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November 7, 2022
Opal Franklin

Moving your DEI Strategy Forward with Network Recruiting

At this stage, most leaders know that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) plays an important role in their company’s success. Companies that are more diverse and inclusive are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors and 70% more likely to capture new markets. They also have a much easier time sourcing candidates, with two out of three candidates saying they actively seek out companies that have diverse workforces.

Here at the Swarm, we’re building out the world’s first network recruiting platform, which allows companies to harness the power of their teams’ collective networks to drive employee referrals. We believe that network recruiting is a powerful way for companies to source more diverse candidates in their recruitment process — but of course, it’s only one part of the process.

Below, we hear from three experts on how to best infuse DEI into your recruitment strategy and hiring process:

  • Neha Khurram, DEIB Consultant, Talent Director at The Hiring Community, ex-On Deck
  • Jennifer Kim, Founder of Startup Recruiting Bootcamp
  • Ozzie Osman, Co-Founder at Monarch Money and Advisor at The Swarm

You can also replay the event here on LinkedIn Live.

Use network recruiting to decrease bias in referrals

With network recruiting, team members add their network of connections to their company’s collective network. From there, the company’s hiring team can match potential candidates to job descriptions and reach out.

Neha believes that this approach can help decrease employee bias in the referral process, since unconscious bias will often drive employees to solely refer candidates who are similar to them in terms of demographics.

“[Network recruiting] allows the recruiting team to have more agency over who they spot in somebody’s network, versus relying on that employee and their biases,” says Neha. “There’s this opportunity for companies to unlock a network beyond what an employee might initially present as a good referral.”

Make sure your interview process is equitable

For many job seekers, the traditional hiring process is the stuff of nightmares — they need to scour through LinkedIn, submit a detailed cover letter and resume to a company, and then endure multiple rounds of interview questions with no end in sight.

These types of hiring practices don’t generally lead to a diverse talent pool, says Ozzie.

“Being as transparent as possible will go a long way,” says Ozzie. “Keeping everything balanced throughout the process helps build trust and shows people, ‘Alright, if this is how a company runs its hiring process, then presumably their culture is in line with that as well.’”

So how can you make your interview process equitable?

  1. Be as transparent as possible with candidates. Share as many details as you realistically can, whether that’s your revenue projection, current company challenges, or certain metrics or initiatives.
  2. Let candidates have conversations with other team members at the company, so that they can get a sense of your company culture and ask questions openly.
  3. Make sure you’re not asking candidates to do more work or join more meetings than necessary during the interview process — and make sure they understand the purpose and timing of each.
  4. Train hiring managers on DEI best practices.
  5. Give candidates the opportunity to give you feedback on your hiring process.
“It’s not unlike dating,” says Jen. “The early stages are when you’re supposed to show your best self. Hiring is very similar to this. Every single candidate, even if you end up rejecting them, should have a great process.”

Filter candidates out at the top of the funnel

When experts talk about personalizing the talent acquisition process and having very honest, transparent conversations with candidates, many recruiters will balk at the idea.

“A lot of companies who don’t necessarily have the competencies or the process built in-house think, ‘Well, we can’t do that with everyone,’” says Jen. “Well, if you can’t do that, why would anyone take an interview with you?”

The trick, she explains, is to set up the appropriate filters at the top of the recruitment funnel to ensure that you’re only moving into the interview stage with incredibly strong candidates. That means crafting intentional job postings, getting referrals from top talent, and really narrowing down your pool of candidates before interviews.

“It means really putting in the right investments so that at the top of funnel, when it’s just referrals or resume screens, you don’t have to be spending a ton of time on people,” Jen says. “But by the time you get to the later stages, you are investing more and more time with each other.”

Align your company story with your DEI goals

A large part of your diversity recruitment strategy takes place before hiring even begins, says Neha.

“Your job as an employer is to make sure you’re telling the right story in the market,” Neha says. “Make it a point to work with your recruiting team to really consider: what is the message that you are sharing in the market? Are your assets actually aligning with what’s happening internally?”

Neha suggests asking yourself a few questions to test whether your DEI efforts are reflected in your company story:

  • Are your job descriptions inclusive?
  • Do you have any DEI initiatives, such as employee resource groups, that you can hire in your recruiting assets?
  • Does your current recruiting process treat all candidates with respect, or are you leaving candidates high and dry with their application status?

Ensuring that your recruiting assets, process, and company story align with your DEI goals allows you to build the type of employer brand that attracts diverse employees.

Reconsider your definition of recruiting success

“The success of recruiters is often measured based on volume, not necessarily on the quality of hires,” says Jen. “A lot of the best practices in our [recruiting] function is really about measuring busyness and activity, as opposed to truly effective solutions that aren’t going to be as measurable.”

If you’re measuring success by the number of emails or calls your hiring managers make daily, you may be harming your DEI strategy. It may be far more effective for recruiters to focus on finding and contacting high-quality leads than it is for them to send out X number of messages a day.

“Notice when you’re not set up for success,” Jen advises recruiters. “Push back. Advocate for more resources. Maybe you need to hire more recruiters, maybe you need more tools, maybe you need to attend a startup recruiting bootcamp.”

Make your company “contagious”

Getting referrals from your existing employees truly depends on the strength of your employer brand — which is why Ozzie urges companies to ask how “contagious” they are.

“Maybe this isn’t the best analogy,” he says, “but if you think about COVID, there’s an R factor, right? How contagious is this thing? And you, as a company, have some positioning — what sort of company are you to work for?”

Whether it’s good or bad, the people in your network have a certain idea of what it means to work at your company. If your existing employees feel a strong sense of belonging and they’re engaged in their work, they’re far more likely to recommend you as an employer to their own connections. Your reputation as an employer then helps you draw an increasing number of people to your company from across all walks of life, thus increasing diversity in the workplace.

“Reducing that friction enables the message to spread a lot more and the net to be a lot wider... if people on your team and people in your network have that positioning in their mind and they believe it to be true,” Ozzie says. “Obviously, if it’s bullshit, no one’s going to go tell their friend.”

Ozzie’s point drives home the fact that effective recruiting is rarely the responsibility of Human Resources alone: it requires buy-in from across the entire company to build an engaging and inclusive company culture.

Always be recruiting

Neha cautions recruiters against simply ending conversations with candidates who aren’t the right fit for your company.

“You want to build strong enough relationships with candidates that — let’s say they reject the offer — you can ask them the question, ‘Okay, totally respect that we enjoyed the conversation... are there people in your network that might be a better fit?’” she says.

Keeping relationships warm means that a candidate may return to your company for a different role in the future, write a positive note about your team on LinkedIn or Glassdoor, or connect you to potential candidates in their own networks. All of these actions help increase the size and diversity of your pool of potential candidates.

Level up your DEI hiring strategy with network recruiting

The Swarm helps companies of all sizes build strong, trusted, and diverse talent pipelines by leveraging the power of network recruiting. If you’re ready to hire from the network beyond your network, get ready to test-drive The Swarm!