That's the question that our team were mulling over with our morning coffee today. 

It's something that I certainly regard as best practice and, in my role as Chair of the DFT (Developing Female Talent initiative) at PeopleScout, is something that I challenge our hiring managers around when they are recruiting.

But why do we recommend it, and does the science back it up?

The theory

There are a number of reasons why we think it should work as an approach:

  1. It's really easy to hire in own image and have confirmation bias around people who have similar experiences to our own. Therefore one could assume that a more diverse panel would lead to less room for bias to win 
  2. Under-represented groups might feel more comfortable performing in front of a panel in which they are represented. For example, as a woman, I expect I would feel confident and be more authentic when there is gender diversity in a panel. In general, candidates like to see "people like me" when considering joining an organization
  3. To the point above, there will be some people from under-represented groups who regard the diversity and inclusivity of an organization as a key factor in their decision making. Therefore, when they see a lack of diversity in their interview panel might start questioning "where is the diversity they've talking about in their attraction comms?" or "what are the reasons for a lack of diversity in the hiring manager level in this company?"

The science 

Anecdotally, there are good news stories such as with Cisco, where "diverse interview panels increased the odds of making it through the interview process by 50 percent for Hispanic women and 70 percent for African-American women."

But, Amanda Callen, our Head of Assessment Design, explained that while there is some research going on, it's very much early days in terms of results and the jury is still out in terms of whether diverse interview panels *cause* more diverse outcomes rather than purely being correlated with greater diversity. I assume because this is rarely an initiative rolled out in isolation, but something that is part of a wider inclusion strategy.

One to watch will be the Cabinet Office's "Research into Impact of Greater Diversity in Senior Civil Service Recruitment Panels"

The risk

Amanda points out that there are risks involved, however. These include when there is tokenistic inclusion of people on panels that can be perceived as just that by candidates, and when junior, they don't even have much impact on the final decision anyway. This may of course still have the benefit of the candidate performing more authentically though. 

Another element is that it is also possible that diverse interviewers may paradoxically feel the need to conform even more closely to existing evaluative conventions which contain inherent historical bias than over-represented group members because they have ‘succeeded’ under the old system, and/or they don’t feel sufficiently psychologically safe or culturally comfortable with challenging panel members as an ‘other’.

So, where does that leave us?

Well, there are lots of good reasons for introducing diverse panels and we will let you know when we find out more. But, at the end of the day, what works for one organisation might not have the same impact on yours which is why it is always best to identify your own specific challenges.

If your organization is looking to increase the diversity of your hiring, here are some things to consider measuring:

  • Do diverse panels increase the diversity of the candidates that you select for roles? 
  • Do diverse panels increase the diversity of the candidates that accept job offers? 

If you currently don't have diverse panels. . .

  1. Benchmark today
  2. Make the change
  3. Compare the difference

Get in touch if you want to talk about how you can diagnose and solve your challenges around diversity in your attraction and selection process: