The good news: every one of our silicon valley clients demands a diverse slate of executive candidates on retained searches.

The bad news: our clients are often reluctant to commit to the time and cost to recruit a diverse executive or, just as common, they are too risk averse to make adjustments that would include diverse candidates in the search.

We all know the challenges to hiring diversity candidates for executive roles: the lack of a deep candidate pool, gender bias (often unconscious or inadvertent), fear of hiring a candidate without ample experience, and the reality that sought-after, high-performing diversity candidates are often more expensive than their peers.

A shift in hiring strategy can help diversity searches move faster, with more economy, and with top candidates. Here is how we advise our clients:

  • To attract diverse candidates, demonstrate your proven culture of diversity. Has your company demonstrate an inclusive environment, cross-cultural understanding and room for advancement? Do you have extended maternity benefits? Has leadership embraced diversity as a priority? It is exceptionally hard to recruit for diversity if your company is not “walking the walk”.
  • The hiring team should be more complete in evaluations. Vertical expertise or educational credentials are important, but are narrow proxies for competence that limit which candidates will pass early screenings. Instead, focus on a candidate’s emotional intelligence, problem-solving, proven ability to deal with adversity, impact in prior roles, and culture fit with your organization. We have found that that the cumulative impact of soft skills are more vital for sustainability within the organization than expertise.
  • Decision-makers should accept the risk of valuing a candidate’s ambition and potential over their immediately relevant experience. Some of our best diversity hires have surprising, unorthodox career profiles, including an up-and-comer with fantastic performance in another industry and a candidate who reinvented her career for a strong second act.
  • Recognize that diversity is a difficult ask given the market for executive talent. Realistic concessions may need to be made on experience, location, compensation, or even telecommuting to successfully recruit the desired diversity candidate.

Committing to a search process for a diversity candidate can be a tough path, but is extremely valuable for our executive partners. It sharpens their abilities and it shapes company culture, bringing new ideas and decision-making into an organization. A company where diversity is acknowledged and embraced becomes much more competitive in the talent market, as prospective candidates seek out companies that support hiring diverse candidates.