Hiring and Recruiting
Incremental steps that improve diversity in your organization can yield large gains. Diverse work groups perform better and are more committed, innovative, and loyal.
It’s time to go beyond just talking about the problem of workplace bias. Bias Interrupters is an evidence-based model that provides solutions. By taking small steps, Bias Interrupters can yield big changes.
We’ve distilled the huge literature on bias into simple steps that help you and your company perform better.
Matched-resume studies, in which researchers send identical resumes except for one factor (such as the applicant’s name or membership in an organization that signals something about their identity) provide objective evidence that bias drives decision making. Despite identical qualifications:
Race/ethnicity: “Jamal” needed eight additional years of experience to be considered as qualified as “Greg.”1
Gender: “Jennifer” was offered $4,000 less in starting salary than “John.”2
Sexual orientation: Holding a leadership position in an LGBTQIA+ organization made a queer woman receive 30% fewer callbacks3 and a gay man receive 40% fewer callbacks than their heterosexual peers.4
Parenthood status: Membership in the Parent-Teacher Association made a mother 79% less likely to be hired than a non-mother and offered $11,000 less in starting salary.5
Social class: A candidate that listed elite hobbies: “polo, sailing, and classical music” was 12 times more likely to get a callback than a candidate that listed “pickup soccer, country music, and mentoring other first-gen students.”6
You can’t tap the full talent pool unless you control for bias in hiring. To truly see results, you will need to correct bias at every stage from the initial job posting to the final offer letter.
1. Use Metrics
Organizations should keep metrics by: 1) individual supervisor; 2) department; 3) location if relevant; and 4) the organization as a whole and:
· Anonymously track the demography of the candidate pool through the entire hiring process: from the initial pool of candidates considered, to who survives resume review, who gets invited to interview, who survives the interview process, who gets job offers, who accepts those offers, and who doesn’t. Break down the demography by under-represented groups: women, people of color, people with disabilities, veterans, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, etc. and pinpoint which stage(s) of the hiring process are disproportionately weeding out candidates from those groups.
· Track interviewers’ reviews and/or recommendations to ensure they are not consistently rating majority candidates higher than others.
2. Empower people involved in the hiring process to spot and interrupt bias by using our Identifying Bias in Hiring Guide. Read and distribute.
3. Appoint Bias Interrupters — HR professionals or team members trained to spot bias, and involve them at every step of the hiring process.
4. Go through the drop-down menu below to learn more about how to interrupt bias during each step of the hiring process.
The application process is the first level of the hiring process. Working to ensure you have a diverse candidate pool in the application process will help your organization build a strong pipeline of top talent. Below are a few strategies to help encourage diversity in an applicant pool.
1. Insist on a diverse pool
If the initial pool is largely homogeneous, it is statistically unlikely that you will hire a candidate from a historically excluded group. In one study, the odds of hiring a woman were 79 times greater if there were at least two women in the finalist pool; the odds of hiring a person of color were 194 times greater.
2. Tap diverse networks
If your existing organization is not diverse, hiring from your current employees’ social networks will replicate the lack of diversity. Instead, tap into diverse networks. Identify job fairs, affinity networks, conferences and training programs that are aimed at historically excluded communities in your field and send recruiters.
3. Getting the word out
Let people know that your company is a great place to work. One company offers public talks by women at their company and writes blog posts, and social media articles highlighting the women who work there. If you don’t currently have the diversity to create that kind of content, face it head on with an article about your organization’s interest in hiring more people of color, women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, first-generation professionals — and your development plan to support new hires.
4. Change the wording of your job postings
Take another look at your job ads to make sure you are asking for what you really want.
· Encourage applicants to apply even if they don’t meet 100% of the criteria – research has found that men tend to apply when they meet only 60% of the criteria whereas women only apply if they meet 100%.
· Select job-relevant criteria. Sometimes job ads include requirements that aren’t really requirements at all – such as desk jobs that require applicants to be able to lift 25 pounds. This kind of language may weed out applicants with disabilities.
· Choose your words thoughtfully. Using masculine-coded words like “leader” and “competitive” will tend to reduce the number of women who apply; using words like “responsible” and “conscientious” will attract more women, and men too. Research shows that gender-neutral job postings result in more applications overall.Tech alternatives (see: Textio or the SAP Job Analyzer for Recruiting) can help you craft job postings that ensure you attract top talent without discouraging women.
