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7 Ways to Create a Truly Inclusive Candidate Experience

According to the Talent Board, for the second year in a row, candidate resentment is on the rise.

Referring to a growing negative sentiment within the hiring process, it seems that organizations still have plenty of work to do when it comes to creating a positive candidate experience. Lack of transparency, poor communication, and mismanaged interviews can all impact how potential employees view your company – and this is only amplified further when it comes to talent from underrepresented backgrounds.

Remember: Inclusive candidate experience = Positive candidate experience.

At a time when skills and talent are in short supply, organizations must do everything they can to ensure their hiring process fosters a sense of belonging and inclusivity so EVERYONE feels engaged, appreciated, and encouraged throughout the whole experience. But it can be difficult.

DEI is hugely important – 76% of job seekers consider diversity and inclusion a crucial factor when evaluating potential employers – so how can you create a candidate experience which speaks to this? One that treats people fairly and consistently, and doesn’t discriminate or alienate anyone who may not possess the same privileges as others.

SocialTalent has the answers!

Inclusive candidate experience

1. Screen in rather than screen out

There is a sense in some traditional interviews and assessments that the goal is to trip candidates up. That they’re an exercise to uncover perceived negatives, rather than spotlight positives. It’s a rather bureaucratic approach and won’t leave a hugely encouraging impression – especially when it comes to candidates that don’t fit a certain mould or status quo. How do you rectify this?

Focus on skills and attributes rather than unnecessary requirements like years of experience or where they attended college – give candidates a chance to show you how they can be successful in the role, rather than discounting them for arbitrary definitions. And plan your questions to focus on this approach. Give interviewers rubrics to measure the quality of response in relation to skill or their ability to learn, etc. Research has clearly shown that soft-skills are much better at predicting long-term success, but it’s also an incredibly more inclusive approach to hiring. It affords candidates from all walks of life an equitable shot at a position.

Learn more: Read SocialTalent CEO Johnny Campbell’s thoughts on soft-skills and the talent crisis.

2. Set candidates up for success

From a functional standpoint, the traditional hiring framework is fraught with barriers and pitfalls that could prevent diverse talent from flourishing. Things that most people take for granted can be massive obstacles to others – and you may not even realize it. That’s why it’s so important to continually offer support and reasonable accommodations throughout the whole hiring process. So, what can this look like?

Perhaps your candidates need assistive technology to help them with the portions of the assessment. Maybe a single parent must work an interview time around a tight schedule. Does the candidate have access to the relevant tech to conduct an interview at home? Is your in-person site at an accessible location? Are applications and software simple to use? Asking yourself questions like these can help pinpoint moments where some talent from diverse backgrounds may struggle. And this is no reflection on their ability to do a role. So remove the stigma and be upfront about your desire to help and accommodate.

– Excerpt from SocialTalent’s training on adjustments in the interview process with Theo Smith. Login to our learning platform to see more.

3. Foster a sense of psychological safety

Everyone has the right to feel comfortable and accepted throughout the hiring process, and key to this is maintaining an atmosphere of psychological safety. A lot of what we go through in this article feeds into this outcome, but it’s worth tying it all together. An inclusive candidate experience cannot be achieved without a concerted effort to show consideration and understanding. So, remember:

  • Ensure your communication is relevant, respectful, and consistent.
  • Be upfront and clear about what candidates can expect from the hiring process. Remove any uncertainty.
  • Proffer your pronouns so candidates can feel comfortable using theirs.
  • Continually ask about and offer reasonable accommodations to make the process as equitable as possible.
  • Respect every candidate’s time.
  • Make sure the interview panel is upskilled and informed on all things relating to bias, inclusivity, and diversity.
  • Create an interview process that encourages a candidate to flourish, rather than looking for ways to screen someone out.

Learn more: 7 Ways Organizations Can Make Safe Spaces for All

4. Ensure interviewer training is mandatory

This goes for recruiters, hiring managers, and anyone else involved in the process of hiring. Interviewer training is the cornerstone of creating an inclusive candidate experience. Why? Because interviews aren’t (or shouldn’t be!) ad-hoc events that we try to wing our way through. If you want to guarantee that the talent coming through this process is assessed well, feels respected, and ultimately has a positive experience, you need to ensure that everyone is singing from the same sheet.

