How to identify (and solve) your diversity drop off

I watched a lot of tv growing up in the 1970s. From The Brady Bunch to Gilligan’s Island to Mary Tyler Moore, those classic sitcoms informed a lot of my thinking (for better or worse).  

One of the shows I really loved watching was The Odd Couple, and I spent a lot of time during each 30-minute episode trying to figure out which of the two roommates I was more like: Felix (the neatnik) or Oscar (the utter slob). As with many sides to my personality, I have come to realize that I can be a little bit of each, depending on the day. 

But the one idea from the sitcom that has stuck with me all these years later was presented in an episode where Felix has gone to court to dispute a charge of trying to scalp theater tickets. In it, he breaks down what the word “assume” means on a chalkboard propped before the judge. Felix is questioning a witness (hey, it’s television), and she tells him that she just assumed he wanted money for tickets he’d offered her, and he stops her short and turns to the blackboard. “You should never assume,” he tells her, writing the word “assume” in chalk and separately circling the “ass,” “u,” and “me.” “Because when you do, you make as ‘ass ‘of ‘you’ and ‘me,’” he finishes with classic Felix bravado. 

While many notions from 50 years ago don’t still hold up – like Ginger definitely had a hair and makeup team stashed somewhere on that island to look that good every episode – whenever I hear the word “assume,” I intrinsically know I need to ask a lot more questions to get the whole story. 

Flash forward a few decades later and being new to the world of talent acquisition, I’ve recently learned that making assumptions about why an organization may be struggling with increasing the diversity of its new hires might be a waste of time and money. And totally off base. 

How to know if your diversity recruiting is a leaky bucket 

Here’s one assumption that would be easy to make if you were having a hard time attaining parity in your workforce: you simply need to attract more diverse candidates. But when you dive into the analytics of where candidates are dropping off and why it’s happening, you can get the full picture of diversity drop-off and become better informed, which allows you to adjust accordingly. 

To get the lowdown on how your data can tell the real hiring story, I talked to Caitlin Bigsby, a product marketing director at Visier and a true authority on identifying diversity drop off. iCIMS partnered with Visier last year to enable organizations to better connect their talent acquisition strategy with business outcomes by layering powerful analytics across the talent lifecycle.  

It’s not enough to attract diverse candidates to apply for your position and assume that increasing the number of applicants will result in an increased number of hires,” she told me on a Zoom call. 

Caitlin explained that there are various touchpoints along the candidate funnel – including resume screening, HR interview screening, aptitude tests, and background checks – that can be affected by unconscious (or even conscious) bias. For example, she pointed out that requiring a post-secondary degree for a role when one isn’t necessarily required is an obstacle that often disproportionately affects diverse candidates.  

On the candidate end, drop-off can occur for more subtle reasons. Perhaps they encounter something during one of those touchpoints that led them to believe the company did not seem like a friendly place to work? Or maybe they looked at the number of people interviewing them and didn’t see anyone who looked like them and took themselves out of the running for the role. 

So now that we’ve established that our assumptions about diversity drop-off might be off the mark, how do we pinpoint where it’s happening and why? 

‘X’ marks the diversity drop-off spot 

“Identifying drop off without good insight into your data can be very challenging,” Caitlin told me. “It’s very hard to visualize the candidate’s journey in the hiring funnel, beginning with the very first application down through to hire.” 

This is important data to collect for all candidates coming through the pipeline, she stressed, but the diversity factor creates another layer of metrics to consider. “You do need to know whether or not your candidates are diverse to be able to identify if you have a higher-than-normal drop-off between those candidates compared to non-diverse candidates,” Caitlin said. 

Another piece of the data pie is not only determining where the candidates are slipping out of the funnel but whether it’s proactive (the candidate opted to drop out) or reactive (the organization made the decision). A candidate pulling the ripcord on their hiring journey with a company could be caused by something as subtle as a rude receptionist who makes people feel unwelcome, Caitlin said. “That might require some observation and follow-up questions with people who opted out,” she added.    

Here are some other questions to help learn more about DEI in your talent acquisition funnel: 

  • What defaults are you using in your screening process? Are they screening out your diverse candidates? 
  • Could hiring panels made up of diverse employees do better at moving diverse candidates through?  
  • Is there a greater diversity drop off with certain hiring managers or specific teams within the business? 

Once you’ve stopped assuming where and why diverse candidates are falling out of your hiring funnel, it’s time to start gathering the metrics and then interpret what you’ve found. 

How do you solve a problem like diversity drop off? 

It’s essential to choose an  applicant tracking system (ATS) that provides you with the insights you need in an easily digestible way. To boost DEI outcomes, make sure you can view each funnel stage broken down by demographic, so you have the data you need to act. All that data that’s collected by your ATS then needs to be interpreted to help tell your candidate journey story.  

Here are three ways you can use DEI Analytics in iCIMS ATS to minimize drop-off and maintain a diverse talent pipeline: 

  1. Set goals based on demographic. To set yourself up for success, define your DEI goals by race, ethnicity, and gender so you can review the progress you’ve made. 
  2. Review the progress of your open jobs. You can even view DEI hiring data by job so you can ensure you’re on track to bring diversity into historically homogenous departments or roles. 
  3. Get notifications and act fast. With DEI Analytics, you can set up alerts to let you know if you are above or below your goal for a particular demographic. 

Now that you have an actionable insight, it’s time to add clarity and focus by refining your findings. Tell the story of your problem and ensure others can clearly see the patterns, trends behind the patterns, and the positive or negative implications of continuing or replicating these problems. 

The next step is sharing your findings with changemakers to empower them to make data-backed decisions. While there will be differences of opinion, clearly laying out the problem and facts helps you focus cohesively in the right direction. Cross-functional teams excel at organizational change, but you need to help everyone start on the same page to do this. 

“People tend to focus on the candidate because they have this tacit assumption that the problem is that there aren’t enough qualified candidates coming through, rather than thinking about it as a hiring problem,” Caitlin said. “Often, the problem is not in the number of candidates but the decisions.” 

Take a tip from Felix and stop making assumptions. For good.  

If you’re ready to stop assuming the reasons that diverse candidates are dropping out of your hiring funnel and dig into the facts, download this whitepaper that we created in tandem with our partners at Visier, Problem Solving for DEI in Your Talent Acquisition Funnel.

Problem solving for DEI 

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