Why do employers struggle to find great talent with new ideas? Oftentimes it is because they are using an outdated hiring process that favors like minded individuals. To attract people with different backgrounds, this script needs a rewrite or two.
This is happening across businesses, industries and markets. Some companies begrudgingly adopt minor changes, and some race toward change with eager eyes and open arms. One such company is tech leader Slack. Slack has revamped their interview process by sourcing from outside traditional pipelines, creating competency-based interview questions, and rewording their job descriptions to create a more inclusive candidate experience.
Their success paints a clear picture: to attract a diverse pool of candidates, the hiring process needs a makeover.
The Basics – Job Description
Attracting a diverse pool of talent starts before a candidate walks into the interview. The job description is a bit like a dating profile; there are virtually thousands of companies candidates can apply to, so why should they click on yours?
Job descriptions can attract or repel talent. The first mistake hiring managers typically make is listing qualifications that are not necessary for the role. Koya Partners found that men are most likely to apply to a job if they have 60% of the qualifications in the job description, whereas most women will only apply if they have 100%. What skills are transferable and what can you teach on the job? Removing the “nice to haves” will encourage more people to apply, giving companies a wider array of backgrounds to choose from.
The language used in the job description will also impact the likelihood of a candidate applying. A simple way to personalize a job description is to take out phrases like “the ideal candidate” and replace it with “you”. Using familiar language will help the candidate see themselves as fit for the role and encourage them to apply. Also using neutral keywords that do not ostracize a group of candidates will help diversify your applicant pool. For example, using words like “digital native”, “guru”, or “ninja” might deter older workers from applying.
If the goal is to cast a wide net, the job description must be as inclusive as possible. A simple way to do this is to encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for the position. Here is an example from Brink Communications:
“We strongly encourage Black, Indigenous and people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and non-binary people, parents, individuals with disabilities, and all members of historically marginalized communities to apply. If you need reasonable accommodation at any point in the application or interview process, please do not hesitate to reach out.”
Fostering an environment of inclusivity can be as simple as including your own preferred pronouns in your email signature (even if you think your preferred pronouns seem obvious). This can encourage otherwise marginalized candidates to feel like they will be able to be their authentic selves at your company.
Everyone carries unconscious biases despite best efforts to remove them. Recruiting software such as PinPoint can help remove information to shield recruiters from their own unconscious bias. If new software isn’t in the budget, have an employee who will not be in the hiring process remove any personal information (name, age, gender) from the candidate’s resume before anyone in the hiring process touches it. This is something hiring managers will want to take the time to train on, as taking liberties with removing information needs to be taken seriously and with caution.
The Candidate Is In The Room… Now What?
Utilize a standardized hiring process. Create competency-based questions that highlight transferable skills needed for the role and then keep them consistent candidate to candidate. This will ensure each person is being assessed equally on skills that are necessary to the role.
Use scorecards to categorize the different skills/qualities that are essential to the job. These scorecards should be filled out immediately following the interview and should include specific examples from the conversation. It’s common to find a charismatic candidate that an interviewer may “hit it off” with but that shouldn’t be the entirety of why the candidate is hired. Using scorecards will help avoid groupthink, and give a strong foundation for comparing candidates.
Once you have decided on the finalists for the role, give them a realistic job preview (RJP). This will be a standardized sample project that should give them a realistic preview of on-the-job tasks. These projects should give the interviewer a sense of each candidates’ competency and capability, testing for skills rather than appearance or personality. Not only will this assist in evaluating the candidate’s eligibility for the role, it will also give candidates direct insight into your organization.
Get feedback from interviewers and don’t accept generic or nonspecific answers. Generic comments like “I don’t think they were a fit for this role” shouldn’t be accepted. This is where using a scorecard in the standardized process is immensely helpful. Interviewers can sit down and explain in detail why the candidate was or was not qualified.
Give the candidates a post-interview debrief as well. This can be a follow up phone call, a sit down meeting, or a survey. Encourage the candidates to be as candid as possible. Despite best efforts in removing various types of internal bias, there will always be blind spots. Be proactive in identifying and rectifying those as quickly as possible.
Don’t be afraid to customize and fine tune your process! Take the feedback received from the candidates and the interviewers and see which areas you can grow. If you aren’t getting the diverse pool candidates you want, don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board a few times. Be open to feedback from all directions and listen intently to give your candidates and interviewers the best environment for identifying top talent.