Live from OPEN 2019: Let’s Get Awkward – Tackling Tough Hiring Conversations

Fat. Introvert. Formerly incarcerated. Expat. Biracial. These are just a few of the labels that participants were invited to choose for themselves as they walked into “Let’s Get Awkward – Tackling Tough Hiring Conversations” today at Greenhouse OPEN 2019. During this session, Bailey Edgell, Diversity & Inclusion Lead, Americas at Culture Amp, and Rachel Napolitano, Senior Recruiter at Culture Amp, facilitated a discussion between Jessica Richman, CEO at The Visible Collective, and Susan Lee, Chief People Officer at SeatGeek.

Talking about Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) can be hard, which is why Bailey and Rachel recommend being grounded in your own narrative. Choosing the labels that you identify with – both visible and invisible – makes it easier to understand what is shaping your own perspective. Being open about different aspects of your identity and experience also makes it much easier to connect with others in a more authentic, genuine way. Which labels would you choose for yourself? And how might those identities inform your perspective on D&I?

Tough Conversation #1: Candidate Calibration

How do you call attention to bias in the hiring process? One situation where bias often occurs is when it comes to calibrating candidates. Susan shared a frequent scenario in the New York tech scene: a hiring manager’s list of desired qualifications includes things like an Ivy League education, previous experience at Google, and maybe even a rich and famous relative or two. Yet these characteristics rarely have a direct impact on a candidate’s ability to perform.

Legislation like the Fair Pay Act is also prompting Talent professionals to pull back layers of what were traditionally considered “qualifications” for a role and replace them with qualities that are more indicative of a candidate’s likeliness to succeed in a role. Now the conversation is moving toward the question,“Is our assessment going to capture the right type of information that will help us have an educated hiring conversation?”

Jessica recommends approaching calibration conversations with an inquisitive tone rather than an accusatory one. If you open up and share your own experiences, others around you will feel more comfortable doing the same. And that is how you can make progress toward more inclusive hiring practices.

Tough Conversation #2: Hiring Managers and D&I

If you’ve ever felt like the expectations for your team are unrealistic or conflicting, you’re not alone. Susan described a common challenge Talent professionals face: should you prioritize recruiting a diverse team or hiring as quickly as possible? “Building a diverse team is a long game,” explains Susan, so you can’t expect to see immediate results, especially when you’re hiring for competitive roles like engineers. The important point here is to understand that sometimes the pendulum will swing more in one direction than the other – you may need to focus on filling your most urgent roles or perhaps you commit to building out a diversity recruiting program over the next several years. Mo matter what, it’s important to have open conversations with your hiring managers and company leadership to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Jessica recommends framing D&I conversations in business terms. It can be quite simple – if you don’t have anyone at your company with a deep understanding of your customers, you won’t be as successful. The more accessible you make your products and services, the more sales you’ll have. Whenever you can, bring the conversation back to the business implications of hiring too quickly and not hiring the right person.

A common refrain in the D&I conversation is that there’s no finish line for this work. There will always be opportunities for broadening our perspectives and building more inclusive organizations. We look forward to sharing more of these valuable insights throughout OPEN 2019 and over the coming days. Stay tuned for more!

Missing Greenhouse OPEN this year? Don’t forget to register for the livestream to get access to our featured keynote sessions with Jennifer Hyman, CEO of Rent the Runway, and Katie Burke, Chief People Officer at HubSpot.

Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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