Home » Opinion » All that Glitters is not Gold

All that Glitters is not Gold

Jo Major The HR World Columnist

Story by
Jo Major Founder, Diversity in Recruitment

Jo Major, Founder of Diversity in Recruitment & Co-Founder of Inclusive Recruitment Foundations, DEI Training for Recruiters and Hiring Managers warns organisations to look deeper when it comes to DE&I credentials.

We must never forget the marketing and resources that will be pumped into winning your business. Whether it’s to gain an RPO or MSP agreement, become an exclusive talent supplier, win some retained work, or become a preferred agency, your business has a hefty price tag around its neck.

Luckily, most recruitment businesses have the skills, resources, and know-how to fulfil your traditional hiring requirements and keep their promises.

However, there’s a growing concern, a topic that should be at the top of every agency’s agenda, RPO/MSP space included, and that is DE&I. It’s not just another acronym, it’s a crucial aspect of our industry.

Unfortunately, DE&I hasn’t received the attention it needs and deserves from the recruitment industry. In my opinion, this is not just a small oversight but a significant neglect that needs to be urgently addressed. Many staffing providers are far from where they should be, and in my view, they lack the necessary skills, knowledge, tech, or expertise to offer it as a client service.


Ignoring DE&I

Some recruitment leaders are oblivious to the importance of DE&I and choose to ignore the issues of underrepresentation. Some even dismiss equality in recruitment as a passing trend. However, with the industry responsible for nearly 50% of UK hires, it’s clear that DE&I is a pressing ‘agency’ problem.

The quick fix for responding to questions relating to DEI on your RFP, Procurement Questionnaire, or Tender Document is to pass them over to marketing to make their answers look and sound pretty. Alternatively, an under-informed HR leader who doesn’t have the first clue about strategic DE&I & its relationship with hiring may have a go with it.

If you are really lucky, maybe the recruiter with a marginalised identity whose current side hustle is ‘diversity stuff’ within the businesses will write something compelling and feel duty-bound to allow the agency to exploit their identity by splashing their photo all over the application.

And don’t be shocked if you start to see the familiar ‘fostering’ tones of ChatGPT showing up more often. This tech is becoming so advanced that it’s easy to understand how easily we’re convinced folks know what they are talking about when, in reality, it’s AI who’s selling you the DE&I dream.

How do I know all of this? I’ve seen it happening, and it concerns me.

I am at a total loss as to how employers who rely on all forms of talent-sourcing models can ever achieve their diversity and representation goals if their suppliers don’t have their act together.

It’s frustrating to see organisations put together comprehensive DE&I strategies, transform how their people work, pump a stack of equity into the working environment, get their culture on point, develop healthy EVPs, and spend money, resources, and time building out something that they genuinely believe will evolve their business – only to be let down by their talent pipeline suppliers.

I’ve seen companies bring in trainers and invest heavily in the professional development of internal recruitment teams and hiring manager populations. They are well on their way to developing inclusive, accessible, and equitable hiring processes, but then nothing changes.

There’s no abundance of diversity in the pipeline, no diverse shortlists, and the people they’ve worked so hard to create space for didn’t get the memo about their latest recruitment drive.

And even if they had, they’d probably have been rejected by external recruitment partners anyway or deselected themselves from inaccessible, inequitable processes. So, it is just the usual suspects coming through the talent funnel.

The solution to address DE&I

Firstly, we need to understand how some resourcing models can create friction between cost and time to hire and our DE&I objectives. They are often not conducive to inclusive recruitment methodology.

For example, time to hire and speed are often built into SLAs, yet accelerated hiring completely disrupts inclusion and equity. There is the potential for increased bias, and recruiters overlook narrower talent pools and inclusive practices.

Cost reduction is also essential for most agreements, yet evolving how we hire and attract talent may have increased cost implications. Businesses need honest conversations about whether they are genuinely willing to prioritise inclusive hiring over cost and time to hire.

We should also consider how RPOs and MSPs extensively use automation. Its use feeds into my points above, cutting costs and speeding up hiring.

Whilst ATSs and AI can be programmed to support bias minimisation, standardise recruitment processes, and provide critical diversity data, this is often not the case. We are still seeing historical hiring data being used to train AI, creating out-of-control algorithmic bias. Employers and agencies are still not acknowledging and accommodating tech access and equity issues, and too many automated systems are screening out candidates with non-traditional career paths or gaps in CVs.

Secondly, how do we cut through the BS and identify partners who can support us?

Audits are the way to go, and I don’t mean trusting the stuff written in word count-controlled boxes. I mean a forensic examination of what your supplier does to ensure fair, ethical hiring processes that should eventually attract larger, more diverse pools of talent.

A way ahead

Here is a snapshot of the receipts you need to be looking at…

Training—Have ALL their teams been regularly and professionally trained on inclusive recruitment practices? A quick 30-minute online session on unconscious bias a decade ago won’t cut it. Don’t get distracted by a brilliant DE&I lead. They will not be recruiting for your business and often don’t cascade best practices down.

Recruitment Policy & Process – You’ll need a detailed overview of how inclusive, accessible and equitable recruitment is embedded across the entire hiring process, including TA.

Diversity Data Metrics—Now, this is a biggie that needs its own article. Check, check, and re-check that they have the expertise, technology, and capability to compliantly and ethically collect diversity and demographic data. It’s like the Wild West regarding data collection and analytics. If you don’t have the expertise to audit this, please bring in a third party to assist.

Look at their branding & reputation – Do they have the comms and marketing credentials to attract and build trust with marginalised candidates? We so often pass over agency value propositions and brand image. Are they actively showing allyship and an authentic, credible commitment to DE&I?

History of inclusive recruitment – Collect references and case studies on their previous recruitment projects centred on DE&I. Interview candidates who’ve gone through hiring processes, especially those who didn’t get the job.

Can they audit you? – Any credible, inclusive recruitment partner should be able to audit your processes. This is a two-way street, and looking at what you do should be part of their processes. Observing how they complete this is a smart way to assess their competency, and you can benefit from their recommendations if they know what they are doing.

Are they representative – Are marginalised candidates represented across their recruiter population? Can they provide their own diversity and demographic data? Teams packed with posh, homogenous Oxbridge folk don’t represent the real world.

Do they share your values? You’ve got to get under their skin and really figure out if there’s a genuine understanding of your DE&I goals and true shared values. People who do not care change absolutely nothing for underrepresented and historically marginalised candidates or your business.

Remember, no agency can ever guarantee diversity, but they can and should guarantee inclusive, accessible, and equitable recruitment services. This isn’t a quick numbers game. It’s a process of changing decades of legacy behaviour and processes.

I could go on because I am so passionate about this topic. There is a lot to this. But a thorough audit by a third party, someone who really gets this stuff, is critical – shameless plug, but reach out if you need support. I’ve got you. This stuff needs to change!



HRW Membership@2x@2x

Are you a senior HR professional?

Join our membership to shape the future of work, get exclusive access to events, white papers and research content, profile your work, gain access to support from HR experts and celebrate your successes.

Become a Partner

Please get in touch to talk about how we can help your business make an impact in the world of work through our content marketing, partnership plans and advertising.