The ‘kickoff meeting’ is an important part of technical hiring. It is also usually the first time that a recruiter and a tech hiring manager get together to discuss an open requirement.
Now, let’s think about what has gone behind the scenes of this meeting. The technical hiring manager has had weeks; probably even months, of asking for approvals for this role to be opened up. They have waited for paperwork to be done, for budgets to be finalized, and are now at the table hoping the recruiter in front of them will help them fill this role URGENTLY.
The recruiter in question has come in prepared to turn this role into a diversity hiring opportunity, and has perhaps a whole presentation about strategy and tactics.
It’s a 30 minute conversation; perhaps even lesser. There is no way that a recruiter can walk into that meeting and convince a hiring manager who has an urgent requirement to throw everything they know about finding the right candidate outside the window, and use a fresh approach.
This is not a random prophecy. John Vlastelica, founder of Recruiting Toolbox, well knows this to be a fact. He has been in enough kickoff meetings to know that urgency triumphs over other values. Every single time.
So what does the modern recruiter do?
Tech has always had a diversity problem. The industry acknowledges it and we know recruiters are getting more aware of how they can help reduce the gap. The smart recruiter, however, does not wait till the kickoff meeting to effect a change. The smart recruiter creates a strategy where diversity is baked into the company’s hiring practices from the get go.
As always, this is easier said than done. Here are some of the tactics John has found to be useful when creating an effective diversity hiring process and improving diversity hiring ROI:
#1. Farm your talent pool, as opposed to hunting
Diversity hiring is not just about going to, say, a historically Black university and organizing a hiring drive to get more African American employees on board. That is what recruiters do when they ‘hunt’ for talent. Investing in these diverse student groups, and keeping them engaged even when you are not actively sourcing is what John calls ‘farming’.
Salesforce’s Pathfinder Program is one of the examples of how companies can invest in and cultivate relationships with future talent. Such initiatives provide commitment as well as opportunity for companies to engage with marginalized communities, and build a robust pipeline of diverse IT talent.
For this to happen successfully, recruiters need to be prepared. Opportunity is relative to several parameters like location, race, age, and gender. Use tools like LinkedIn talent and SeekOut to understand what the supply of talent looks like when viewed through the lens of diversity, and then create talent ‘farming’ initiatives that will help you create more opportunities where they matter. A data-driven pre-sourcing strategy like this would also make it easier for you to justify remote hiring or a relocation – both of which can enable you to hire a more diverse workforce.
#2. Bust the myth of the ‘perfect candidate’
Have you ever read a job description for a tech role? Most of the time, it is full of jargon and a near-impossible list of must-haves. This ‘wishlist’ of skill sets creates a very narrow target profile, and makes our job as recruiters even harder.
Every time a recruiter says yes to such a hiring requirement, they give away the power to hire well to someone else. Instead, ask for a conversation with your hiring manager. List down the actual – and realistic – list of ‘must haves’. These are non negotiable. Then, make a list of ‘adjacent skills’ which can either be fulfilled by someone else in the team, or can be foregone when hiring.
If hiring was like ordering a good burger, then your must haves would be the bun, the meat, the onion and lettuce, cheese, and the sauce that goes on the meat. You wouldn’t say no to a good burger just because it didn’t come with five additional dips, would you?
Busting the myth of the ‘perfect hire’ also keeps the hiring centered on skills, and not a bunch of keywords. Some skills are trainable, and a good candidate would be able to learn them on the job easily. More and more hiring managers are realizing this, and trying to hire generalists who have a hunger to learn and upskill, instead of chasing pedigree. As recruiters, it is our job to ensure our managers know the value of a candidate who is adaptable and quick to learn.
So, instead of trying to hire the mythical ‘ideal hire’, widen the aperture to create multiple success profiles for each role and share them with your hiring manager. Then go back to the talent ‘farm’ you created in Step 1, and find people who fit these multiple success profiles.
#3. Train. Talk. Tweak.
Biases can creep into any hiring environment. With so many of our meetings happening over video now, in non-professional settings, it has become even easier to judge someone for the art on their wall, or their choice of pet. These biases can cause all your best-laid plans to go awry. Hence, the need for frequent communication and training.
Hiring managers need to be aware of their own subconscious biases in different scenarios. They need to be provided with the right training and tools to beat these biases. Hiring managers also need to understand and learn to create inclusive interview settings and prioritize candidate experience. John suggests a quarterly health check between recruiters and managers to stay on top of these issues.
It’s also important for managers to understand that some of this talking and training and tweaking will affect the speed of hiring. Speed is the love language of hiring managers, and John says he has never met a hiring manager who didn’t want a role to be filled yesterday. However, with diversity as the main focus, speed is not always possible. At least, in the initial stages when you are still perfecting your strategies.
Sometimes, putting the brakes on isn’t that bad, right?
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#4. Set realistic goals to improve your diversity hiring ROI
Diversity hiring isn’t a one off. It is a continuous process, and John suggests that you have very realistic benchmarks for your team. Look at Google for instance. One of the biggest IT giants in the world with all the resources at its disposal has not been able to crack diversity hiring at scale. It’s difficult, that is why!
You’re not Google. So, don’t begin by setting yourself up for failure. Expectation and goal setting is very important here, as is measuring progress. Don’t forget to include your people leaders and tech managers when setting goals, but also do not accept unachievable success standards.
Source: Google Diversity Report 2020
The bottom-line for better diversity hiring: Look for real improvements
A few years ago, Deloitte started the practice of matching new hires with a ‘career coach’ to understand the issues minority technologists face in the organization in their first two years. Now, this is real improvement.
Metrics, charts, numbers are a good measure of progress, but they don’t paint the whole picture accurately. While you keep track of these, don’t take your eye off the bigger goal. Train your managers to recognize practices that are meant to screen out potential hires. Create inclusive interviewing and engagement processes. Effect change at the grassroots so that diversity is included in all your pre-sourcing activities, instead of waiting for that job requirement to land at your table.
Real change may come slowly, but the diversity hiring ROI of these efforts is more long-term. And that’s the only ‘ideal’ that all of us should be chasing!
Learn more about bettering your diversity hiring ROI with John below:
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