7 Reasons Diverse Candidates Aren’t Applying to Your Jobs

by Mike Tannian on March 22, 2022

Learn how to attract diverse candidates so your organization can begin to create a workplace that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Article Highlights

Both the private and public sectors need better diversity recruiting strategies, as many of their workforces are lacking the necessary variety to actually achieve peak performance. 

Corporations that create a workplace of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are more innovative and productive. In 2017, a study by the Boston Consulting Group found that diverse teams produce 19% more revenue than companies without a diverse workforce.

Companies also develop more relevant products because their employees are more in tune with what their variety of customers want or need.

While public corporations think about producing more revenue or developing more products, similarly, the public sector thinks about improving its budget, creating new programs, and serving more people in the community.

More private sector and public sector organizations are realizing they need both a diverse workforce and diverse leadership in order to be successful. Organizations that want to see that kind of success need to consider diversity recruiting strategies. You need to find job candidates that better represent the populations and communities you serve.

That starts with auditing your current recruitment strategy and hiring process.

As you conduct your audit, consider these three factors: 

  1. Where do you source the candidates? 
  2. How do you screen them?
  3. Improving the criteria for being shortlisted and hired. That is, how are you recruiting diverse candidates, how are you creating diverse candidate slates, and how are you hiring them?

In this article, we'll talk about some of the reasons you haven't been able to recruit diverse candidates in the past and other things you may uncover during your audit. We'll also offer a few solutions to improve your recruiting strategy. This will help you build a workforce that's better equipped to innovate, improve, create new programs, and serve more people.

So, why aren’t diverse candidates applying to your jobs? Let’s take a look at the top 7 reasons.

1. Brand Doesn’t Resonate with Diverse Recruits

Diverse candidates aren't applying to your jobs because your organization's brand doesn't suggest that you actually have workplace diversity.

Every company, every organization, every government agency, and every person has a brand. (We could call it a reputation, but everyone is using the term "brand" these days.)

A brand is more than just a logo and a slogan; it's the emotional response someone has when they meet you, hear your name, or find you on social media.

What does your brand say about you? How do people react when your organization comes up? How do diverse candidates respond when they consider your agency as a career option?

People are more concerned about who they work for and the image the organization presents. Job seekers often ask questions like: 

  • Does the organization do good for the community? 
  • Do people have a generally positive reaction when they encounter people from your agency? 
  • What is your reputation when it comes to diversity and hiring people of different races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations?

If your organization's brand doesn't make people think of an inclusive workforce, or if you're lacking a positive track record on diversity and inclusion, you're not going to attract diverse recruits.

You need to actively seek and recruit diverse candidates to begin changing your brand. Also, start participating in community events and volunteering for causes related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and publicize those efforts via social media and traditional media.

2. Absence of a Diverse Workforce

Diverse candidates aren't applying to your jobs because they don't believe you have a diverse workforce in the first place. It may be true, or it may be that your diversity is completely hidden from the public.

If your organization obviously lacks women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups in your workforce, you'll have trouble filling a diverse recruiting pool. All it takes is a quick glance at your organization's LinkedIn page to see whether you have workplace diversity. Diverse candidates won't want to be lost in a sea of sameness; they want to see coworkers who look like them to feel included and welcomed.

Conversely, maybe you do have an inclusive workforce, but you haven't been showing it on your website, social media, or promotional materials. This is where you can improve your organization's brand and diversity recruiting strategies.

Make sure your website features your traditionally under-represented populations and shows that you do indeed uphold a commitment to diversity. Publicize your participation in community events and get your employees to share what they're doing on their own social networks.

3. Restrictive Job Descriptions

Diverse candidates aren't applying to your jobs because your job descriptions don't allow for candidates who don't have the "right" kind of experience or don't have a complete degree.

Often, job descriptions are narrowly-worded or contain excessive or unrealistic prerequisites. These restrictive job descriptions mean you're overlooking a lot of qualified candidates. Are you filtering out people who could be equally capable of doing the work? 

Some common examples you might have seen (or even done yourself) include:  

  • Requiring three years of experience for an entry-level position.  
  • Requiring a college degree for someone to answer the phone. 
  • Offering a low salary for people with many years of experience. 

These issues won't just stop your attempts at recruiting diverse candidates – they'll hinder all of your hiring efforts.

As you're figuring out how to create job postings that attract diverse candidates, it's important to remember that restrictive job descriptions mean you're overlooking a lot of otherwise-capable candidates. Are you missing people who could be equally capable of doing the work?

For example, what about candidates who completed three-and-a-half years of college instead of all four? What about the candidates who have worked in that field, but never went to college in the first place? Too many times, you miss out on recruiting diverse candidates because they're not allowed to apply in the first place, even though the "unqualified" candidates are ideally suited to many public sector jobs.

Many jobs being offered don't actually require extensive education, such as graduate school or even a completed college degree. That's just what the agency has always asked for, even when it doesn't matter.

Other times, the candidates may have a degree, but they don't have the "right" one. But most of the job knowledge actually comes from learning on the job. Rather than focusing on the "right" degree, look for candidates who seem like they'll learn fast, are teachable, and will mesh well with their coworkers. Put more emphasis on soft skills and abilities rather than disregarding an ideal candidate because of their degree.

