10 ways inclusive design thinking can improve your hiring

Our digital world facilitates faster and more robust communication and collaboration across borders, but it has also created a need for digital accessibility and equity. Methodologies like inclusive design set out to solve this need by ensuring technologies can be used by a variety of people in various situations.

The issue of digital accessibility was highlighted for many when remote work and school replaced traditional methods during the pandemic. You may even use accessible or inclusive solutions in your everyday work without realizing it: closed captioning on videos, dark mode while reading on your screen, or phone vibration instead of audio notifications.

Inclusive design can also be applied to the hiring process, whether it occurs on paper, in person, or digitally. But before we apply inclusive design, let’s first learn what this is and how it differs from similar concepts like universal design and accessibility.

What is inclusive design?

Inclusive design is an idealogy that focuses on reaching more people and enabling them to use products and services regardless of their background or other characteristics including age, ability, gender, language, and culture. It is a method that allows for the customization of a design, product, or technology to meet the needs of an individual user in different situations.

Inclusive design is a continuous process that often includes co-design, when the team of people working on product design includes diverse end users. This encompasses those who may not be able to use current product designs.

Co-design is a good practice for improving the diversity of the design team, but having a diverse design team — in age, ethnicity, gender, and disability — in itself is a clear first step towards true inclusive design.

A graphic listing out important definitions: Inclusive design (considering the full range of human diversity during the design process, including age, ability, gender, language, and culture), Disability (a mismatch between a person's needs and the capabilities of the tools they use), Co-design (designing with end users alongside you throughout the process, including those who cannot currently use your product), Diversity (the presence of differences within a given setting), Equity (ensuring everyone has access to the same opportunities no matter their barriers and advantages), Inclusion (an ongoing effort to ensure diverse people with different identities and identifications can fully participate in all aspects of an organization)
A graphic listing out important definitions: Inclusive design (considering the full range of human diversity during the design process, including age, ability, gender, language, and culture), Disability (a mismatch between a person's needs and the capabilities of the tools they use), Co-design (designing with end users alongside you throughout the process, including those who cannot currently use your product), Diversity (the presence of differences within a given setting), Equity (ensuring everyone has access to the same opportunities no matter their barriers and advantages), Inclusion (an ongoing effort to ensure diverse people with different identities and identifications can fully participate in all aspects of an organization)

One core framework of inclusive design is Microsoft’s three Principles of Inclusive Design.

These Principles — recognize exclusion, learn from diversity, and solve for one to extend to many — speak to developing the process of inclusive design. They assert that inclusive design leads to innovation, creativity, and a reflection of the world around us.

The difference between inclusive design, universal design, and accessibility

Inclusive design is often mentioned alongside accessibility and universal design. However, each of these terms refers to a different concept.

Accessibility is an outcome of inclusive design and refers to the characteristic of a product as being usable by persons with disabilities. Things like closed captioning and wheelchair ramps are accessible.

Universal design is a methodology that creates one single experience to be used by the greatest number of people possible, no matter their age, ability, or other characteristics. Kneeling buses and photos with text captions are examples of universal design.

What makes inclusive design different from universal design is that it is customizable and can adapt to an individual user in a specific situation. For example, being able to change the contrast of a webpage can benefit someone who is colorblind, someone who is partially blind, or someone who is outside in bright sunlight.

Inclusive design also frames disability as a mismatch between the needs of a person and the capabilities of the service or product they are using.

With this framing, disability can be permanent, temporary, or situational. A design that benefits someone with only one arm can also benefit someone who has broken their arm, or a parent holding their baby in one arm.

A venn diagram showing the relationships between Inclusive Design, Universal Design, and Accessibility

Is inclusive design necessary?

While 15% of the world’s population lives with a disability of some sort, many more experience temporary or situational mismatches with the products they are using on a daily basis. Incorporating inclusive design thinking into your design process can open up products for wider use and lead to increased innovation and creativity.

Inclusive design in hiring

The philosophy behind inclusive design practices can be extended to hiring programs and process development. Having an inclusive hiring process can make it easier for candidates of every background, age, and ability to apply and access your recruitment process.

Allowing more candidates to access, navigate, and complete the process gives you a wider pool of talent to hire from and can ensure that no one is unduly eliminated by exclusion or inaccessibility.

Another main core framework for inclusive design is the seven Principles of Inclusive Design. These principles define what the product of an inclusive design process should allow to truly be inclusive:

      1. Provide Comparable Experience
      2. Consider Situation
      3. Be Consistent
      4. Give Control
      5. Offer Choice
      6. Prioritize Content
      7. Add Value

With these inclusive design principles in mind, you can improve the inclusion of your hiring process in three core areas: forming the requisition, online hiring platforms, and person-to-person interactions.

Forming the Requisition

    1. Rethink your requirements: Does the role you’re hiring for really need a four-year degree and several years of experience in the same field? Consider the core skills that are valuable to the job and recognize they can be developed in multiple areas. For example, parents and caregivers who took time away from their careers to raise a family have developed their project management, empathy, and organization skills.
    2. Understand motivation and live up to it: Instead of asking how to hire more disabled or diverse people, ask why they would want to work at your company. Is your culture inclusive? Do you create a healthy environment for professional development for all? Highlight these factors in your job postings and link them to your brand identity.
    3. Examine your job postings: Check job descriptions and requirements for exclusive language that might be off-putting or geared towards a specific group of people and replace it with neutral and inclusive language.
    4. Consider your sources: Algorithms on job posting sites can influence who sees your postings in the first place, and hiring through specific programs or schools can create a homogenous candidate pool. Reach out to organizations like the National Society for Black Engineers or Girls Who Code who can help with wider candidate sourcing.

Online Hiring Platforms

    1. Eliminate repetition: Does your online application ask job candidates to both submit a resume and list out their experience? Show you respect the time candidates put into an application and eliminate one of these processes.
    2. Test your own processes: Periodically apply to your own postings and fill out your own online applications. Check whether the process is straightforward, the language is plain and understandable, and sites are navigable on various devices and browsers, including assistive technologies like screen readers.
    3. Audit frequently: Track candidate drop-off at different stages of the process. Is there a step where participation suddenly decreases? Scrutinize this step and see how it can be improved to decrease candidate dropoff.

Knockri’s online assessment platform can be navigated by keyboard, mouse, or screen reader. Candidates requiring accommodations can receive extra time for their assessment, which can be completed on the device and browser of their choice at any time during the assessment period.

Book a demo to learn more about how Knockri prioritizes candidate experience, accessibility, and inclusion.

Person-to-Person Interactions

    1. Let candidates know who to go to: Make the process as comfortable for all candidates as possible. Appoint someone from your team to be the go-to person for accommodation requests or disability declarations and communicate this to candidates. However, ensure every team member who will be interacting with candidates knows what to do if a candidate discloses a disability to them or asks for accommodation.
    2. Communicate frequently: Do candidates know what comes next when they complete a stage of your hiring process? Do you leave them hanging for weeks on end? Give candidates ample time to prepare for upcoming stages of the process and manage expectations of how long the process will take. This will improve candidate experience and decrease dropoff.
    3. Standardize your process: Are you using an interview method that levels the playing field and evaluates candidates fairly? Create a scorecard to evaluate all candidates against to decrease the impact that cognitive bias could have on scoring.

By implementing these recommendations, you’ll ensure more people can access your hiring process and that you can hire the best from the widest candidate pool possible.

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