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Mayes Wilson & Associates

Creating a more inclusive and equitable hiring process (Part One)

Sara Wilson, CPCC, ACC |

In 2021 some nonprofits reported up to a 30% vacancy in positions.* Are you experiencing staff changes? If so, you will be designing your hiring process. I encourage you develop a transparent and inclusive process–from who is involved to including a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) lens to guide the process. You may experience resistance, but don’t let that dissuade you from doing the right thing.

In my work helping clients plan and navigate leadership change, I’m glad to report that many people have an awareness of the importance of DEI and desire to have an inclusive process. This wasn’t the case just a few years ago. It also wasn’t very common for various staff throughout an organization to have input in the hiring process or access to candidates.

The hiring process has changed significantly during my career. Today’s process is much more inclusive and collaborative. Generally I think this results in hiring better fits for the organization and candidates with a better understanding of the team they will be working with.

If you are reading this and thinking you will consider DEI in your hiring process to “check a box” or be politically correct, maybe that is your starting point. Just know you have work ahead if you really want to attract the best minds and talents–staff and board members–to your organization. You will need to do more than check the box to be successful.


  1. When forming your hiring task force or HR committee think broadly about who participates. A homogenous group of people with power and privilege are are very unlikely to provide an inclusive perspective. Diversity–in the broadest sense–brings a variety of lived experiences to the process. So your task force/committee should include people who are varied in gender, race, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic level and organizational role.
  2. Very early in your task force work, review your organization’s commitment to DEI. If you have a DEI group, ask for their input. If you are working on making your organization more inclusive and equitable, ask these questions:
    • Does our hiring process reflect your commitment? How?
    • Examine your hiring materials. How do our DEI values show up?
    • Where is the potential for implicit biases in our process? How do we remove these? (I’ll write about this in a subsequent Ripple Effect.)
  3. Inclusion also relates to transparency on who is involved in the hiring process and decision. When hiring an executive director, talk with staff and ask for their input on the process and take it into consideration. Board and staff have a mutual goal: hire the best person for the job. Determine how the staff will be involved, who is making the final decision and how. Be transparent on the process, timeline and decision making responsibility. Remember transparency about process, input, roles of various parties applies to all hiring endeavors.
  4. If you decide to use a search firm: ask questions about their training in diversity and inclusion; how their process is inclusive; what is their rate of attracting/placing diverse candidates.

This is a broad and evolving topic. I continue to learn about how to make hiring processes more equitable. An upcoming Ripple Effect will have more on this topic. Stay tuned.

* SOURCE for workforce data https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/sites/default/files/documents/nonprofit-workforce-shortages-report.pdf

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