DEIBTrends & Benchmarks

New Data from Gem’s Recruiting Benchmarks Report — And What It Means for Your Approach to Diversity Recruiting

Sarah George | Avatar

Sarah George

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead - Americas and EMEA, Hudson RPO

Posted on

December 18, 2023

Byline: Sarah George, DEI Lead, Hudson RPO

In my mind, there are two kinds of companies: Those who mention diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) as a response to an external event or to make their business look good. And those who make a true commitment to DE&I, knowing the benefits include increasing innovation, profitability, brand image, employee value proposition (EVP), their standing as employer of choice, and retention. In other words, they take action because they know it’s good for their business!

For those in the first camp, DE&I will continue to be performative — an exercise in ticking the box. They’ll make statements but won’t back them up with real actions. These companies are looking to increase their brand image without making any real change to back it up. They consider DE&I as something extra, which is likely to get cut whenever there are budget concerns (or they may have no budget to even start with). 

Those in the second category embed DE&I within their structure, plans, and values. In these companies, DE&I is driven from the top down, it’s seen as a competitive advantage and a differentiator, it’s transformative, and it creates an environment where everyone is open to learning and curious. I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear that I’m a strong advocate of this approach. 

Gem recently released their Recruiting Benchmarks Report, which revealed some interesting trends about the state of DE&I, especially when it comes to attracting and recruiting talent. In this article, I’ll be pulling out a few key statistics and sharing my thoughts on what they mean for talent acquisition and DE&I professionals. 

But first: Why should companies prioritize DE&I?

I’ve already hinted at a few of these points, but let’s take a few moments to explore why companies should make a genuine commitment to DE&I. 

  • Positive impact on financial performance: A study conducted by McKinsey & Company found that gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their respective national industry medians and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. 

  • The key to becoming an employer of choice: According to Glassdoor, 76% of job seekers view a diverse workforce as an important factor when evaluating companies and considering job offers.

  • Diversity leads to innovation and growth: Harvard Business Review found that diverse companies are 70% likelier to capture a new market. They’re also 45% more likely to report increased market share year-over-year.

  • Increased employee engagement: 83% of millennials report being actively engaged when they believe their organization fosters an inclusive workplace culture. That percentage drops to 60% when their organization does not foster an inclusive culture.

  • Powerful decision-making: Diverse teams make better decisions up to 87% of the time, according to a study conducted by Forbes.

And there’s the other side of the equation, too. When companies choose not to prioritize DE&I, it leads to homogeneity. Workplaces that only hire for “culture fit” tend to have teams that think the same way. They’re less likely to make changes because it’s easy to fall back on old patterns, saying, “This is the way we’ve always done it.” Plus, in organizations with little representation of underrepresented groups, employees that identify as such may feel othered and alienated. They are less likely to bring their authentic selves to work and may hold back from sharing ideas, thoughts, and feelings. 

A few common mistakes and missteps at the top of the funnel

Gem’s Recruiting Benchmarks Report revealed some gender and race discrepancies at the top of the funnel. For example, male talent receives on average 2.4 times more outreach than female talent and is around 3% more likely to respond, which means that 1.54 times more male candidates enter the process than female candidates. 

Similarly, the report showed that White candidates had slightly higher passthrough rates (compared to Black, Asian & Pacific Islander (AAPI), and American Indian & Alaskan Native) from application created to pre-onsite, which may be indicative of the impact of unconscious bias at the top of the funnel. 

In Engineering roles in particular, men receive a staggering 3.8x more outreach than women. The report finds that in roles like Eng Manager, Data Science & Analytics, and Product, email outreach is sent up to 7.8x more to Asian or White talent than to Black or Hispanic/Latinx talent.  

I can see a few potential causes for these trends:

  • Job ads are (unintentionally) discouraging underrepresented talent from applying. For many job ads, the requirements section is too long. Readers — especially women and people for whom English is a second language — are more likely to swipe away if a bullet pointed list has more than seven items. Plus, men are more likely to apply when they meet 60% of the requirements, but women only tend to apply when they meet 100% of the requirements. In other words, the longer your list, the less likely you are to pique the interest of underrepresented talent.

  • Careers pages and other employer branding materials are not written using inclusive language. Language like “ninja,” “rockstar,” and “strong executive presence” has been shown to exclude women and candidates from other underrepresented backgrounds. Plus, many employer branding materials focus too much on what the company wants instead of taking the candidate’s perspective. Think about what matters most to them: What can they expect to accomplish in this role? Who will they be working with? This is a major opportunity to differentiate yourself as an employer, yet many companies don’t take it. 

  • Our brains tend to stick to what is familiar. We have many unconscious biases about what someone in a specific role should look like, whether it’s their ethnicity or gender. And while we may not realize it, we’re likely to reach out to candidates who fit into these preconceived notions. 

