December 27, 2018

Guest Post: Hiring Rock Star Candidates

If we are going to address diversity in the hiring process, we first have to recognize that our organization must be inclusive.  Fixing diversity in our recruiting process does not solve the issue unless organizations focus on the organizational culture and create an inclusive workplace.  An area on which to focus within our organizational culture is implicit biases.

Implicit biases show up in what you say and do, and you might not be aware that you have these prejudices. Without realizing it, we may prefer to associate with younger people rather than older people, or enjoy the company of women more than men, or react friendlier to individuals from our own religion. More importantly, we may unconsciously associate one group with positive stereotypes and another group with negative ones.

In the workplace, these implicit biases lead to microaggressions—small slights or offenses that may go mostly unnoticed, but can add up to systematic discrimination or even a hostile work environment. Research shows, for example, that resumes with White-sounding names are more likely to get callbacks than resumes with Black-sounding names. And it’s not because companies have official policies or practices discriminating against hiring minorities, it’s the result of unconscious bias.

Meet Joanna: She is graduating from college cum laude this spring. She is interested in a job in finance. Due to her high honors and superb grades, she has final interviews lined up week after week. She is excited that she gets to travel and stay at nice hotels on a company's dime. At the same time, she is anxious. She is a first-generation college student and comes from a lower income family. She can’t afford a high-quality suit and her shoes are starting to tear up. She is worried that this would put her at a disadvantage or, even worse, that her curly hair might appear unprofessional.

How can we set up systems to address biases that might deter Joanna from getting the job? To learn more, read Patrice's story.

Meet Carlos: Carlos has already 4-5 years of experience. He is looking for that next big opportunity and he has the technical background and business acumen to land it. However, he is having trouble learning about opportunities. He goes to recruiting events, but recruiters just tell him to send them his resume and that they will get back to him. He never hears back. He is worry he is being discounted for his accent right away, so he tries to repress it. He spends his energy, “aiming to pass as White”, hoping he could get the job he knows he deserves.

How can we set up systems that seek talent for their cultural contribution opposed to culture fit? To learn more, read about the Center for Talent Innovation research on Latinos at Work.

Meet Alex: Alex is a self-identified queer Black woman. She works in the marketing department of a leading global enterprise. She has been at the company for 2 years. Since she has worked there, she has seen every woman of color quit due to the insensitive behaviors of managers. When asked by potential diverse hires if she would recommend the company, she says “no” and to stay far away. She knows her company is not fostering an inclusive environment and would not want anybody else to succumb to the horrible fate of her fellow colleagues. She is lucky, as she got the “good manager” but he is, unfortunately, an exception and not the norm.

How can we invest in a long-term culture change that leads to an inclusive workplace? For a deeper look on how to get started, look into the blog titled “3 Key Insights for Workplace Transformation” by Forefront.

Through our work with Forefront, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to the stories of amazing talent across the country. Many of whom are Black and Latinx and remain underrepresented in the workplace.  These examples represent the outcomes of implicit bias.

My goal is to move to a corporate culture where we focus on hiring Rock Star candidates that meet the needs of our job descriptions, who will perform at the level needed for the organization and are not clouded in bias.  Diversity is a term, a term from the past, we should no longer be using.  Rather, we need to hire Rock Star candidates within a workplace where differences among employees’ thoughts, opinions and suggestions are valued.


H. Clifford Watkin SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Managing Partner – HR & Employee Benefits

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