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March 6, 2024
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      5 min read
      Max Armbruster
      Max Armbruster
      CEO Talkpush

      Incorporating Diversity and Inclusion in Recruitment

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      In this podcast episode, Max learns about diversity and inclusion in recruitment from Cynthia Owyoung, author of the book "All Are Welcome: How to Build a Real Workplace Culture of Inclusion that Delivers Results". According to Cynthia, you don’t need to be a big corporation to incorporate diversity and inclusion in recruitment. Find out in this episode why diversity and inclusion are a must for every company that is aiming for a competitive advantage.



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      Don't feel like listening? You can read the entire transcript right here. 👇


      Max: Hello, and welcome back to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. I'm your host Max Ambruster and today I'm delighted to welcome on the show, Cynthia Owyoung, who is the author of a new book “All are welcome - how to build a real workplace culture of inclusion that delivers results.” And we're going to be speaking about, well, the results, mainly, and how talent acquisition can drive that. And how the field has changed over the last 20 years. Because Cindy has been in the space for a long time and has seen the world change. So, Cindy, welcome to the show.

      Thank you so much, Max, for having me. I'm excited to have the conversation with you.

      Yeah, thanks for coming. And congrats on the new book. Before we get into the book and the lessons, could you share with me and with my audience, our audience, your curriculum and how you ended up in the beautiful world of inclusion?

      It's a great question, I did not have a very straight path to it, it was a little bit roundabout and curvy. I started my career actually in marketing, I worked for ad agencies doing consumer research and strategic branding. But after a decade of that, I decided it wasn't that fulfilling. And I wanted to do something that would feed my soul a little bit more than just selling products to people, that sometimes they didn't actually need. So, I went to grad school intending to start my own nonprofit, because I have a brother who is developmentally disabled. And, you know, being Asian, and having a disability in the Asian community, culturally, that can be very taboo. And so, you know, my brother being an adult, he had aged out of a lot of services that are given to children under the age of 18. And I…still on my life plan, I'm still going to do a nonprofit that supports adults in the Asian community with developmental disability.

      But I decided to put it off because I met some folks who did diversity and inclusion work inside companies. And once I heard what they did, which was you know, I mean, they work to create access and inclusion for everyone and equal opportunities. I thought to myself, well, that's what I want to do, right? That's something where I can make a positive difference in the world, employ people like my brother, and really open doors, instead of being the one that knocks on them all the time. So, I made the switch. I got my first job in diversity management at a company called Intuit, which does financial tax software, and have been lucky enough since then, for almost 20 years now to work in several types of tech-companies, media, global, startup, gone into financial services. And now, written the book.

      Yeah. And because we haven't dropped all the names after into it, but I will mention them, Cindy worked at Yahoo, GitHub, Charles Schwab. And most recently Ability Path and in Robin Hood, so quite a resume. And many beautiful companies, I think that have had, you know, leaders in their field. Of course, not everybody can afford to have a Head of Diversity and inclusion, can have an officer like small company like myself, 50 employees, I think, I have to be the Head of Diversity myself. So, yeah, is there a way for companies that are on the smaller range, side of the range to, to think about, okay, what do I do about diversity and inclusion? And who should be in charge? Should somebody be in charge? And I what point do I hire? Can I afford to hire someone?

      Really good question. So yes, absolutely. And you know, it's funny that you mentioned that you should be the Head of Diversity and Inclusion at your company, because yes, you should. And you actually find a lot more leaders these days are taking up that mantle from…in a very official status, right? The CEO of Nielsen, which is a marketing measurement company, here in the US, that I think operates globally as well. Their CEO announced a few years ago that he was the chief diversity officer for the company. And that's definitely a growing trend, others CEOs have made very similar kinds of statements. And it's important because it's important to have the senior most leaders of any company, whether you're small, 15 people or 100,000 people, really committed to supporting diversity and inclusion, because your employees take their signal from that, right? If they hear that you care about the space, then they're going to be more accountable to supporting the space.

      And you know, any company like you don't actually have to have a dedicated person, you don't have to necessarily have a huge budget for this, like, there's lots of low cost ways to incorporate this into your company, whether that is taking advantage of free training and online seminars that are out there, or even just like buying things like my book, right, and having a book club to have a conversation about different concepts around diversity, equity and inclusion, you know, thinking about who you're hiring, and where you're hiring from. Any hiring manager has decision making power over that, right? And I can really think about how to incorporate that diverse lens into how they're sourcing for candidates and how they're considering competencies in the space and who they want, to what perspective they want to add to their team. So, all of these ways are ways in which the, you know, no cost, no real like, you know, effort to do other than being intentional about it.

