DEI and Support
I often notice that the support teams I work with are overwhelmingly male, white and Asian, quite a different mix than the general population–and I’m only talking about visible diversity here, ignoring economic background, neurodiversity, religion, working history, and the like.
What can we do to recruit more diverse teams? With a big shout-out to Neil Smith of Iterate who gave an inspiring presentation on this topic at the TSIA conference in October 2022, here are 3 recommendations.
Open the funnel
Simply put, consider more candidates: use a wide funnel rather than a narrow one. Yes, this means wading through more resumes but since many of my clients complain they cannot find any suitable candidates, maybe having a wider funnel is a completely realistic strategy.
- Ditch the degree requirements whenever possible. Sure, a degree is likely to indicate a certain proficiency, but many non-mainstream candidates may have learned on the job, or chosen to attend a programming boot camp or other non-degreed learning mechanism. You want to attract “STAR” candidates, skilled through alternate routes.
- Ditch the “x years of experience” shorthand. Instead, detail the skills you need, and be sure to list only the minimal skills needed to do the job.
Both strategies attract more diverse applicants. Candidates from under-represented minorities are less likely to have a college degree, and women tend not to apply to jobs until they meet all the requirements listed.
Recruit from different pools
You probably recruit heavily from internal referrals, which typically bring quality candidates, but most likely candidates that are very similar from the ones already hired. Bonus! As you recruit more diverse candidates, your referral program automatically becomes more diverse.
- Connect with re-entry programs. Those are non-profit groups that help workers who want to go back into the workforce after an extended absence. They are often women who took time off to raise children, but I’ve seen men who looked after an elderly parent as well. These workers may have some technical gaps but they are eager to learn and their life experiences make them well-suited to support jobs.
- Expand special scrutiny to referral candidates. For instance: require that they be interviewed and evaluated by folks who do not know them. If they are referred by their future manager, keep the manager out of the screening process. This is to avoid cliques and don’t worry: strong candidates will survive the extra scrutiny.
Screen for competency
Screening for competency helps mitigate bias, including unconscious bias. For instance:
- Blind-review resumes. Removing names helps focus on accomplishments, not pedigree
- Use behavioral interviewing (interview against competencies and values). Behavioral interviewing yields better outcomes overall because it avoids making decisions based on likability alone–and it’s particularly helpful when evaluating someone from a different background.
- Use a diverse interviewing team. It’s hard to attract diverse candidates when all they see is a non-diverse team.
- Use blind evaluations to avoid group think. We often think of using a shared document to gather everyone’s input, but that may result in interviewers modifying their evaluation to match the overall vibe.
Why do through all this work? Because it’s the right thing to do, of course, but non-traditional candidates also tend to have high loyalty and high retention rates. Who wouldn’t want that?
What have you done to increase DEI on your team? Please share.