Pete Gwilliam, owner of mortgage sector headhunter Virtus Search, said because people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds were already underrepresented in the finance sector, he was more likely to come across potential hires from these groups with less industry experience than those from other demographics.
Because of this, he said it could help to assess these candidates differently and not focus so heavily on traditional work histories.
Gwilliam said: “You have to be broader, you have to be bolder, you have to disrupt processes that may have long since produced as being perceived as hired on merit.
“Don’t ask someone what they’ve done, ask them what they would do. How would you work with this? What values would you bring to this role? How would that make a difference?”
He also said he was in favour of setting quotas and targets as it forced employers to look outside of their usual networks.
Michele Golunska, chief executive of Sesame Bankhall Group, agreed saying: “Don’t be frightened to reach out to people from different communities that are the ones you’re trying to target.”
She said the Sesame Bankhall Group made use of Daisy Chain Recruitment, Black Young Professionals network, Black Door and Hustle Crew when recruiting.
Golunksa also agreed that setting quotas helped firms to drive change.
However, she said it was not about tokenism or disadvantaging one group of people for another. She suggested it was about levelling the playing field in the sector.
She also said when hiring people from diverse backgrounds, it was important to look at their potential and what they could bring to the role.
“There are roles you need absolute specialism in, but in the broader sense, when we come into the industry and we’re trained up. We must recruit on potential and behaviours, that’s a really important thing,” she added.
A welcoming culture
Both Golunksa and Williams said it was not enough to seek employees from diverse backgrounds, but it was also necessary for firms to acknowledge whether they were truly inclusive in their company culture.
Golunksa said: “As an employer, you need to look at yourself and what bias there may be. What you might have and what you’re projecting in the culture that you’re effectively role modelling.
“You need to look at your business and understand where you have gaps.”
Golunksa said the look of the company website, where jobs were advertised and certain words in job descriptions gave an impression of the culture of the company.
She also said an incompatible company culture was one of the main reasons people left jobs and suggested investigating why people resigned in an attempt to improve.
Golunksa added: “If you want to know if you’re getting it right you need to analyse why people don’t stay. If you can understand where if you’re trying to focus your target on a certain group or a broad set of representation of people, look at those who leave you and why.
“Then think about how you can stop that and tackle that within the business.”
Golunksa said because the mortgage industry affected millions of people through its services and products, those who worked in it also needed to represent the demographics they served.
She said: “One thing we do know about the adviser community is there are lots of people who are maybe at the later stage of their employment and will be looking to retire so we need to bring through young blood.
“We need to bring through representation that is reflective of the consumers that they’re going to be serving.”
Gwilliam added that by 2026, 75 per cent of the global workforce was expected to be made up of millennials who were more likely to champion diversity and inclusion and this needed to be considered when hiring.
He said: “They see the world through a lens where diversity is an absolute positive and not a threat as some might perceive it to be.
“We all have got to wake up to the fact that wave of quiet disruption is coming.”