4 Traps That Are Holding Back Your Company’s Diversity Recruiting

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Daniel Chait

Daniel Chait is CEO & co-founder of Greenhouse and has been a technology entrepreneur in New York City for nearly 20 years. Dan is a frequent speaker on the topics of recruiting and entrepreneurship and has presented at numerous venues including General Assembly, the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship, Launch Scale, DEMO Traction, and the Wharton Entrepreneurship Conference. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Computer Engineering (#GoBlue!). Connect with Dan on Twitter.

 

As CEO of Greenhouse, I have plenty of issues that keep me up at night. So much so, in fact, that in our company-wide “Ask Me Anything” sessions, Greenhouse employees regularly ask about my work/life balance. I get the hint, guys—I must look pretty exhausted with all these inquiries about my health!

In all seriousness, though, one of the things that is constantly on my mind is how to build a better company, and I believe that diversity is a key component to achieving this. However, the issue of workforce diversity can be a thorny one, especially in tech companies like ours. But building and sustaining diverse teams is something I feel strongly about.

Diverse companies perform better, enjoy a recruiting and retention advantage, and create a respectful work environment in line with their values. Plus, it’s the right thing to do. And that matters to everyone at Greenhouse, to our customers, and to me. It’s so important that one of the primary goals of our product is to transform how companies can engage diverse talent and benefit from unique skills and cultures that only a diverse workforce brings.


Hear Dan speak at Greenhouse Open 2016, taking place May 25-27th in San Francisco.


 

We’re lucky to count among our customers several companies that are making impressive strides towards diversifying their teams. Slack has been lauded for applying the Rooney rule to their recruiting process for more senior level roles, Airbnb has successfully doubled the ratio of female employees on their data science team, and Pinterest has committed to regularly sharing their strategies and progress as they aim to diversify their workforce.

Yet if you read all about these companies and still feel stuck, you’re not alone. I know it can be overwhelming to try to address your company’s diversity.

I’d like to share 4 of the common traps when building a diverse team and offer a few strategies for getting started now.

Trap #1: “We need to succeed and get the best people first. We can worry about diversity later.”

Diversity is a driver of success. Diversity gives you a competitive advantage and the ability to stand out as an organization. If you’re hiring and promoting people from different backgrounds with different perspectives, you’re going to come up with creative approaches to problems and new and innovative ways of doing things.

I also don’t believe that it becomes easier to hire diversely as your company matures. I’d say that the opposite is true: The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to build a diverse workforce. Don’t wait for those bad hiring habits to get ingrained—build diversity into your recruiting strategy from the get-go.

Trap #2: “We don’t have the data we need to make an impact.”

I often hear remarks of this nature in response to data-driven initiatives like those at Pinterest and Slack. But I don’t believe lack of data needs to be an obstacle to recruiting, and here’s why: It’s very easy to allow data to become a distraction. Let’s say that you historically haven’t asked employees to disclose their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. (and in many cases you’re legally prohibited from requesting this type of information anyway). This means that you have no baseline to measure yourself against. But just because you haven’t collected this information doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t or can’t build a more inclusive workforce. It is more likely than not that most companies have lots of room to become more diverse and inclusive. It’s all about taking the first steps.

Let me put this another way—let’s pretend that you were able to run a survey that helped you determine that your team is not as diverse as you’d like. Think about the next steps you’d take in order to become more diverse and inclusive. Now ask yourself why you’re not just doing those things that will promote diversity anyway. We know that diversifying is the right thing to do, so let’s not allow ourselves to get distracted by wanting more data.

And if you’re already a Greenhouse customer, good news! Greenhouse includes race and gender data collection and additional features to support EEO/OFCCP compliance. Check in with your account manager to learn more.

Trap #3: “We’re already unbiased.”

I’ve heard this argument a number of times, and the simple fact is: Everyone has biases. You may not be conscious of your particular biases, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Want to prove it to yourself? Head over to “Project Implicit” and take the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to learn more about the unconscious biases we all carry within us. Or check out some of the excellent research by Peter Sokol-Hessner on the perceived trustworthiness of people from different races to learn more.

So, given that biases already do exist, what can be done about it? The first step to overcoming them is recognizing that they’re there. The good news is that you can work to overcome your biases, but again, this involves taking action rather than denying that they exist.  

Trap #4: “We’re hiring for culture fit.”

I agree that it’s important to find people who fit the culture of your organization, but sometimes “culture fit” simply means “more of the same.” How is diversity defined in your culture fit interviews and how are your candidate scorecards defined?

If you haven’t already, I’d suggest specifically adding a way to identify candidates of varied backgrounds to your interview and assessment process. It stands to reason that if your evaluation of candidates includes a measure of their diversity, you’ll be nudging your team into hiring more diversely.

I realize that it’s one thing to agree that your company should take steps to hire more diversely and another thing entirely to actually achieve that goal. So in my next post, I’ll give you four specific, practical tips that anyone can do to escape these traps. (Look for it on the Greenhouse Blog next Tuesday!).


Want to dive deeper into topics like diversity recruiting and get actionable tips you can use to make a positive change in your organization? Come join us at Greenhouse Open in San Francisco from May 25–27th. I hope to see you there!

Greenhouse Open

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