Diverse From Day One: Tips to Improve Early Hiring Diversity

Building a diverse and inclusive team should be a priority for any start-up seeking to innovate, attract top talent, and position itself for long-term success. However, it’s all too easy for founders to overlook diversity in those critical early hiring decisions, as they scramble to build their business. The early team sets the tone and culture for the entire organisation down the road – that’s why it’s crucial for businesses to build in diversity and inclusion from day one.

diverse hiring

This article provides tips and strategies for companies to improve hiring diversity from the word go. By crafting thoughtful, unbiased job descriptions, broadening your candidate outreach and making diversity part of your brand, businesses can foster inclusive practices straight away and continue to do so more easily. The ultimate goal is for diversity, equity and inclusion to be woven into the fabric of your organisation.

Craft Job Descriptions That Appeal to Diverse Candidates

The wording and requirements in your job postings can unintentionally deter some candidates from applying. In fact, only 36% of applicants believe they’re provided with clear job descriptions. So, to appeal to a diverse pool of technical talent, avoid language that reinforces stereotypes around programmers and skip highly restrictive requirements like demanding computer science degrees from a shortlist of top schools. This overlooks promising self-taught or bootcamp-trained applicants, and studies show that women are less likely to apply unless they meet all of the criteria for a role.

Prioritise must-have technical skills over credentials and clearly state a willingness to train the right candidate. Getting creative with outreach channels like women-in-tech networks also expands your reach. The aim is crafting descriptions that invite – not deter – talented candidates across demographics. With an inclusive job description, your business can take its first step toward building a diverse engineering team.

Broaden Your Outreach and Candidate Pool

The best way to build a diverse team is to attract a diverse pool of applicants. Relying solely on traditional channels like job boards or your personal networks will limit your reach. For example, you might partner with Diversity in Tech, given our focus on promoting diversity in the tech industry, and explore opportunities at career fairs and events to directly connect with underrepresented minority candidates.

Set up an internship or apprenticeship programme to reach talented students from diverse backgrounds early on, or visit university campuses and speak at classes to promote your programme. Brands can also sponsor conferences and hackathons that help surface candidates from underrepresented groups in tech. Attending such events in person allows you to promote your company culture and available roles.

Work with recruiters who specialise in diverse hiring. Ask for candidate pools that include women, minorities, LGBTQIA+ individuals and people with disabilities. This enables you to cast a wide net by broadening your outreach channels and partners.

Ask for Referrals from Diverse Employees

Existing employees can be a great source for finding more candidates and increasing the pool of diverse talent. Encourage your team members to tap into their own networks and refer qualified candidates. Make it easy for them to promote open roles by providing sample messages and job links to share via email, social media or professional forums. Offer an employee referral bonus as incentive.

Check in with employee resource groups or diversity-focused employees. Seek their input on strengthening job descriptions or branding to appeal to similar candidates. Leverage your employees’ unique connections to surface promising, qualified applicants that your normal channels might miss. It also shows that you value your staff’s perspectives by seeking their referrals. Getting proactive with outreach through your own team demonstrates your commitment to diversity and inclusion. It’s a win-win – you expand your candidate pool while empowering employees to amplify your mission.

Remove Bias From Your Hiring Process

Even with a diverse pool of applicants, unconscious biases can creep in and affect your hiring decisions. Take proactive steps to combat this:

  • Standardise your interview process so every candidate gets the same questions and evaluations and use a structured interview scorecard.
  • Ensure those responsible for hiring reflect diversity across gender, race or age. Diverse perspectives counteract individual biases.
  • Try blind resume reviews where info like name, age, gender is redacted. Evaluate just skills and experience first.
  • Watch for biased language in interviews. Avoid questions about family plans or personal lives which aren’t relevant to your vacancy.
  • Audit results to check for fairness – do equally qualified diverse candidates advance? If not, revisit for potential biases.
  • Provide bias training for hiring managers to help them recognise prejudices and privilege.
  • Define job criteria clearly and make sure you require specific skills, not a nebulous “culture fit” which allows bias to creep in.

By proactively designing fairness into your process, you can hire the best candidates regardless of background.

Making diversity part of your brand culture

To attract diverse talent, you need an authentically inclusive brand. Feature team members from underrepresented groups prominently on your website, job posts and other marketing materials which visually communicates your commitment to diversity. Businesses should also employ resource groups focused on issues like women in tech, LGBTQIA+ employees, employees with disabilities and specific ethnic/racial groups. These groups provide support, community and advocacy.

Foster an inclusive culture where everyone feels welcomed, valued and able to thrive. Making diversity a core part of your brand tells prospective hires you walk the talk – an inclusive culture helps you retain diverse team members for the long haul as well.


Building a diverse and inclusive team from the ground up is crucial for any start-up aiming to innovate and succeed long-term. By implementing proactive steps like those listed here, start-ups can embed inclusive practices from day one. While it takes work, the benefits are immense. A diverse team offers a multitude of perspectives that allows better understanding of users and the fostering of greater creativity in problem-solving.