Your gender balanced recruitment checklist

Many companies fall short on a gender balanced recruitment checklist

Dorothy Dalton explains why from 30 years in the executive search business

The business case for gender balance is incontrovertible, yet progress is slow or the needle isn’t moving as expected. But despite that, you always know when an initiative is about to move forward because people not involved in gender balance or recruitment and especially gender balanced recruitment, are starting to pitch in with their 10 cents worth. They see the business opportunities in what is to them a potentially new sector. For those of us who have been around  longer we are more familiar with the challenges.



The reality is that most recruitment processes need a complete overhaul to properly address the question of gender balance and diversity. This requires a thorough and basic steps guide through your gender balanced recruitment check list. Where are you now?

Your gender balanced recruitment check list

 Ensure that everyone in your process has received unconscious bias training

Most people involved in the hiring process have not received unconscious bias training. They are riddled with bias. We all are.  Most are not aware of their own biases or even the biases of their organisations. It is these biases which under pin the concept of “cultural fit” via affinity and conformity bias. Both men and women can exhibit these biases in equal measure. I have even gone as far as to say if you are not bias aware you shouldn’t be a recruiter. It is the top priority on your check list and one that is incredibly hard to achieve because resistance is significance.

Read: If you are not bias conscious you shouldn’t be a recruiter

 Create inclusive adverts, profiles and documentation

We know male coded adverts put off female applicants, yet gender neutral adverts don’t deter male applicants. There are now apps on the market which allow you to run through your documentation to check that they are suitable neutral. I use Kat Matfield and Textio although I’m not in favour of becoming a slave to them. Some terms are male coded for historical reasons and we aim to change history.

Build gender neutral application processes

Blind CVs are becoming increasingly common in large organisations, although this requires some software investment, but is a good step towards gender balanced recruitment.

Read: Blind CVs don’t deal with the real problem

 Run gender neutral and structured interviews in a bias aware environment

gender balanced recruitment

Research suggests that the way we normally like to interview is found to be 85% ineffective. Despite our best efforts all our biases kick in and decisions are made for emotional rather than rational reasons. Structured interviews allow interviews to be evaluated on a balanced score card. A bias conscious environment allows us to flag up to our fellow interviews to reflect carefully when biases might be kicking in, rather than factual neutral assessment. The skill is to create a culture where this is the norm.

Automated interviews also help with this. Regarded as favouring the “Periscope” generation and being less candidate friendly, they can be very successful particularly in the assessment of technical skills. Care has to be taken that bias can kick in when the interviews are being evaluated.

Read: Do structured interviews remove unconscious bias  

Fish where there are fish.

Make sure you are looking for female candidates in the right places, not where there aren’t any. Many involved in tech and engineering recruitment bemoan the lack of female talent, yet continue to look in the same university courses where they already know female enrollment is low. This means out of the box thinking and letting go of conformity bias which keeps recruiters trapped there. It may even mean bringing in female candidates with strong numerical reasoning test results and setting up an in-house training programmes. This is is looping back 50 years when Tech vet  Naomi Bloom passed through a similar process.

Over the years we have seen a falling off of female students in STEM subjects so we have to get creative.

Women, more frequently than men, have incomplete LinkedIn profiles so sourcing strategies have to be broader.  Research from Catalyst indicates that women look outside their organisations less frequently than men. The direct approach may take a little longer to build up trust, so factor that into your timeline calculations.

Read:  Is the automated interview the Future

Create gender balanced short lists.

This is why 3Plus is called 3Plus. Remember you need 3 candidates on each short list to make a  difference. Asking for a token woman will only serve to see the rejection of that female candidate.

 Understand what attracts women to organisations and why they leave.

Most organisations think that it’s the lack of flexibility or salary which make women want to leave. It actually is not totally about that but the toxic unrewarding cultures and dealing with the  unrelenting sexism which is commonplace in many organisations. Retention rates can be improved by an honest and transparent evaluation of your corporate culture and workplace practises.

Read: Why women leave it’s not complicated  

Consider returnship and alumnae programmes

60% of European graduates are women and yet many are stuck working below their potential are forced to leave for family reasons. Creating returnship programmes is a great way to tap into lost talent and allow corporate alumnae an opportunity to return to a professional activity. 3Plus has a register of highly qualified returners with strong transferable skills. Contact us.

Read: Returnships support the female talent pipeline

Mentor your candidate

Because women focus on internal opportunities more than men, they may need some support navigating the subtitles of what is still a male coded process. It may be necessary to offer guidance and act as a mentor if you anticipate difficulties.

By implementing these practices you will quickly be on your way to a gender balanced recruitment process.

Tackle unconscious bias in your recruitment process Contact 3Plus now!

3Plus online e-Gazine for professional women, Candidate indentification, Conversations about leadership, Culture, Executive Search and Recruitment, Gender Balance, Gender balanced short lists, Gender neutral interviews, Mentoring
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Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she joins the dots between organisations, individuals, opportunity and success.

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