Let’s face it - diversity is difficult to achieve. Despite the documented benefits of building a diverse workforce, most organizations struggle to meet their diversity and inclusion goals. 

Though most organizations have shown their commitment to diversity, statistics show they are struggling. This data shared by Mercer clearly shows how minorities are drastically underrepresented in the corporate workforce or when moving up the rank. 

recruiting data
Source: mercer.com

This is partly because the hurdles that come in its path are complicated and not easily recognizable. 

An organization’s culture directly impacts its productivity and bottom line. So, let’s look at the major challenges in diversity recruiting and how businesses can overcome these to uphold a culture of diversity and inclusion. 

Challenge 1: Sourcing Candidates from Underrepresented Groups

Sourcing candidates from underrepresented groups is a huge challenge for recruiters, thereby dampening the diversity efforts of a firm. Primary reasons for this are: 

Organizational Hiring Priorities

Though most recruiters support and value diversity, the speed (the pressure to hire fast) and predictability (need to hire people from similar backgrounds) often come up as internal barriers to hiring from underrepresented cohorts. 

These two factors are the priorities for most hiring teams. Hence, they seem to slow down the diversity efforts. For instance, a lot of the diversity recruiting initiatives fail because of the intense pressure to fill roles quickly. 

Limited and Partial Talent Search

Most recruiters tend to look for talent on social media or job sites; LinkedIn is the primary talent source used by recruiters. But by depending on LinkedIn alone recruiters are missing talent that has partial or no LinkedIn profiles. 

In this ‘digital age’, talent is active on several platforms. For instance, developers or software engineers may share information on their skills on platforms like GitHub or StackOverflow. Failing to check out these sites will render any talent search limited and partial. 

Keyword Search May Be Discriminatory 

For many years, recruiters have been using keywords (usually expressed using Boolean logic) to find talent. Though this process proves to be useful, it’s prone to bias. 

That’s because candidates tend to describe their skills in a variety of ways. For instance, one person may call themselves a ‘Content strategist’ while another with an identical set of skills, ‘Content marketer.’ Unless both these terms are mentioned in the search, recruiters are bound to miss a few qualified candidates. 

Further, if you are searching on LinkedIn, it will show profiles who are connected to you by up to 3 degrees of separation. So, if you aren’t connected, say to many African Americans or Hispanics, you are likely to have limited access to this pool. 


Businesses often claim that there isn’t enough talent from the underrepresented groups; however, the problem lies with their sourcing strategies. Here are a few ways to overcome this challenge and build a diverse talent pipeline. 

Make Your Job Postings Inclusive

There are enough studies that have found that certain languages subconsciously appeal to a specific gender, deterring a segment of talent. For instance, words like competitive or dominant could be associated with male stereotypes while words like support or understanding may be associated with female stereotypes. 

The use of such gendered words in job advertisements could dissuade certain candidates from applying. Make sure you use inclusive, less aggressive, and gender-neutral language like fast-paced, ambitious, or dedicated instead. 

Secondly, avoid the ‘R’ word. When you say ‘Requirements’ in the job posting you are eliminating the reasons for a candidate to be qualified for the job. LinkedIn’s Gender Insights Report revealed that women feel they need to meet 100% of the criteria while men usually apply after meeting about 60%.

Finally, include the salary range and benefits. LinkedIn Talent Solutions points to these as the most important information in a job posting. 

Count on Technology 

Finding a pool of underrepresented talent shouldn’t have to be as challenging as it seems. You can count on tech-driven tools to connect you with the right people. 

Joonko, for instance, is an AI-powered recruiting tool that connects partnering companies’ ATS to a talent pool of pre-qualified candidates from underrepresented sectors to help them achieve their diversity and inclusion goals and quotas. The tool offers automation to assist with diversity recruiting and a high-level forecasting of what a company’s workforce would look like in the future. 

The tool has the following features - 

  • Powerful NLP engine that scans the systems and automatically matches people who are qualified for the role. 
  • Allows employers to amplify their exposure to potential candidates through platforms such as Joonko’s monthly newsletter. This helps attract talent from underrepresented pools. 
  • All that’s needed to start is a quick one-time integration to any ATS.
  • A thorough quality check of each candidate through a statistical analysis of multiple data points.
  • Offers tailor-made reports and recommendations to build an inclusive workplace.
  • Lets you personalize candidate rejection with a company-branded message.

