hiring playbook

DiversityInc’s Recruitment and Hiring Playbook: Fair Hiring Practices

If you are feeling exhausted after reading part one and part two of this playbook, you have an idea of how much work goes into hiring diverse candidates. It’s no easy feat, and it’s constantly evolving as the job market changes. However, all those efforts are null and void without the practice of continuously evaluating and improving your organization’s hiring practices.

It starts by constructing dependable processes and structures for hiring practices with every candidate. It is vital that all hiring touchpoints are free from bias for both internal and external candidates. It’s especially important to ensure that the standards, requirements, and methods of hiring new employees are clear, neutral, and unbiased.

Requiring unconscious-bias training for the entire hiring team is a great place to start, but it’s just as important to ensure consistent and fair-hiring practices with all employment decisions, including internal promotions, salary increases and job assignments.

Constantly Removing Bias Triggers

Removing bias from a human is unachievable because if you have a brain, you have bias. However, making a conscious effort to continuously evaluate how employment decisions are made will help to bring those biases to light and, in turn, provide an opportunity for change. Making hiring decisions based on the candidate instead of a protected trait is imperative to the integrity of hiring a diverse workforce.

One common mistake organizations make is setting diversity hiring goals within a specific timetable, e.g., a company may want to hire 25 Black females and 10 veterans by the end of the year. Setting a specific timetable makes room for biases because it puts pressure on recruiters to push candidates through the funnel based solely on the color of their skin or because they served in the military.

They may not be as qualified for the role as other applicants, but because recruiters are focused on a diversity hiring goal, they advocate for that candidate based on their demographic. These behaviors contradict the unconscious-bias messaging and training and have the opposite effect on diversity hiring initiatives.

Organizations have been able to do this effectively by anonymizing the candidates to remove any identity indicators or demographics from the résumé and removing any extraneous information such as year of graduation or alma mater. Some have even gone so far as to standardize the résumé format, so there is no preference given to style or color choice. The best practices allow the hiring team to only evaluate the candidates’ skills and experience and compare it to the role they are hiring for without considering factors that shouldn’t be part of the hiring decision.

Some companies ask candidates to provide work samples to allow the hiring team to calibrate how they compare someone else in consideration. These methods provide an opportunity for the hiring team to critique the quality of the candidates’ work versus unconsciously judging them based on appearance, gender, age, or even personality.

Another creative example is to have applicants write out a solution to a diversity challenge in the workplace. This method will provide you with insight into how well a prospective employee might work with other diverse individuals as well as confirm their core values on diversity align with the organization. The fresh ideas and perspective that this strategy can yield is a huge bonus to your organization and the candidate alike.

Diversity Interview Panels

It’s important to target as much diversity as possible within the bounds of relevance. People are naturally drawn to those that look like them and to whom they can relate. Incorporating diversity interview panels into the hiring process will level the playing field. The more diverse the interview panel, the more likely there will be different blind spots, sensitivities, and biases to help neutralize.

Out of the demographic factors, like race and gender, there are other essential segments to consider when building a diversity interview panel. Be sure to include interviewers of varying sexual orientations from the LGBTQ community. Involve people of different religious affiliations with varying beliefs and customs, including individuals of various educational backgrounds, both formal and informal. It’s also important to ensure you are promoting equal access for disabled personnel as well.

Although the interview panelists’ work experience is a crucial factor to consider, it’s also essential to look at their contributions to the company’s diversity efforts. Identify your interview panelists from those involved in an ERG and other talent programs, such as mentoring or sponsorship programs. These employees will not only provide a diversity of thought in the hiring process, but they also make great advocates for the organization as they can speak firsthand to the organization’s cultural aptitude.

Provide a Structured Interview Process

Ensuring that your organization is providing fair-hiring practices requires a structured interview process. It will look different for every organization but establishing clear expectations and a defined structure throughout the candidate lifecycle is paramount in hiring a more diverse workforce.

A great place to start is requiring all interviewers to be adequately trained on behavioral interviewing, gathering information and even the legalities of notetaking from the interviews. Use this time to set expectations for the organization’s hiring process and communicate the repercussions for not abiding by the interview structure. Ensure your hiring team adheres to the hiring philosophy of the organization before they even step foot into an interview room. It’s also ideal to set a hiring culture where everyone can agree that “I can’t put my finger on it” is not a legitimate reason to decline a candidate. Establish expectations that declines need to be well-defined and accurate, or the person will be hired.

