How to Recruit Diverse Talent: 9 Ways to Improve Your Pipeline

Hi, I'm Harriet, a software engineer at Remotion. I care deeply about making sure my team is inclusive of individuals of all backgrounds, because early on in my career I struggled to feel like I belonged in the tech industry. It's something I write about on my personal blog, Harriet's Pep Talks, and something I spend a lot of time on at Remotion.

At Remotion, we strive to recruit and retain a diverse team. We're by no means perfect, but we're sharing our diversity recruiting strategy in the hopes that some of our tactics will help other likeminded teams. I will use the term "diverse candidates" to refer to candidates that are from an underrepresented demographic either in the company or in tech in general.

Why should you care about having a diverse team?

People with different backgrounds react to things differently and have different opinions. Diverse opinions lead to better decision-making and better business outcomes. Plenty has been written about this by folks like Harvard Business Review, McKinsey, and Forbes. If you're unconvinced, you can find plenty of evidence by googling "diverse teams perform better."

The goal of our recruiting efforts at Remotion is to fill our team with people who will have diverse opinions and (crucially!) empower them to share those opinions. We believe diversity also leads to better team culture and, at the end of the day, is the right thing to do.

How to Recruit Diverse Talent

Keep in mind that recruiting diverse talent means intentionally finding candidates who value different things than you. Diverse candidates with a totally different background than you will find different things compelling.

For example, an email that seems great to you might be full of red flags for them. You'll need to optimize your hiring communications to showcase your focus on an inclusive employee experience. Here are our top tips for appealing to a diverse talent pool:

1. Talk about your team's culture of inclusion more than your product.

Speaking from personal experience, I have waded through though hundreds of job postings asking me if I wanted to work on a product that billions of users use every day, only to latch onto the first job posting that talked about how everyone on the team has a voice and they all work together, etc.

As a female candidate, it was very important to me that I join a team that does not have a toxic masculine culture, and I suspect that's true for many underrepresented candidates.

2. Share evidence and inclusive practices, not platitudes.

Evidence holds a lot more weight than platitudes. Instead of saying "We value diversity", showcase what you actually do (e.g. the whole company participates in solution brainstorms). Bonus: taking the time to find IRL evidence of inclusion on the team is also a great exercise to determine if your company is really as great as you claim it is.

3. Remember that what resonates with you might not resonate with diverse candidates.

Assume that a diverse candidate is in much higher demand than a non-diverse candidate. They may receive so many recruiter emails per week that they only read the subject line before deleting them, so the subject line needs to stand out, and so does the first sentence in the job description. Remember that what 'stands out' to an underrepresented candidates may not be what you think.

4. Have a group of diverse individuals review your hiring communications.

Draft something, then get people from underrepresented groups to review it and give you suggestions for how to improve it. They could be your teammates, or friends or family. Assume that something that seems great to you might be a red flag for them!

5. Scan your hiring communications for exclusionary language.

Use tools like textio and gender-decoder to scan the language in your job description and recruiting emails to highlight gendered language and suggest alternatives to make it more universally appealing to job seekers.

6. Scale down your list of job 'requirements'.

Keep the requirements section of your job posting really short. What are the actual skills the candidate will need on day one and what are the things they could acquire on the job? Research shows that women will only apply to a job if they feel they meet 100% of the requirements, whereas men will apply if they feel they meet 60%. Factor in imposter syndrome and your requirements section might be filtering out a lot of qualified candidates.

A helpful way to think about this, and even write the job description, is to think about your existing teammates and what makes them successful. Willingness to learn, curiosity, determination? Consider listing those things. Think about what the first 30, 90 days will be like for the candidate if they join. The first 6 months. What will they work on and what will you expect them to achieve? Painting that picture makes it a lot easier for them to decide if they should apply, compared to requirements like "3+ years javascript experience".

7. Actively source diverse talent.

Don't wait for incoming applications. Candidate reach-out is the best way to get quality candidates in the talent pipeline. We've had the best success getting candidates by actively reaching out in 2 specific ways:

  • Using automated sourcing tools (Dover, RecruitBot) to send out high volumes of reach outs to potential candidates. This is a highly time-efficient way to reach out to many candidates, but it can be a little spammy.
  • Directly reaching out to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree LinkedIn connections via personalized email campaigns (using Gem). This involves setting up an email drip system (e.g. 1 email with 2 followup drips) that should be carefully crafted to draw the attention of diverse candidates regularly receiving a lot of recruiter emails. See the above section on communications copy. The subject line is the most important.

Sourcing is a lot of work, but worth the investment!

We also post on job boards that focus on a diverse candidate pool (Elpha, include.io, techladies) with customized listings. In the past, we've struggled to get either high volume or high quality candidates in this method, but it is still worth spending the time to get this right.

I have had candidates tell me that our email/job description was so thoughtfully worded that they felt they had to respond even though they weren't looking! Here's an example.

A personal favorite recruiting template of mine!