Seeing the numbers reflected in Gem’s report is a wake-up call that we can all do better, both as talent acquisition professionals and hiring managers. In the next section, I’ll share a few tips to help you move the needle on these metrics.

How to make a positive impact on top of funnel metrics

Now that we’ve seen some of the problematic trends highlighted by Gem’s Recruiting Benchmarks report, let’s look at a few ways you might try to address them within your organization. 

  • Cultivate diverse talent pools

All TA professionals should have diverse talent pools and they should be keeping their silver medalists engaged (more so if they’re from underrepresented communities). It ensures you are being more intentional about your outreach and you don’t have to scramble to find candidates when you suddenly get a large number of open roles. This is especially important because recruiting is often subject to fluctuations based on the broader economic situation, so you know that hiring slowdowns are likely to be followed by periods of intense growth. Plus, we know that when we’re stressed and under pressure, our brains tend to go with what is familiar or safe, and it’s in these situations when unconscious bias can go unchecked. We fall into the pattern of fishing from the same pool, making quick decisions based on stereotypes, and letting our unconscious bias tell us what the ideal candidate profile is.  

  • Recognize the role of unconscious bias — and do something about it!

If you have a brain, you have bias! (See this helpful article from the NeuroLeadership Institute as the inspiration for this quote.) This is why unconscious bias training should be a part of the fabric of internal training. It is not just a one-time education session; it entails a longer journey and structural changes to policies and operations. Rather than providing unconscious bias training as a check-the-box exercise, companies need to make a real, long-term commitment to limiting bias whenever possible.   

  • Take intentional steps to connect with diverse talent

In addition to the talent pools of silver medalists, we’ve got to be more clever in where we fish from. For example, companies can build connections with educational institutions to engage with students before they go into the workforce. Offering internship programs or something similar can help ensure you’re creating a pipeline of talent that has the specific knowledge and skills you need. 

  • Make inclusive recruitment practices a core competency

If we keep treating inclusion as a nice to have or something that we’ll get to in the future, it will be easy to continue along as we always have. To truly change, inclusive recruiting practices are to be a TA professional’s core competency. This might involve making changes like adjusting time to source expectations to give recruiters more time to source under-represented talent. 

A few observations based on passthrough rates

Up until this point, we’ve been focused mostly on top of funnel metrics. But Gem’s report also revealed something interesting that’s happening further down the funnel. Despite the imbalance in outreach, women have higher end-to-end passthrough rates (0.8% vs 0.7%) and are more likely to receive job offers after onsites (41% for women vs. 35% for men). This suggests that women who do get into the process tend to outperform their male counterparts. 

I have a few theories on why we might be seeing this trend:

Women could be more invested in the whole “putting yourself out there in the job search” process. They read an ad a few times before applying. In most cases, as I’ve mentioned earlier, women have an internal battle about whether to apply if they don’t meet 100% of the criteria. As changing jobs is a big life decision, they are more likely to speak to their trusted network before applying. 

Because women tend to put a lot more energy and emotion into applying to a role, they are less likely to have more than one application on the go. Therefore, if they receive an offer, there’s a higher chance of them accepting.  

Another possibility is that more male-dominated companies are trying to correct their composition by offering more roles to females. 

Or, it’s also possible that because women tend to apply for roles where they meet 100% of the qualifications, they’re more qualified than the men who are applying (since they tend to apply when they only meet 60% of the criteria). 

It’s worth taking a look at the passthrough rates at your own organization to see how they compare. If your employee base was previously skewed more towards males but you’re now seeing more females receiving offers, you’re moving in the right direction and you don’t need to make any changes. But if you’re seeing the opposite, it might be worth taking a closer look at your interview process or decision-making criteria to make sure you’re extending offers in a more equitable manner.

What’s next for you? A few thoughts 

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that I see companies tend to fall into two camps when it comes to DE&I. I imagine if you’ve made it this far, you’re likely to fall into the camp that genuinely cares about making changes and not just paying lip service to this concept. If that’s the case, I applaud you, because DE&I isn’t going anywhere. It’s time for more companies to step up and commit to changing.

So what steps can you take in order to make this change?

If DEI& is not in your core competencies already, it should be. It’s no longer a “nice to have” — as much as you are going to source, screen, and do anything else that’s core to your job, it’s going to be essential that you demonstrate inclusive recruiting practices from beginning to end.

For any people manager role, I’d like to see “inclusive recruitment practices” listed as a requirement because I believe it’s that critical. 

Finally, I’ll leave you with the thought that this is not a one-off activity. Committing to DE&I involves cultivating curiosity and openness as well as ongoing training, whether it’s for writing more inclusive job descriptions or developing more inclusive interview practices. Start taking whatever steps you can today, but also be aware that this journey is just beginning.

Want to dive into even more results from Gem’s Recruiting Benchmarks report? Download your copy here.


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