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May 4, 2022

Inclusive hiring: Three expert and easy-to-implement tips


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Please note: The tips shared in this article were provided by WORK180 Co-Founder and CEO Gemma Lloyd for the Australian HR Institute, and first published in full on the HRM online.

Three easy-to-implement tips for inclusive hiring


Inclusive hiring is a critical component for building and reaping the rewards of a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce. In essence, it’s about actively embracing a wide range of qualities and perspectives that candidates from all backgrounds and experiences could bring to your organization.

When it comes to inclusive hiring, many HR professionals have the will, but don’t always know the way. However, by making small changes – such as the tips I’m sharing today and those shared during our free diversity in recruitment webinar — you’ll have a better chance of attracting the right candidates. This enables you to bring people with the right skills, attitude, and aptitude into your business.

1. Be clear about the skills a role requires 

Often there can be a disconnect between a job description and the questions that are asked in an application or job interview.

For example, some employers talk about wanting candidates from with diverse experiences, but then ask questions that require very specific experience, such as asking for a long technical stack, which is unlikely for many people to have, thereby cutting out potential diverse hires. A long list of ‘nice to have’ skills can deter people with the core competencies from applying too, as they might feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of requirements.

In our recent What Women Want Report, a respondent told us, “When the questions are so restrictive, it turns me off even bothering to apply, even though I feel my skills and experience would be relevant, transferrable and value adding to the role they are seeking to hire [for].”

WORK180's What Women Want Report 2021

To avoid cutting out potential star players before they’ve even applied for a role, consider:

    • Focussing on transferrable skills. Technical skills can usually be trained on the job, transferrable or ‘soft’ skills, such as leadership experience, creative thinking or commitment, can come from multitude areas. For example, a new mother returning to the workforce may bring an ability to prioritise work and a strong sense of resilience to the table. A team leader from outside the industry may bring different creative thinking and strong management skills to a new industry.
    • Remove minimum years of experience. This can prevent out-of-industry hires and often discourages women and people with a more varied background from applying.
    • Avoid referencing a specific industry. Innovation, revenue and performance increase when you attract workers with diverse career backgrounds. Specific industry experience may not be necessary to perform at the job, so consider whether industry experience will impact their ability to deliver the role.
    • Treat people like individuals. Algorithms that assess capabilities through keywords reduce applicants to a number and don’t allow for nuanced understanding of transferrable skills. Some studies are now showing that using AI to assess candidates perpetuates bias.
    • Highlight accessibility options. Be clear about what support and adjustments you will provide for people who are neurodivergent or live with disabilities to encourage applicants from those groups.

2. Use compelling language

There are some language tips you can use to increase the inclusiveness of your job ads and make them more encouraging for women and other underrepresented groups to apply for.

For example, try: 

  • Using active language. This means the subject of the sentence comes before the action (the verb). For example: ‘Employees (subject) will have the opportunity to learn and grow (verbs) via our development programme’, instead of passive language, such as: ‘Learning and growth are offered to employees via our development program.’ Active language is easier to read and understand, and for people speaking English as a second language, it’s easier to translate the content.
  • Shortening sentences to 14 words or less. It’s been reported that readers take in up to 90% of your content on a first read. When sentence length reaches 43 words, understanding drops to less than 10%.
  • Use non-academic words. You don’t want to alienate a candidate by using unnecessarily complicated phrasing.
  • Make your language family-friendly, so parents can see there is a place for them in your organization (for example, talk about flexible working options).
  • Avoid jargon or acronyms, as this can feel exclusive and give the impression of an ‘us versus them’ culture. Even those that know and understand technical jargon prefer to read and engage more deeply with content that’s written in Plain English.

3. Host inclusive interviews

Once the job ads are inclusive and set up to attract diverse candidates, the interview itself is the next opportunity to ensure you are being inclusive and offering opportunities to a diverse range of candidates.

When interviewing for inclusivity, there are a few key tips to improve the process:

  • Use a diverse panel to conduct interviews. A breadth of opinions and voices helps assess candidates more fairly and identify diverse skills.
  • Adjust for interviewer communication preferences. Understanding the thinking preferences of interviewees can help to avoid confirmation bias from occurring (i.e. hiring people who think like you). Asking a range of questions and enabling introverted candidates time to think before responding can make the world of difference, as can providing candidates with preparation materials beforehand. Enabling flexibility with interview times also demonstrates your commitment to ongoing flexibility.
  • Ask the same questions, in the same order. Unstructured ratings are poor predictors of on-the-job performance, whereas using the same order of questions for each interviewee can help to remove bias.
  • Hire for values not cultural fit. Cultural fit is a way companies inadvertently promote homogeneity and allows bias to drive decisions. Assessing candidates on their values will ensure they are aligned with the direction the company is heading.
  • Hire for potential. Research from the University of Kent found that men are more likely to be hired for potential, while women are more likely to be hired for their past performance. Ensure you are actively considering potential for all genders.

Change won’t happen overnight, but making a conscious effort to remove barriers through inclusive job advertisements, facilitating more inclusive interviews, diversifying your shortlist and perhaps even setting diversity targets, can go a long way into seeing impactful change in your organisation at a cultural level.

Understand your company’s strengths and weaknesses with WORK180’s Equity Audit 

The Equity Audit has helped highlight what gaps we need to close before we can expect candidates to apply.

A WORK180 Endorsed Employer

From your hiring practices to your policies, this quick but comprehensive audit reviews your current processes against 10 key standards for driving workplace equity.

The result is a clear set of metrics and insights you can use to begin or build upon your company’s current DEI strategy, benchmarking progress against yourself and other organizations. 

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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

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