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Hire diverse candidates

Thoughts on how you might attract, hire, and support diverse candidates

Hiring is hard. It’s usually done because someone has left the team or a new role was created to handle increased volume of work. Generally, your team is really busy, and you as the hiring manager have to handle the hiring process on top of your regular workload. Your goal is to find and start a great candidate as quickly as possible and have their learning curve be as small as possible.

So, you review the stack of resumes and look for quick ways to make the stack smaller. You pay attention to relevant key words, skills, and experiences, but you also notice the schools the candidate went to and previous employers and start to gravitate toward candidates with schools and employers with which you are familiar.

You invite candidates for phone screens and then on-site interviews. Getting the right teammates and colleagues to participate in the interview process and making everyone’s schedules work is painful. You vow to get someone in the role who will be successful so that you don’t have to go through this process again anytime soon.

After interviews, feedback is returned to you and two candidates are named as finalists, one with a profile very similar to a star employee on your team, and one whose university you’re unfamiliar with and background is very different than anyone you’ve previously hired.

Who do you choose? You probably pick the candidate with a background similar to the star employee on your team – because that person is more of a “known entity.” It’s less of a risk to pick someone who thinks similarly to you and your team, was educated in a similar manner to you, and perhaps has even done this exact job before. It’s the “safe” choice.

Logically, it seems like it makes sense to choose the “safe” choice, so why would you instead pick a more diverse candidate?

  • To participate in an interconnected world No longer is our world limited to where we are born, raised, or live. With travel and technology being so accessible, organizations are doing business globally every day. Having people with varied backgrounds, experiences, and languages on your team will allow you to connect with more of your clients and international colleagues.

  • To improve business outcomes Since 2014, McKinsey has studied diversity and inclusion at more than one thousand large companies in fifteen countries. In the three years their studies have been published the results are the same: there is a strong correlation between gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity and company profitability. READ THE 2020 STUDY

  • To grow and learn professionally and personally Having a team with diverging opinions, experiences, and ways of approaching problems can be challenging, but also incredibly enriching. Studies show that diverse thinking on a team leads to better overall answers, though it can take longer to get to those answers (because you might actually spend time debating important answers, instead of “rubber stamping” the typical answers). And, team conversations are more lively and interesting when people join with different backgrounds and perspectives. Whether the conversation is about vacation plans or holiday traditions, there is more to learn when team members are diverse.

For hiring managers, here are some tips for hiring diverse candidates for your team:

  • Review your job spec and see if it’s written in the most inclusive way possible (have your recruiting team and/or other hiring managers review it, too, and provide feedback).

  • Set a goal for the number of diverse candidates to include in the interview process. If you post the job and don’t receive applications from high-quality, diverse candidates, review your job description, your job posting strategy, and company’s public reputation for supporting diversity. Devise a new plan to re-post the job and attract additional candidates.

  • Determine your “must have” and your “nice to have” candidate filters in advance. Think carefully about what absolutely can’t change (does your hire absolutely need an MBA? Will 3 years of experience instead of 5 be a deal-breaker?).

  • Move candidates through the pipeline quickly. Keep-up the momentum of candidate interest.

  • Have clear interview criteria that you’ve communicated to everyone interviewing (both candidates and recruiters).

  • Include diverse colleagues on your interview team. Not only may they ask the candidate different questions than you, but they might also offer a differing view on your organization for the candidate (while you want to “sell” your organization to a candidate, it’s also important that you give a candidate tools to learn about the organization honestly during their interview process. You want your candidate to be excited, and clear, about what it means to join your team and organization).

  • Use AI tools that can help you reduce bias in your candidate consideration process.

  • Prior to interviewing, resist the temptation to review candidate profiles on LinkedIn or to learn anything else that could bias your views before you have a conversation.

Once you hire those diverse candidates, it is your job to support your new hires and help them have the best chance for success on your team (this is what “inclusion” means and per the McKinsey studies referenced above, is challenging to get right, even for organizations with good diversity scores). Consider these ideas:

  • Take time on your own to reflect on what it might be like to be an “only” member of your team (i.e. the only person of color, only woman, only person whose first language isn’t English) and think about how you can make your team more welcoming to that person.

  • If you are a white, be aware that you have privileges and blind spots. Make a commitment to learn more, including from those who report to you and seek feedback on projects/directives from those at the company who are different from you.

  • Be thoughtful about the general banter conversations you have with your team and make sure topics are inclusive to everyone. Talking about your recent vacation at your family’s ski home might not be relatable to team members who didn’t grow-up skiing, didn’t come from such privilege, or are from warmer climates.

  • Offer additional training for team members who might need to skill up on certain tools. For instance, is a team member lagging on Excel modeling skills? Perhaps they haven’t had as much experience as other members of your team. An Excel refresher course might be a good opportunity for them.

  • Offer ways for team members to share new ideas and difficult feedback. It might be uncomfortable for someone to share a very different idea with the whole team, so they might not speak-up at the team meeting. Perhaps that person would feel more comfortable sharing the ideas via email or in a one-on-one meeting.

  • Help the new hire connect within the organization. Check with your HR team and see if there are mentoring efforts or some other program to help new hires be successful. If such programs do not already exist, consider if you might set-up coffee meetings or lunches for your new hire to meet other employees in a one-on-one more social setting.

What else is missing? What more can be added to the list of hiring and supporting diverse candidates?

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplashed

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