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The Bait & Switch: Efforts to Embrace Diversity and Inclusion During the Candidate Experience

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

In recent years, many organizations have taken steps to renew or establish their commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion by refining their public images to appear more inclusive and equitable. In their efforts to attract candidates of all backgrounds, companies are becoming strategic and intentional in their promotional materials and within their candidate experience processes. In theory, this is a positive shift in the right direction, however many candidates and prospective employees are finding that external messaging throughout the candidate experience is not always in alignment with the actual employee experience.

During the candidate experience, a prospective employee is gaining an initial understanding of an organization’s structure, culture and values. It is a company’s first opportunity to prove its commitment to equity, by treating candidates with fairness and consistency. Hiring teams can be very passionate when delivering mission statements and company values during interviews. It is relatively easy for companies to feign commitment to #DEI during this initial process because it is performative in nature. The candidate is experiencing the “highlights” and aspirational aspects of a company culture that may not match the actual company culture as an employee. This is the equivalent of showing a home with a beautiful external landscape, but an uncertain or faulty infrastructure. This is considered a #BaitAndSwitch.

So how can organizations prevent the #BaitAndSwitch?

Leadership Commitment

  • In order for a company to achieve continuity from the candidate experience to the employee experience, there has to be a real commitment to #DEI from a company’s leadership and decision-makers. Leaders must be devoted to the #DEI process in its entirety and not withdraw when things become difficult or uncomfortable. Successful leaders will lean into the process and lead by example, therefore inspiring their teams to do the same.

Genuine Messaging

  • There is nothing wrong with an aspirational DEI elevator pitch during the hiring process. However, hiring teams should offer the reality of the culture as an addition to its ideals. Using language like, “We are working on…” or “We are learning…” or “We’re not there yet, but we have improved on…” shed a more authentic cultural picture for candidates. It is also important that interview teams are as diverse as possible so that candidates can have a wider view of what it is like to work for the company. Be honest. Let the candidate decide if the company culture is a fit for them. This will prevent turnover and job dissatisfaction in the long run.

Practice What You Preach

  • Do your best to live up to your company’s #DEI mission statement. Intentionally work on your company’s #DEI goals, and set benchmarks for progress. Invest time and resources in building a brand that is equitable throughout and be open to course correction or realignment when needed. Seek the help of strategists and #DEI practitioners to help determine the proper framework for your organization. Listen to your employees who represent marginalized groups, and identify unique ways to engage your teams. Rely on metrics and feedback to target your educational materials. Handle conflicts and disruptions related to #DEI as par for the course, and do not let them deter your progress. Actionable #DEI programming will inevitably cause some discomfort, but that is the point! Commit to the longevity of your #DEI programming and you will see real results. It will benefit your organization as a whole and enrich the lives of your employees.

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