      Great, well, let's get into recruitment since that's our focus on the show. And so the intention of you set on sourcing, as well as on the selection front, you know, being more opening the door to other groups. The sourcing question is difficult, it's a little technical, because on one hand, you could say, well, I'm going to open the door by basically communicating jobs to as many people as possible using popular channels like social media to just get the word out, and so that we're not really restricted to word of mouth referral networks. Another approach would be intentionally to say, okay, I'm going to go look for people who are hearing impaired and neurodivergent and, you know, work at home moms, and all kinds of categories, and that, then that becomes like, a very difficult endeavor, because you don't necessarily find these pockets. I don't know, I perhaps…Pardon my ignorance, but I don't know if there was even such marketplaces available to recruiters where they can go and pick by category by category if they wanted to do so.

      Not quite like that. But there are definitely ways to, I think you can actually do both, right. I think it's important to like get the word out to as wide an audience as possible, right, so that you can find the best talent from the available pool, right? I mean, that's everyone's goal, right? They want to hire the best person, the most qualified person for their jobs. The question is always like, have you actually put out a wide enough net to capture the interest of the most qualified best person for your job? And do you define, you know, an effective sourcing process, as you know, looking for diversity within that? I do, I think most companies should, right. And what you can do in terms of like, sourcing, specifically for people of very, you know, specific and different backgrounds, is you can look for organizations that produce pipeline around that.

      There's lots of technology platforms these days that actually provide matching algorithms for people from diverse backgrounds to different jobs. Some of them are targeted by gender, some of them are targeted by race, others are targeted by disability, and others for you know, even, you know, people with military backgrounds, right. So, there's a wide variety of those types of companies. You know, depending on the events that you might, you know, want to recruit from, if you're looking for something is very specialized, right, lots of tech companies, as an example, go to tech conferences. And there are conferences that are very dedicated to like, you know, Afro-tech is for the black community, Grace Hopper, which is a worldwide recruiting event for women technologists, right, like there are definitely if you do your research, there are different places that you can go to, to really find and target the diverse set of backgrounds who might, you know, be sources of talent for your roles.

      Yeah, that's that, you know, those resources, of course, there's a lot more of them in North America and other places. So, again, I think maybe those marketplaces and those talent pools aren't so and technologies are a lot of them have been designed with the North American market in mind. But as we were saying before we started recording, every country has its own battles to fight, and they're different from market to market. And so, you might not have as many resources available in other parts of the world, but you can still fight your local battles. Can you share some of the battles that you've had on the global scene and how that's different than the ones you fight back home?

      Yeah, you know, it's a, you know, mind you, like, over the course of my 20-year career, I've seen a lot, right in different places, and a lot of positive progressive change as well, that has come, for instance, I remember, you know, back in 2008, right, like in India, as an example, LGBTQ being LGBTQ was against the law. Right. And so, people didn't feel safe to be out. And so, one of the things that we tried to do, our company that had offices in India, was to make the office a safe space for people who were LGBTQ, and where they could be out and be their authentic selves. Yeah, at least within our community, even if they couldn't be that outside of it, right. And, you know, there's lots of places around the world where it's still against the law to be identified as LGBTQ.

      And so that's like, one very tangible way that people can define that and then look for, you know, those networks of folks that you can have as your support communities, but also as your hiring pipelines, right. Because we all know that, you know, one major source of referrals for jobs are people who are in our networks, people we know, people that we can refer in. So, the more that you can get connected to different communities, no matter where you are in the world, the more likely you are to be able to find the talent from diverse backgrounds that you need.

      It's got like, you can kill two birds with one stone. By getting connected with these communities, you make the new hire, feel welcome and included, but then you're also perhaps reach their friends and increase the referral. Yeah. The referral pipeline.



      Max: Yeah. And would you, would you agree that there's been a lot of progress made over the last 20 years and that the champions of inclusion have achieved great results already? I mean, the results, that's in the name of your title. So, I suppose that's what I want to shine the light on the fact that while a lot of the talk is about, oh, we should do better, we should do better. But also, to celebrate some of the progress that's been made so far. Would you mind sharing a few examples in the, you know, for I don't know of company specific examples, but maybe numbers that illustrate the progress that's been made?