· Avoid making statements about innate abilities. Gender stereotypes about “innate” cognitive abilities emerge early with research showing that girls stay away from games designed for “really, really, smart” people.This may also extend to terms like “analytical mindset”, more stereotypically associated with men than women.
· Review job ads for extreme language like “customer-obsessed” or “aggressive expectations.” It may be best to avoid using “extreme” language. Given equal performance on average, men are more likely than women to be overconfident about their performance and to self-promote more than women.
· Add information about family leave policies to job ads. This simple fix could help draw in a more diverse pool of applicants.
· List salary ranges. Pay transparency can increase a company’s number of applicants. Asking applicants for their salary expectations can perpetuate pay discrimination from job to job. Women also tend to ask for lower salaries than their male counterparts, and women and minorities fear negotiation backlash to a greater extent than their white, male peers. If negotiation is expected, make that clear to candidates upfront.
Referrals present opportunities if done thoughtfully, but substantial risks if done incorrectly. Below are a few ideas to consider when utilizing referral hiring to promote diversity.
· Tap diverse networks
Tapping into diverse networks through job fairs, affinity networks, conferences and training programs that are aimed at historically excluded communities in your field can help you reach qualified applicants that are not as well connected.
· Work with recruitment partners
Finding recruitment partners that specialize in matching candidates from historically excluded groups with companies can help with the finding and recruitment of candidates. Additionally, these partners may be able to provide support for promoting inclusive hiring efforts more generally.
· Create a strong pool
Having a pool of well-qualified leads means you won’t have to spend as much time recruiting when a new position opens up.
· Better retention rate
Referred employees tend to stick with the organization for longer. One study found that 46% of referrals are retained at the one-year mark, compared to 33% from career sites.
· Replicating or magnifying a current lack of diversity
If your existing organization is not diverse, hiring from your current employees’ social networks will replicate the lack of diversity. One study showed that “women and racial minorities may be at a disadvantage specifically because they are less likely to have networks upon entry into the organization.”
To head off this risk, keep careful metrics of the demography of your referrals pool. Make sure the pool reflects the diversity you want to see in your organization. If it doesn’t, take action quickly to change things.
· Applying looser standards to referrals
Since referrals are entering the system in a different way than other candidates, it is important to make sure you have a standardized review process. Referred candidates should meet the same job-related criteria as all other applicants. Make sure you’re not giving a pass to these candidates just because they already know someone in the organization.
When recruiters are reviewing resumes, it helps to have objective metrics that they can rely on to pick out the top candidates for each role. Here are some tips for setting those metrics:
1. Distribute the Identifying Bias in Hiring Guide
Before resumes are reviewed, have reviewers read our guide so that they are aware of the common forms of bias that can affect the hiring process.
2. Pre-commit to what’s important—and require accountability
Pre-commit in writing to what qualifications are important, both in entry-level and in lateral hiring. When qualifications are waived for a specific candidate, require an explanation of why they are no longer important—and keep track to see if there’s a pattern among waiver recipients.
3. Ensure resumes are graded on the same scale
Establish clear grading rubrics and ensure that everyone grades on the same scale. Consider having each resume reviewed by two different managers and averaging the score.
4. Redact extra-curricular activities from resumes
Including extra-curricular activities on resumes can artificially disadvantage first-generation professionals. As mentioned above, one study found that law firms were less likely to hire a candidate whose interests included “country music” and “pick-up soccer” rather than “classical music” and “sailing”—even though the work and educational experience was exactly the same. Because most people aren’t as aware of class-based bias, communicate why you are removing extracurricular activities from resumes.
5. Don’t count resume gaps as an automatic negative
Don’t count “gaps in a resume” as an automatic negative. Instead, give the candidates an opportunity to explain gaps by asking about them directly during the interview stage.There are many, many reasons people may take time off from paid work (including to care for children or elderly parents or to take care of their own health). Don’t infer that if someone has taken time off for family caregiving responsibilities that they will be less committed to the job they are applying for now.
6. Consider candidates from multi-tier schools
Don’t limit your search to candidates from Ivy League and other top-tier schools. Using graduation from a narrow range of elite schools as a proxy for intelligence and future success disadvantages first-generation students, the majority of whom are people of color. Studies show that top students from lower ranked schools are often just as successful. Whenever possible, use skills tests to gauge qualification and preparedness for the role.
