When it comes to hiring, you have every reason to recruit and select diverse candidates. People of varying backgrounds and experiences see the same situation through a different lens, providing unique perspectives that can improve problem-solving, accelerate results, and drive more value for clients. So, why is it so hard?
Well, for lots of reasons, including the reality that humans are prone to unconscious biases despite the best of intentions. Thankfully, organizations can do a great deal to ensure DEI in hiring. From advertising roles and sourcing candidates, to how the organization makes hiring decisions, DEI can be considered at every step of the hiring process.
Consider the following best practices:
- Ensure that sourcing activities tap into an appropriate mix of candidates
How can you expect to increase diversity in hires if you continue to source candidates from the same places as before? Remember that diversity goes beyond racial or ethnic diversity; it also includes different educational and employment backgrounds. The wider the net that you cast, the greater the chances of finding great talent. For a diverse slate of new hires, ensure diversity in the wider pool of candidates evaluated in the first place.
- Ensure that job descriptions and job postings are worded neutrally
Researchers have found that the words used to describe jobs can have a meaningful impact on who applies for the job. This makes sense; after all, if you describe a job as comprised of computer programming tasks, you’ll likely attract candidates who enjoy computer programming. Research has also shown that using particular words that have nothing to do with the job per se—such as “leader” or “competitive”—has the potential to dissuade some candidates from applying for a job. There are many resources, from free and paid resources online to tools built into Microsoft Word, that evaluate the inclusivity (or lack thereof) of a written text. Talent acquisition professionals would be remiss if they did not take advantage of them.
- Ensure that each step of the screening process is free from (or minimizes) bias
There are many reasons and ways bias creeps into our everyday lives. We are complex creatures, and our brains constantly scan the environment, distilling information into comprehensible chunks. Usually, this subconscious process allows us to process information more quickly and effectively, but sometimes our brains make mistakes – this is where unconscious bias enters the equation. Here are some ways to minimize bias throughout the hiring process:
- Resume review: This is often your first exposure to a candidate. You know nothing about the individual, except for what you can glean from their resume. This is where you begin to learn about the candidate’s education, their work history, and some of their most notable accomplishments. Your brain also picks up on things like the candidate’s name, email address, where they went to school, the fact that they worked at a particular organization, etc.; details which often have nothing to do with their ability to perform a particular job. Our brains don’t know that and, instead, lead us to draw conclusions such as: “I have concerns about a candidate with an email address of firstname.lastname@example.org. We need someone who is innovative and up-to-date on the latest trends in consumer marketing, and a candidate who still uses Hotmail and was probably born in 1954 doesn’t sound like a good fit for this role.”
To mitigate these unconscious biases, consider conducting blind or redacted resume reviews – i.e., where information about gender, school names, email addresses, etc. is redacted from the reader’s view. Once again, there are tools available online to assist with this best practice.
- Assessments: No legitimate assessment will yield a diverse slate of new hires from a homogeneous pool of candidates. In fact, using a poorly constructed assessment can actually limit diversity unintentionally. This is what is known in the assessment arena as adverse, or disparate, impact: when a process, practice, or assessment adversely affects one group of candidates more than another.
Adverse impact is most often evaluated using the adverse-impact ratio, otherwise known as the “four-fifths rule-of-thumb.” Using this technique, adverse impact is said to exist when the passing (or hiring) rate for minority group members is less than 80 percent (i.e., four-fifths) of the passing (or hiring) rate for majority group members. For example, if 70 percent of minority group members and 90 percent of majority group members pass the same assessment, the ratio of pass rates is 70 percent / 90 percent, or 78 percent. Since 78 percent is less than the 80 percent threshold, adverse impact is said to exist.
In the presence of adverse impact, the burden of proof in a legal challenge shifts to the employer to prove that the assessment is job-related. Of course, avoiding adverse impact entirely through proper assessment development and validation is the best course of action.
- Interviews: This is perhaps one of the most common places that bias creeps into the hiring process. Interviewers must draw conclusions about a candidate based on what the candidate said during an interview. From evaluating candidates more favorably as a result of perceived similarity to you (similarity bias), to allowing a particularly effective [or ineffective] answer on one question to positively [negatively] influence your rating of the candidate on other questions (halo [horn] bias), to placing more weight on responses that are consistent with your existing view and discounting inconsistent information (confirmation bias), biases abound. To address them, organizations should leverage structured behavioral interview guides and ensure that interviewers are properly trained on interviewing best practices.
- Trust the data when making final hiring decisions, and remove as much subjective judgment as possible
When the hiring process is constructed properly, hiring managers will have a much better chance of making a good hiring decision by trusting the data yielded throughout, rather than relying on their subjective, bias-prone judgment. By the time the candidate makes it to the end of the process, the decision should be relatively easy to make. Assuming adherence to the best practices noted above, the organization will hire the best candidate(s) possible and will – over time – increase the diversity of its workforce.
- Monitor and tweak the process as data become available
Over time, multitudes of data can and should be tracked, and with this availability comes both the need to monitor and an opportunity to improve the process. Very rarely will your system be perfect right out of the gate, but with proper care and attention, it can become great over time. Remember this – it is easier to circumvent potential problems with early, minor tweaks than it is to be confronted with critical realities down the road.
By focusing on DEI and the best practices outlined above, you will have the power to transform your organization one new hire at a time.