      Yeah, you know, I think progress can be defined differently, you know, in different segments and in different industries. Right. So, I think that when I look back over the course of the last 20 years, and I see progress, even though it's been slow, it's probably not as much progress as most people want to see. But there has definitely been progress in terms of like, the raise level of conversation dialogue around diversity issues in this space. You look at what happened in the wake of George Floyd's murder here in the US in 2020. And how that sparked global worldwide protests in different countries and cities around the world, which was amazing to see. You talk about like the stop Asian hate movement, right that started early last year and really started kind of when the pandemic started to you know, blame people of Chinese descent for the virus because it or you know, seem to originate from China. And so, you started to see like anti-Asian racism, not just spread in the US, but in other parts of the world. And so, you know, a lot of this is no longer a within border conversation, it has to be a much broader international conversation and set of issues.

      And so, you know, companies are more dedicated to it, they've committed hundreds of millions more dollars to it in recent years. So that's one result. You see companies adding more women and people of color to their board of directors, which is another amazing result. I mean, if you look at State Street, which, you know, made a very intentional commitment, asking companies that they invested in to diversify their boards, over 862 more boards now have at least one woman on their board as a result of their singular initiative. Right. So that's a huge result. And then you take it down to the company levels, right companies that have been focusing on this, there's lots of studies out there, McKinsey puts out a great one called why diversity matters, that has examined companies across industries globally around the world. The ones that have more diversity from a race and gender standpoint on their leadership teams perform better financially, right, up to 35% better financial metrics in their results, so there's lots of good evidence out there that shows people that we are making progress, right, companies that do focus on this are making a difference. And I think it's important to, for people to keep that in mind, even though…

      It makes sense. On the results of the top, you know, higher performance, if you have a more diverse workforce, it just makes sense. Because it's kind of correlated with, okay, you're hiring on a broader pool, probably more merit-based than, you know, the network. So, you're a little bit more, you know, you're smarter about it, really, if you're opening up your talent pool, and considering more people for the role than your competitors, then over the long run, that will impact your performance, that will make you better and stronger. So, you know, without doubt, I would imagine that would be positively correlated. But it doesn't necessarily need to stem from an inclusion initiative, it can just come from just good business sense, right?

      You know, you have hit the nail on the head with that, absolutely. Because it really is, like I talked about diversity, equity, inclusion belonging work, as really, it's just good, like good business practice, it's about creating an effective as effective an organization as you can have, because I truly believe like, effective organizations have more diversity in them, right? And so, when we talk about modifying hiring processes, to be more inclusive of people, everything that we're doing is actually to help mitigate bias in that process. So that you can hire what you want to what you're setting out to do, like the best, most qualified people, right, and not just like going out and getting your neighbor to apply to this role. Or having your best friend right, it's about…

      Oh, I don't talk to my neighbors, don't worry. Not happening. But there's been a lot of work in your field around making sure that people use the right language on job descriptions and you know, as you said, make your workplace more welcoming. I want to focus, you know, one level above or a few levels above the job description, which is the company values and the mission statements and those big guidelines that companies set, have some of these guidelines and visions and values been a little too masculine in the past, where they would, if you kind of trickle them down to individual job description, and then interview questions, it would encourage companies to hire basically, dudes hypercompetitive dudes. And they've had to be recrafted in order to create a more inclusive workplace for women?

      Definitely, I think, you know, anytime you see companies that put out statements like, you know, we're an incredibly dynamic and fast-paced workplace… that that can be perceived as, you know, kind of this code for not women or family-friendly. Right. And so that would discourage or could potentially discourage more women from actually considering your workplace. It's similar like when people say things like, you know, we value rockstars we're looking for the best of the best in the field, right? And because that's typically, you know, been define, like rock stars is a very brings to mind a very male masculine image.

      Max: You don't imagine Atlantis Morrissette first thing?


      Cynthia: That's right. Exactly, exactly. And, you know, when we talk about like…


      Max: Toriyama’s Rockstar.


      Cynthia: And they are both rocking it. Right, you know, even like the best of the best of the cream of the crop, like if you look at that, traditionally how that's been defined, it's always been like, majority male and white. Right? So, those are definitely ways that you start to kind of limit how people perceive whether or not this is a workplace that I can see myself applying to let alone like actually working.


      Max: But we are fast-paced, we are dynamic, and we do want the best people. So how do I frame it in a more welcoming way?