Many organizations have safeguarded their hiring processes by defining a role for each interviewer, which allows them to provide the same set of interview questions to each candidate for consistency. For example, the first interviewer will evaluate the candidate’s skill set, the second interviewer will assess the candidate’s work ethic, and the third interviewer will gauge their personality. This framework provides space for the hiring team to identify who will ask what questions, providing a fair hiring practice and a great candidate experience.

Encourage the hiring team to not share their insights with others who haven’t interviewed the candidate yet to ensure that each interviewer is going into the interview with an open mind and without preconceived bias or opinions from others. Ideally, all panelists should have the same access to the candidate’s content (i.e., interview responses, work samples, etc.) so they can all evaluate the same information when making the hiring decision. If the interview process is done correctly, the hiring team should be able to review the other panelists’ thoughts and concerns once they have formed their own opinion.

Accountability will play a huge factor in the success of the hiring process. It’s critical to audit the interview notes from each panelist and hiring manager to identify any biases or practices that may need to change. Some companies audit the notes before an offer is made, but it should be done consistently and communicated that this is part of the structured interview process.

Biases appear in many forms. It’s important to consider monitoring the communications and processes used throughout the company’s employment decision-making. Occasionally, the hiring team may unconsciously push candidates to the top of the list because they meet a certain diverse trait or relate to the person more than others. Monitoring all interactions can help hold the hiring team accountable and remain diligent and conscious of bias when it becomes prevalent.

Utilize Data

When it comes to evaluating your hiring processes, data will help ensure they are fair and equitable. Organizations that successfully meet their diversity hiring goals utilize the data to track where underrepresented candidates fall off in the candidate lifecycle. It’s important to track your results and track them often. Evaluating your efforts quarter over quarter can paint a picture and allow you to stay ahead of any trends.

Start by tracking the source of your candidates through the entire candidate lifecycle to help identify how many new hires were referrals, were sourced through a diversity network or community group, job fair, etc. For example, if candidates that were sourced from a diversity job fair are dropping at the hiring manager interview stage, it serves as a good indicator that the hiring manager may need additional training and/or support.

Tracking where the declines are happening is just as vital as monitoring where the new hires were sourced. Evaluating the declined candidate data will allow you to determine if any of the panelists or interviewers are particularly persuasive, persistent, or making hiring decisions based on biases. It can also show you which applicants are properly being screened and interviewed by the recruiting team. The trends in which candidates are getting through the candidate funnel can tell you the true story of where the blind spots may be.

Utilize Candidate Surveys and Be Open to Feedback

Surveys are especially effective when companies send them to all candidates considered throughout the recruitment funnel. Send out a survey after they apply to ask about the application process and include specific D&I questions to identify opportunities around accessibility, applicant experience, etc. Send another survey to all candidates who interviewed with the hiring team to learn about their candidate experience and allow them to share with you any insights on biases they may have experienced.

If you really want to evaluate your hiring processes to ensure they are fair and equitable, you must intentionally set time aside to look at the candidate reviews online from Glassdoor, Indeed, etc. These anonymous, public reviews will lend insight into how candidates perceive your organization.

Listening is the key to truly understanding where your organization stands when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. Listen to those who have experienced your process, so you know what is going well and what isn’t. If you are not surveying your candidates, they can’t tell you where you missed the mark and where your opportunities are. It can send the wrong message to diverse candidates that their opinion doesn’t matter to you.

Final Words

With the world of work in constant flux, these best practices must be constantly considered and evaluated. High turnover rates are catastrophic to an organization as well as all of these hiring efforts. Being completely honest and transparent about the organization’s strengths and opportunities from the first interaction with a candidate will make or break your diversity hiring efforts.

Create a culture where it’s everyone’s responsibility to recruit and hire, not just with referrals but with accountability. Enable your employees to provide feedback on job ads they come across that are inaccurate, inconsistencies from the interview process and problems with your website.

Ask your current employees to partner with the recruiting team to ensure you are branding the organization accurately both internally and externally. Utilizing your current workforce to partner with the recruiting team will create a sense of belonging and responsibility for all employees. No organization is perfect, and the transparency provided to candidates from the beginning of the recruiting process will pay out dividends to all of the organization’s long-term diversity initiatives.

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