Recruiters need to do more to source women candidates

by | Sep 22, 2017

Why recruiters need to step up for women candidates

Recruiters bemoan a lack of women candidates when really they are simply struggling to source them. Here's ways they can tap into the wealth of women candidates.

I've written in the past that headhunters don't deliberately exclude women.  I still think that's true. I don't think they consciously exclude women candidates when they are sourcing candidates. What I have observed is that they don't use what they know and  then create solutions to solve the problem. Rather they stick to what they have always done and wonder why the results don't change. They then complain, usually vocally, that there are no women candidates!

women candidates

Here is what we know:

  • Research from Catalyst tells us that women focus their career goals internally within organisations rather than keeping an eye on the market.
  • Women take longer to entice into an executive search process.
  • Exaggerated profiles and male coded ads put women off.
  • One female candidate has zero chance of being selected.
  • Women use LinkedIn differently - men tend to inflate their skills and play down junior roles. Women do not showcase their strengths to the same degree.

Read: 7 Steps to attract, source and recruit women

What recruiters can do differently to engage women candidates

Yes this is about you, the recruiter.

Read between the lines

Research from LinkedIn profiles in the US tell us that women tend to promote themselves and their success stories less than their male colleagues. Men tend to include more information, show case more skills and have larger networks on LinkedIn than their female counterparts. LinkedIn said:

  • When looking at LinkedIn member data, we found men tend to skew their professional brands to highlight more senior-level experience, often removing junior-level roles altogether.
  • Women are more likely to have shorter profile summaries which is a key searchable field.
  • In the U.S., women on average include 11% less skills than men on their LinkedIn profile, even at similar occupations and experience levels.

As LinkedIn is a go-to platform for most recruiters - some rely on it exclusively, then it's important that they read between the lines. It's also important that women market themselves more assertively.

Have an impeccable LinkedIn profile and business picture

Many job seekers, male and female, are often concerned and even perplexed about how to handle unexpected contact from executive search or recruitment consultants. An approach can be by phone or email. This is understandable, because even in digital world, the process essentially involves releasing personal information to a total stranger. It's about trust.  Although it is completely obvious, very often many recruiters especially junior ones have poor personal brands. I always advise any candidate to check out the credentials of any recruiter who contacts them before deciding to engage. Direct approach is frequently a junior role in a company carried out by a Researcher. Even if you have little recruitment experience you can still present yourself in a professional light. If your company is a member of a professional body make sure that's listed. To do that you need to have a complete LinkedIn profile with all your qualifications and experience clearly outlined. If you don't, she will hesitate to trust you and engage in your process.

Check-out 3Plus corporate training services on unconscious bias

Formulate an outline approach

I get that discretion is important. Very often the client can tie a consultant's hands because they want any executive searches or recruitment drives kept under the radar for operational and strategic business reasons. Many companies don’t want their competitors to know what their plans are. However it is important to have your approach clear and outlined. You need to be able to tell the potential candidate the job title, the seniority, sector and location, even if you can't tell them the exact name of the company at this point. Include your own contact details and web site information. Women are frequently harassed and spammed on LinkedIn and anything less than professional contact will get you blocked and reported.

Check out: How 3Plus can help you identify more women candidates

Make sure your email is literate

I had a bizarre encounter myself from someone who claimed to be a head hunter with a Master's Degree, but who had the spelling ability of a child. Just say red flag. It did not go well for her. Include links to your LinkedIn profile and web site as well as any contact details. Punctuation is important.

Offer a complete profile

One way of showing you are not some street hustler with a LinkedIn account and a lap top,  is to offer to send her a detailed profile of the role. Demonstrate you know the client and the position and confirm you have a strong relationship with the hiring manager. If you are evasive or hesitant, or working on a  first past the post contingency basis that quite often will not work. No profile, no candidate.

Read: Savvy candidates catch on to interviewer bias

Check your client's social proofing rating

As social proofing sites evaluating conditions for women are becoming more widespread, you need to be checking your client's rating regularly and pressing them to engage or address any issues. Bad ratings will not sit well and women tend to be good communicators. They will share.

Ask for a call at a time to suit her

Headhunters are blissfully unaware that they are asking for personal information and women are reluctant to do that, especially telephone numbers. Many are also rightly concerned about the quality of recruiters. With reason - there are sharks out there.  Propose a time that will fit in with her schedule. It maybe outside office hours or at lunch time, so you will have to be willing to go the extra distance.

 Most search companies especially at the higher end of the market have strong reputations and would not want to damage their brands with unprofessional conduct. They are bound by codes of ethics from their professional bodies. If you follow these basic steps all recruiters will easily be able to more easily engage women candidates in your candidate sourcing process.

Ask women for referrals

Research shows that only 8% of men refer women candidates. So if you want a woman on your short list tap into your network of  female executives.

Or better still come to people who know what they are doing like 3Plus.

Contact us for information on our Executive Search services to find women candidates

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
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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