Diversity & Inclusion – A view from the coalface of recruitment

Having worked in financial services technology recruitment since 1995, I have seen many changes in trends and initiatives regarding talent acquisition, shifting priorities with clients constantly assessing their Return on Equity.  One constancy has been diversity.  For over 12 years, partnering with a number of my clients, I have been deeply involved with the diversity and equality initiative.

FTSE 350 boards are targeting to change their gender makeup from 18% to 33% female by 2020.  The challenge is to attract, retain and develop female talent.  A strong advocate of this initiative, as Thomson Keene’s gender diversity champion, I collate intelligence and trends from the market via forums and networks, utilising my longstanding and strong knowledge and contact base as a lynchpin and the go-to person for female talent. We aim to form partnerships with clients, assist them to build a strong gender diversity employer brand, provide them with best in class diverse candidates and ensure that they are hired with agility.


As a diversity partner, we are often asked how we can make a difference.  Here are the Top 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions and our Answers:

Is there a difference in terms of how you approach female versus male candidates?  If so what are the biggest differences?

We have found that women are often very keen to recommend others in their networks once you have assisted them.  Hence asking for referrals can be very effective as top female talents may not be so active on LinkedIn, or could be on a career break.   It is important that we show that we really understand the importance of diversity and inclusion, not just paying lip services and making up numbers.  We have also found that good video interviews can assist the process.

To what extent would you assist your clients with drawing up job adverts and specifications?

We encourage our clients to showcase their inclusive and agile work culture. Work life balance is important to all, increasingly so for both genders. Both smarter working hours and flexible working hours are equally important.   They should take care to qualify requirements such as ‘Ability To Travel’ with Local / International,  Frequent / Infrequent etc.  Essential skills versus Nice to have skills should also be very clear as females often do not apply to a role unless they tick at least 80% of the boxes.  We have found that advertisements with few bullets attract more female applicants, and recent research shows that shorter advertisements are effective.  Some of our clients have invested in job advert analytical tools to identify masculine-coded language, and to improve accessibility of the text to reach a wider audience.

During the screening process of candidates, do you see any gender differences?  For example, have you noticed any significant difference in the way male and female candidates present their achievements?

We can see no significant difference in the way male and female candidates present their achievements.  However, in Technology, female candidates’ CV’s tend to be longer, including more coverage of interests and hobbies, networking groups and extracurriculum activities.  They can be less specific and detailed about their own achievements.  In particular, female hands on developers are less likely to list all their technical skills.

At interviews, for a well qualified interviewer, we have noted little difference between male and female interviewees, though females may use ‘we’ more often instead of ‘I’.  This means that the answers could need further clarification. Unconscious bias could play a big part from both sides across the table, and the style of questions and answers could be affected.

If you were to give advice to your clients to increase women’s representation in senior roles what would that be?

Here are a few pointers :

  • Build a strong employer brand as a supporter of women in leadership.
  • Partner with well recognised consultancies to hold events and build on their networks
  • Ensure that at least one female is included on the interviewers’ list, but be sure of inclusion and gender balance too
  • Accelerate the interview process if a female talent is identified
  • Be prepared to welcome female talents back to work – track those who left for career breaks and maternity leave
  • Keep contract to permanent as an option
  • Make sure that interview plans explore soft skills and transferable skills
  • Make sure that interviewers are aware of their unconscious bias
  • Ensure that the search partners are well informed with marketing packs
  • Incentify committed search partners by creating open headcounts in particular allowing female talents additional time to apply; and keep in touch with them actively
  • Ensure that management is inclusive in all ways, including diversity of thought, so that female talents will be developed and retained
  • Increase engagement with male colleagues, and promote gender diversity discussions

In your opinion, what are the top four actions recruitment agencies can take to help companies become more gender diverse?

  1. Raise profile across the company of the importance of diversity, and ensure that the correct client marketing information is available
  2. Be proactive to build a strong female candidate network by taking part in social media group discussions and events
  3. Broaden the candidate discovery landscape, ensure part-time, flexible working options are proposed early in the process
  4. Be aware of unconscious bias


I will be happy to share more insights so please do not hesitate to message me on wwong@thomsonkeene.com.



Author: Thomson Keene

Specialist Technology, change and Digital recruitment firm.

One thought on “Diversity & Inclusion – A view from the coalface of recruitment”

  1. Reblogged this on FJWilson Talent Services and commented:
    Anthony Haynes writes: We are pleased to reblog this post from Thomson Keene. The author works in a rather different niche from our own: we specialise in talent acquisition in the membership organisation sector; Thomson Keene specialises in the financial technology sector. Nevertheless, despite the differences between our contexts, there are some similarities. In both sectors there is both a need and a desire to ensure that the workforce, particularly in senior roles, is more diverse. The post that we reblog here, therefore, provides useful points for consideration within the membership bodies sector.


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