Diversity and inclusion: How executive search firms help

20 May 2022

You’ll find diversity and inclusion (D&I) sitting on top of most HR or talent professional’s agendas. It’s a conversation I’m having with clients daily. And rightly so.

Yet finding and attracting diverse talent remains a challenge; especially given the skills and talent shortages that exist across so many sectors. But what we’re often seeing is those organisations bold enough to make the less obvious choice at a leadership level are also gaining a competitive advantage.

No matter the role or sector, an executive search firm’s job is always to find the best possible person for the role at hand and at NSCG we believe this is synonymous with progressing the D&I agenda.

Here’s how:

1) We break sector silos

Widening the talent pool is an absolute must if you want to improve diversity outcomes. What often happens is that hiring managers look for people with similar sector experience. What this effectively means is that everyone is fishing in the same pond for the same, homogenous groups of people. We don’t. Sector knowledge can be an important consideration in talent acquisition but too much emphasis can be placed on this. Particularly at a leadership level, more focus needs to be placed on the capabilities of the individual to bring success in any given role. We spread and expand our search out to other industries assessing the skills, experience and abilities that matter most to avoid missing out on top talent.

2) We rethink requirements

Doing things ‘because that’s how you’ve always done it’ can be a major stumbling block in hiring the best possible leaders. It’s easy to get bogged down with excessive requirements that may not have been reviewed for years. Typically, if the person doesn’t tick all the boxes, chances are they may well not be considered. But if you want the best people leading your business, you need to be open minded. The best search firms will constructively challenge the thinking of requirements to make sure they’re relevant rather than needlessly restrictive. We’ve worked with countless clients over decades so know when a recruitment model is stale.

3) We undo unconscious bias

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but we can all be guilty of unconscious bias. It can creep in without us realising it. Even when looking at ‘anonymous’ CVs there can be small details within them – perhaps the business school they were trained at or an out of work interest – that can make you subconsciously warm to or disfavour the individual.

Good executive search firms will be able to provide advice and guidance on minimising unconscious bias throughout the CV screening,  interview and selection process. And a great executive search firm can also advise on the best scientifically proven assessment tools to use, which will help provide objectivity and consistency. This is where we can help

4) We support candidates all the way

During the selection process, the best executive search consultants will provide appropriate support to candidates too. We invest time preparing each candidate for interview and guide them step by step through the process. We make sure they have the opportunity to disclose any specific concerns they may have. This is particularly important for candidates from diverse backgrounds. We also can signpost and provide access to networks and mentoring, the lack of which is a known drag on achieving a diverse pool of talent at senior leadership levels.


It’s a multifaceted, complex challenge that will take generations to overcome. But real change must come from the top which is why it’s so important that executive search firms step up to help level the playing field.

Want to find out how we can help bring diversity to your leadership team? Get in touch.

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