Employers should consider adjusting their job posting requirements and becoming more creative to attract diverse candidates to their companies.

Speaking at the Toronto Global Forum on Wednesday, Neil Parmenter, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Bankers Association, recalled a conversation with an executive recruiter friend who often had difficulty finding a candidates for a board appointments. Organizations would ask for a candidate with decades of industry experience and also search for candidates with diverse backgrounds. In situations where he was able to convince these organizations to offer some wiggle room on expertise, he was able to place promising candidates.

Read: Scotiabank looks to employee data to tackle gender diversity

“It takes some leadership sometimes . . . to say, ‘Do you really need someone to be a leader for 25 years?’” said Parmenter. “If we can get over some of those, what I call, BS conditions that aren’t really adding to the capability mix, . . . if we can get over ourselves a little bit, [we] can move the meter much faster. Many of our processes and our talent management systems are designed to insert that bias.”

Melissa Dickerson, chief financial officer and managing director of operations at Genstar Capital, agreed. She said human resources professionals — particularly those working for companies in industries that struggle to attract women and minorities, like private equity firms — should be willing to consider candidates who don’t fit the typical mold.

“If you’re on the hiring committee, maybe you’re the one who says, ‘Hey, we should be looking at candidates who don’t look like us, that are a bit more diverse, but not just [in terms of] race and gender, but education, backgrounds and experiences,’” she said. “That might bring conflict, but I’ve always found . . . a little conflict is something you survive.”

Read: 80% of Canadian employers concerned about retaining talent: survey

Dickerson’s firm is becoming more creative in its efforts to stack the future private equity pipeline with more diverse candidates, by inviting high school students into the Genstar offices. “[We want] lots of different kids from different walks of life understanding what this means to be an investor . . . . As long as you find someone who has passion, who loves to learn, who’s hard working — those people will be successful no matter what they choose to do.” 

But, she argued, the way people can talk about broadening the candidate pool as “lowering the bar” needs to change. “I hate that ‘we don’t want to lower the bar’ phrase. It drives me bananas. What is the bar and how does it get lowered? Let’s just blow up all of that.”

During the session, Andrada Paraschiv, head of hospitality at internal communications platform Beekeeper, referred to a company that, aiming to improve its diversity, started requiring an even split of male and female candidates in the interview process. When hiring for a chief executive officer, “they ended up hiring a female because she was more qualified than the rest, but it took them months longer to find female candidates.”

Read: Generation Z wants supportive managers, flexible work hours: survey

Ian Siegel, co-founder and CEO of ZipRecruiter, said artificial intelligence could play a role in eliminating existing bias in the hiring process of the future. “Arguably, AI is a way to perfect bias, not solve for bias. However, it is the only hope in my opinion. And here’s why: when we feed information in, we make choices.”

Some examples, he noted, include choosing not to input names, which can be revealing of a person’s gender or ethnicity, eliminating gender-specific job titles such as waitress and avoiding the inclusion of information on gender-typical hobbies or associations.

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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