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Introduction to Diversity Hiring and your ATS

Diversity Hiring and Inclusion have become key priorities for organizations in recent years, and for good reason. Diverse teams bring a wide range of perspectives and experiences, fostering broader innovation and creativity. In this context, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) can be both a valuable tool and a potential challenge in the pursuit of Diversity Hiring. As we’ve previously written, bias is generally not a factor when hiring based upon merit. Unfortunately, we all have biases and, if a tool like your ATS can reduce biases in your hiring (be they age, accent, or gender as key examples), then you should understand how to use it.

There are other biases of course, but we like to believe anyone reading this article has their prejudices in check – there is just no way to justify racism, religious bias, disability or sexual orientation bias in the modern work world. To do so would literally be removing more than 50% of the qualified people from your hiring pool.

When used properly and given the time to iterate, the ATS feature set used and adapted to match the goals of your company, ATS for sure mitigates hiring biases and enhancs productive diversity.

Bias Mitigation and your ATS

That’s a big HR buzz term these days. With good reason. Skills, experience and accomplishments matter. In an office job environment, you want skilled, motivated performers right? Who cares about the rest. It you are not getting them from your job listings and ATS integrations, you are not using your ATS properly. You didn’t train enough on it. You are not thinking about your ATS as a tool that can be modified to solve your hiring problems. You need help. It’s that simple. You know it, we know it. In this case you are welcome to call the author biased. Let us help. Start here.

If you select the right ATS and configure it properly, much of the unconscious bias will be removed with little effort because the ATS will focus on the key words or skills you are seeking and then rank the candidates solely on candidate qualifications, skills, and experience. This ensures that candidates are evaluated objectively. However, if ATS algorithms are not designed to recognize diverse qualifications or experiences, they may inadvertently filter out qualified candidates from underrepresented groups.

An ATS can’t be everything to every company using a single solution. That’s one reason among many Multi-User ATS companies that call themselves job boards – Indeed – work less well with each passing day. Don’t worry Indeed users, they’ll fix it soon using AI just for you.

Standardized Screening and your ATS

This one should seem obvious. By having each candidate or applicant proceed through the application process and the interview process in the same way, all candidates are evaluated based on the same criteria because they encounter the same questions and filters determined by all stakeholders in your company responsible for hiring.  Sure, you can argue that bias is reduced only pre-interview. That the interviewer(s) bring their own biases.

Great ATS have solutions for that too. Great ATS enable broader search – things you might expect are included in every ATS like “if, then”, “and, or” logic. Most do not. Many claim that their algorithms prevent the need for Boolean search.

We learned the hard way, you miss quality candidates relying on algorithms. Thoughtful management of your application filters and search filters does a better job in finding that one or two candidates to interview from the 225 that applied for the job via click-to-apply solutions.

Data-Driven Decision-Making

Otherwise known as “running a report”, Data Driven Decision-Making is yet another big HR Buzz word. We have a lot to say about this (“It’s people not data” for example), but for the purpose of this article we will try and see the bright side of seeing people and results as data points. After all, if computers and servers are collecting information about people, that information is data. We guess if you are a multi-national or domestic multi-location company that is concerned about diversity hiring, and you have multiple HR departments that rarely speak to each other, you’ll need to run reports in your ATS that query whatever diversity metrics that your company sees as strategically important.

We also understand that the ability to run audits on your process and candidates monthly, or quarterly, then store those results should they be requested by outside lawyers (or regulators).

Templated Inclusion Prompts and Language

Let’s face it, the younger generations have gone to great lengths to increasing diversity through language. Think She/Her, They/THEM, He/him. It’s too easy when you are writing to forget these chnaing colloquialisms or unintentionally exclude certain gender descriptions. Some ATS now offer prompts to HR Professionals to use inclusive language in job descriptions, which can attract a more diverse candidate pool and broaden talent choices.

Generally we recommend relying  on the templated diversity and inclusion language offered by your ATS provider as they have the man power to keep up with national and local requirements.

If you have an ATS already – you might look into this in the ATS provider’s FAQs. Pre-existing biases in job descriptions or keywords can unintentionally deter underrepresented candidates and decrease your talent pool.

Training and Awareness

Some ATS provide for On-Boarding training to implement awareness programs for HR teams in order to recognize and address bias. HR teams must be proactive in understanding and addressing bias, as ATS alone cannot fix systemic issues.


The ATS and diversity hiring are not mutually exclusive; they can complement each other to create a more inclusive workplace. However, organizations must be mindful of the potential pitfalls and actively work to address them. ATS can be a powerful tool in promoting diversity, but it requires thoughtful customization, ongoing monitoring, and a commitment to recognizing and overcoming biases in the hiring process. Ultimately, successfully navigating the challenges and opportunities at the intersection of ATS and diversity hiring can lead to a more innovative, inclusive, and equitable workforce.