Hiring tips to improve Diversity
Dear Emerging Ally,
I am often approached by people frustrated with Diversity and Inclusion. They recognize there is an issue but feel helpless. They feel like they can't do anything to change things. So I thought I would share some practical things that I have done which have helped move the needle in hiring.
As a bit of background, I have been a team lead, manager and department head. And one of the most basic duties in those roles is to fill open positions. In other words hire people. As a hiring manager you often have a lot more control than you think. These aren’t earth shattering - so don’t get your hopes up - but they are things that are generally in your control as leader in the organization.
The easiest thing to do is make sure you have a diverse set of candidates to interview. As a hiring manager I would sit down with the HR recruiter and tell them I wanted to interview a diverse slate. “I don’t want to just talk to white guys” was the quote. If I have to interview more people then OK. I still pick the best candidate. But I am often surprised. And with internal candidates, even if they don’t make the final selection I often see future talent. In larger departments I make sure my hiring managers do the same. This is quick, perfectly valid and legal.
Next have a broad and diverse interview panel. Have the person come in and be interviewed by multiple people - they are coming in anyway make the most of it. Make sure the interviewers have different points of view - hopefully they are diverse themselves. Have some from outside the team - internal customers perhaps. Some fellow team members. Fellow team members are good as they know the work. It can also be an opportunity to stretch people by having them interview - a development opportunity.
Then debrief them after each interview. But debrief them individually. You avoid group think that way. You can still get the interview team together later. But the individual sessions will allow people with different perspectives to voice them easily.
In addition sitting down with the interview team ahead of time to go over an objective set of characteristics you and the team are looking for in the hire. It helps keep things objective. It also helps give the interview team a list of criteria to measure against.
Also as you are evaluating candidates think about how someone can grow into and beyond the role - even grow the role itself. You will get candidates that can do the role currently. But candidates - in my history especially diverse candidates - that bring additional skills to the role can really bring a lot of value to the team. For example, I have hired candidates that have experience as our customer - they can relate to the customers from being in their shoes. Such candidates have brought a lot of value to a team filled with technical people who only know the product from the inside. Or candidates with solid presentation skills. They have allowed me to shift work around and free technical folks from presentation duties and freeing them for development activities.
Any manager will tell you culture is important. Many times as a hiring manager I thought about how someone can fit into the culture of the team. But I now think about how can someone ADD to the culture of a team. When taking that perspective it opened me up to thinking about the interview process differently. If you are thinking about someone fitting into the existing culture, you are not allowing the culture to evolve and the team becomes stagnant.
One of my best hires was older - joining my very young team. They were returning to the workforce after raising children. They had prior corporate experience and knew how to work in an office. They brought that experience and stability to the team. Corporate changes that rocked the younger folks they acted as a calming influence - been there done that. They also were not as intimidated by the boss - I was decades older than many on the team. So they were more comfortable coming to me with issues impacting the team. This combination helped me as a leader take the team through some turbulent times.
Finally lets talk a little about job descriptions. Reviewing job descriptions is harder. But this is key. They are often taken from stock descriptions HR has around. Especially in large companies. It makes sense. They are hard to write, they generally need to be run thru legal and get blessed by HR. Hence a stock pre-approved description is much easier on everyone. But this is key. The wording on many job descriptions can lead you astray. For example words like energetic, aggressive, and go-getter paint the picture of a young male candidate. This can bias applicants, HR recruiters and even the interview team away from a diverse candidates. It is harder and takes more time but it is worth it. Reviewing and revising job descriptions has helped me hire some great candidates - people switching careers who might not have applied otherwise.
I hope this helps. I look forward to future conversations. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.