Fostering Inclusion in Tech: Hiring Inclusively

Inclusive teamwork

In the previous article of this series, we talked about how fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in an organization is no easy feat. However, there are steps you can take to help get you on your way. When it comes to the hiring process specifically, it's important to hire in the spirit of openness, transparency, accountability, and have a shared vision of what constitutes success for the new position. By offering a welcoming process for applying, organizations attract excellent candidates who participate and collaborate well with the existing mission, vision, and values. As we continue learning how to do this successfully, we've rounded up some tips that might be useful to your organization.

Evaluate the Job Title

Look at current job-seeking tools like IndeedGlassdoorIdealist, to make sure the current job title, description, and range of responsibilities are appropriate and reasonable for that role. Modifying the title or level of the position to match generally accepted standards (i.e., the difference between "Senior Product Manager" vs. "Product Manager" vs. "Project Manager" vs. "Product Associate") may make the difference in who applies. 

Be Thoughtful with Language

Terms like "rock stars, ninjas, unicorns" do not suffice as descriptive language. Identify the bulleted list of actual skills required, as well as the desired background or experience, and consider the implications of the language. Hiring for a "unicorn" or a "collaborative team player," will receive different responses: the first from unicorns, the second from team players. Matthew Tift, James Sansbury, and Matt Westgate discuss "The Imaginary Band of Rock Stars at Lullabot" on the Hacking Culture podcast.

Cut out jargon to focus on the required skills and listed responsibilities of the job. If these are not yet clear, re-evaluate the role and its job description, and list out how a person will succeed in the role. 

Ruby Sinreich (http://lotusmedia.org), a web developer, technologist, and strategist who has worked in progressive advocacy organizations and online communities for over two decades, suggests the following tools for minimizing bias within the text (from the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion group):

Identify and Make Any Assumptions Explicit

List all relevant aspects of the position to attract the correct type of applicants and make the implicit assumptions of who can work in this role transparent.

Sample questions to address in the description:

  • Is travel included or required in this job?
  • Is there a need to lift heavy objects or crawl under desk spaces?
  • Is this a remote job or an on-site job?
  • Is the position salaried, contract, temp-to-hire?

Include all non-negotiable aspects of the work up front, and be explicit about what constitutes success. For example, a recent job description for a Tugboat Enterprise Account Executive position provided a coherent, attainable measure of success:

Like anything, we understand it takes a bit of time to ramp up to a new gig. At the end of 6 months, Lullabot will have spent roughly $70,000 in wages for the position, and we'd be looking to come in a little above break-even with this investment. Our minimum expectation is to hit a Monthly Recurring Revenue goal of $20,000 of new business by the end of six months.

Other questions to ask when measuring success include: Am I enjoying the work? Is the market opportunity substantial? Am I having fun? 

Publish the Pay Range

Include a pay range and whether or not the role is salaried, temp-to-hire, short-term contract, or a long-term contract position. When you provide a salary range, studies show that this level of transparency increases job applications by 30%. After all, no one wants to go through a lengthy hiring process only to find out the role isn't a financial fit.

Consider being clear about salary range, requirements, and perhaps, bands inside the role, and you'll come to a quicker agreement with the final candidate who has understood salary expectations from the beginning.

Clearly List Benefits

For many, health, vision, dental, retirement matching, flex-time, parental leave, paid time off, holidays and add-ons like fitness or technology budgets make a job significantly more attractive. At times, it might even be a determining factor. Display listed benefits in the "Work" or "Careers" section, e.g., our annual Events and Education budget is listed publicly on our website, among other benefits we offer.

Encourage People from Marginalized and Underrepresented Groups to Apply

Consider adding language that encourages applicants who identify as being from an underrepresented community to apply. It's important to go beyond the standard "equal opportunity" language and will make your job description appeal far more to diverse groups of people.

Comply with Federal, State, and Local Guidelines

Make sure the organization complies with any guidelines regarding harassment and discrimination. Here is some sample language about how hiring committees might consider candidates (from Green America's hiring statement):

All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without discrimination regarding actual or perceived

  • race, 
  • color, 
  • religion, 
  • national origin, 
  • sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, related medical conditions, breastfeeding, or reproductive health disorders),
  • age (18 years of age or older),
  • marital status (including domestic partnership and parenthood),
  • personal appearance,
  • sexual orientation,
  • gender identity or expression,
  • family responsibilities,
  • genetic information,
  • disability,
  • matriculation, 
  • political affiliation,
  • citizenship status,
  • credit information, or
  • any other characteristic protected by federal, state, or local laws.
  • Harassment on the basis of a protected characteristic is included as a form of discrimination and is strictly prohibited.

Focus on the Organization's Culture: Mission, Vision, and Values

Culture is one of the most significant determinants of whether or not the candidate will continue through with the process of applying. How do you attract high-quality teammates? The current organizational mission, vision, and publicly-stated values make a difference. What does the company, team, or project stand for? Say it loud and proud, and make sure the applicant understands organizational values. A blog post, "About" page, or video linked inside the job application will make values clear.

Circulate the Listing to Diverse Audiences

Change up and expand the networks where job listings get circulated. For example, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), remote job boards, or community groups that focused on a specific area, industry, or desired applicant pool, as well as many Slack channels, have job postings. Consider sharing the job post with the following networks first, and then expanding it to general job boards. Some examples include:

Identify Scoring in Advance

Have a sheet that lists out the evaluation system used when evaluating applicants. If possible, include this in the job description to surface candidates who will be able to speak to the desired points and provide transparency in how they will be scored. In parallel, this procedure works when evaluating RFP respondents; for example, here's a sample questionnaire (in the footer is the scoring mechanism) to evaluate a website redesign. 

Same Interviewers, Same Questions

To make a fair assessment, have all interviewers ask the same questions of all the finalists. Use the predetermined points system when interviewers compare notes. Evaluate against the organization's stated responsibilities, and cross-check against mission, vision, and values.

Consider Implementing the Rooney Rule

The National Football League policy requires league teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. Consider making an effort to interview at least one woman or other underrepresented minority, for the role, to mimic the NFL's results: at the start of the 2006 season, after instituting the Rooney Rule (definition from the NFL) in 2002, the overall percentage of African-American coaches increased to 22%, up from 6%.

Offer Alternate Ways of Interviewing

If being successful in a particular role requires a whiteboard walkthrough, 20-minute brainstorming exercise, video or written component, teleconference demonstration, or another method, it is appropriate and understandable to ask for this during the interview process. For example, if the role requires teleconferencing, allow for one of the interviews for the finalists to be held on the teleconferencing software needed. However, don't make these the only mechanisms for evaluation. 

Consider offering multiple ways to answer questions to help the team make the best decision. It's also appropriate to ask for an existing portfolio or demonstration of existing products or tools that are relevant to the job. For example, if you're hiring for a designer, asking for a walkthrough of the three design projects for which the candidate is most proud of, is appropriate. 

For further reading, there's another in-depth review of the hiring process on MoveOn CTO Ann Lewis's blog, "How We Hire Tech Folks." Thanks to James Sansbury, Marc Drummond, and Andrew Berry, for reviewing and providing thoughtful comments and feedback.

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Monica S. Flores

Monica S. Flores outdoors, profile photo
Monica S. Flores is a Technical Project Manager who has been building websites since 2004.