This is part 5 in a continuing series on “How to Hire” extraordinary people. Here are the others in the series:

1. Motivation
2. Team Skills
3. Cultural Fit
4. Thinking and Problem-solving Skills (includes a quick summary of Performance-based Hiring)

Diversity Hiring Requires a Non-traditional Hiring Approach

By its very definition diversity hiring means hiring people with different backgrounds. This includes the obvious differences due to race, religion, gender, age and physical challenges. The less obvious are those who think differently, those who have different business or life experiences and all high performing people who have accomplished more with less experience.

I contend that the primary reason companies have made little progress on raising the talent bar including hiring more diverse talent is because their talent strategy is flawed. Simply put: You can’t use a surplus of talent strategy when a surplus of talent doesn’t exist. This concept is fully explained in the video.

A surplus of talent approach is designed to weed out the weaker active candidates in the hope that a few good people pass all of the filters. While demeaning, it will produce positive results if there are plenty of good people applying.

A scarcity process is more customized and designed to meet the long-term career needs of top performers. The emphasis is on attracting a much smaller group of high quality people – typically passive candidates – and engaging with them in a series of consultative career-oriented discussions. The goal is to offer these people at least a 30% non-monetary increase in terms of a bigger job, more impact, faster growth and increased job satisfaction.

Hiring diversity candidates requires a similar customized process. Here are some ideas on how to get started.

  1. Redefine work. Since diverse candidates have a different mix of skills and experiences, traditional job descriptions need to be discarded. These need to be replaced with performance-based job descriptions that define the job as a series of major and minor performance objectives.
  2. Shift to a performance-qualified attraction and assessment process. It’s important to advertise what the person will be doing in the job and the broader impact the job has on the company, customer or some important initiative. Candidates need to be assessed on their past performance doing comparable work using a performance-based interview.
  3. Implement narrow-casting. If the job is a true career move you only need a few strong people at the top of the funnel to hire one great person. For example, I just did a search last week on LinkedIn Recruiter looking for engineering managers for a director level role who were either Hispanic, Black or women. I found 14 in the local area. By implementing a series of guerilla marketing campaigns it’s relatively simple to engage in conversations with most of them given the job appears to be a positive career move.
  4. Expand your diversity referral programs. Effective passive candidate recruiting efforts consist of direct sourcing (finding top people and using marketing campaigns to max the opt-in rate) and proactive referral programs. LinkedIn Recruiter is great for this since you can search on your first degree connections’ connections. These are your weak connections. So rather than asking, “Who do you know who is looking?” first ask, “Who is the best person you know doing (describe the job)?” In addition, search on the person’s connections for top diverse candidates and ask, “Do you think (name) is a strong person and would he/she consider this job a career move?”
  5. Sell the discussion, not the job. Going slow is the number one rule for passive candidate recruiting. Great people are more than willing to explore the opportunity of a career move with a credible recruiter or hiring manager. Include the idea of just exploring the possibility of a career move in your job postings, emails and voice mails. This is a great way to increase your response rates.

The reason companies have been unsuccessful hiring more diverse candidates is their reluctance to depart from existing hiring process and their inability to control the inherent biases of every hiring manager.

Commonsense suggests you can’t use a surplus of talent model when a surplus of talent doesn’t exist. To hire more diverse candidates companies need to rethink their entire hiring processes with a scarcity of talent mindset. Existing hiring practices put on lid on the quality of people applying by emphasizing the wrong requirements. Removing these opens the door to all high potential and more outstanding diverse talent without compromising performance. The process starts by being different not by being more efficient.