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Equity & Belonging

Hiring diversity-conscious recruiters

September 29, 2016 Jonah Kagan

This post is part of a series focused on diversity and inclusion. View all posts in the series or start from the first post.

When it comes to hiring, conventional wisdom says to hire people that are smarter than you. In our efforts at Clever to hire a diverse team, we’ve learned a new trick: hire recruiters who are more diversity-conscious than you.

When I joined Clever three years ago, there were only ten people on the team. Since then, we’ve made over a hundred hires, and interviewed countless candidates in the process. When we surveyed our team’s demographics earlier this year, we could see that we still have a ways to go towards creating a diverse team. That being said, I can imagine a world in which our team turned out a lot less diverse than it is—a world in which our hiring pipeline did not include many people from underrepresented groups, a world in which those countless interviews favored white men over other candidates.

While we’ve done a lot of work over the past three years to combat unintended bias in our hiring process, many of the changes we’ve made weren’t novel strategies, they were best practices that have been recommended time and time again by thought leaders of the diversity movement.

I credit our success in implementing these strategies to a single key decision we made back when our team was still small. When hiring our first recruiter, we required that they be personally committed to promoting diversity. When interviewing recruiter candidates, we had an entire interview focused on evaluating their diversity-consciousness.

In the interview, we asked candidates questions such as:

  • Why does diversity matter? What are the benefits of having a diverse team?
  • How have you balanced the need to hire high-quality talent quickly with the desire to build a diverse team?
  • Looking at our currently posted job descriptions, can you identify things that might discourage candidates from underrepresented groups?
  • How have you proactively broadened your hiring pipeline to include more diverse candidates?

Our decision to search for diversity-conscious recruiters seemed like a small one at the time, but the effects have grown exponentially over time. Our first recruiter implemented a variety of diversity-focused initiatives, including:

  • Tracking our hiring stages to identify where members of underrepresented groups were disproportionately failing
  • Pushing Greenhouse, our applicant tracking system, to add a feature that anonymizes candidate profiles in order to avoid name bias
  • Directing our sourcing efforts towards underrepresented groups
  • Changing our referral policy to only reward employees for referring candidates from underrepresented groups (more on this in a later post)

While many of these initiatives were inspired by best practices, implementing best practices takes effort. It requires activation energy to make the initial changes as well as ongoing attention to ensure they are being executed successfully. Moreover, sometimes prioritizing diversity requires making tradeoffs. For example, sourcing candidates only from underrepresented groups limits the total pool of candidates you can reach out to, potentially making it harder to hit hiring goals quickly.

Without a personal commitment to diversity, an ordinary recruiter might have deprioritized these changes or implemented them half-heartedly. Instead, our diversity-conscious recruiter championed these best practices and executed them thoroughly.

As we hired more recruiters, we continued to interview for diversity-consciousness. Over time, diversity-consciousness became ingrained as a core cultural value of our recruiting team, leading to benefits we would never have predicted. Most notably, one recruiter founded Clever’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which has spearheaded our recent diversity and inclusion efforts across the entire company.

So when your company hires its next recruiter, make sure they are diversity-conscious. Feel free to reuse our interview questions. With just that single interview, you can take a huge step towards building a more diverse team.

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