How to build diversity and avoid bias when hiring remotely

2020 has been a turning point for the future of employment. As the coronavirus and shelter-in-place orders swept the globe, companies quickly shifted their stance toward flexible work and adapted recruitment processes to be entirely digital. Yet recruiting diverse candidates from different backgrounds and reducing bias in the hiring process remains a major challenge for HR departments and prospective job seekers.

Until companies can identify and solve the problems with their internal processes, exceptional candidates might be passed over or even discouraged from applying. Here are some areas to consider when reviewing your hiring process:


Start with first impressions

Job descriptions, company websites, and employee reviews are the first things prospective candidates read. These first impressions can easily reveal a company’s bias as well as its stance on diversity.

For job posts, this occurs through gendered language with overly “masculine” words. Consider “aggressive, dominant, and competition” versus “feminine” words like “sensitive, intimately, and compassionate” that can reveal a gender bias.

A lack of female, minority groups, LGBT+ employees, especially among senior leadership positions, quickly signifies a lack of advancement opportunities or barriers to promotion. Candidates should see diversity in the company’s representation of itself on an About Us page and on social media.

In addition, current and past employees usually provide in-depth insights into a company’s treatment of unrepresented workers and unveil critical problems. Businesses without proactive diversity and inclusivity policies (and employees who vouch for them) send-up glaring red flags for job seekers. 

Companies can resolve these issues and create more positive impressions by recognizing the problem and following through with real changes. Replace gendered language with gender-neutral words and position titles for an easy yet effective way to appeal to people of all genders.

Remove obstacles to senior positions by having a team of executive leadership that includes female, minority, and LGBT+ leaders. Publicizing diversity in leadership shows action and commitment to diversity as opposed to empty words. Employees who see themselves reflected in leadership are more likely to pursue excellence than those who feel unheard or undervalued.

Finally, and most importantly, spend time and effort to create a more inclusive workplace culture. From leadership down, a strong culture that actively pursues diversity goals is essential. Top candidates can tell when companies genuinely want to do better and when companies only talk about diversity for recruiting purposes.


Hire independently of location and time zones

Although remote work and hiring has not solved the problems of bias in recruiting, it has empowered companies to hire talent around the world.

As businesses become efficient in working remotely, a survey found that a majority of tech companies now believe the best person for the job is the right person regardless of location. Respondents in the same survey agreed that people should be entitled to a great career regardless of where they live.

GEM Recruiting AI

Restricting recruitment based on location in a remote-first era will cost companies the opportunity to access a growing global talent pool and the creative benefits of a diverse workforce. 

While time differences may sound challenging, savvy companies know how to manage — and the benefits are more than worth the effort. One solution is to adopt asynchronous workflows, an approach in which employees work independently and prioritize documentation to improve collaboration.

Instead of having employees chase offline coworkers or schedule unnecessary meetings, asynchronous workflows have employees work uninterrupted, document everything, and pass it to their teammates before moving on to the next task.

Using this strategy overcomes the challenges of time differences, reduces conflict, and builds better teamwork between employees. This flexible style of working can be especially helpful for parents who juggle work and childcare responsibilities as students attend school online. By helping parents create a better work-life balance, companies can improve morale, productivity, and workplace appeal simultaneously.

Asynchronous workflows also help companies embrace diversity and build variety in communication by providing opportunities for workers to express their ideas and passions through various internal and shared channels.


Partner with diversity initiatives and non-profit organizations

The technology industry has been notoriously slow to lead diversity in recruiting, but many organizations have continued to push change to great success. One report from the National Center for Women & Information Technology found that while 57% of the U.S. workforce is made up of women, only 26% of professional computing positions are held by women.

A mere 4% of roles in technology are occupied by women of color, despite accounting for approximately 16% of the population. A survey of over 40,000 software developers found that only 7.9% identified themselves as bisexual, gay or lesbian, and queer.

Organizations like Women in Technology, Black Girls Code, and Girls Who Code have made strides in reducing the gender imbalance. While non-profits such as Start Out, Out in Tech, American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISE), and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) strive to close the diversity gap in tech companies.

These organizations are always looking for companies to partner with and provide opportunities for internships or open positions. Having an active involvement with these programs can not only help build a positive reputation but can also shape workplace cultures to be more welcoming and inclusive. 

Diversity is an incredible benefit to any business, both for the bottom line and as a catalyst for a more welcoming, more innovative company culture. By recognizing and combating bias in the recruitment process, businesses can leverage the untapped potential of a diverse and global talent pool to foster a thriving remote work culture.

Elisa Rossi

Elisa Rossi is the Head of Growth at Remote. She has previously held positions driving international growth at Yik Yak, Square, Eventbrite, and Apple.