The 8 Diversity Hiring Mistakes You’re Making & And How to Fix Them
October 7, 2020

The 8 Diversity Hiring Mistakes You’re Making & And How to Fix Them

Lauren Dana

Hiring diverse talent goes beyond simply sourcing diverse applicants. The truth is, no matter how many diverse candidates your company attracts, it will be challenging for you to achieve your diversity hiring goals until you fix your recruiting funnel and interview process, both of which may be inherently biased. 

WayUp Co-founder and CEO, Liz Wessel, and recruiting expert and diversity instructor, Margaret Spence, dug deep into data provided by WayUp’s Diversity & Inclusion Analytics Dashboards, which featured insights from our database of 5.7 million students and recent grads from over 7,100 colleges and universities. For even more information on diversity and inclusion in the workforce, read our ebook.

Wessel and Spence uncover the eight most common diversity hiring mistakes recruiters make that may prevent them from achieving their diversity goals — as well as provide detailed, expert-approved advice on how to fix them. 

1. GPA Requirements

The Challenge: Here at WayUp, almost all of our 5.7 million users self-report their race and gender, which afforded us the opportunity to collect extensive data and study how GPA is impacted by race. Ultimately, we found that Black and Hispanic candidates are twice as likely as non-Black or Hispanic candidates to be disqualified from a job application due to GPA requirements. (Native American candidates are also likely to be negatively impacted by GPA requirements.) Because Black, Hispanic, and Native American students are more likely to come from low-income backgrounds, they are most likely to work longer hours. Since these students have less time to devote to studying, their GPA unfortunately suffers. For example, the average GPA for Native American and Black students was 2.8, and the average GPA for Hispanic students is 3.0. White and Asian students, on the other hand, have average GPAs of 3.2 and 3.3, respectively.

The Solution: Eliminate your GPA requirements! Or, if you’re filling a position that requires the candidate to have a pre-professional major, such as an accountant, Wessel recommends enforcing a major-specific GPA instead — but only if it’s “absolutely necessary.” Remember, GPA is just one small part of the recruitment process, and, according to Spence, “time in school doesn’t correlate to performance at work.” She adds, “We have to be a lot more open when it comes to recruiting candidates.”

2. No Relocation Stipend

The Challenge: Our extensive research found that Black candidates are almost twice as likely as non-Black candidates to be unwilling to relocate if no relocation stipend is offered. This is because low-income students are disproportionately Black and Hispanic. What’s more, most low-income students — regardless of their race or gender — don’t have the means to spend hundreds of dollars on a one-way plane ticket and rent. A majority of low-income students also graduate with over $30,000 of debt, so you have to take that into account, too. 

The Solution: “Provide relocation stipends — and I don’t say that lightly,” Wessel says. For example, one WayUp client found that 80 percent of Black and Hispanic candidates got rejected at the beginning of the recruitment process because they said that they required a relocation stipend in their job application. (The company automatically eliminated any candidates who required a relocation stipend.) “A lot of the time, as hiring managers, we don’t put ourselves in the shoes of what we’re really asking for,” Spence says. For example, if you’re asking a college student in Florida to move to NYC for a summer internship, “you’re really asking their parents to pay,” according to Spence. Moreover, it is unrealistic for any of us to expect a full-time (or even part-time) student to afford relocation costs without any financial assistance, whether it’s from family members or prospective employers. 

3. Restrictive Interview Time Slots

The Challenge: When and how you schedule your interview can hinder your company’s ability to recruit diverse candidates. WayUp offers flexible phone screening, and our data found that 90 percent of all candidates who scheduled interviews outside of normal business hours (like on nights and weekends, for example) are Black, Latinx, or Female. However, according to Wessel, this isn’t surprising — especially when you take into account that these individuals are more likely to have jobs (remember, low-income students are disproportionately Black and Hispanic) and/or care for children. 

The Solution: Extend your interview schedule past the traditional nine-to-five during the workweek — especially for a first-round interview. “Giving candidates at least 48 hours’ notice is really crucial, as well,” Wessel says. “Think of it this way,” Spence adds. “If you’re in your current job and you’re looking for another job, do you have time to do that nine-to-five?” And, while not all students have full-time jobs, most are taking classes throughout the day. “We have to be realistic about what we’re asking from students and creating other alternatives in terms of interview times,” she says. 

4. Pre-Recorded Video Interviews

The Challenge: In a recent survey, WayUp found that 82 percent of Black and Hispanic candidates prefer live phone interviews over pre-recorded video interviews. WayUp also conducted its own survey to find out more information on candidates’ interview preferences — more specifically, how comfortable they would be if an algorithm (not a person) was the sole determiner of their interview performance. Ultimately, we found that 73 percent of all participants were not comfortable overall, as were 77 percent of Females. 75 percent of Black and Hispanic women were also uncomfortable with this. 

The Solution: Embrace a high-tech and high-touch recruiting process, which helps to provide a positive, personal, and fair candidate experience. “I can’t encourage you enough: Don’t just choose the easy way out if diversity really is a top priority for you,” Wessel says. If you already have implemented a pre-recorded video interview into your hiring process, Wessel recommends taking a deeper dive into your analytics to see who is completing them and who is not. Meanwhile, Spence says that candidates may feel self-conscious about visual and auditory distractions — i.e a crying baby, a barking dog, or even a dark background — which can hinder their interview performance. One’s physical appearance can also perpetuate bias. For example, according to Spence, “hair is the number one deterrent for Black candidates” and, as a Black woman, she has experienced this first-hand. “I don’t want the video that you see of me to be the first thing that you use to eliminate [me], and that’s the reason why Black and Brown candidates do not use the video,” she says. Additionally, Wessel notes that some candidates — especially those who were not born and raised in the US — may feel incredibly self-conscious when it comes to recording themselves speaking as English may be their second language. 

