18 October 2022

Challenges to Diversity in a Tough Market

Steve Halsall

Red Tiger Consulting


Chloe’s blog post eloquently outlines the benefits of having a diverse workforce. For this blog I’d like to focus on some of the challenges we see from a recruitment perspective.

Red Tiger Talent have just finished their busiest year yet – we have placed a record number of people, had a record number of live engagements and also surpassed the total number of recruitment conversations in a given year. That said, it’s incredibly challenging, with too many roles and not enough candidates.

Diversity is rightly being placed at the top of many of our clients’ recruitment agendas and whilst the benefits are there for all to see – it can add to the length of the recruitment process and cause additional strain on the existing workforce. Sometimes there may not be a viable candidate that ticks all the boxes on competency and diversity – do you as a business wait or are you prepared to compromise?

Let me give you a couple of examples on challenges from a recruitment and monitoring perspective.

I had a client who we have worked with for a number of years. I have supported them with nearly every hire in the last 18 months and they contacted me with a requirement to add someone else to the team. The hiring manager felt it was getting a little top heavy with males so the brief was to find someone who ticked most of the boxes but they had to be female. The talent pool was reasonably well balanced in terms of gender split but this means we are immediately cutting the talent pool by 50%. I also identified some excellent male candidates but they weren’t even considered.

The second example is a client who I did some work with a couple of years ago. Part of their ongoing monitoring of diversity at a candidate stage included a brief questionnaire that the candidate was invited to complete. It had standard questions around them, including gender, disabilities, and sexual orientation. I know that most of my candidates will have chosen “not relevant/would rather not say” to a few of the questions which doesn’t help with reporting and monitoring.

The only specific requests we have had in terms of diversity ‘tick boxes’ have been on gender and academic institution. Some companies have close ties with specific universities and often have a steady stream of graduates to join from these institutions. There is a real benefit to mixing it up and getting a wider diversity of graduates from a range of academic institutions.

One thing to consider as well is how it might be perceived by the candidate. The idea of diversity being a ‘tick box’ exercise might actually take away from the real reasoning behind and benefits to diversity. From a candidate’s perspective, they won’t want to feel like they’ve been offered the role because they ‘tick a box’ for diversity more than another candidate. They will want to know that it was their skills and experience that earned them the role.

So should it not instead be about leveling the playing field and opening the opportunities to anyone, tackling unconscious bias and making it truly about diversity? That way it’s the best person for the role that’s hired, which over time would hopefully create a more diverse and inclusive team.

Gender and Name Bias

diversity challenges: types of unconscious bias
Types of Unconscious Bias

Whether we like it or not it is very easy for unconscious bias (usually shaped in our formative years) to influence our thought process and decisions. One of the more common biases are around preconceptions on gender and name. I have seen it sometimes with candidate’s names – I will discuss a potential candidate with a hiring manager and they are already bringing in bias to their decision-making process – “I heard from person x that they weren’t any good”. 

I have also experienced bias creeping into my own thought process. I may have a call planned with a candidate whose name might not sound stereotypically English, and through unconscious bias my mind might automatically question their English language skills because of this. More often than not though, I’ll join the call and be greeted by them in perfect queens English, showing the effect unconscious bias can have.

One way of avoiding this bias at the initial stage of the process is to provide Anonymous CVs. With some clients we completely strip the CV of anything that suggests their gender. This can be particularly challenging in their education (all boys or all girls schools for example) and sometimes it can come up in their hobbies and interests. It is certainly a good way of trying to remove that bias at CV screening stage.

Embrace Candidate Sponsorship

Sometimes my clients talk about Diversity but some are not really open to hiring someone who currently doesn’t have a permit to work in the UK. In the pursuit of suitable candidates we have certainly had to search beyond the UK to find talent for specific roles. Sponsoring a non-UK national can be a time consuming and costly process. But in the pursuit of diversity surely this is a cost that is worth swallowing?

Hiring managers/HR professionals – I am interested in any challenges you may have to meet specific diversity criteria? Candidates – do you ever feel any prejudice against you because you don’t fit their diversity agenda?

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Published by Steve Halsall

Steve is the founder of Red Tiger Consulting. He has worked in Location Planning for over 20 years – both on the consultancy side and client side. His passion is building successful teams that evolve their capability (skills, software and data) to meet the ever changing requirements of analysis. In his spare time he is mainly kept busy with his two children, falling in and out of love with Liverpool FC and at some point he wants to re-start his golfing ‘career’.


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