People are talking every day about what it’s like to work in fields that struggle with diversity, and the technology industry is a big part of that conversation.
With good reason – According to the U.S. Census Bureau, across the United States, 82% of technical roles are held by men, 62% of the workforce is of Caucasian descent, 33% are of Asian descent and less than 4% of roles are held by people of African American, Hispanic, American Indian, or Mixed Ethnic descent.
While diversity can be a very sensitive and uncomfortable topic for people to dive into, acknowledging that something needs to be done is an important first step. The good news is that tech industry leaders are now doing exactly that – acknowledging the problem – and many are trying to take steps in the right direction. However, change can be difficult, so while diversity and inclusion strategies are being put in place, teams are struggling to find ways to move the conversation forward.
After working with hundreds of organizations, I’ve found there are four common areas where companies can stumble when it comes to building inclusive hiring programs. Again, as this can be a sensitive issue, I recommend that you talk with your internal teams, leadership, and legal counsel whenever necessary.
The first issue that comes up for companies is sourcing diverse candidates at the top of the recruiting funnel. We know that there are fewer women and minorities entering into technology fields, but the disparity in the workforce is still out of alignment with the mix of people who are qualified for the roles. So, why aren’t candidates applying for the available positions?
This often comes down to your Talent Brand – the public version of your employer brand that incorporates what talent thinks, feels, and shares about your company as a place to work. This can be heavily influenced by your online presence.
There are three places where organizations can work to improve their brand. First, do your research and see what reviews, opinions, and comments are posted by job candidates, current, and past employees. This is one of the easiest ways to start improving your online brand. When you identify and address any common themes, perceptions can quickly change – just remember to keep your cool and fully assess the situation.
Second, focus on your career site (and any external facing imagery). You want your online presence to reflect the company you aspire to be. Make sure what you put out there encourages the right people to apply to your organization.
Finally, employee advocacy – engage your current workforce by offering diversity training – an effective way to help people understand barriers, inclusivity, and best workplace practices.
Studies have shown that poorly written job descriptions can unintentionally exclude qualified candidates. You might be including too many unnecessary qualifications or unintentional language that leans to the masculine or feminine that will dissuade people from applying.
For example, words like “strong”, “competitive”, and even “ninja” don’t just drive female candidates away, they can harm your overall diversity efforts. However, using words like “nurturing” or “sensitive” can also stop male candidates from applying. Either way – using the wrong words can limit your total talent pool.
There are great tools out there that can help you neutralize external facing job descriptions, such as Taprecruit and Textio (™). These tools are designed to help ensure you use language that will not unintentionally exclude categories of people, allowing you to attract more diverse candidates.
Diversity can mean something different for your sales team, your engineering team, and your marketing team, so spending some time with each group and learning what they need can help you focus your recruiting efforts. Figure out what diversity means for each team that you’re recruiting for and then go out and actively source for them.
Actively sourcing diverse candidates can be done by creating relationships with affinity groups. This is something relatively new for many organizations, but partnering with organizations such as Girls Who Code and 2020shift will not only help you get in front of the right people but will also show your organization’s commitment to diversity. These affinity groups need sponsors, places to host events, and thought-leaders to help champion their missions.
Once you have built a pipeline of diverse candidates, you want to make sure you’re assessing them properly using a process that will help reduce bias and that means looking beyond the resume.
As recruiters, we are taught to rely on resumes. While they’re a great way to identify candidates with a pedigreed education and experience, they miss those who are self-taught and those who gained experience through less traditional means. Especially for those in technical roles – in fact, over 73% of developers surveyed in the 2018 Developer Skills Report by HackerRank reported they learned to code on their own – they are self-taught, where just under 70% learned to code in school or college.
Another problem is that a resume can inherently enable bias – unconscious many times, but there none the less. People infer a lot from a name, a mailing address, and a personal email address. Many organizations are now redacting these fields before reviewing the document. Some companies are going so far as to not provide resumes to hiring managers, instead turning to skills assessment tools like HackerRank.
This approach allows organizations to implement structured hiring – a data-driven approach – to facilitate alignment, improve candidate experience and ultimately make better hires. Focusing on real and tangible pieces, such as assessment scores, enables the interview panel to overcome the biases that can come into play (such as gut-instinct or hiring people who are “more like me”), and focus on the attention on the specific attributes that will make someone successful in a role.
In conclusion, while none of these suggestions are a holistic solution, the state of a company’s diversity can’t be solved if there isn’t a starting point. And remember, things are changing – more women are entering into the technology industry and laws are changing to help deliver equal pay. With continued attention and focus, we can work continue to move the diversity conversation forward.
Gaurav Verma is the VP of Customer Success at HackerRank. He’s responsible for building and mentoring world-class, modern customer success and customer support by developing a culture of leveraging new strategies and technologies, and fast-paced iteration.