12 February 2021

Discrimination in the recruitment process can be prevented by reforming recruitment practices. Recruitment practices promoting diversity were published in the Manifold More project of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

The practices can increase the diversity sought after by workplaces among jobseekers as well as prevent unintentional, intentional and structural discrimination.

“Recruiters often underestimate how much their prejudices and stereotypical thinking affect their assessment of the jobseeker. That is why we hope that these practices promoting diversity will become more common in recruitment,” says Leading Specialist Barbara Bergbom from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

In the project, experts prepared ten guidelines to help workplaces develop their recruitment. The tips involve planning the job advertisement, choosing the recruitment channels and conducting the interview in ways that promote diversity, among other things. The experts also encourage workplaces to try out blind recruitment.

The practices are suited for all industries and designed to prevent discrimination due to gender, ethnicity, disability or family situation, for example, in recruitment processes. Means promoting diversity have also been tested in practice in the recruitment for the Manifold More project at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

How can workplaces reach applicants from diverse backgrounds?

Many organizations wish to develop the diversity of their work community and feel the need to invest in their recruitment. If, despite the employer’s wishes, the group of applicants is homogeneous, recruitment practices promoting diversity may prove to be an effective solution.

If the workplace values diversity, it is important to disclose that on the website and in the job advertisement. As photographs have an impact on people’s impressions, experts recommend selecting stock photos featuring people of different genders, ages and backgrounds for the job advertisement. This makes the workplace attractive to everyone. Publishing the job advertisement in English, for example, may be a good idea.

“A diversity statement may be an asset for the employer to communicate their values and improve their image as an employer in the eyes of different types of applicants. A jobseeker with a minority background may get the feeling that they also have the chance of landing this job,” says Barbara Bergbom.

The diversity statement can consist of one or a few sentences that express the organization’s appreciation of diversity and encouragement for representatives of different minorities or underrepresented groups to apply for the position. When drawing up the job advertisement, the recruiters can also consider whether to use positive action, whereupon a person in a weaker or disadvantaged position may be given priority in the selection between two equal candidates. The guidelines will provide more details on the use of positive action.

A workplace aiming for diversity should also expand its distribution channels for the job advertisement. If the work community is homogeneous in terms of the employees’ age, gender and other factors, for example, this often also applies to the networks. In the guidelines, employers are encouraged to see if they could reach a more diverse group of applicants through organizations, educational institutions, social media channels and various communities.

How to eliminate unintentional discrimination?

Unconscious discrimination happens often in recruitment. Even if the discrimination is unintentional, it is still illegal and must be addressed.

“I recommend reexamining the recruitment process, starting from the job advertisement. All recruitment stages may include an unintentional discriminating factor. You have to be aware of the problem before you can fix it,” says Senior Specialist Kirsi Yli-Kaitala from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Unintentional, discriminating factors may include language requirements that are not actually purposeful for the work performance or the tendency to invite interviewees who share similar characteristics with the recruiter.

It is important to focus on the preparation of the job description and the job advertisement. How to enable work in a diverse work community? The job description and the required skills must be included in the job advertisement in a comprehensible manner. Predetermined criteria also support fair and objective decision-making in the recruitment process and reduce the impact of prejudice and potential stereotyping.

Each recruiter should challenge their thinking and prejudice. The guidelines encourage the recruiters to think about questions such as: “Which factors influence your decision?” “Which factors are essential for the work tasks?” “Do you tend to recruit applicants who will easily fit in with your culture or applicants who will be a breath of fresh air?”

The Guidelines

How to promote diversity in recruitment

Further information

  • Leading Specialist Barbara Bergbom, barbara.bergbom@ttl.fi, tel. +358 (0)43 824 3765.
  • Senior Specialist Kirsi Yli-Kaitala, kirsi.yli-kaitala@ttl.fi, tel. +358 (0)43 824 8585.

Manifold More project

The Manifold More project promotes the employment of highly educated women with an immigrant background. In 2020, the Diversity Barometer was published as part of the project. The project is conducted in collaboration with the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). It is also funded by the European Social Fund.