New Study Reveals Diversity Slate of Job Applicants Increases by 118% When Women or POC Oversee Hiring and Recruitment

If your company or organization is looking to increase the diversity of its workforce, studies suggest putting a woman or someone from an underrepresented demographic in charge of hiring. According to the Journal of Applied Psychology, when women and/or people of color head hiring committees, it can have a significant — and very positive — impact on the diversity of applicants who apply for a new position.

HuffPost’s Monica Torres reported on the study, where researchers from the University of Houston, Louisiana State University Shreveport and the University of Sheffield analyzed 13,750 job applications between 2015 and 2018 for more than 150 different faculty positions at a large U.S. research university.

“They found that when a woman led a search committee, 23% more women applied for the job than when the committee chair was a man,” Torres said.

“Applicants of color are especially more likely to apply when other people of color with power actively recruit them,” Torres reported. “Data showed that the applications of candidates from underrepresented backgrounds — which the researchers defined as including Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander, Alaskan Native and Native American candidates — went up by 118% when the search chair was also from an underrepresented background.”

In contrast, Torres reported, white male job recruiters tend to be much more likely to “uphold the status quo” and often “fail to promote a job outside their own networks because that approach has served them well.”

“A lot of older white men who have been in the academy their entire lives, they’re like, ‘We’ve always just hired by putting an ad out there and seeing who applies,’ and that has been their approach to recruiting for decades,” Christiane Spitzmueller, co-author of the study and a professor of industrial and organizational psychology at the University of Houston, told HuffPost in an interview. “And they’re like ‘Look how great this group [of candidates] is, why would we change anything, it brought all of us here.’”

According to Torres and Spitzmueller, the research ultimately validates the importance of hiring managers having a vast network from which they can recruit. 

“The researchers found that including language in the job listing that went beyond the legal requirement for welcoming candidates of diverse backgrounds did not have a significant impact on who applied,” Torres said. “However, networking with and proactively targeting underrepresented candidates on job boards and through other official channels had the biggest effect on increasing the diversity of applicant pools.”

More specifically, the research showed that “if minority applicants are not made aware of a job posting, they will not apply; if fewer minorities apply, there is less chance that the eventual hire belongs to a minority group even if the subsequent stages of the recruitment and selection cycle follow diversity-friendly practices.”

Another key takeaway from the study: race and gender often dictate the type of recruitment strategies hiring professionals will use when tasked to fill a position. 

“White women and women of color in the study leaned on their personal networks and appointed other women to serve on the committee with them, while people of color, male or female, posted job ads to women- and minority-specific websites and collaborated with the university’s recruitment, retention, equity and diversity office,” Torres reported.

Spitzmueller told HuffPost that recruiters of color also typically outperformed other groups in pulling together a “richer, deeper applicant pool” including more diverse candidates overall because “faculty of color know that they need to be persistent and find creative mechanisms to overcome structural barriers in recruitment.”

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.