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ED&I: "Recruiters have a HUGE part to play"

​Over the course of the last 18 months, Inventum have trained hundreds of recruiters on how to become an 'Inclusive Recruiter'. And over this time, it has become more and more evident the huge part to play the staffing industry has in helping companies become more diverse and inclusive.

I have now been in the staffing industry for 25 years. Way back when I started running a banking desk in the mid-1990s, when diversity and inclusion were words never mentioned in the context of business, performance and ethics, the industry I recruited into was very ageist and very sexist. As a result, this encouraged recruiters to behave in the same way.

Recruiters were/are simple beings; we would follow the path of least resistance to make our placements, thereby hit our targets and make our commissions. And of course, keep our clients happy.

Consequently, I have heard it all when it comes to what clients ask of their recruiters. It sends shivers down my spine to think of the behaviours I witnessed. But because ED&I were not in our vocabulary and we didn’t know the importance of it, we never pushed back.

Out-of-date attitudes sadly still exist

Roll forward 25 years, and ED&I is now seen as critical; in terms of performance, risk, and ethics. Recruiters now need to push back, and we need to teach them how to, because the behaviours I witnessed back in the 1990s are sadly still occurring. Maybe not as regularly but it is still happening and I believe, as an industry, we have the most important part to play in shifting the dial.

Only last week I was on a VC with a client where I was presenting them a shortlist. The very FIRST question, the client asked me when I was explaining the attributes of a candidate was “how old are they?” We are in the year 2022 and this was still so important to this client. Despite the fact it is against the law to ask me this (and I of course pushed back and secured an interview for the candidate anyway), it made me so angry to think this is still happening. A less experienced or knowledgeable recruiter would perhaps have just listened to the client and withdrawn the candidate from the process. Because we are trained that “the client is always right”!

Recruiters need to remove bias in producing shortlists

In addition, I think of the bias that recruiters have when selecting candidates for their shortlists. I strongly believe that candidates from underrepresented groups do apply for roles, as everybody else does, but these applications get ignored or deleted. I shudder to think of the number of CVs or applications that are ignored by recruiters because they are more mature, got educated in the wrong country or have a foreign sounding name. Or perhaps they have no specific UK experience but have the eligibility to work here and have the necessary visa requirements.

If the industry and its recruiters knew more about bias, the importance of diversity and challenged their own selection criteria, I know there would be so much more diverse talent available for our clients. And if they knew how to communicate with these clients about the benefits of hiring said talent, then the dial would shift SO quickly.

Driving positive change

Our amazing industry has such a big part to play, and I am so proud of the part The Inventum Group are playing in doing something about it. Our Inclusive Recruiter program (which is APSCo recognised) is training our industry for all the reasons explained above. Even though we are a recruitment business ourselves, we also want to help drive change, which is why we have set up a consulting division that helps organisations become more inclusive and diverse. One of our main services is training recruiters and in-house talent acquisition teams how to recruit more inclusively.

And we are starting to make a difference. ED&I will never go away. And the quicker we understand that the quicker the dial will move.