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Hiring for equality, diversity and inclusion as a start-up

Hiring new employees can be an exciting step in the growth of your start-up business. Recruiting for a diverse and inclusive workplace can bring many benefits, such as increasing business profitability. An equal opportunities approach is also a legal requirement, so it’s important to understand strategies for hiring for diversity and inclusivity.

Start-up businesses often consist of small teams working closely together, which means it’s important that business owners choose employees who can bring the necessary skills their business needs.

There are legal requirements to consider when hiring staff.

The Equality Act 2010 opens in new window makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against job applicants (along with existing employees and the wider public) because of one of nine protected characteristics – age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity, and being married or in a civil partnership.

Hiring for diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be solely adhered to for legal requirements.

A diverse workforce can include benefits such as increased business performance.

Analysis by McKinsey opens in new window found that businesses with gender diversity in executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profits, while 76% of Glassdoor survey respondents said that an inclusive workplace is a focus point for when it comes to evaluating job offers and companies opens in new window.


Want to learn more about managing and leading staff?

Discover more about managing people with our free Managing and managing people course opens in new window, with teaches you managerial effectiveness, the skills required and how to develop management skills.

As part of our Learn with Start Up Loans opens in new window partnership with The Open University, our online course is free to join, delivered by experts and includes a free statement of participation on completion.


What is hiring for diversity, inclusion and equality?

There are many ways to foster an inclusive workplace, including training, business culture, company values and including everyone at work, regardless of background, identity or circumstance.

A key aspect is to ensure that your hiring processes are equal, fair and inclusive.

This means implementing a recruitment process that:

  • Provides fair access for a diverse range of individuals.
  • Ensures that protected characteristics such as age, gender and disability do not form part of the selection process.
  • Bases selection on merit, with steps taken to remove bias against other characteristics, such as upbringing, background and education.


Tips for recruiting for equality, diversity and inclusion

1. Create inclusive job ads

Use inclusive language when creating your job ads. Avoid language or descriptions directed towards certain experience levels or demographics, which could discourage potential applicants with other skills.

Ask other people to proof job ads before posting. This can help identify any exclusionary language you may have included.

Job ads should eliminate bias, such as racial bias, by not mentioning race, national origin or phrases such as ‘clean shaven’, which can exclude candidates from applying whose faith requires facial hair.

Disability-biased language, such as ‘able-bodied individual’ and age-biased language, such as ‘young and energetic’, should be avoided, for example.


2. Target extended candidate pools

When placing job ads, rather than defaulting to larger recruitment platforms investigate placing job ads on a diverse range of recruitment platforms to encourage as wide a pool of candidates as possible.

For example, investigate online and offline groups specifically for women who work in technology or those with physical disabilities.

Organisations such as the RNIB opens in new window and RNID opens in new window can advise where and how to hire people with disabilities, such as those who are visually or hearing impaired.


3. Assessing applications

To help combat unconscious bias, consider removing information that could negatively affect your initial candidate filtering.

This is where personal information such as name, school name, and specific locations on CVs and cover letters are removed before being assessed.


4. Candidate shortlisting

Shortlisting can be a tricky part of the hiring process as it’s the stage when biases may come into play.

One way to make this process easier is to have a clear idea of the requirements needed to fulfil the role successfully.

List the skills and experience you need, and identify duties that could be successfully carried out with reasonable workplace adjustments.

It’s worth considering removing personal information such as date of birth, ethnicity, names or locations when shortlisting candidates as this can help ensure that the shortlist decision is based solely on the skills and experience displayed.

Create the shortlist with a partner so you can question each other’s decisions and catch any instances of unconscious bias.

It can be worth scoring candidates based on skills and experience, creating a scoring matrix that you can use to create your shortlist.


5. Interviewing candidates

Consider offering several Interview stages, with an initial stage of candidates being sent a list of questions that they can then respond to.

Answers can be assessed without being linked to personal details, as removing bias can be difficult when talking with candidates on the phone or in-person in the later stages.

It’s worth asking candidates about their own commitment to inclusiveness.

Questions can include asking candidates to describe their ideal workplace culture, explain their personal values and illustrate their understanding of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.

Other tips for interviewing candidates include:

  • Standardised interviews – ensure that you create a list of questions before an interview and stick to it. Structured interviews can help eliminate bias, according to research by the Harvard Business Review opens in new window.
  • Have multiple interviewers – while it may be difficult in a start-up, it can be helpful to have the same candidate interviewed by several people.
  • Use notes and scoring – take notes of answers and use scoring for how well a candidate answered a question.


6. Offering internships

Internships can be an excellent way for potential employees to gain experience in their desired industries and discover the right fit for them.

Start-ups can be a great place for interns to gain experience in a more involved, hands-on way compared to larger organisations and groups.

Many organisations now offer internships and co-op positions to marginalised groups or those from specific backgrounds.

These internal internship schemes can be a great way to grow your team and help the next generation of workers gain vital experience.

If this is part of a strategy you’re considering, reach out to local schools, colleges, universities and community hubs to make connections.

By doing so, you’ll be giving back to the community while also benefiting from fresh talent.


7. Be accommodating

Hiring the right person can mean that a business needs to make reasonable adjustments to workplaces.

This can involve physical changes to premises or providing access to platforms and tools such as screen readers.

Making reasonable adjustments means you can widen the range of people you can hire, increase diversity when hiring and benefit from a more inclusive working environment.


Learn with Start Up Loans and help your business get off the ground.

Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with The Open University on sustainability in the workplace.

Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses opens in new window include:

Plus free courses on climate and sustainability, teamwork, entrepreneurship, mental health and wellbeing.


This article and the content provided therein is exclusively for informative purposes. Nothing in this article or in its contents is intended to provide advice of any kind (including legal, financial, tax or other professional advice) and should not be relied on as such. You should get professional or specialist advice before doing anything on the basis of the content contained in this article.

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