7 Nuggets from 'The Better Allies Approach to Hiring' Book

There’s a lot of great content in the book ‘The Better Allies Approach to Hiring’ including real practical advice about how to improve your hiring process right now. These are the 7 things I want to remember the most and reference in my article on how other companies tech hiring processes are costing you talent.

1. On the Careers Page

To be fully transparent, consider putting your diversity statistics on your careers page, along with an explanation of what you are doing to improve them.

If your executive team is mostly male and pale, explain any goals you have from improving representation there, too.

If your workforce isn’t diverse at all, emphasise how welcoming and inclusive your company is through text, not photos.

Be transparent about your interview process. It’s important for women job searchers to know what the hiring process looks like when applying because of non-work related commitments as women tend to be the primary caregivers.

State that you will ask how a candidate has supported creating a more diverse and inclusive team or community in the past during the interview process. Doing so can help demonstrate that your company cares about equity and inclusion and that you expect all new hires to help move forwards with this.

Add that you don’t discriminate on ‘length of time spent unemployed’ explicitly in disclaimer to show you won’t hold careers gaps against those that are caregivers, returners to work or been paid off through no fault of their own.

2. On Job Descriptions

Limit the number of requirements that you list in a job at to five maximum, cut all the ‘nice to have’ and ‘preferred skills’ and anything the new hire can easily learn on the job. Use the rule of asking ‘if an otherwise perfect candidate came along without this experience, would we still hire them?’

This is not ‘lowering the bar’ it’s removing writing that is needlessly intimidating and forces the company to present a clearer picture of what it really needs from the person that will fill the role.

Encourage candidates to apply even if they don’t meet all the requirements on the job ad by adding text like ‘we’d love to hear from you even if you don’t meet 100% of the requirements’.

Seek managers with experience leading diverse teams, include ‘experience hiring and leading diverse teams’ in the job requirements.

Avoid requiring open source experience unless absolutely necessary to the role. Similarly, consider if you truly need to evaluate a candidate’s Github. It assumes they are writing code in their precious free time and is a sign of privilege not technical prowess.

Instead of excluding someone because they didn’t hit some mark, try to understand their journey. Be open to candidates that have not had the expected journey through university, internships and so on.

Important Stats

  • 95% of open source contributors are men and the landscape can be harsh for women and nonbinary individuals.
  • A Hewlett-Packard study found that women applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100% of the qualifications listed for a job, while men applied when they could meet 60% of the requirements.
  • In ‘How to Lead’ Jo Owen describes how men applied for head teaching roles when they thought they were 50% ready while women wanted to be nearer 100% ready before taking on the responsibility.

This is not through a lack of confidence in women - what held them back from applying was not a mistaken perception about themselves, but a mistaken perception about the hiring process. They didn’t see the hiring process as one where advocacy, relationships or a creative approach to framing your expertise could overcome not having the skills/experiences in the job listing.

3. When Attracting Candidates

Diversify your network and do it before you need it and use this network to tap into talent. Encourage everyone to tap into their networks to find people from underrepresented groups.

‘Follow 10 people on Twitter who aren’t white dudes. Chat with them every so often. Do it without an agenda.’ - Samantha Geitz

Encourage employees to be visible so others can see someone like themselves and apply. Are there actions the company can take to support them being even more visible? Remember that any time you ask an employee to take on additional work like this benefiting the organisation be sure to recognise and reward them for it and don’t overload them.

Important Stats

  • Job ads on LinkedIn attracted up to 90% of male applicants whereas Angellist, Indeed, Glassdoor and Google attracted more balanced candidate pools.
  • Surprisingly many women and nonbinary candidates use Stack Overflow even though only 11% of its users were women in 2019.

5. During the Interview Process

Over time ‘culture fit’ has come to mean ‘passing the friendship test’ or the ‘would I want to grab a beer with this person’. Instead we should be asking ‘what will this candidate bring that we don’t currently have on the team’ and shift from culture fit to values fit. This helps recruiters hire people that share the company’s goals but not necessarily the viewpoints or backgrounds of the interview team.

Ensure the candidate meets at least one person of the same gender, ethnicity or age. This will make them feel more at ease and more likely to do well. But be sure not to overburden people and reward and recognise this work.

If you want to build a more inclusive environment you need to stop letting in folks that will work against that goal. You can use questions like:

  • ‘How have you contributed to an inclusive workplace culture or community?’
  • ‘Tell me about your experience working with diverse teams’
  • ‘What have you done to ensure coworkers feel a sense of belonging’
  • ‘Have you had the opportunity to act as someone’s ally at work? Tell me about it’
  • ‘If you were to take steps to diversify your team, what would you not do?’

Jan Wildeboer has an interesting method to eliminate candidates that exhibit bias:

  • A male and female engineer conduct the interview. If when the female asks the candidate a question the answers is directed to the male engineer, they are out.

Important Stats

  • Resumes with African-American sounding names receive 50% fewer callbacks than white-sounding names as do candidates with accents, that are women or working mothers.
  • Men that apply for managerial positions are evaluated based on their leadership potential whereas women are judged on past performance.
  • Meeting someone of the same gender, age or race as themselves resulted in a 50% increase in the odds a woman would be hired for a position at Cisco.

6. When Evaluating Candidates

  • Create objective criteria for reviewing resumes.
  • Redact unnecessary personal info.
  • Use structured interview tactics such as questions focussed on skills and abilities sought after. Ask everyone the same questions in the same order.
  • Create a scale or rubric for evaluating candidates and don’t rely on ‘gut feelings’.
  • Avoid off-topic discussions about what someone liked or disliked about a candidate.
  • Ensure all members of the interview panel has a real and respected voice when evaluating candidates.

There’s an unbiased hiring checklist online on the re:Work website.

7. When Onboarding New Hires

When you onboard folks from underrepresented groups they may feel tokenised and that they were hired because you wanted a more diverse workforce not because they are ideal for the job. Take the time to explain to new employees, regardless of gender or race, why they were hired and why you were excited when they chose to accept their offer.