On Our Minds

Working with so many organizations across multiple issue areas gives us a unique view into what’s happening in the social sector. This is where we share our insights and ruminations.
Creating a more equitable hiring process
5 methodologies for a more equitable hiring process

by Michelle Kedem (she/her)

There’s no single silver bullet for building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. It requires implementing a number of best practices that starts Day 1 of the candidate search (and doesn’t end with hiring). Here are five of our DEI-optimized search methodologies.  

1. Assemble a diverse hiring committee  

To help remove the “like-me” bias (the tendency to mistake comfort or familiarity for competency) from the hiring process, it’s essential to represent as many different voices as possible on the hiring team, particularly during interviews. Your hiring committee should reflect—and the candidate should have exposure to—a diversity of perspective, gender, race, and any other number of identities. This serves two important purposes. First, it helps a candidate begin to feel comfortable and included in your organization and envision how they might fit in. Second, it also helps ensure you’re evaluating candidates from a broader perspective, through a lens that’s not biased in one, homogenous direction. 

Learn more about building an effective hiring committee here.

2. Use a core competencies rubric  

A core competencies rubric helps eliminate unconscious bias and bad habits from the candidate interview and evaluation processes. It’s a tool that homes in on the essential, specific skills for a given role, and then keeps everyone focused on them. The rubric can then be used to create an interview guide so that members of the hiring team can all ask similar, targeted questions and listen for similar experiences and necessary skills, helping ensure candidates are being treated equitably and assessed against the work they’ve done. It also puts guardrails in place that help interviewers check themselves and colleagues on biases they might be bringing to the evaluation. The result is a more level playing field for all candidates.  

For more on creating a core competency rubric, read here.

3. Draw upon a diverse candidate network 

One reason there is a dearth of diversity in professional workplaces is that executives and hiring managers do not traditionally access diverse candidate pools. Sometimes this is because leaders haven’t been intentional enough about building diverse personal networks. But, it’s also caused by a lack of creative thinking. At On-Ramps, we take a wide, intersectional approach to searching for and sourcing talent. Even when an explicit functional area of expertise is laid out for us, the first thing we say to a client is, “Let’s not focus so much on the role’s abilities just yet. Let’s think about where else this person could have been successful.” We carry this train of thought throughout the process. By orienting ourselves in this mindset early on, we’re able to really focus on bringing in interesting candidates, widening that net to those who otherwise might not have even found the opportunity. 

4. Make interviews more accessible 

Continuing on the topic of expanding candidate pools, we know that lack of time and other resources can be a barrier for candidates from historically excluded communities. Finding, applying, and interviewing for a new role requires a significant investment on a candidate’s part—an impediment that’s often overlooked by those who may not have the same circumstances. In addition to focusing on being able to meaningfully participate in an interview process, candidates also have to think of how they’re going to cover things like the cost of interview attire, travel expenses, childcare expenses, unpaid time off, accessing technologies required to engage with hiring managers, etc. This is where organizations can start to expand the use of empathy in initial evaluations to create a truly inclusive process and use this notion as another self-check method, being considerate of different societal inequalities, perspectives, and views. 

Read here and here for more of our thoughts on what recruiters and hiring managers can do to make interviews more accessible.

5. Eliminate back-channel references  

Inequities can be introduced into the hiring process through the use of back-channel references—informal references that are solicited without a candidate’s knowledge, ​​typically by leveraging connections through the hiring manager’s network. Not all candidates are going to have the same access to connections. In addition, for most of us, our networks are made up of people who look a lot like us in terms of identity and experience. Because of this, conducting back-channel references often ends up creating an uneven playing field, even if your organization is trying to build a diverse workforce. Speaking only to people you know can—and likely will—disproportionately help or harm people’s candidacies based on a factor outside their control. 

Learn more about why back-channel references are a bad idea here.

The Takeaway

Creating more equitable hiring requires the implementation of a number of best practices that address all facets of the process: candidate sourcing, interviewing, and evaluation. And, who makes up the hiring committee—who is gathering the data and making the decisions— is as important as the process itself.