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Hiring Inclusively – How Organisations Need To Take A Different Approach To Interviewing

Written by: Gillian Jones-Williams, Senior Level Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Times are changing – as organisations fight for the best talent, managers can no longer interview candidates in the way they used to. The days of one-way ‘interrogations’ to determine whether a person is ‘the right fit’ are long gone. To ensure offers are accepted, both HR and hiring managers need to adopt a different approach.

Businesswoman handshake male applicant at the office.

The ‘war for talent’ has meant that there has been more of a fight to get the best candidates. Savvy organisations have been training their managers to interview differently – putting more emphasis on hiring inclusively and discovering what motivates the candidate and ensuring that they use this information to sell the role and the company, and therefore get better candidates accepting offers.

It has been really encouraging to see managers change their practice to ensuring their hiring practices are really inclusive. I have always cringed when I heard managers say, “they are technically great but they just aren’t the ‘right fit’ for the department.” I ask them what do you mean by the ‘right fit?’ Sadly, it often means, not young enough, not the right sex, not extrovert enough or any other noticeable differences. The skill of a manager in the 21st century is to manage a team that are diverse and not like the others and certainly not a clone of the manager! And that takes a lot more effort for the manager; having to really understand the person, what makes them tick, what makes them feel comfortable at work and how to support them to get the best from them.

Therefore, it is vital to teach managers how to hire inclusively, by getting them to understand more about diversity, such as how to actively encourage people with a wide variety of backgrounds, characteristics and identities as well as how to take positive action and encourage ethnically diverse candidates to interview and feel their application will be considering equally.

This can be quite a shift for managers as they can often feel uncomfortable about interviewing people who are different to them, be that ethnicity, disability, neurodiversity, or sexual orientation to name but a few. Some of the discomfort comes from worry about asking the wrong questions or offending people or even saying something that could be construed as unlawful so it is critical that they are trained to ensure they understand these areas.

In order to attract and recruit the right people managers need to be very skilled at active listening and questioning.

They need to listen effectively to ensure that they are collecting evidence rather than just having a good conversation. They also need to be listening for clues as to what motivates this person so that they can be ready with an offer.

Questioning skills are as vital to effective communication as listening skills and being able to uncover the right information in a timely manner is both necessary and appropriate. Using competency-based questions or a model such as STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) will always ensure that the interview is fair to all parties.

Hiring fairly and inclusively also means:

  • Using notes, they will always be better than memory

  • Never comparing candidates, compare them to the criteria

  • Referring their responses to the defined competencies, required skills and experience, being as specific as possible and being able to explain the extent to which the applicant demonstrated an ability to match each competency

  • Focusing on the behaviours, actions and results achieved that they shared in their examples and not their “personality”

But the added part for managers now is having the ability to sell the organisation in a tailored way so that your company stands out as first choice for the best candidates.

Have a great pitch about your organisation:

  • What’s the culture – what are the benefits of that culture?

  • Why are people motivated to work for your organisation?

  • What is the purpose of the organisation that people can “buy into”?

  • What are the values that make you special and are the essence of the organisation?

  • What’s the organisations future? Where will it be in five years?

  • What are you exceptional at doing and why does that matter to the people who work here?

  • What do you do to support people’s growth and careers?

  • What do you have to offer that people at various stages of their career will value?

A strong ‘elevator pitch’ is great but most importantly you need to be ready with a tailored offering that makes them sit up and take notice. So, during the interview it is critical that you are asking questions about what motivates the person and listening very carefully to their answers. Below is a process to ensure that you get it right.

Uncovering their guidelines:

  • Step One – Ask them what they are looking for (value and features)

  • Step Two – Summarise them back to make sure you have it right

  • Step Three – Find out which ones are most important to them

  • Step Four – Describe how you will meet them with an Employee Value Proposition (i.e., tailored benefits)

Employee value propositions

This is an area that historically hiring managers haven’t paid a lot of attention to – working out what the person really wants as opposed to asking them questions to find their suitability. During the interview they should find out as much of the following as they can:

  • What do they love about their current job?

  • What did they love most about the best job they ever had?

  • What types of team experiences have given them the greatest successes?

  • What interested them about your role?

  • What are their professional goals

  • What type of organisation appeals to them?

  • What was the best manager they ever had – why?

  • How do they define success for their team? For themselves?

  • What kind of compensation and benefits package are they currently receiving?

  • How satisfied are they with it?

  • If they had the power to change anything about their current role to make it perfect – what would it be?

Knowing these things will make it so much easier to put a proposition to them that exceeds their expectations and even if the salary package is not as high as another company may confirm to them that your organisation is the right one.

Other things that the candidate might be interested in which HR can support with are:

  • What is the style of the manager they will be working for – are they a proven mentor or advocate?

  • What are primary accountabilities of a role?

  • What would a typical week be like?

  • How will this person’s job performance be measured, coached, and rewarded?

  • How will this person’s 30/60/90-day probation period be measured and coached?

  • Why is the position open?

  • How does this position positively impact the organisation?

Structure the language and substance of your offer as closely to the candidates’ priorities as possible – use everything you have learned from them to describe what it would be like working in your organisation.

Open with a direct appeal to what you know about the candidate’s career aspirations and demonstrate confidence that your offer will meet and exceed the goals.

Whilst this may appear more work, there is nothing more frustrating and time consuming than getting a candidate to final interview, deciding they are perfect, and making an offer, only to find they turn it down.

The key message is, what would make this person turn their world upside down and join your organisation and how can they decide that it will be worth it? If you are constantly searching for that you are far more likely to be successful in your job search.

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Gillian Jones-Williams, Senior Level Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Gillian Managing Director of Emerge Development Consultancy which she founded 25 years ago. Emerge is internationally renowned for unlocking the potential that achieves transformation within organizations by providing a full range of bespoke development and coaching solutions. She is a master executive coach working with many CEOs and managing Directors globally. She is also an international speaker and in 2020 was named by f: Entrepreneur as one of the leading UK Female Entrepreneurs in the I also campaign.

Gillian founded the RISE Women’s Development Programme which is delivered both in the UK and the Middle East, and Saudi and is her absolute passion.

She is also the co-author of How to Create a Coaching Culture, 50 Top Tools for Coaching, and the author of Locked Down but Not Out which is a diary of the first 3 months of the pandemic to raise money for the bereaved families of the NHS workers who died during COVID-19.



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