As head of diversity and inclusion for management recruitment in the U.S., I’m always on the lookout for new avenues for finding talent.  Like many companies, we’re taking steps to open up our hiring process so that we reach out to more nontraditional and under-represented candidates.

Last summer, I had the privilege of attending the Black Economic Forum and Summer Executive Workshop, and the statistics shared by speakers were dismal. Only 30% of African Americans have college degrees. Among those who do, many who are early in their career face heavy financial pressures, including student debt. Even individuals earning upwards of $50,000 often remain dependent on their parents.

It was eye-opening. I walked away with a renewed interest in identifying the barriers we can remove from the hiring process, so more applicants have access to better jobs and salaries. I’ve doubled down on our commitment to diversity recruiting and to finding new ways to hire at all levels, senior- and entry-level alike.

Opening Up the Hiring Process

Here are some of the changes we’re spearheading to make our workplace more inclusive, and there’s more to come:

  • Not every job requires a four-year college degree. We’re having serious discussions about removing this education barrier for roles that don’t require a degree. By thinking more pragmatically about job requirements, and identifying which jobs a college education is and isn’t essential for, we can end traditions that never made much sense to begin with. As we move through the authorization process, eliminating this obstacle will be an important advance for our efforts to open up paths to better wages for everyone.
  • Removing job applicants’ names from resume submissions. When names appear at the top of candidates’ resumes, so can the social stereotypes associated with unconscious bias. That’s why “John” is more likely to be invited for an interview than “Shaniqua” or “Karen.” Allowing businesses to assess candidates on their merits and not on their names can help level the playing field for job seekers. Blind recruitment is gaining traction as a way to minimize identity cues. It’s a change I’m trying to implement now.
  • Taking the bias out of job descriptions. I’ll be honest with you: Sometimes I cringe when I look at job descriptions. With their long lists of requirements and terse language, they often convey little about what the job is like. We’re working to improve the way we describe open positions. For one thing, we’re cutting down on the long bullet lists of requirements, which function more as wish lists than accurate descriptions, and have been shown to discourage response from some demographics. We’re also using an AI-based writing platform to ensure our job ads aren’t weighed down by the male-oriented language that’s so common in technology job posts and subliminally tells women or other diverse populations they’re the wrong fit for the role, regardless of their qualifications. Gender-neutral phrases such as “work independently” and “attention to detail” draw more female applicants than adjectives such as “headstrong” and “determined.”

I’m more committed than ever to the changes we can make for prospective employees – and the world around us. If you provide one person with the opportunity for a good job, you change a family. When you change a family, you change a community.

Change the community, and you can change the world.

Sonya McLaughlin

Sonya McLaughlin

Sonya McLaughlin is Head of Diversity & Inclusion/Management Recruitment and the Leader of Corporate Management Recruitment for Cognizant. The Diversity & Inclusion/Management... Read more