How to Coach Managers to Hire for Diversity

October 26, 2017

There are many obstacles undermining the goal of hiring a more diverse workforce. Often, we look to the “top of the funnel” for solutions – writing more inclusive job descriptions, advertising openings on a large array of sites, and incentivizing diverse sourcing and outreach. While these solutions are effective at increasing the diversity of a candidate pool, they are less effective at actually creating a diverse workplace. Ultimately, only the hiring managers can do that.

Excluding hiring managers in diversity initiatives can often leave a recruiting team spinning its wheels. Take, for example, Facebook’s internal tech recruiting initiative in 2015. Every successful hire at Facebook equates to one point for the recruiter responsible for the candidate. The points are tied to individual performance reviews and bonuses. As a way to incentive diverse hiring, Facebook implemented a system where each successful diverse tech hire (women, and people of non-Caucasian/non-Asian descent) was equal to 2 points. The point system successfully incentivized recruiters to source more diverse candidates over the course of the year.

Recruiters were ultimately unsurprised, however, when Facebook’s yearly diversity report came out reviewing 2015 and it indicated that the incentive program was ineffective. Facebook was only able to increase its women in tech presence in the US by 1% – from 16% to 17%. The statistics tracking their diversity for black and Latino employees in the US remained completely stagnant, at 1% and 3%, respectively. Facebook’s initiative was unsuccessful, in large part, because hiring managers were not included in the diversity goals.

The takeaway lesson from Facebook’s failed first attempt at increasing diversity is simple: Hiring managers must be engaged. Fortunately, there are steps companies and individual hiring managers can take to increase successful diversity hiring.

First and foremost, setting attainable goals on both the company and department level for diverse hires helps align the mission of the entire team. At the department level, hiring managers are responsible for these goals. Both the recruiting team and the hiring manager should understand these goals:

  • How many diverse candidates are in process?
  • How many have you progressed to final interviews?
  • How many have you hired?

Providing both the recruiting team and the hiring manager access to this data creates a sense of transparency, teamwork, and ultimately, accountability.

In addition to making sure all members of the hiring process are aligned on diversity goals, it’s important to acknowledge that these hires can often take longer to successfully close. Allowing increased hiring-time for searches that result in a diverse hire gives hiring managers the ability to meet more diverse candidates. Lengthening the hiring timeline can also act as a great way to remove pressure from a stressful hiring situation, which in turn can help mitigate unconscious bias that inevitably exists.

On an individual level, there are things hiring managers can do to prevent unconscious bias from derailing diversity efforts. This begins with acknowledging that every person has bias, whether they acknowledge it or not. Once acknowledged, it’s important to alter hiring practices to reduce it as much possible, and a great place to start as a hiring manager is with the interview.

Interviewing can be a great way to better understand how competent a candidate is, and how they will fit in culturally with a team. However, informal conversations and small talk often benefit candidates with similar experiences and interests as the hiring manager. Without a defined set of questions and metrics by which to compare candidates, these informal conversations – unrelated to prior professional performance or qualifications – can influence hiring managers to choose the less diverse candidate (or the one who looks and talks just like them).

Setting up the interview process with clear expectations for each interviewer can reduce this occurrence. Start by  defining what is most important to the job – what are the essential skills? What are the most important job functions? Building off of those requirements, define the questions that will be asked consistently of each and every candidate. The hiring manager should take detailed notes on each response. These notes will provide the basis for the candidate assessment.

When it comes time to make a decision, candidates should be evaluated on their responses to these questions. Keeping the deliberation discussion focused on the job functions and requirements can help the hiring manager ensure that they’re making the least biased decision possible. And remember, hiring for diversity isn’t just about doing the right thing. If organizations and hiring managers can successfully implement these strategies, they’ll benefit from the strategic and monetary gains that have been shown to come from teams with diverse perspectives.

Talent Sourcer

As a Talent Sourcer, Kristine helps OpenView's portfolio companies find the right candidates for key openings on their sales and marketing teams.