Hiring best practices often refer to the importance of diversity in the process. At First Factory, we prefer the term inclusive rather than diversity. The first step is to admit that we cannot be comfortable with hiring carbon copies of ourselves and recognize that everyone brings some bias to the hiring process. The more people from different backgrounds that we bring into our organization the better we function as a team, the more representative we are of our customers and the more didactic of an experience each of us will have. We seek to include people with different educational experiences, personal interests, social backgrounds, experience levels, genders and ethnicities. We identify where the imbalance is in our organization and the market, and keep the spotlight on those areas as we make our hiring decisions. We ensure that as managers and executives leave insecurity at the door and insist that we seek candidates who are more skilled than we are in their area of expertise. We do this and more to improve ourselves, not to meet artificial quotas.
With promoting the opportunities externally we scrutinize the language we use in job posts and job descriptions, removing terms that may suggest gender or age bias. We seek new avenues for posting positions, seeking social groups and job boards that serve disparate communities. When applications come in, we analyze each candidate against the same metrics, we do not disqualify if a profile is inconsistent with that of “typical” applicants. There are no automatic cuts for differences in education; there are no positives or negatives for a university degree versus bootcamp completion or being self-taught. Any decisions made based on those could suggest an economic bias, for example. We want to look at a candidate’s whole story and find the why behind the choices they have made, not the opportunities they were previously given. We do not want our hiring decision to be the continuation of negative biases from the candidate’s previous employers. We look for potential, not just what they have already accomplished, even for candidates with impressive employment histories. Technology changes daily, clients and product development will ensure that tomorrow’s challenges will be different than today’s. It is the passion and ability, for a candidate interested in a technical role, to learn that is what is most important. If we fail in finding candidates from different backgrounds for a role, we pause on the quick hire and identify where we can cast the wider net.
Our interviews for example are conducted by multiple colleagues, from different teams and different experience levels. If three people are in the interview, one will be a junior developer, one likely a mid-level and another a senior. The team decides which candidates have the best technical problem-solving skills and attitude to both add value to a team and help make their imprint on the company. Peer employees make the hiring recommendation, not management. This helps avoid the overconfidence bias that recruiters and managers can bring to the table, where we are so confident in our experience and therefore our abilities to pick great candidates that we can justify almost any hiring recommendation we make. It also works to reduce the influence of the halo and horn effects where a candidate attribute influences our decisions positively or negatively. This may include attractiveness, education, previous places of employment, and more. Once again we need to listen and be ready to adapt. We also ask what they would need from colleagues and management to be successful in their new job and what is most valuable to them from an employer. We take those answers and reevaluate our current policies and processes to further weed out any diversity biases.
It seems very common nowadays to rale against hiring for a cultural fit, indicating that the approach feeds into cultural bias. We would argue that if it is true for one’s organization then the culture is what needs to change; that the culture itself is not values-based and is inflexible. Culture is a great word, often misused. It requires a defined environment with the right ingredients to flourish. This constantly needs to be tended to. It doesn’t just happen and if not cared for overtime can become toxic. We need to coach our teams so that we can adapt and that our language and actions support inclusion. And we view changing our habits as growth. We look at microaggressions and work together to stamp them out. The word “guys” for example is so common when referencing a group of people. We call out the use of terms like these, in public, at the time it is said. We chose to use the term “team” instead, for example. We take the shame out of saying the exclusive term so that we all become more comfortable and accountable to change.
What we measure we can affect. Putting metrics behind hiring to identify areas where we are not attracting or retaining the diversity of talent we desire is part of identifying the root cause. We also must recognize that we are fallible, that we do not have all of the answers and that the best intent may not go as planned. We must be willing to hear feedback from candidates and employees alike, listen empathetically and take suggestions from others as to how to improve.
Fostering an inclusive culture and listening to our current and future employees is what will allow us to remain competitive and to continue to attract the best talent.