What employers can do to hire the most talented, diverse graduates to drive their businesses. A toolkit to delivering diversity in early careers cohorts

Our experience in managing the volume graduate recruitment on behalf of businesses across all industries, tells us that most companies are dedicated to ensuring diversity in their early careers cohort, but that many struggle to deliver it. What we are asked by employers of all shapes and sizes is not why we need diversity, but how to deliver it. Employers don’t need to be reminded of the importance or virtues of diversity in the workplace, but often need support in delivering on their diversity goals. Here are some basic tips for employers, broken into two sections: Attraction & Selection.


How to ensure top talent from diverse backgrounds apply? Firstly, write inclusive job adverts. The words you use can be discouraging to some people, with unfortunate, unintended implications embedded in certain expressions. There is also plenty of research with shows that certain formats can also be off-putting to certain people. If you don’t have copy experts in-house, there are numerous of businesses, platforms and widgets which can clean up your copy.
Then we must ensure your adverts are seen by a diverse audience. There are many ways to achieve this. Some graduate jobs boards have more diverse student registrations than others. Some universities have more diverse student demographics, with the more metropolitan universities enduringly delivering results. Our focus has been on building diverse networks, both online (our Sanctuary Graduates Talent Network) and on campus with on-campus student headhunters. In addition, dedicated campus brand ambassadors drawn from diverse backgrounds themselves are an extremely powerful tool in marketing your opportunities to their peers. Student societies are often well geared up these days to help you deliver on your diversity goals. Sponsoring female societies such as female sports societies and “Women in…” societies can give you access to a large female audience, and similarly working with cultural societies such as Afro-Caribbean or Asian societies can ensure your message is reaching a diverse audience.

Sanctuary Graduates on The BBC’s ‘How to Break Into the Elite’

Selection & Assessments

So you’ve managed to get a diverse talent pool to engage with and opt into your message. How do you nurture and retain these hard-sought applicants throughout the process to ensure diversity not just in your application pool, but also in your eventual hires? Firstly, you might consider using contextualised recruitment. This will help you hire more disadvantaged students. It is now common for graduate recruiters to use a form of contextualised recruitment, and there are now several suppliers who offer platforms which plug into most application tracking systems. In short, they put applicants’ academic achievements into context (ie the effect their upbringing/quality of schooling had on the applicants’ grades)

Then you might consider having “blind CVs”. HRs and hiring managers looking at CVs with the personal information removed is a great way of removing unconscious bias in the hiring process, which often leads to greater diversity in employers’ graduate cohorts. We deliver this on behalf of more and more employers each year.

It’s also very important to humanise the process. It is consistently our experience that the more automation in the application process, the more likely it is that diverse candidates will drop out of the process. We always prefer live video interviews (which can be recorded) to humanise the process to encourage people to continue their applications. This is especially true of females.

Finally, D&I monitoring during the application process can help boost diversity in your hires. Following on from the above truism that diversity and online testing are not necessarily the best of friends, manually monitoring the diversity data in your application process is critical in ensuring that the diverse candidates you’ve worked so hard to recruit complete your application process. Reaching out to those students who are stalling in the process to give them support and confidence has huge benefits. A recent Milkround survey statistic tells us that females are 40% less confident about their live applications compared to males. Reaching out and encouraging helps bridge this gap.

In summary, ensuring diversity in your graduate cohorts is a question of effort both in terms of attraction and then during the screening and interviewing process. A healthy combination of both will give employers the results they seek.