In Practice

How to Build a Diverse Team—Best Practices in Hiring

How to Build a Diverse Team—Best Practices in Hiring

By Cecilia Grisolia and Richard Hesky

Diversity refers to the variety of ways in which people differ or an instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities.

Equity is the freedom from bias or favoritism or something that is equitable.

Inclusion is the act of inviting and welcoming people to participate; the act or practice of including and accommodating people who have historically been excluded.[1]

When talking with employment candidates, a big selling point is company culture. We spend much of our life working, after all. Whether you are talking to candidates as a hiring manager or a potential colleague, it is important to promote how your team and company foster an inclusive and welcoming workplace. Even if “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) is not the right term for you, the idea of a welcoming workplace being an important trait has withstood the test of time, and a welcoming atmosphere is an inclusive and fair one that fosters the belonging that employees are seeking.

A team that champions DEI better serves its organization as a whole. A diverse team means a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, and worldviews are represented, supported, and encouraged. This allows for a collaborative and innovative approach, and studies have linked diverse teams to increased company performance.[2,3] Ensuring equitable treatment for and inclusion of your team members means that everyone’s unique voice is heard, resources are available and accessible for everyone to be successful, and your work environment is fair and productive and meets the varied needs of all employees.

Looking at 1,000 large companies across 15 countries, McKinsey found that there is often a relationship between team diversity and business performance.[4] Considering DEI in your approaches can improve current talent acquisition processes, employee engagement, and trust in leadership.

A few examples from recent hiring

In our work as recruiters, we have seen time and time again that DEI efforts, or lack thereof, can make or break a search. Below are three real-life scenarios.

A Success: Last summer, our startup client was looking to expand their team. The founding members quickly realized that in order to continue fostering a healthy company culture and building a well-rounded team, they needed their next hire to be from a diverse background. We were able to source such a candidate, who has proved herself to be an asset to the organization.

A Shortfall: While evaluating a role, a trusted candidate shared with us that although the job description was interesting, she was concerned by the lack of women on the company’s executive team. She saw the underrepresentation as an indicator of a lack of equity and inclusion within the company and declined to move forward. 

Another perspective: We spoke with a candidate working in a small town who voiced concern over the lack of an Asian community in her immediate area. She enjoyed her role and generally had positive feelings about her company but felt isolated on a personal level. Her hope was to work remotely for them from a larger city where she would have a sense of community and remain engaged with her company. Because the company refused to consider this, they risk losing her if she decides to relocate. 

What you can do

We have compiled our advice for building a diverse team here. Read on to see how Ezra Penland recruiters suggest hiring managers can bring a DEI-oriented approach to building and leading their teams.

Day-to-day DEI

Set your staff up for success! Yes, your actuaries want to work hard, and they need to be in an environment where they can do so in a way that meets their needs. Employees are more than the sum of the tasks that they perform. They are whole people with lives external to the organization that cuts them a check, and some of the things that make them unique are things that they cannot “leave at the door.”

By recognizing your employees for who they are and what they bring the organization, you can create a workplace where people feel welcome and valued, allowing for peak performance. Knowing their voices are wanted and encouraged through a variety of channels, they will share their thoughts and ideas that can drive your company forward.

The actuarial community is small. Word travels quickly, and your reputation will impact your hiring down the line. A company with a good culture that empowers and respects a variety of thoughts will be known as a company people want to join—and remain.

Your goal, as a leader, is for your team to feel positive and supported, and for desired talent to already know of your great environment when you are ready to build out your team.

Listen to your current team and prospective candidates’ wants, needs, and feedback. Foster opportunities to gather and see the potential in constructive comments and criticism. Incremental steps toward improved DEI efforts are appreciated. A 2022 Deloitte survey found that satisfaction with employers’ diversity and inclusivity efforts ranks significantly in Millennials’ and Gen Zs’ decisions to stay for more than five years.[5] Your company culture and associated DEI efforts ripple outward and influence your company’s reputation among your employees and their peers.

It is imperative that you are both upfront and truthful. Make your DEI efforts clear in the way that you present your company culture to prospective candidates and remain transparent with your current team members regarding DEI initiatives. Connecting your goals and public statements with your actions matters for external and internal credibility and trust.

Affinity organizations

Get to know and support actuarial affinity organizations. Your involvement will give you access to incredible educational resources and will benefit you in the long-term with more visibility to diverse candidates. It provides much-needed support to volunteer organizations that serve the actuarial community. Your organization can get involved through sponsorship, volunteer opportunities, participation in events such as meetings or webinars, and by interacting on social media.Allocating time and funds to afford your team the opportunity to join or participate in affinity organization events shows your commitment to DEI. 

