How to Implement a DEI Hiring Strategy: DEI Best Practices

DEI best practices
by Christina Blacken

Implementing DEI best practices in the workplace begins with centering diversity and inclusion in your hiring process. More than 75% of job applicants report that having a diverse workforce is important when making a decision on where to work.1 If recruiters focus on how to incorporate DEI in the workplace, they are more likely to create a diverse workforce that thrives and attracts high-quality talent.

In the first part of our three-part series on DEI, we covered what DEI is and why it’s important in hiring. In the next installment of the series, learn the three main steps for incorporating DEI into your hiring process.

Broaden Your Candidate Pools for Recruitment

Many organizations rely on referrals from current employees to fill new job openings. Referrals make up 40 percent of new hires.2 Although referrals can be useful, heavy reliance on them as the main source of recruitment creates homogenous candidate pools.

Evaluate your sources of candidate recruitment, and develop partnerships with professional associations, colleges, and networks that specialize in broader demographics of professionals who could be added as a source for recruitment into your current process.

Many agencies and organizations specialize in sourcing and placing individuals from underrepresented demographics into qualified roles. Creating new and unconventional recruitment relationships and partnerships can diversify the candidate pool significantly and reduce the homogeneity of traditional recruitment strategies.

Create an Objective Standard for Evaluating Candidates

Improving DEI in your hiring process also requires an examination of how candidates are evaluated. A subjective process will likely remove viable candidates due to unforeseen biases, including biases around prestige of previous positions, prestige of school, or other arbitrary factors that have little impact on genuine skills and capabilities for a role.

Creating a standard for how candidates are evaluated can remove this subjectivity. It can also improve consistency across teammates, and further widen the candidate pool of qualified individuals who could be a great fit for the role that would have been removed otherwise due to bias.

Candidate evaluation standards should detail the specific skills and behaviors that best fit the role. Below is an example matrix of behaviors and skills that can be used to assess an individual for a role:

Skill: Creativity

Behaviors that demonstrate this skill:

  • Person has produced unconventional insights or connections between ideas in a past role/job
  • Person created or initiated a new process/way of doing something within a past role/job
  • Person created or initiated a new idea/project that was executed in a past role/job
  • Person is able to come up with a variety of ideas when asked to show this skill in the interview or with an interview assignment (i.e. ease with idea generation)

Skill: Project Management

Behaviors that demonstrate this skill:

  • Person built or managed a project in a past role/job from beginning to the end of the project
  • Person has effectively communicated and delegated cross functionally in a past role/job (managing customers, internal departments/teams, etc.)
  • Person can describe their planning process for how they would organize a new project in a new role
  • Person is familiar with and knows how to use common project management tools, particularly the ones used in the organization

An example way to use the above list of skills as an assessment is to score each candidate interview from 1-3 for each bullet point of behaviors listed under each skill. 1 means needs improvement, 2 means good, 3 means excellent. At the end of tallying each person, add up the total scores to get an overall assessment of where candidates are based on this evaluation standard.

The more behaviors a person demonstrates from the list under a skillset, the stronger their skillset is overall. Skills should be equally weighted, as soft skills are typically undervalued in the workplace but are just as important as technical skills. This is one example of an evaluation standard you can incorporate.

Address Unconscious & Conscious Biases Through Training

We all have biases. They are short-cuts the brain uses to make quick decisions and are typically narrow assumptions that are inaccurate, leading to negative outcomes. There are a few common biases that can show up for recruiters. One is affinity bias, which leads to seeking sameness in candidates. There are also inaccurate and limiting assumptions and stereotypes about what professionalism and leadership should look and sound like.

DEI training and educational resources can help with identifying these common biases and reducing them in your recruitment and talent development process. There’s a variety of DEI training firms and programs available to fit a variety of needs, from 101 on bias to leadership training and development.

Wrapping Up: Implementing DEI Hiring Best Practices in 2022 & Beyond

An effective hiring strategy that centers DEI is imperative to the success of your organization. Not only will it attract better talent, you’ll also improve the productivity and innovation of your organization when your workforce reflects the realities of the world and the customers you serve.

Stay tuned for Part III of our DEI and hiring series (see Part I here), where we’ll discuss how a DEI strategy can impact employee engagement and retention.


  1. (2020, September 30th). Diversity and Inclusion Workplace Survey.
  2. Belli, Gina. (2017, April 6th). How Many Jobs Are Found Through Networking, Really?

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