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Do Candidate Referrals Result in a Lack of Diversity?

Generally speaking, the golden ticket candidate for the recruiting industry seems to be the one who possesses the combination of aptitude and diversity. When, in the end, aptitude + cultural compatibility are actually better measures of long-term success.

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Play along with this thought experiment.

Let’s say that referrals do result in too much “same as us-ness”. Then, “same as us” must = bad for a company’s diversity goals.

Now, what if the “us” in this case is considered “diverse” (whatever the d word means for your company’s diversity targets)?

Then wouldn’t referrals result in an uptick in diversity?

Following this logic, if one argues that referrals are bad for diversity targets, then there needs to be context applied to the word referrals. That context being that referrals from specific people result in a lack of diversity—not referrals in general.

Whichever way you lean on this topic is fine. And if your position is that referrals do result in a lack of diversity, then it feels like context really matters when arguing why.


Generally speaking, the golden ticket candidate for the recruiting industry seems to be the one who possesses the combination of aptitude and diversity. When, in the end, aptitude + cultural compatibility are actually better measures of long-term success. (Within the context of hiring a person who meaningfully contributes, produces an outcome, and sticks around.)

Therefore, the smartest path to aptitude + compatibility feels like whatever method is the fastest and cheapest.

This is just stuff I think about. It’s not an opinion. More like me publicly journaling.

P.S. As with most complex topics, if then, then that scenarios aren’t clean and straightforward. As previously mentioned, this is a thought experiment that will hopefully start some important (and potentially difficult) conversations.

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