Improving Diversity Through the Hiring Process

successful diverse business colleagues who were part of the hiring team in a modern office

Finding diverse talent has never been easier, but how do you set new hires up for success? It starts with fair and objective recruitment and selection. Hiring candidates without an inclusive and valid selection process is like grocery shopping for a new recipe without looking at the ingredient list. Unfortunately, you’ll most likely forget some ingredients and the entire flavor of your dish may be a little off. Hiring, much like cooking, requires a diversity of different parts. Employee screening can take multiple forms, such as structured interviews, cognitive ability, and personality assessments. In this post, you will learn more about improving the hiring process through pre-hire assessments and adverse impact analyses.

When should you use a pre-hire assessment?

Hiring teams must first carefully identify and consider the problem before purchasing or building an assessment. HR practitioners in coordination with hiring managers must first isolate (through job analysis and competency modeling) which skills, knowledge, and observable abilities and other characteristics new hires must have on Day 1 and which are the most important for success. Hiring teams may go even further to define requirements as related to the organization’s values and purpose.

After defining and reviewing requirements, carefully consider the outcomes that are in need of improvement. Many teams do not give enough critical thought to why they want to assess candidates. Is the assessment used to help drive better employee performance? Is the objective to reduce turnover? Perhaps to increase the sales revenue new representatives generate within the first 6 months of joining? Assessments alone do not improve diversity; however, they can help teams target improvements around a specified objective. Personality assessments are indeed one of the most unbiased tools with regard to diversity. There are dozens of assessments on the market and each assessment has its strength for improving certain outcomes. So, focus on defining those outcomes first before looking into assessments.

Hiring candidates without an inclusive and valid selection process is like grocery shopping for a new recipe without looking at the ingredient list.

What makes a hiring assessment fair?

Fairness is largely related to a candidate’s perception of the assessment. Perceptions aside, if you’re using assessments for hiring/selection, they should be job-related (valid) and reliably predict job performance. Generally, an assessment is considered valid if it truly measures what it is intended (a proxy for desired behavior on the job) and scores on the assessment are correlated with the job-related outcomes you wish to improve. Test vendors will usually provide and technical manual or validation studies to show validity and job relatedness. They’ll also describe any sort of lie detection or impression management measures included in the assessment. The more validity evidence a vendor can produce and the larger the number of individuals included in the studies, the more confidence you can have in that assessment.

people riding carousel in park
Not the type of “fair” we’re talking about.

At the same time, pre-hire tests vendors should be able to show they have internal consistency and test-retest reliability. Internal consistency and reliability means the items are intercorrelated and are measuring the same general intended construct. To check test-retest reliability, scores on the assessment should be fairly consistent if given to the same person each time they are assessed.

Validity and reliability are the very basic things to consider when developing or selecting an assessment, however there are several other factors to consider as well.

What is adverse impact and why should you measure it?

Adverse impact is the unintended negative effect a biased selection procedure/assessment/tool has on a protected class. When protected groups are discriminated against unknowingly during a selection process, like a hiring or promotion decision, it creates adverse impact. In the US, protected classes include race, national origin, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation) age (40 and over), religion, disability status, and veteran status.

It is important to investigate and document if your selection tools and processes show any evidence of unfair treatment. If you have a biased process or assessment in place, you can be open to legal risk. Employers in the public and private sectors, employment agencies, unions and joint labor-management committees controlling apprentice programs are subject to nondiscrimination laws. Conversely, government contractors and subcontractors are subject to non-discrimination executive orders. Measuring and mitigating adverse impact ensures compliance with applicable laws and executive orders. But most importantly, it broadens the pool of applicants and is just plain good business.

It is important to investigate and document if your selection tools and processes show any evidence of unfair treatment. If you have a biased process or assessment in place, you can be open to legal risk.

Measuring Adverse Impact

In hiring, adverse impact can be measured across the entire hiring process (percent of applicants who are ultimately hired) or segmented by each step that screens out candidates (resume screen, pre-hire assessment, interview). The SHRM recommends first finding if adverse impact exists for the overall selection process for each job.

If the overall selection process has an adverse impact, the adverse impact of the individual steps should be analyzed. In its most basic form, measuring adverse impact involves checking the ratio of hires to applicants for each protected class. Then, you must look for differences within each of these classes to see if one subgroup is disproportionately screened out. This is known as the Four Fifths Rule.

 Other methods of affirming adverse impact such as the z-test and Fisher’s Exact test (which measures the impact seen as statistically significant along with a check of ratios) are standard procedures. They’re great methods used to find adverse impact. Organizations should utilize these as part of their evaluation of hiring procedures.

asian lawyer working with laptop near scales of justice
H should lead to interviews in the office, not in here!

What is the relevant legislation affecting diversity in hiring methods?

            In regards to diversity, there are several decades of case law surrounding employment decisions. Case in point, all criteria used in decisions must be valid (job related) whether it is objective or subjective via Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust, 487 U.S. 977 (1988). This is a build on the Albermarle Paper Company v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405 (1975) case where the job-relatedness concept was highly reinforced. The Supreme Court found that even though the employer had employed a professional psychologist to demonstrate a correlation between the job performance rating and test scores, correlations were only illustrated in 3 out of 8 job groupings where the assessment was applied. In this instance, the employer did not conduct any job analysis.


First, define your objectives when screening out applicants. Next, use appropriate pre-hire screening steps combined with impact analysis. If you do this successfully, you’ll have a winning recipe which results in the reduction of bias in hiring. Diversity is built into the culture and hires are prepared for the job when you have a processes guided by clear objectives tracked over time. Finally, if you have any questions feel free to reach out to the experts at Workforce Lifecycle Analytics. Happy hiring!

Other relevant hiring diversity resources:

Diversity in the workplace is a hot topic right now. But how can your business ensure that hiring the best people coincides with building a diverse office?

Disclaimer: This post does not replace legal counsel.

Article by

Brandon Jordan
Brandon Jordan

As founder of WLA, Brandon leverages his experience in talent and organizational development to help businesses grow. Prior to WLA, Brandon worked for Willis Towers Watson, IBM, Kenexa, and Batrus Hollweg Intl. Brandon has a BA in Psychology from the University of North Texas and an MA in Industrial & Organizational Psychology from the University of Tulsa.

Leave a Reply