Abacus Actuaries, The Actuarial Foundation, International Association of Black Actuaries, Organization Latino Actuaries, Network of Actuarial Women and Allies, the Sexuality and Gender Alliance of Actuaries, and the South Asian Network of Actuaries are among groups making an incredible difference in the actuarial community.

Your hiring process 

Showcase diversity during the interview process 

Consider representation when you assemble your team of interviewers. Think critically about who is put in front of interviewees. If you claim diversity, show diversity. Buy-in from all members of the hiring team is critical; these individuals should see diversity as an asset, a strength—not a weakness. When discussing company culture in interviews, encourage your team to take the opportunity to share the value of DEI within your organization. To treat candidates fairly in the interview process, design a standard process with the numbers and types of interviews, people involved, technologies used, and questions asked. Establishing your expectations and evaluating criteria from the get-go will ensure an equitable process for candidates and a straightforward one for your team.

Who is involved in the interview process? As the hiring manager, though you may be ultimately responsible to decide who moves forward, it is helpful to know how those who will interact with the new hire perceive their strengths and potential weaknesses when it comes to being a collaborative and productive member of the group. This equitable approach gives your employees a voice in the hiring process and demonstrates that you value their feedback.

Consider hiring remote candidates

Employers are increasingly asking employees to return to the office. We understand your desire as a hiring manager to prioritize local candidates. However, a strict return-to-office policy may counteract the DEI initiatives you are working hard to champion if it restricts your candidate pool.

Consider the demographic makeup of the community surrounding your office as you prepare to grow your actuarial team. Is there a local candidate base? Is it a place where people would feel motivated to move to? For offices in major metropolitan areas, this may be less of a concern. For those in more rural locations, it is important to recognize the potential lack of diversity. Opening your role to remote hires could make working for your organization more appealing to candidates by affording them the opportunity to work from a location where they have an established community that they are unable or unwilling to leave. We often work with candidates who are deeply interested in a company but cannot consider relocating.

Local candidates too can benefit from a flexible hybrid or remote work option. For example, parents and caretakers often favor a working arrangement of this kind, as it offers the necessary flexibility to take their children or others in their care to and from school, to appointments, and more. Many teams adapted to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, and you can apply those working techniques to create equitable opportunities for all.

Use inclusive language and policies

Equity is a key part of DEI and is important for candidates considering opportunities within and outside of their company.

In almost all instances, we find that candidates are looking at more than just compensation when considering working for an organization or remaining once they have been hired. Yes, money is important. Promote pay equity so that all groups, at a given level, are compensated appropriately and then implement policies that drive employee satisfaction beyond salary.

People make decisions based upon what is best for themselves and for their families, so consider your PTO policies and implementing family leave for all new parents. Reexamine your PTO structure and how it compares to the market. Equity can look like supporting your employees so they do not burn out. Ensure that those who observe holidays beyond the standard have adequate time to do so. While it is impossible to be all things to all people, actively considering and acting upon initiatives will set you on a path toward making good hires and ensuring employee retention.

Include only the essential requirements

As you evaluate your hiring needs, be critical of the language used in the job description. As recruiters, we often refrain from sending the complete job requirements when sharing a role with a candidate. This is in an effort to keep individuals engaged with the opportunity who otherwise may count themselves out too soon.[6] According to The Harvard Business Review, women in particular are less likely to apply if they do not think they meet all the qualifications[7]. By using inclusive and non-limiting language, you can encourage candidates to apply even if they do not see themselves as an automatic fit. For soft requirements, or wants versus needs, consider using less concrete language. Notating preferences as “ideal” is a great way to clue a candidate in on desired qualifications without discouraging them.

Keep An Open Mind

The above is not a comprehensive guide to diversity, equity, and inclusion, nor is it an explanation of all the ways to evaluate and implement it. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to DEI. The goal is to craft an approach that fits your company, captures the needs of your employees, and gives your team a clear vision for moving forward when hiring and fostering a positive and inclusive work environment.

CECILIA GRISOLIA and RICHARD HESKY are actuarial recruiters with Ezra Penland.


[1] Definitions from

[2] “DEI in the workplace: Why it’s important for company culture”; Penn LPS Online; University of Pennsylvania; March 22, 2023.

[3] Diversity wins—How inclusion matters; McKinsey & Company; May 2020.

[4] “What is diversity, equity, and inclusion?”; McKinsey & Company; August 17, 2022.

[5] Striving for balance, advocating for change—The Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z & Millennial Survey; Deloitte; 2022.

[6] “Apply to a Job, Even If You Don’t Meet All Criteria”; Harvard Business Review; July 20, 2022.

[7] “Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified”; Harvard Business Review; August 25, 2014.

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