August 16, 2021

3 Ways to Accomplish Diversity & Inclusion in the Hiring Process

by Mary Newgard

How’s your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) strategy these days? Non-existent, a paragraph in the employee handbook or a manifesto? More importantly, is it collecting dust or a living, breathing document that impacts all aspects of your business?

In my experience, more insurance organizations than not have trouble applying DE&I strategies on a daily basis. Because my expertise is in recruiting, I see an opportunity for insurance organizations to do a better job practicing these principles in the hiring process. Apparently, Forbes agrees with me because their 2018 article, Why Workplace Diversity Is So Important, and Why It’s Hard to Achieve, noted something similar: “There is often a mismatch between how organizations design diversity policies and how they implement them. Or, to put it another way, what looks good on paper too often falls apart in practice.”

Here are three ways within the hiring process where you can make an intentional and immediate impact applying your Diversity, Equity & Inclusion strategy.

Step 1: Advertising Job Openings

A disclaimer at the bottom of a job advertisement about being a diverse and inclusive employer feels perfunctory, like lip service. Proclaim your philosophy and agenda across multiple platforms in different written and visual ways.

  • Update your equal opportunity employer statement with statistics that showcase your diverse workforce. This can be cited in printed recruiting materials and verbalized by hiring managers during the interview process.
  • Make sure your DE&I mission statement is front and center on your Careers page. Potential employees conduct research before applying for a job. Here they can learn about your inclusivity agenda right along with other key topics.
  • Post the job announcement on social media along with pictures, employee testimonials, videos, hashtags, and links that artistically represent your culture and diversity.

Step 2: Reviewing Applications

You run the risk of homogenizing the candidates you put into the interview process if the same people are the gatekeepers for all your job applications. Diversifying your hiring starts in the screening process.

  • Create hiring committees to review job applications. This is an interdepartmental group that can include human resources and hiring managers as well as employees from specific divisions and culture committees.
  • Be more inclined to say yes to an interview versus overly screen candidates out of the process. While it takes four to six seconds to scan a resume, it only takes 15 minutes to 20 minutes for an initial phone screen. You may be surprised how much better the candidate is in person versus on paper.
  • Diversify your candidate sourcing. You need a balanced strategy between employee referrals, direct recruits, and job opening applicants. Building a candidate pipeline and setting an ongoing communication strategy with those contacts fosters a diverse candidate pool.

Step 3: Updating Interview Techniques

Hiring managers don’t always recognize outdated or out-of-line interview questions because that’s just what they’ve always done. Unconscious bias manifests itself in the interview process. A collective leadership group of HR and company executives must take the reins on how to infuse DE&I into interviews.

  • Create company-approved interview questions.
  • Educate hiring managers on why a question perceived as innocent like, “Where are you originally from?” is a bad idea.
  • Be respectful of gender pronouns in internal communication (like interview notes) and external communication with candidates.
  • Strike husband or wife from your vernacular until the candidate elaborates further. A more acceptable term is partner or significant other.
  • Be consistent with profile assessments. Either every applicant takes one or no one does.
  • Use interview prep and debriefs as an opportunity to conduct sensitivity training. For example, never let a male producer refer to client service staff as “his girls.” (Yes, that happens. I’ve heard it plenty.)

“Ask the Insurance Recruiter” is a monthly column written by Mary Newgard, Partner and published in partnership with Insurance Journal Magazine. Visit Insurance Journal Magazine’s website for a complete list of previous articles. For questions and comments, email Mary at


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