Does Diversity Recruiting Provide an Unfair Advantage to Certain Candidates?

Myths about Diversity Recruiting:

1.    Diversity recruiting means lower quality candidates

2.    Diversity recruiting pools are easier to land jobs in

3.    Diversity recruiting provides an unfair advantage to candidates

4.    Diversity recruiting is unnecessary

5.    Diversity in the workforce is not a competitive advantage

Despite being an LGBTQ+ woman in business, there was always a voice in the back of my head that told me not to apply through diversity recruiting postings. I think in part there was a fear of judgement after hearing the complaints of “unfairness” from some of my peers, but mostly I just didn’t want to be selected because I was LGBTQ+ or because I was a woman. I wanted to be selected because I was the best. I truly started believing that diversity recruiting was putting me at an advantage, instead of purely levelling the playing field. For these reasons, I chose not to recruit through an avenue created for students just like me.

I attended the Out for Undergraduate Business Conference in September this year, hosted and sponsored by the Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York. The intention of the conference is to provide LGBTQ+ students in business access to LGBTQ+ mentors and to educate them on how to navigate the workforce as an LGBTQ+ professional. In a private conversation with one of my mentors I voiced my concerns about diversity recruiting and my discomfort in using it to land a job. She proceeded to break down every single one of the above myths as follows:

1 & 2: Diversity recruiting means lower quality candidates & Diversity recruiting pools are easier to land jobs in (primary research)

From the mentor’s experience in screening applicants, they informed me that the diversity recruiting pools are more competitive. In their experience, these candidates on average have higher GPA’s and more impressive extra-curricular activities. Many of these students are heavily involved in clubs or other programs at their school intended to enhance student experience.

3: Diversity recruiting provides an unfair advantage to candidates (primary research)

When you walk into an interview and are asked about your biggest strength, or a time you overcame great adversity, or what you’re passionate about, what’s the first thing that crosses your mind? 

For some students, these moments of adversity can relate to the coming out process, being from a lower income family, or the struggles of being a woman in a male dominated situation. Recruiting through diversity avenues allows candidates to speak about their attributes without fear of prejudice or bias. As a result, diversity recruiting is levelling the playing field and affording diverse students the same opportunity as other candidates and offering the chance to bring their whole self to the interview

4: Diversity recruiting is unnecessary 

There are many implicit biases that we have as individuals, which makes the recruiting process less based on meritocracy and more based on luck (3). Some of the biases that have a large influence on diverse candidates who recruit through the standard pool include: 

  • Stereotyping Bias – Forming an opinion of someone based on gender, religion, race, appearance, or any other type of characteristic. (3)

  • “Similar to Me” Effect – Thinking highly of someone who has a similar mindset or personality to the interviewer.

It is necessary to have a diverse recruiting and interviewing pool to get the most out of every single candidate and not allow personal biases to skew a candidate’s performance. Diversity recruiting allows for this to happen. 

5: Diversity in the workforce is not a competitive advantage

Minorities are incredibly under-represented in the professional workforce, which can be a hinderance for companies trying to connect with all types of consumers (2). Having people in the workforce who can directly relate to the target consumer is an invaluable experience that allows companies to better perform. This makes diverse candidates a critical aspect of any consumer-focused company.

Further, there are numerous research studies that have been conducted that report diversity as a relational concept. It requires different types of people to engage with one another to solve a problem. Diverse teams, on average, perform better than homogenous teams (2). Therefore, diversity within the workforce is critical for the success of all companies. (2), (3), (4)

Final Note:

It is important to note that powerful companies do not waste money or training on candidates just for the sake of being “diverse” because it does not make any financial sense. At the end of the day, these companies want to make money, and if they truly didn’t think a candidate could cut it, they would not be hired.

This mentorship conversation provided me with a much-needed wake-up call, and I hope that it can shed some light on the issue for other students. If you are a diverse candidate, please do not be afraid to recruit through diversity recruiting. You have the right to feel safe and comfortable in interviews, and to bring your entire self to work. If you are not using diversity recruiting, please support your colleagues who are using this avenue to recruit. The most important thing you will receive from attending this school is the network, so it is imperative that we create as many positive connections as we can with one another. 

The below links in addition to primary research provide all the information used in the creation of this post. 

1.    https://www.groupmgmt.com/blog/post/2016/04/28/Seven-Common-Interview-Biases.aspx

2.    https://www.talentinnovation.org/publication.cfm?publication=1400

3.    https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters

4.    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/shattering-great-diversity-recruiting-myth-vs-quality-bearse-esqueda/

5.    https://medium.com/awaken-blog/if-your-boss-is-still-asking-about-the-business-case-for-diversity-your-company-might-be-in-186e02c26193

By: Leah Gale