Minority Interests

The Reason Why Diversity Recruitment Adverts May Not Work

March 10, 2014 No Comments

I’ve always worked in professional environments where I was visibly an ethnic minority. I’ve worked for companies that are household names and when I looked at my managers and their managers, they never looked like me. I was always aware of this but I never thought of it as problem and in any case I never articulated what I observed. I was used to this because this was something I had experienced in secondary school and University. To some extent you could say that I’ve been conditioned to be in the minority in the workplace.

Recruitment Advertising

The portrayal of diversity in recruitment advertising has become increasingly popular not just for attracting a diverse pool of applicants but also for organisations trying to build reputations as modern employers. The business of attracting minority ethnic professionals is a difficult one. A traditional approach to diversity recruitment may involve using images of minority ethnic professionals in order to attract applicants.  This approach is inspired by relational demography.

Relational Demography

This suggests that recruitment adverts will be attractive to applicants if they are from the same ethnic group as the individuals featured in the advert. A consequence is that applicants who don’t share these characteristics would be deterred. This means that an advert for a job that showed lots of Asian people would attract Asian applicants and deter non Asian applicants.

This is a huge problem for serious diversity recruiters who are interested in hiring the best of everyone.

In his study Dr Derek Avery explored how people respond to diversity in recruitment advertising and wanted to address this relational demography issue. Looking at black and white applicants he found that diversity in recruitment advertising was more relevant for blacks than it was for their white counterparts. This was because the blacks were constantly faced with being in a minority.

As predicted, the results suggested that black job seekers viewed adverts depicting diversity more favourably than adverts that showed no diversity.  This didn’t deter the white applicants when the white employees were shown to be in the majority. This is helpful to know but the study suggested that it wasn’t enough to simply represent minority ethnic employees, it was important to show them in positions of authority because this indicated that the organisations commitment to diversity was sincere.

Other Group Orientation

Other Group orientation indicates how an individual thinks and relates to ethnic groups other than his or her own. Those with high other group orientation seek contact with other ethnic groups and those with low other group orientation do not. It can be used to predict preferences regarding the composition of the workplace in terms of diversity.

The study found that blacks with high other group orientation looked more favourably on recruitment adverting that had no diversity compared to the adverts that showed diversity. This may seem counterintuitive but it shows that minority ethnic professionals are not a homogenous group whose preferences can be guessed on the basis of their ethnicity.

What was interesting about this study was that it was not assumed that individuals would behave in a particular way simply because of their ethnicity. Their individual preferences and experiences were being addressed. This is hard work for recruiters who need to understand the complexity involved in this process. My experience may not be typical and recruiters need to think about how to attract people who think like me and also the people who don’t.

Have you ever been part of a recruitment process focused on diversity? Did you get the job or were you recruiting? Share your experiences below


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