Such tools focus on filling a firm’s pipeline with a greater diversity of candidates based on gender, race, ethnicity, and veteran status.

Broaden Your Referral Pool

Asking for referrals from your existing employees will fetch you people like them. To uphold diversity, ask for referrals from external networking associations and groups. For qualified female candidates, try return-to-work programs that can connect you with women wanting to re-enter the job market after a sabbatical. 

Challenge 2: Unconscious Bias during the Selection Process

On several occasions, organizations can source diverse candidates and get them into their recruiting funnel. However, they aren’t able to nurture them long enough, causing them to drop out. 

Does your firm experience a high drop-off rate of underrepresented candidates after they are interviewed? Chances are the interviewing team is exhibiting bias, either unconscious or conscious. 


Here are a few tips to overcome both types of biases. 

Offer Adequate Coaching to Your Interviewers 

If your interviewers haven’t been trained enough on inclusive hiring practices or they aren’t using suitable interviewing techniques, they may judge candidates based on their preconceived notions. This allows behavioral biases to creep in. 

Make sure your recruitment team is trained to uphold a diverse and inclusive culture through the hiring process. Use role plays, scenario-based exercises, and group discussions to help managers spot the biases that may influence their decisions.  

Count on Data-Driven Assessments 

Personal biases are set in when hiring managers and recruiters set the evaluation criteria. Make sure you set research-backed benchmarks to define your ideal candidate and what optimal interview performance would look like. This will take the bias out of the interview process. 

Also, have structured interview guides in place to make sure the process is consistent. This will encourage hiring managers to focus on the most relevant questions while avoiding the exclusionary ones.

Go for Pre-Employment Assessments

Use pre-employment assessments as the first step in the hiring process to eliminate bias and select qualified candidates. Begin with assessing the candidate based on their skills.

Get Candidate Feedback

Asking candidates for their feedback will not only help you understand why they are dropping out but also improve your employer brand. Set a clear process to acquire feedback to learn about the potential barriers and the areas of your hiring process that need improvement. 

Challenge 3:The Employer Brand Doesn’t Shout Diversity

Candidates readily opt for organizations committed to diversity and inclusion, provided they see it as an authentic part of the company culture. So, merely telling candidates about your diversity and inclusion initiatives isn’t enough. You must make sure that they experience it at every opportunity they interact with your organization. 

Here are a few ways you can make your organization more attractive to candidates from the underrepresented pool. 

Spotlight Your Diversity Initiatives on Social Media

Shout out how much you value diversity and your employees by sharing their successes on social channels. Highlight the great work your employees deliver and the diversity of your team. This will not just boost your brand image but also encourage other businesses to uphold diversity and inclusion. 

Check out how these firms are addressing racial injustice head-on through their social content.

diversity example 1
Source: Instagram @mcbridesisters

diversity example 2
Source: Instagram @myesusu

Partner with or Support Local Organizations Working for Marginalized Categories

Several organizations work hard to help underrepresented communities and solve societal issues. Both candidates and customers expect brands to get involved with these organizations supporting social/humanitarian causes.

Partner with women groups, the LGBQIA+ community, and people coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and create programs for mutual contribution. Such initiatives will boost your image as a firm that’s committed to building a diverse workforce. 

Share Diversity Data 

Potential candidates from underrepresented groups want to know about your commitment to improving diversity and whether people like them are successful in the organization. Sharing data on how you’ve progressed through your diversity initiatives can convince candidates of your commitment to the cause. 

Summing Up

Most organizations are showing their willingness to hire a mix of employees who reflect all talent groups. However, their diversity recruitment efforts fall short owing to several challenges that come their way. 

The challenges discussed above make it tough for firms to attract and retain top candidates and strengthen their employer brand. However, the solutions offered are sure to help recruiting teams overcome them and allow them to stay committed to diversity and inclusion across the organization. 

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