Candidate pools are necessary for everything from succession planning to filling vacancies as people leave old roles. You need to know who’s moving into upcoming roles, you need a pool of candidates to choose from, and the more senior that position, the more that has to be planned. But, even for junior roles where candidate pools are almost entirely pulled from job applications, diverse candidate selection benefits the organization in more ways than one. 

For example, diversity allows your organization to select from culture, complementary experiences, and different personalities, allowing you to bring different experiences and worldviews together, rather than having a homogenous culture. 

Of course, attracting that diverse talent often means nurturing the kind of culture that is welcome and open to it. Whether diversity means people with chronic disabilities, people from different cultures and continents, or even people who were educated in non-standard ways doesn’t matter – the organization’s culture has to be welcoming and open to seeing those differences in a positive light. Fortunately, that too can benefit the organization. 

Organizational diversity is something of a buzzword, contributing to everything from social responsibility to public image campaigns. But it also adds real business value. 

Diverse experiences promote creativity

If you hire all of your new people from the same place, the same businesses, the same schools – you can expect that for the large part, those people will have had the same experiences. They will have the same approaches to problem solving, to creativity, to building new products. That’s especially true for those that go to business schools, which can be influential in shaping how people think about business goals and strategy.

Mixing experiences, such as pulling candidates without that same education, looking for individuals who worked instead, finding people who studied in vastly different schools – such as overseas  – can change that. Suddenly you have people with a different worldview and a different approach to problem solving and strategy. And, that can be immensely valuable in helping your teams to look at things from new directions, to using a more diverse approach to problem solving, and to seeing different paths or avenues to getting to an objective. In short, adding different types of experiences opens the door to more creativity.

Switch focus to competency

One incredibly important aspect of that is to switch the focus away from classical education and towards skills and competencies. That shift is already visible in most organizations, but many want both. That can cut down on your candidate pool, especially when a candidate has experience in the role but not education. In many technical and digital fields, the experience is significantly more important anyway.

Sometimes you may want a certain amount of educational experience to show that your candidate can work well with others, follow rules, and excel in a high-pressure environment. These are important, but can also be discovered through competency mapping. Using assessments alongside competency mapping allows you to hire from overseas and offshore educational institutions that don’t necessarily have compatible degrees with the local education system.

Most importantly, once you skip asking for specific qualifications and start asking that the candidate prove they can do the job well, your candidate pool will expand and can even improve. It’s possible you’ll get more early applicants with no relevant skills, but a simple skills assessment before any interviews take place should filter those out. And, it means you are opening the role up to people who might not have had early opportunities, while ensuring people moving into roles are actually good at what they do.

How to increase your candidate pool

Use employee referrals

Referral and recruitment programs aimed at your existing employees can be remarkably effective. For example, people are highly likely to know others in their field. Whether that’s schoolmates, past colleagues, or people they met at conventions, people talk to and get to know the people doing the same thing they do. When you’re hiring, making roles visible to existing employees and offering incentives to refer those people can dramatically widen your pool.

Plus, those recommendations will come with layer of validation in that your existing employee thinks they’re good enough to be hired. You might be adding in people who are very similar to who you already have in the organization, they might be vastly different, but it’s a very simple way of broadening the recruitment pool and with little investment from the business.

Tap your internal teams

Internal job boards and promotion or horizontal moves can create a lot of diversity in your organization. For example, opening up internal job boards allows someone who’s bored with their role to move in a horizontal fashion to learn new skills and gain new experience.

At the same time, they bring the experience from their old role into the new one, creating a more connected and integrated company culture. Most importantly, enabling internal mobility, whether upwards or horizontal, means employees are less likely to leave the company when they do want a change.

Being able to actively apply for and get roles internally means they can simply change positions, ask for a promotion into a more technical or more leadership position, etc. And, because they already know other aspects of the business, those moves will create value in more ways than one.

Share an inclusive culture

One critical aspect of attracting candidates and expanding your hiring pool is to create a company where people want to work.

Bringing on diverse candidates necessitates building an inclusive culture. It doesn’t matter how many new cultures or perspectives you bring into the organization if those perspectives are then isolated and siloed by lack of acceptance. Building a culture that supports diversity and inclusivity might mean helping people to learn to communicate, it might mean offering workshops on thinking and reacting in different ways, it might also mean using personality profiles to build teams that complement each other.

However, it also means making diversity and inclusivity an active part of the company process. For example, supporting flex work so people can work from home some days. Or, hiring multiple people for one role, but with shorter hours. Those steps can do wonders for diversifying your talent pools, because even those simple two steps will open up hiring options for parents with small children, to people with chronic illnesses or disabilities, and to anyone who can’t work a full-time job for whatever reason.

Inclusive culture is necessary for creating diversity. But, the more diversity you foster, the more inclusive your culture will naturally become. It’s always a good idea to pay attention, to make sure that new people complement rather than clash with their teams, and to invest in ensuring people have the tools they need to communicate well. From there, if diverse people work together, they bring together experiences, perspectives, and education from different walks of life, which will benefit the business. 

Wrapping up — Diversify your candidate pool and don’t limit your teams

Stop limiting your hiring prowess by reducing your candidate pool to only those with specific educations, or similar backgrounds. Instead, rely on competency assessments to discover candidates who would be a great fit for the role regardless of background. To widen your candidate pool further, tap into employee referrals, look to internal job boards, and make your company a place where people want to work.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick