Inclusive Hiring: 5 Tips for Employers

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Karen Catlin, author of Better Allies: Everyday Actions to Create Inclusive, Engaging Workplaces, shares tips for making the hiring process more inclusive and welcoming for a variety of candidates.

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Karen Catlin
Author, Better Allies

Karen Catlin: I was working in tech. I had a gentleman who reported to me. He had a new headcount that he was going to hire. And I said to him, "Well, what kind of responsibilities? What's this job going to entail?" And as he started outlining this job, I started thinking of Frankie. Now, Frankie was his top performer on his team to date. She had just been ranked the highest in the calibrations we had gone through, and she was ready for some more responsibilities. And I said to him, "This sounds like a great promotion for Frankie. Are you thinking about giving it to Frankie?" And he said, "Oh no, she has small children at home and she wouldn't want all the travel that would come with this job." And I said, "Oh, wait a second," you know. "Thanks for thinking of her, but that's not your decision to make. That should be hers." He went on to offer her the job and she was amazing, right? So, good, sorry. Good end to that. We try to do the best as we are looking for talent, interviewing talent and so forth. But we can kind of get in our way.

We also can have some problems with our job descriptions themselves. Job descriptions can be biased. "Hey, the CIO is looking for a right hand man to join his team." You know, like it's clear like, okay, looking for a guy. Or we might say something, like, a list of all the things someone needs to do in this job, including lift 40 pounds. Now, I was interviewing, or not interviewing, I was reviewing a job description for a nonprofit that I support. And this nonprofit was hiring a chief financial officer, CFO. And the job description actually said, "Lift 40 pounds." And I was like, either this nonprofit has really heavy pens or heavy money bags or something. Why does the CFO have to lift 40 pounds? Well, turns out that they simply copied the last job description, which was a copy of the previous one, the previous one. And that lift 40 pounds just worked its way into every job description that they were interviewing for. So with job descriptions, literally like review them and simplify them as much as you can. Remove requirements that really, if an ideal candidate would come along with everything except that one, if you still would hire someone, maybe that isn't really a requirement, maybe that's something they could learn on the job, for example. So, simplify your job requirements. And by the way, there are many studies showing that women will only apply for a job if they already can say, "Yeah, I can do that. I've done that, I've done that." They have to have 100% of what you're looking for before they feel like, "Yeah, I'm going to take the time to apply." Whereas men, it might be 50 or 60% depending on which study you look at. So again, simplifying the job descriptions down to their essence is really critical for recruiting people.

College degree required. So many job descriptions, I know when I was hiring as a tech executive, I would have that requirement. You must have a college degree. Usually, it was a computer science degree, four-year college degree or equivalent, right? Well, there's so many jobs, especially in tech today, that you really do not need a college degree. There's some benefit to having a computer science or engineering degree, but there are also boot camps that you can learn skills, there's on-the-job training, and if you're a member of the military services, a veteran, you've probably learned a lot of relevant skills doing your on-service work. And so, why are we still looking for college degrees if that really isn't necessary anymore? If it's necessary, keep it on the description, but otherwise, let's get rid of it. Why put it down as a requirement?

Sharing the interview questions ahead of time. Let people know what you're gonna be asking them. Stop trying to stump them arbitrarily during that interview and set them up for success. Because it's hard to hire talent, so why not do everything you can so that that talent's prepared, they're ready, and they really show themselves really well during the interview process. So, sharing interview questions ahead of time is great and it's also really good for people who are on the autism spectrum, who might have a little anxiety about the interview process. They have time to prepare, as well as anyone, frankly, who is concerned about some anxiety for another medical condition or simply the situation they feel they're in. "I don't look the part, I don't look like a normal engineer," whatever that might mean. So by helping them prepare, you get them through that anxiety a little bit and they're gonna show up better.

It's really important to be fair and equitable during the interview process. But you don't wanna bring people in who are from underrepresented groups because of their gender, their race, their disability status, their age, whatever it might be. You don't want to bring them into a workplace that is not going to welcome them. You want to make sure you get your house in order, that you are creating a culture where everyone can do their best work and thrive, and that's a key message of my work on Better Allies. Better Allies is all about the everyday actions people can take to be more inclusive in their everyday actions. What's happening in meetings that's not inclusive, and how can someone be a better ally so that people feel welcome and that they can contribute to those meetings? What's happening in presentations and design reviews, and whatever might be going on? So, what are some of those things? My book is full of them. I would encourage people to check them out and consider how you can make sure that you are making a very inclusive culture so that the talent that you're working so hard to find and hire can actually do their best work and thrive.