Let’s face it: Interviews are nerve-wracking situations. The thought of being picked apart for your dream job by a simple sheet of paper, and the best explanation of your entire career in an hour-long meeting, can make even the most experienced professionals have sweaty palms.
But imagine walking or calling into an interview and not standing a chance from the moment it started. Unfortunately, it is the sad fate of certain candidates due to the fact that their interviewers are biased, whether it is blatant or concealed.
The ATX Diversity in Tech Meetup, lead by Ricardo Sánchez, recently met at Galvanize for a great event discussing interview bias and how to create a blended team. While my interest in this topic is already obvious, I was more eager than usual to attend due to Google’s recent diversity memo, and to learn more about other biases that are not always immediately thought of.
Lani Rosales, COO at The American Genius & The Real Daily, opened the conversation by asking if we should get rid of unstructured interviews where candidates meet with an interviewer one-on-one instead of in a more organized process. She also mentioned different tools employers can use to analyze the copy in job descriptions, as some terms can attract or deter applicants. For example, the term “teamwork” can come off as a more feminine term versus the term “collaboration,” which is more masculine. “Manage” can be seen as a term that attracts male candidates, while “lead” is more of a neutral term that employers are encouraged to use. Giving a position a manager title can also be misleading if the position simply manages a software or process and does not manage other team members.
When looking to hire a diverse staff, it is important to know that simply checking off a certain number of boxes isn’t the best way to accomplish the goal. Businesses that have one person of color, one woman and/or one LGBTQ person in a leadership role does not automatically make the company diverse. While companies are realizing they need to fine-tune their focus on diversity so their product can grow with the times, they must be careful to prevent ageism from sneaking in the hiring process. It’s known that older applicants are not offered certain roles because companies look at them and think, “they won’t be here long.”
As the co-founder of #BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, which has a Facebook Group of over 33,000 members, Lani also provided tips to job seekers such as not putting your home address on your resume, as it can lead to location bias, and being cautious with the email address selected for the application. Recruiters should look into using tools that remove names, email addresses, and location from resumes so the focus is simply on skill set.
Cordero Davis, a recruiter at Austin-based Indeed, comes from Silicon Valley and has experience working as a recruiter at Facebook and Airbnb. He thinks about hiring as a project and focuses on challenging recruiters to change the age-old way of hiring a team.
At Indeed, Cordero focuses on generational skill sets and hiring applicants based on merit and not necessarily if they will “fit” in the company culture, as it can be hard to figure that out during an interview where candidates may already be nervous. While culture fit could be a good thing, not every employee at a tech startup cares about beer on tap and if the office has a ping-pong table.
Similar to Lani, Cordero believes it is important to be inclusive in a job description as certain words can be trigger terms and turn people away. Mentioning that you’re looking for someone to “grow with the company” can easily imply that an employer is looking for a millennial hire. Cordero frowns upon this type of hiring as he believes that if a resume fits an open position, there should be a conversation with the candidate.
Recruiters should also make the extra effort to attend as many different types of schools as possible to locate talent. While well-known institutions may have a larger and stronger talent pool, smaller colleges and universities still have students with potential who are simply unaware of the opportunities your company has. Being proactive and contacting career service departments to inquire about opportunities, instead of waiting for them to possibly reach out to you, can serve you and your company well.
It’s known that inclusion helps reveal the best talent and the best ideas. The next time you’re tasked with adding members to your team, ensure you are working to create diverse leaders who will bring great success to your workplace. If you’re unsure how to go about it, find a mentor, attend a conference/meetup or locate reliable online resources. Together, we will see our workplaces develop new strategies to improve diversity the right way.
And while you’re here, check out photos from Galvanize’s beautiful space in downtown Austin: