The Edge

LinkedIn wants to help recruiters do a better job with gender diversity

Key Points
  • LinkedIn has rolled out the change to everyone who uses the premium LinkedIn Recruiter service.
  • In the future, LinkedIn will go further and help recruiters see how job descriptions and messages to candidates are being received based on gender.
Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft's LinkedIn is tweaking its recruiting software to help companies improve gender diversity in their hiring.

As of last week, LinkedIn's search results for recruiters are designed to reflect the gender distribution for particular types of job in each industry. For example, if 44 percent of the talent pool for account executives in the U.S. are women, each page of candidate results for that position will reflect that mix, said John Jersin, head of product for talent solutions at LinkedIn.

The update is part of LinkedIn's effort to improve diversity in the workplace at a time when many big companies have announced intentions to balance their numbers. For years, LinkedIn's engineers blocked signals about gender in the ranking system because they wanted to avoid bias, but corporate America has changed.

"Making diverse hires is very important to our customers," said Jersin, in an interview with CNBC. "A lot of them are recognizing they haven't hired as diverse a workforce in the past as they'd like to. They want to make sure they're getting representative folks in the door for interviews."

LinkedIn automatically made the change, so it's not a setting that recruiters have the option to enable or disable. With Recruiter, search results are ranked so that recruiters find the best matches first.

LinkedIn said it ran a two-week test with hundreds of thousands of recruiters and found that the changed search results didn't have a significant impact on the number of messages that were accepted by candidates. The company is starting with gender but could go further and take into consideration additional factors to bolster diversity in other ways.

"We are actively exploring ways to layer other types of demographic information, including race, ethnicity, veteran status into representative results in the future," a spokesperson said.

In addition to adjusting search results, LinkedIn is also adding a gender section to its premium Talent Insights tool, which can show where different kinds of skilled workers are located and identify the top businesses hiring a given company's employees.

In the coming months, LinkedIn Recruiter will start helping companies analyze response rates for job applications and messages by gender. Where there are weaknesses, the system will help recruiters alter their language to make it more inclusive. There's competition in the market from Textio, a start-up whose online tool helps recruiters refine job descriptions and messages to make them appealing to more candidates.

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