      Cynthia: You know, I think, first off, go look for some of those inclusive language tools online that are available and start to type in some of these words, because it will tell you if they are more gender defined or gender-neutral. And usually, they will also suggest for you, you know, more effective terms that won't necessarily prop up some of these connotations that are very genderized. And they're free, even better. Like anybody can find them and use them. And I think specifically, like if you think about how do you describe your workplace, as you can always balance it like, yes, if you are a fast-paced, I get it. Right. It's better to be open about that than not, right. But then how do you balance that with? And, you know, we value balance, right? We want people who, you know, like, we're very community-minded, or, you know, I don't know what the quality might be that aptly describes you, but like, how do you make sure that you also signal things that are more family-friendly, right? And I think that that's a really good sort of principle to follow in terms of just having people on your team just like, even review what your communications are, and get that perspective, like, does this…


      Max: Can I say it helps a lot that I became a father? And you know, that kind of forces me to be a little bit more family-friendly. Because it does change your perspective on life and things. So, you know, I don't know if my people have noticed, I hope they haven't. They don't think I've become too soft. But change your perspective, in a good way. Of course.


      Cynthia: That's right. That's right. And, you know, I mean, soft is not bad, necessarily. And also, I wouldn't frame it as soft because like, being a parent is one of the hardest things in the world to do.

      Sure. Sure. No, I mean, you know what I mean. 


      Cynthia: I do. I do.


      Max: Yeah, I like to ask you, where can people get a copy of this book? And yeah, who is the perfect audience to buy “How to build a real workplace culture of inclusion that delivers results?” I suppose, you know, that could attract a wide audience of HR professionals. Who do you want reading your book? And where can they find it?

      Definitely any HR professional will benefit from this. Any business leader will benefit from this. Any employee who wants to support more diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workplaces, but doesn't know how would benefit from this. And so, I encourage people like it's available on across all major online platforms. So, if you go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, indie bound bookstore,, right? They all, you can order through any of those platforms. And all of that can be found on my website,

      Okay, great. And one question I asked all my guests is, is a question about a hiring mistake that they've made in the past, and then usually I find this to be more insightful if you have a specific person in mind that you hired, and it was the wrong person. And walking through kind of the mistake that was made so that our listeners can benefit from the lesson learned with that, because we all make hiring mistakes all the time.

      Yeah, you know, I thankfully, haven't made very many hiring mistakes. The one that stands out to me is I was making a decision between somebody that I had already worked with, right, an internal candidate who was a known entity and who I thought, you know, absolutely could do the job, and was great, but was comparing to this external candidate who had had like, incredible bells and whistles in their experience, right? Things that, you know, I mean, and I don't want to describe specifically, but like, you know, Olympian level type of stuff.

      Big numbers, all the right keywords.

      Yeah. Yeah. I mean, literally, you know, there are people out there who have like, Olympic athletes on their resume, like, this is one of those like kinds of people. And I …

      We all want them on our sales team.

      That's right. And I decided to go with the Olympic athlete type of person, and…

      Good for you. Good for you. I would have made the same mistake.

      You know, it turned out to be a mistake, because what I discovered was that, even though the person had like incredible drive and ambition, that the way that she approached the work that we were doing together, like we were just never on the same page. And so, we could never agree. And it was a really difficult working relationship that ended up you know, with her leaving the company, but you know, that's a good example of like, not being, not letting sort of the bells and whistles of a resume kind of overshadow like the actual, like skills and competencies that you really need to be able to work smoothly together.

      You know, I couldn't misinterpret the story as one where you know, you should have listened to your gut, but I know that is the wrong language to use when talking with an inclusion specialist as yourself. You should be like, no, don't listen to your gut. Listen to the interview, listen to the candidates, and don't follow your instincts compulsively either. Yeah, but yeah, maybe more broadly here we're seeing, you know, the resume was better. But the other candidate, the internal candidates, you would have had better results with because you know what you were dealing with.


      Cynthia: That's right. Exactly. Right. Yeah.

      Great. Great. Well, lovely chat. Thanks for coming on. And if people want to connect with you, should they jump on LinkedIn or?


      Cynthia: Absolutely, they can find me on LinkedIn. You can follow me on Twitter at Cindy Owyoung is my handle and or connect with me on Facebook.


      Max: Great. Thanks, Cindy.

      Thank you so much.




      Max: And that was Cindy Owyoung, author of  "All Are Welcome: How to Build a Real Workplace Culture of Inclusion that Delivers Results". If you enjoy the interview, get a hold of the book. For me, it was a reminder that inclusion and diversity initiatives do not have to be experienced as a new set of rules and quotas to abide by, but can be defined at each country and each company's level as a journey to find a new competitive edge in the search for talent. Some segments of the population are not currently considering a job at your company because of the language that you use or the message you portray. Rethink that communication in order to attract more and better talent, because that's what's going to help your company perform the best.


      I hope you enjoyed it. We'll be back for more. Remember to subscribe.




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