Grace Hopper is celebrated as a pioneering computer programmer in the 1940s who helped develop a compiler that was the precursor to the widely used Cobol computer language. It’s hard to fathom today just how radical that was: being a woman in a nearly all-male field. It’s no wonder she was also known for her aversion to the status quo and willingness to buck the system. She even claims to have hung a clock on her office wall that ran counter-clockwise. “Humans are allergic to change,” she’s known to have said. “I try to fight that.”

It’s that passion for change and spirit of innovation that can energize organizations to continue finding ways to welcome and encourage women – and other diversity candidates – into the business world. Too often, the diversity mandate gets bogged down in the “have-to” zone, with businesses returning to the tried-and-true ways of reaching out to women and diversity candidates, only to come up empty. It’s easy to shrug your shoulders and say, “We try, but diversity candidates just aren’t available for these roles.”

An often-overlooked approach for engaging with a more diverse candidate pool involves using digital recruiting tools and processes. After all, the digital world is where we all live today, in both our professional and personal lives. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, over three-quarters of U.S. adults go online on a daily basis, and about one-quarter are online almost constantly. The number of candidates from diverse populations who spend their time online is also on the rise, according to Pew. It only makes sense to go where the candidates already are.

A less understood benefit of digital recruiting technologies – such as AI-driven chatbots and text-analysis tools, video-chatting and social media platforms – is how they can also reduce bias, increase your consciousness of gender- and minority-friendly language, lower barriers to inclusion and get the message out on why diversity candidates would thrive at your company.

Reducing Bias with Chatbots

Even with the best intentions, hiring decisions can be influenced by recruiters’ personal or unconscious bias. Businesses that use chatbots to automate initial conversations with candidates, however, can tune the collaborative relationship between the chatbot and the human recruiter to reduce hiring bias.

By collecting standard data from candidates and asking filter questions, chatbots can enable recruiters to more quickly qualify a larger number of candidates, while also compressing the timeframe between submitting a resume and the candidate hearing back from the company. The details obtained through the chatbot can also help hiring managers and recruiters improve the conversation and engagement with the candidate. By relieving recruiters of mundane tasks, and speeding the process, employers have more time to focus on attracting and retaining high-quality and diversity candidates.  

Businesses can ensure the chatbot is equally accessible to all types of candidates and impose no barriers for use. This might mean offering several language variations, larger text for sight-impaired and older populations, and training the bot on certain words and phrases that are commonplace to different cultures.

Of course, there are renowned examples of AI-driven bots developing social biases through their self-learning algorithms, as well. For this reason, businesses need to be thoughtful about their strategy when it comes to training the bot and use a broad representation of data from a variety of demographics. Bots and human recruiters can serve as a check-and-balance system, as recruiters can serve to counter any bias that would emerge as the technology matures.

Watch Your Language

Another way businesses can unconsciously express bias is through the language they use in the recruiting process. Augmented writing platforms like Textio can ensure any content used in the recruiting process, such as the job description or any job documentation, is gender- and ethnicity-friendly. As recruiters or hiring managers type out the job description, the predictive analytics engine uncovers patterns within the language and highlights words or phrases that wouldn’t be viewed as attractive or appealing to certain genders or ethnicities, and suggests ways to make the language more diversity friendly.

One example we recently ran across is the use of the word “candidate,” which the system said is a male-friendly term. The more gender-neutral term, the system said, is the word “individual” – definitely a hidden, and much appreciated, insight.

Removing Barriers with Videoconferencing

Removing geographic barriers is another way businesses can reach a more diverse candidate pool. With cloud-based videoconferencing platforms, candidates can interview for distant jobs much more easily. Eliminating the need for travel is more inclusive because it opens the doors to candidates for whom it isn’t feasible to travel.  

Video interviews can be conducted in real time, or recruiters can use recorded videos to do a deeper dive and conduct broader-based assessments. For example, the recording can be sent to a number of folks to assess the candidate, with reviewers specifically tailored to the individual’s native language or ethnicity. This approach can also ensure fairness and transparency because the same set of questions can be asked of all candidates, and the merits of each response can be weighed more objectively against another. The recording can also be used to ensure compliance with hiring regulations.

Video-chatting (whether recorded or live) also enables businesses to include female executives on the interview panel, no matter where they reside geographically. This is particularly helpful for the many companies that are still striving to increase the number of women at the leadership level. If the company’s one female business leader travels extensively, works from home, or lives in a remote location, she would still be able to participate in the recruiting process.

Getting the Message Out on Social Sites

Just as candidates need to digitize their profiles and get their message out there for greater exposure, it’s also incumbent on companies to let diversity candidates know they’d be welcome. By conveying a cohesive, consistent experience via LinkedIn, Glassdoor and other emerging social sites, businesses can let both passive and active job seekers know who they are and why they’re attractive to diversity candidates.

We recently partnered with Fairygodboss, a social media site that helps women professionals gain “the inside scoop” on pay, corporate culture, benefits and work flexibility at a wide variety of companies, as well as job opportunities and career advice. The site provides a great example of why businesses need to be sure their corporate profile speaks to what they’re about, and what their culture is like.

Highlighting the Human Role

Grace Hopper may have had a backwards-running clock on her wall, but she moved the dial forward when it came to defining a future for women in business. We can all borrow from her courage and love for innovation when it comes to increasing our workforce diversity.

By providing a more systematic and comprehensive approach to recruiting, digital recruiting technologies can help businesses overcome mandate fatigue and energize recruiters to focus on the human aspects of hiring. They can also free businesses to focus on the actual benefits of nurturing an inclusive workforce:  increased productivity, heightened creativity and a reputation for being a workplace where the best talent wants to work.

Meet our team at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, September 26 – 28, in Houston, Texas.  The event is the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. 

Heidi Weinstein-Levy

Heidi Weinstein-Levy

Heidi Weinstein-Levy is an accomplished talent acquisition executive and strategist, with over 20 years of extensive, multi-faceted recruiting experience, and a demonstrated... Read more