5. Unpaid Internships 

The Challenge: There’s no doubt about it: Unpaid internships perpetuate inequality. WayUp found that the average cost of an unpaid internship is $6,800. This includes housing, food, utilities, technology, and other necessities —  and the number increases based on the cost of living and location. Additionally, although the average student graduates college with around $32,700 in debt, studies have shown that women have at least $2,700 more student loan debt than men, while Black graduates have a whopping $7,400 more student loan debt than their White counterparts. Ultimately, according to Wessel, this comes down to the fact that “Most college students — especially those who are graduating with tens of thousands of dollars of debt — are just not going to be able to cover the cost of an unpaid internship.”

The Solution: The best way for your company to achieve diversity goals is to make sure you hire (and pay!) diverse interns. Research also shows that an employee who is hired from a company’s intern program is 20 percent more likely to stay one year or longer than someone who didn’t intern at that company. “Just know that your interns are actually going to be, probably, one of your best-retained hires,” Wessel says. 

6. Biased Job Descriptions 

The Challenge: Augmented writing platform Textio found that, in jobs where a woman is hired, the original job description had almost twice as many feminine-tone phrases as masculine ones. However, when a man is hired, Textio found the exact opposite (nearly two times as many masculine-tone phrases than feminine ones). “Very often, it’s just the words you use that can hurt your top-of-funnel that can hurt who is actually applying to your jobs,” Wessel says. Spence agreed and adds: “There are “key-specific words that are designed for men and those that are designed for women.”

The Solution: Use your job description to attract more diverse candidates. Start by making sure your description is straight-forward and easy to comprehend. You’ll also want to keep your job posting as gender-neutral as possible. For example, Textio found that “exhaustive,” “fearless,” and “enforcement” exerted a masculine tone, while terms like “catalyst,” “transparent,” and “in touch with” were considered more feminine. After all, Wessel says, “Your description is almost like the gate to your job… and so do you want the gate of your front house to be something that you’re proud of?”

7. Limited Core Target Schools

The Challenge: If your company only focuses on recruiting from “elite” schools or top universities, you are discriminating against thousands of qualified diverse students just because they do not attend a “top” school. Don’t believe us? The data speaks for itself: Schools that are not considered top schools have 37 percent more underrepresented students than those colleges and universities in the top 200 ranked schools.

The Solution: WayUp found that recruiters can increase their pool of qualified Black and Hispanic candidates by 14 percent — just by opening up the number of schools they recruit from. “I can’t encourage you enough to diversify the institutions and campuses you’re hiring from,” Wessel says. Spence adds: “I want to say this to all of you who are recruiting Black talent and Hispanic talent:  We’re [Black and Hispanic candidates] not a singular, triangulated group. We don’t go to the same colleges that you expect us to go to.” Spence also spoke about her son, who was accepted into Georgetown but, due to financial constraints, attended Florida A&M instead. “He’s now one of the top political consultants in Florida, so where he graduated from didn’t matter.” She continued: “There are no shortage of Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American students. Instead, she says, “there is a shortage of lens...we have to broaden our tent.” 

8. Technical Assessments

The Problem: Assessments can severely harm your company’s Diversity and Inclusion efforts. Using real-time client data, WayUp found that Black and/or Hispanic candidates are at least 50 percent less likely to pass a HackerRank (a popular technical assessment platform) evaluation when compared to White and/or Asian candidates. For example, one WayUp client was meeting all of their diversity goals — until they reached the technical assessment round of the hiring process; unfortunately, this is more common than you think. 

The Solution: It has become clear that these technical assessments are unfair and discriminatory towards minority and low-income students. This is similar to the SATs, which, for years, has faced criticism for being inherently racially and socioeconomically biased. For example, because Black students are more likely to come from low-income households than White students, they are less likely to have access to tutors and other resources. Think of it this way: The wealthier the student is, the more likely they are to have a tutor. The more likely they are to have a tutor, the more likely they are to succeed compared to their less fortunate peers. The same holds true for these technical assessments, which, frankly, don’t test the candidate’s capabilities at all. Instead, the “assessments” are designed to test how prepared the candidate is for the evaluation itself. What’s more, many universities — especially wealthier ones — are more likely to teach students how to take coding assessment in the classroom. Students who attend less economically advantaged universities are less likely to receive the same training. We can all agree your engineering capabilities have nothing to do with your race or gender...I would recommend using technical assessments as a guiding post when interviewing as opposed to as a true pass or fail,” Wessel says. Meanwhile, Spence — whose other son works in the tech field — agreed “100 percent.” She continues, “The reality is, what they’re being asked to do in terms of coding doesn’t necessarily line up with the job… that’s what I found when my son was interviewing for jobs, and that was his big complaint.” 


It’s no secret that virtual-first recruiting is a must, which affords you the incredible opportunity to reach, attract, and hire even more diverse candidates. According to Wessel, the thing that separates the top companies from the bottom ones is how they utilize data: — and that’s where we come into the picture. WayUp provides invaluable analytics to help your company achieve its Diversity and Inclusion goals. We believe each and every student, recent grad, and young professional is worthy of landing their dream job: regardless of their race, level of education, or socioeconomic status. 

For even more insights into diversity hiring, listen to our recent webinar, 8 Diversity Hiring Mistakes You're Making & How To Fix Them, with Liz Wessel and Margaret Spence.

WayUp helps TA leaders (just like you!) lead your company into the future and set you up to achieve your diversity hiring goals. Ready to put your process to the test? Fill out the form below to get a demo or email with any questions or comments. We look forward to helping you achieve your diversity and inclusion goals!

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