Learn more: See how Cisco used SocialTalent Interviewer Training to create a world-class candidate experience.

One of the most common issues revolves around biases. According to HBR: “The hiring process is biased and unfair. Unconscious racism, ageism, and sexism play a big role in who gets hired.” But there are ways to mitigate this. Awareness is step one – ensuring everyone understands how biases can manifest. Next, it’s about applying the training and practicing new behaviors to contradict harmful stereotypes. And structure plays a huge role in overcoming these issues. Are your interviews conducted in the same way? Are the questions standaridized?  Interviewer training can help equip your people with the tools and knowledge they need to create a positive and inclusive candidate experience.

– Excerpt from SocialTalent’s training on bias in recruitment with Holly Fawcett. Login to our learning platform to see more.

5. Promote your DEI initiatives

Candidate experience typically feeds into a future employee’s impression of the organization. And as such, it’s the perfect opportunity to really demonstrate your commitment to equitable and inclusive principles. Most of the tips in this article relate to actions you can take in and around interviews or screenings to build a sense of belonging, but it also pays to be a little more direct.

Any organization worth its salt is constantly looking at and improving its approach to DEI. Whether that’s through establishing ERGs, actions to remove the gender pay gap, your inclusive company policies, access to L&D, or initiatives to spotlight and assist minority employees – make sure candidates know about this. According to Deloitte, inclusive workplaces are important to 80% of candidates when looking to move jobs. So don’t shy away from these data points if you have them. Be proud of the steps your organization is taking to be more inclusive and find ways to share this with candidates.

Learn more: These companies are embracing DEI in big ways – check out how.

6. Solicit feedback from candidates

Probably the most useful (and under-utilized) action you can take in the path to fostering a more inclusive candidate experience – feedback. We’ve already established that the hiring process is a complex series of events and actions, which means there is ample opportunity for things to go wrong or slip through a crack. By asking both successful and not-successful candidates to review their experience, you can glean an enormous amount of insight.

Ask them how they found the application process. Were there any areas that made them feel uncomfortable? Was communication respectful? Is there anything the company could be doing to make the experience more open and inclusive? But be ready for some harsh truths – the path to becoming more inclusive is filled with discomfort and tough realizations. Perhaps you can’t change everything overnight, but with relevant feedback you can start to chip away at the issues. 

Inclusive candidate experience

7. Don’t forget about onboarding talent

Candidate experience doesn’t just end when a contract has been signed. Onboarding is the final stage in the hiring process and is another crucial moment to consider when it comes to inclusion. The goal is to build an onboarding program that supports ALL of your new recruits, and not just some of them. But unfortunately because the focus of most onboarding is to get the employee ramped up and contributing as quickly as possible, settling in and feeling comfortable isn’t always a priority. Here are some tips to remedy this:

  • DEI transparency: Just like in the initial stages of hiring, make sure fledgling employees know about relevant company policies and ERGs.
  • Language: Provide a glossary of terms and acronyms your company uses. English may not be your new talent’s first language!
  • Information: Make sure new hires know all the what, when, where, and who’s. For disabled or neurodiverse employees, for example, this information will be critical for how they operate.
  • Support: Just like the accommodations in the interviews, be sure to offer any relevant support or tools that your new hires may need to set themselves up. 
  • Buddy system: Assign a compatible buddy with the new employee’s consent. This will help break the ice and create a more inclusive experience.

Remember, according to Bob, as many as 64% of employees are likely to leave a new job any time within the first year after having a negative onboarding experience. So be proactive and welcoming – try to make your employees feel safe and comfortable from day one.


Creating an inclusive candidate experience means putting the candidate at the center. Think about what they need to succeed and do their best and tailor your processes around this. By implementing the strategies outlined above, organizations will not only benefit from attracting a more diverse pool of talent, but also foster equality in the recruitment process and build a stronger and more innovative workforce as a result.

Looking to improve candidate experience? Check out SocialTalent’s complete guide on How To Build The Perfect Candidate Experience.

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