8. Start the diversity recruiting process long before you need to fill the role.

Retention of people from underrepresented backgrounds in the tech industry is bad. This means that many people quit the industry before reaching senior levels, usually because of toxic environments, lack of opportunity to grow, and not feeling like they belong. Unfortunately, this means that it's very hard to fill a senior role with someone from an underrepresented group.  could take a very long time, so if you want to make it happen, you need to open that role and get sourcing early.

There is a worthwhile workaround: hire people from underrepresented groups at lower levels and help them grow and reach seniority here! To do this, open a general, opportunistic role (e.g. "Mid-level designer") and only interview candidates from underrepresented groups.

9. Build conversations with diverse team members into your interview loop.

Obviously you, the hiring manager, will be the first person to talk to the candidate, but as soon as possible, you should have the candidate talk to a team member who is from an underrepresented group. It's important for them to see someone like themselves in an important position and it will go a long way to help them imagine feeling comfortable and successful on your team.

Unfortunately, this means you may need to lean on some of our teammates more than others to be involved in interviewing. If you're moving forward with a candidate that isn't from an underrepresented group, give your overburdened teammate a break and have someone else fill that slot in the interview loop.

It's probably going to be harder to close a diverse candidate because they may have multiple offers or need more assurance that your company is a safe place for them to land. If they have gotten past the interview process, or if they are showing some hesitancy earlier in the process, you might want to offer for them to meet with someone else on the team (read: a team member from a underrepresented group) to talk about what it's like to work on the team.

I have had many conversations with female candidates (not just engineers) about Remotion's approach to diversity and inclusion, what it's like to be the only female engineer, etc. Or, they may just want some time alone to think. Ask them.

Final thoughts: how to recruit diverse talent

Hiring a diverse team takes intentionality, time, and a keen eye for unconscious bias. Remember that to hire a diverse workforce, you first need to have an inclusive culture. Show, don't just tell when it comes to company practices that will make someone from an underrepresented group feel at home.

Of course, hiring is only half the battle—retention is equally, if not more, important. We'll be sharing more soon about how we build an inclusive culture at Remotion that prioritizes making our diverse team members feel like they belong, their opinions are valuable, and that they have opportunities to grow.

Questions on how we run recruiting at Remotion? Feel free to reach out to me at harriet at remotion dot com.

Want to try Remotion, the virtual office that puts your hybrid-remote team right on your desktop? Get free access.

The case for virtual coworking: build a connected remote culture.

Regularly coworking with your hybrid or remote team can help you build the social cohesion that makes work feel less like work.

Here are the biggest reasons we think coworking is an effective way to create a close-knit remote culture:

1. It fosters casual conversations.

Building a connected remote culture is all about fostering 1:1 or small group organic conversations. Virtual coworking makes space for those conversations. When you spend time together outside of agenda-driven meetings, spontaneous chats naturally occur, as they would in an office.

2. It's more inclusive than scheduled social events.

It can be draining for introverts to have to participate in scheduled, purely social conversations. Coworking allows the team to spend time together and occasionally chat without having to constantly be "on," making it more inclusive for introverts and extroverts alike.

3. It's easy to say yes to.

Purely social events are important, but if your team is busy or on a tight deadline, it's tough to find the time for social chats without it feeling like an obligation. Coworking is much easier to get your team onboard with because it doesn't take time away from getting work done.

4. It improves remote collaboration.

Coworking can lead to unblocking and shorter feedback loops. Quick questions get answered easily and in the moment, without a having to schedule a meeting or go back-and-forth in messages.

5. It's scalable.

Coworking works for teams of all sizes and is a great way to scale your remote culture as your team grows. It's helpful to create opportunities for teammates from different functions to get to know one another.

6. It creates shared momentum.

The feeling of togetherness is motivating!

Get started with virtual coworking: choose the type most aligned with your priorities.

It takes intentionality to make virtual coworking feel natural and energizing enough to stick—it's not as simple as leaving a Zoom call open all day.

Here are a few of the ways we've set coworking up for our team. We recommend choosing one to start with. If it works, make it routine and experiment with other types from there.

Best practices for virtual coworking.

Keep group sizes small.

Limit your coworking sessions to 4-6 people to keep things from getting distracting and help make introverted teammates comfortable chatting.

Signal boost coworking.

Set a norm of letting the entire team know when you're hopping into a coworking room or session.

Make it routine.

Once you've figured out what kind of coworking works for your team, make it a regular, opt-in event. Set up a recurring calendar event to do it at the same time each week to maximize the impact.

Set expectations ahead of time.

When you're first introducing coworking to your team, share what you're imagining in your calendar invite and at the top of each session to get everyone on the same page. For example:

Let's try virtual coworking! We'll work independently on our own projects with our cameras off, but we'll share space and listen to music together — like we might work side-by-side at the office.

Listen to music together.

Play music while you work to create a shared environment and add a little bit of personality to your coworking session.

Set up Coworking Rooms in Remotion.

Most of the above is doable with any video chat app, but much easier with Remotion—which we designed with a lightweight, smooth coworking experience in mind. Easily set up Remotion rooms that your teammates can hop into for different styles of coworking.

We'd love to hear how coworking goes for you, or what practices you've found helpful on your team — let us know @remotionco on Twitter.

Want to try coworking in Remotion, our virtual office? Get free access today.