Creating an inclusive candidate journey

Are businesses doing enough to make the candidate's application journey inclusive? Are organisations performing in the right manner to ensure a diverse field of candidates apply to their jobs? What can we do to engage a more diverse talent pool?

These are questions vexing a substantial number of organisations across the world and we wanted to know has anyone found 'What Works'. This week Harvey Nash held a workshop at our HQ in London, inviting experts in Diversity, HR and Talent to attend and discuss 'attraction' and 'the candidate's journey'.

Attendees were encouraged to speak about what they are doing to be more inclusive and were inspired by what else they could implement to attract a diverse talent pool. We heard about some innovative initiatives and common challenges, below is just the tip of the iceberg from what we learned.

Training - it's for everyone, not just those hiring

Feedback was as varied as it was enlightening. One attendee spoke of their internal upskilling and training programme that has widened the net for applicants, if a person is 80% suitable for a role (with regards to technical proficiency, as opposed to culture), their business then trains, develops and nurtures the applicant to be 100% right for the role. This addresses the age-old adage around 'women will only apply if they are 100% acceptable for the role, men are chancers and will apply regardless'.

Job descriptions were also raised as a stipulating aspect in this area; one organisation spoke of drastically changing their JDs for early careers recruitment by doing away with CVs and using video and gamification and how this has significantly improved the number of applicants from a much wider talent pool.

When moving away from traditional routes many agreed that it is essential that those making application decisions needed diversity awareness training. One attendee described their organisation is ensuring that all hiring managers are enrolled onto D&I training, to eradicate unconscious bias. Due to the success of the scheme it was rolled out across their entire business, with everyone being trained on D&I because "D&I isn't just a HR and Talent issue, it's everyone in the businesses responsibility". Bravo to those guys!

Get into schools!

Another attendee from the Insurance sector spoke of their company's school outreach programme to start encouraging a new generation of talent from their atypical candidate pool. Within their sector, their company is ranked in the top 10 places to work but their issue is that they only attract candidates who already know about the industry perhaps because of their parents, which tend to be white and middle-class.

They set about to remedy this by "thinking to the future" and sending graduates and apprentices on a tour-come-roadshow to attract pupils at school level. The attendee admitted that their sector isn't perceived as the most 'fun' and as such does not attract a diverse talent pool. They are reversing this idea now with this fantastic initiative and they've even made fun sector-specific top trumps, making it much more attractive to the youth of today!

Role models - does your company have them?

When attracting new talent, it is paramount to consider your business's current role models. When undertaking an application journey, candidates will research the company they are interviewing with. So, what happens if a new starter begins and they only see a management team of middle-aged white men, is there a clear cultural problem within that organisation?

Our discussion addressed this; an attendee stated just how significant role models are within businesses.

They spoke of sending out, both internally and externally, the story of a single mum who rose to the top of their company. It was so powerful that it went global. As a result, potential applicants increased dramatically because they were shown not just to be inclusive, but also that progression to the top is achievable.


Tameron Chappell, Harvey Nash's chartered occupational psychologist then turned the discussion to 'The Facts' about why diverse applicants may not be applying or succeeding through the process, and the rippling negative impact of bad practice. Are organisations utilising feedback from candidates? Even negative reviews have to be considered - if anything, negative reviews make a business stronger!

By gleaning feedback on those who declined and those who were successful, your business can really learn about the process and what can be done increase inclusivity. It was stated that hiring managers should go through the typical and atypical candidate experience to find out if it's easy, seamless and inclusive. Of course, that hiring manager would need to be trained on D&I!

Language - it's as important as anything

Tameron then discussed the impact of language from what's on your website to how you write your job descriptions. As a writer (in its loosest definition) I am constantly thinking of the power of language. I am a massive advocate of tools like Textio, so this really resonated.

Language is an enormously powerful tool, not just when applying for jobs but also in cultural change. Textio published an article around a Fixed Mindset vs a Growth Mindset, you can guess which is a better mindset to adopt... A Growth Mindset is fluid, proactive, development-encouraging and always open to learning. A Fixed Mindset is polar to this, and a terrible mindset to have.

Tameron related this back to language, stating that when composing job adverts a Growth Mindset is essential, if you write with this adopted mentality you will attract more women (and men!) and a more diverse array of candidates, from variety of divergent backgrounds.

Create a 'belonging environment'

You will always have people interviewing at your place of work and you will always want to provide an inclusive environment. This is a given, but does your business really know the environment?

Tameron explained that physical space impacts everyone in that said space. Companies have to have an 'ambient belonging', this could include things such as gender neutral bathrooms, prayer rooms and even seemingly menial things such as room names and art work within your office.

How can it be an inclusive office if all the art work is of old men who achieved things 30 years ago? Don't get me wrong, Churchill is a British Icon, but is he really the best person to have plastered all over your office?

What can be done immediately and simply to remedy diversity & inclusion?

The group then began to summarise the session, with each member stating something they can implement at their organisation with ease. But why should they be the only ones with quick-fixes to the tech industries biggest issue?! Here's some activities you can do right now to be more inclusive:

1. Language; using tools and shifting mindsets to change Job Adverts
2. Cutting down requirements in Job Descriptions; this should attract less 'chancers' and more of a diverse candidate pool
3. Application journey; encourage hiring managers to apply for their own jobs to truly see what applicants go through when enrolling and whether it's inclusive and attracting the widest pool of candidates possible
4. Trial the use of 'blind CVs' within your business. Remove name, age, universities and other pieces of information that can influence unconscious bias
5. Keep in touch with unsuccessful candidates - keep them engaged and aware of new roles. This will improve the perception of your application process. Oh, and unsuccessful candidates won't troll you on social media!
6. A Growth Mindset is key but we can also begin to change those 'Fixed Mindsets'!

This workshop formed part of Inclusion 360, a movement by the Harvey Nash Group to create better balanced and inclusive workplaces where there are no barriers to people reaching their full potential.

Throughout the year, we will be hosting more events across the UK with other passionate businesses looking at 'What Works' and gathering these insights into helpful guides, cases studies and podcasts.

If you've got something to share or would like to join us next time, get in touch: and follow us on social @Inclusion360HN / #HNinclusion.

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