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.
Alana Althans and Imani Doyle work on computers in the On-Ramps office.
DEI: Practicing what we preach in hiring

by Yahira Cruz

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is often talked about in broader, macro-level terms as a foundation for company culture. At On-Ramps, we think about DEI not only as a part of our core values that define our mission and culture, but also as a strategic component of our work—for clients and for ourselves. Just as we are intentional with our recommendations, processes, and best practices when helping a client conduct a search, we hold ourselves to the same standards when hiring for our own team. We develop an intersectional sourcing strategy. We involve a diverse mix of folks from our own team in the interview and assessment process. We make group decisions by evaluating candidates across various competencies. And we are proactive in ensuring each candidate has what they need to feel included and able to participate in our hiring process. Here’s how we practice what we preach about hiring through a DEI lens.

Diversity
We act on diversity by ensuring we build a diverse and competitive slate of candidates. To do so, we take a wide, intersectional approach to searching for and sourcing talent. Even where there isn't an explicit functional area of expertise, the first thing we always 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.” The same applies in the early conversations amongst our own team. Orienting ourselves in this mindset allows us to bring really interesting candidates who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to find and apply for the job themselves.

Equity
We focus on equity predominantly during the assessment process. To ensure that we're hiring internally based on skill set and not on "like-me" bias, we build out a competency framework (i.e., the specific skills required of a role). Each of our interview guides—and even the way we share feedback—ties back to that competency framework. Despite how much we know about the talent market, we still revisit this framework consistently so that we aren’t gushing over a candidate without considering the level of mastery they demonstrate in key competencies. This helps us keep things equitable and hold ourselves accountable, because otherwise we’d become our own worst client!

Inclusion
Inclusion shows up in a couple of ways during our search process. The first is actively working to represent many different voices on the hiring team, particularly during interviews. We want to make sure that we reflect—and the candidate has exposure to—a diversity of perspective, gender, race, and any other number of identities. Another way is how we structure our interview process. The ability to look for a job is often a privilege, so we always ask candidates, “Is there anything that could hinder you participating in the process? Do you require any specific accommodations depending on what’s going on in your life?” By asking those questions, we can understand a little bit more about each candidate’s needs and make the interview process less transactional and more what it actually is: introducing someone to a new or different livelihood. 


The Takeaway
When hiring for our own team, we face the same challenges that many of our clients have in hiring for their organizations. We have to be conscious to acknowledge and remove our biases. We have to evaluate the candidate according to objective criteria, not because they're “like us.” We also have to take a step back at points during an internal hiring initiative and ask ourselves, “How have we defined that someone fits into this role? How have we defined what a successful hire looks like?” “Like-me” bias is a pitfall that many organizations face, and one to which On-Ramps is certainly not immune. But by using the very structures we put in place for our clients, we help ensure that hiring for our own team is a process that is just as fair.