginning of phone calls, video conferences, and in-person meetings, and be absolutely sure to ask for and use the candidate’s. One recent survey found that 67% of Gen Z job seekers are put off by employers that do not have the courtesy to ask for preferred pronouns during introductory communications.

Your policy should outline all phases of the hiring process and include reminders of questions that tend to discourage or even offend candidates from underrepresented groups, as well as illegal questions to avoid during all phases of the interview process. It should also make clear that working to increase DEI in hiring and promotion at all levels is a core company value that will be rewarded, and that bias in hiring and promotion, including in how compensation is allocated, will not be tolerated.

4. Diversify Your Talent Pipeline

Don’t just keep going to the same well for talent—especially if that well is currently populated with private colleges or elite fellowships. Instead, reach out to community colleges, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), women’s colleges, and professional organizations that advocate on behalf of Black, Latine, Asian, and other underrepresented workers in your sector.

Work to cement ties with local veterans’ groups. The U.S. military is among the most diverse organizations in the world, adept at conferring a wide range of skills and leadership opportunities to service members from diverse backgrounds, including those that are underrepresented in the civilian workforce. In addition, encouraging military spouses to apply to job opportunities can extend your talent pool to a diverse population that is highly qualified but often underemployed and under-recruited.

5. Use Hiring Committees

Using a committee that is more representative of the range of candidates you are hoping to attract is an effective way to show candidates that your workplace values DEI. A committee of individuals with a wide range of backgrounds, ages, and cultures is also less likely to select candidates based on unconscious bias than a single hiring manager assisted by an HR rep.

6. Rethink Your Benefits Package

Offering a wide array of benefit options when it comes to healthcare and fertility, child and dependent care, and holidays and time off will show potential candidates you are serious about wellness and creating a supportive environment for all employees and their families. Including information about your policies that go beyond what is legally mandated, from egg freezing and storage to gender transition planning, can go a long way toward communicating your sincerity when it comes to DEI.

7. Be Up Front When You Come Up Short

Want to impress top performers from every generation? Be transparent about your failures, especially when it comes to DEI. No one expects you to solve this problem overnight. But they do expect you to show you are asking the right questions:

  • Who is underrepresented in your company, especially when you compare your workforce to your target customer base?
  • How can you work to increase representation in those categories?
  • How are you progressing toward equity and inclusion on the metrics where your representation is weakest?

Of course, you should highlight your gains. But if you can admit areas where you’re falling short and explain how you plan to invest your resources and redouble your efforts to address those shortcomings, you’re far more likely to gain the trust and obtain the resumes of the top-performing candidates you’re looking for.

Post Your Inclusive Job Descriptions on a Site Where They’ll Attract Top Applicants

Now that you know how to optimize your messaging to attract applicants who value DEI, extend your job post’s reach and find top talent.