Similarly, unpaid internships can ruin a diversity recruiting strategy. Usually, only affluent students (most often white) can afford to take unpaid internships because their parents are paying their rent and covering their costs. But lower-income students need paid internships and often still have to work a second job to cover their living expenses.

So, a critical part of your diversity recruiting strategy means you should avoid unpaid internships, reconsider whether certain jobs actually require college degrees, and look beyond the same job requirements you've had for the last 20 years.

4. No Employee Referral Program

Diverse candidates aren't applying to your jobs because no one told them about the jobs in the first place. Many positions are filled not because they were on job boards, but because they were referred by a friend or a friend of a friend. In fact, as many as 80% of jobs are filled through networking because 70% of all job openings are unpublished.

If you don't have an employee referral program, you're missing an excellent opportunity to fill your candidate pool. You can increase your range of candidates by asking your diverse employees to refer their friends and networks to your job postings. And if you're not going to publish a job opening at a particular time, this is where your referral program can do a lot of the heavy lifting on your behalf.

Another benefit of an employee referral program is it gives your employees a deeper understanding of what the job will entail. An HR member writing the job description may include requirements that aren't actually necessary for the position (see #3 above). But your employees may know the person who's a perfect fit – someone who may have never made it through the initial recruitment process otherwise.

An employee referral program can also go a long way in building your brand because it demonstrates your commitment to diversity. You can even tout the program during the hiring process so candidates are aware of your dedication and are more likely to continue through the recruitment process.

5. Limited Sourcing for Candidates

Diverse candidates aren't applying to your jobs because you're restricting your talent pool to your physical location. That's not a problem if your organization is in a large city like Orlando, Seattle, Chicago, or New York. 

But if you work for a small local agency in a small town like Vevay, Indiana (1,700 people), Abbeville, Georgia (2,900 people), or Memphis, Missouri (1,700 people), your talent pool is going to be very limited, and your hope for recruiting diverse candidates is slim.

By allowing remote work, you can get candidates from anywhere in the United States who can do brilliant work for you. Similarly, if you work in a large city, you may find some of your best talent in small rural towns. Rather than forcing them to live within commuting distance, they can continue to live and work in their own community and their salaries will go further because of the lower cost of living in small towns.

Also, people are more aware that society can still function with remote work. They no longer accept that they have to be in the office to get things done. This has opened up many opportunities for people who normally couldn't work due to childcare and transportation issues. 

Allowing remote work can help expand your diverse candidate slates. For example, you can attract more female candidates who might otherwise opt-out of work because they have limitations with child care or caring for family members. Or you can find candidates who don’t have reliable transportation, but they do have high-speed internet and the ability to work from home.

6. Poor Candidate Screening Process

Diverse candidates aren't applying to your jobs because they're worried they won't receive a fair chance or the opportunity to prove themselves in the interview process.

One of the difficulties of using social networks like LinkedIn or connecting with candidates on social media is that you may know a candidate's race, ethnicity, or religion in what should normally be a blind hiring process. Even a subconscious bias can creep in during the interview process and impact a person's decision.

That's why it's important to use blind résumés that don't mention a person's race, religion, or even political affiliation. This way, you can remove any possibilities of subconscious bias for as much of the recruitment process as possible.

It also helps to use an applicant tracking system (ATS) for a blind résumé review, which can ensure that qualified candidates make it through the early screening processes.

At the same time, don't rely too heavily on the ATS. Since many candidates don't know how to write their résumés to meet ATS screening procedures, they may slip through the cracks. So be sure to have a human screen résumés to catch any qualified candidates who may have been overlooked because their résumé was missing a keyword.

7. No Applicant Tracking System

Diverse candidates aren't applying to your jobs because they have no way of tracking whether they're still under consideration for a job and where they are in the process.

Candidates like to know where they stand in terms of the hiring process, such as if their résumé has been reviewed or if they're still on the hunt for a particular position. Too often, candidates are left completely in the dark, not knowing if their application is still being considered.

Too many times, organizations only notify candidates if they're still being considered when they contact people for an interview. Otherwise, there’s indefinite radio silence from the employer and the candidate has no idea where they stand.

This is especially true in the private sector. A candidate who applies for a job with a large corporation often won’t hear anything about their application and eventually just assumes they never got the job. This is where the public sector can get a leg up on the private sector in their diversity recruiting strategies. By providing insight through an ATS, candidates can get an update on their status and see if they need to do anything else with their application.

An applicant tracking system will at least let a candidate check their status to see if they should be patient and wait for a call from a recruiter or hiring manager, or if they should move on to another opportunity.

Final Thoughts

If you want to increase your talent pipeline and improve your workplace diversity, hiring needs to expand to include more women candidates, BIPOC candidates, and people with different sexual orientations. Your diversity strategy should include: 

  • Improving your brand
  • Opening your job descriptions and expectations
  • Allowing remote work to allow for candidates from outside your city
  • Using more technology like an applicant tracking system (ATS)

We've helped different government agencies and law enforcement agencies improve their diverse candidate slates. If you would like to do the same, you can learn more about the diverse job candidates you should be recruiting and effective diversity recruiting strategies on our website.

Mike Tannian

Mike Tannian is the Director of Content Marketing at NEOGOV. With a talented team of writers by his side, he aims to produce content that delivers real value to public sector HR professionals at every stage in the buying journey.

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