7. Try using “blind auditions” where the evaluators don’t know who they are reviewing. If women and candidates of color are dropping out of the pool at the resume review stage, consider removing names or other demographic-signaling info from resumes before review. This way, candidates can be evaluated based solely on their qualifications.
During the interview process, clear rubrics and rating scales are essential to make sure all candidates are receiving fair reviews. Below are a few strategies to help structure an equitable interview process.
To understand the research and rationale behind the suggested bias interrupters, read our Identifying Bias in Hiring Guide which summarizes numerous studies.
1. Distribute this interview toolkit to everyone involved in your interview process. The law firm Ice Miller LLP created this Attorney Interview toolkit to interrupt common forms of bias in their interview process. The toolkit equips interviewers with materials to evaluate candidates based on their knowledge, skills and abilities pertaining to the position and minimizes the risks of unexamined bias influencing their decision-making. This toolkit sets interviewers up for success because it determines consistent criteria upon which to evaluate candidates in advance. The rubrics ensure that every person is rated on the same scale.
2. Conduct interviews using an interview rubric. A rubric clearly defines what a “good” candidate is, helping to standardize scoring for each interviewee and reduce potential bias. In contrast to a structured interview, unstructured interviews are “among the worst predictors of actual on-the-job performance.”
3. Develop a consistent rating scale and discount outliers. Candidate’s answers (or skills-based assessments) should be rated on a consistent scale and backed up by evidence. Average the scores granted on each relevant criterion and discount outliers.
4. Use structured interviews. Ask the same list of questions to every person who is interviewed. Ask questions that are directly relevant to the job the candidate is applying for.
5. Ask performance-based questions & use skills-based assessments. Performance-based questions (“tell me about a time you had too many things to do and had to prioritize”) provide concrete information about job-relevant skills. If applicable, ask candidates to take a skills-based assessment. For example, if part of the job is analyzing data sets and making recommendations, ask the candidate to do that.
6. Try behavioral interviewing. Ask questions that reveal how candidates have dealt with prior work experiences, as research shows that structured behavioral interviews can more accurately predict the future performance of a candidate than unstructured interviews.Instead of asking, “How do you deal with problems with your manager?” ask them to “Describe a time you had a conflict at work with your manager and how you handled it.” When evaluating answers, a good model to follow is the STAR model: the candidate should describe the Situation they faced, the Task that they had to handle, the Action they took to deal with the situation, and the Result.
7. If “culture fit” is a criterion for hiring, provide a specific definition. Culture fit can be important but when it’s misused, it can disadvantage people of color, first-generation professionals, and women. Culture fit should not mean the “lunch test” (who you would like to have lunch with). Instead, make it clear what the hiring criteria is to evaluators and candidates.One good example of a work-relevant definition of culture fit is “Googleyness,” which Laszlo Block, Google’s former SVP of People Operations defined as “Attributes like enjoying fun (who doesn’t), a certain dose of intellectual humility (it’s hard to learn if you can’t admit that you might be wrong), a strong measure of conscientiousness (we want owners, not employees), comfort with ambiguity (we don’t know how our business will evolve, and navigating Google internally requires dealing with a lot of ambiguity), and evidence that you’ve taken some courageous or interesting paths in your life.”
8. Address resume gaps head on. Give candidates an opportunity to explain gaps by asking about it explicitly during the interview stage. Women fare better in interviews if they are able to provide information upfront, rather than having to avoid the issue.
9. Send a memo to candidates prior to their interview detailing expectations. Develop an interview protocol sheet that explains to candidates what is expected from them during an interview.This can level the playing field for first-generation professionals, Asian Americans, women, and introverts — groups that are more likely to feel pressure to be modest or self-effacing. Setting expectations clearly allows them to make the best case for themselves.
Here’s a sample memo as well as a checklist of what to include:
· Outline the interview process with as many details as possible. If you’re planning on giving them a skills assessment, say so. If it’s not clear in the assessment instructions, let them know what you’re looking to learn from the assessment – “We will be evaluating your ability to use Adobe Creative Suite by asking you to make social media graphics for a fictional event.”
· Qualities your organization values because they better the work environment. Think: “culture fit.”
· Skill sets required for the position.
Any additional qualifications your hiring team thinks are important, cross-check with your interview evaluation form.
Center for WorkLife Law. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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