Issues of Bias and Equity in Hiring
10/27/21 / Kate Darwent
Like a lot of organizations, we have been working on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion over the past few years. We have had several conversations about how to address issues of equity both within our work and in our internal processes. One internal area where we have worked on addressing bias is our hiring process, and recently, we fleshed it out a little more to address equity more directly.
While this process is not perfect and is definitely a work in progress, I thought it might be useful to share some of the ways we address bias and equity in our hiring process, in case you find yourself revamping your hiring process. Here are some of the ways we try to cultivate a fairer, more equitable hiring process:
- Job description. We worked a lot on our job description, and we will refine it further in the future. A couple of things we have focused on in our job descriptions are:
- Using language carefully. Research has shown that gendered language can influence who applies to a job.
- Clearly stating our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
- Encouraging people to apply even if they don’t meet all the qualifications. We try to think carefully about which qualifications are necessary vs. nice to have, but a candidate can always surprise us. We know that not everyone is comfortable applying for jobs when they don’t meet all the qualifications, so we explicitly encourage everyone to do so.
- Sharing salary and benefit information. With this information, candidates can make decisions early on about whether a position will be a good fit.
- Posting a job description broadly. If you’re looking for diverse candidates, you need to find diverse places and partners to share your job ad.
- Cover letter. In past rounds of hiring, we may have inferred that applicants who did not submit cover letters were less passionate about the job. But not all job candidates may know how to play “the hiring game” or what to put in a cover letter. So this round, we asked candidates to submit a resume and, in place of a cover letter, answer a few questions. That way everyone had the opportunity to submit similar information.
- Make parts of candidate evaluation blind. This began with our hiring assessment. The people who score it do not know whose assessment they are reviewing. Over the years, we also have made our resume review blind. Any personal identifiers (names, pronouns, pictures, etc.) are removed from the resumes before being handed over to a team for review.
- Hiring Assessment. We have created a hiring assessment that reflects the type of work we do and skills we need. It gives us a sense of where people are right now and where they would need training if hired. It helps us evaluate skills regardless of one’s background or education.
- Use rubrics to evaluate candidates. Instead of just going with a gut feeling, we have created rubrics to help us evaluate candidates. Biases seem to especially show up when something is vague or ill defined. People often talk about hiring someone based on whether they are a “good fit” at an organization. That’s pretty vague, and bias may step in to help make sense of it, which we don’t want. Ideally, someone is a good fit when their skills and interest in the work align with the position and not because they seem similar to other people at the organization. Beyond making it more difficult for bias to creep in, rubrics challenged us to think about what is important in a candidate. Do we care if there is a gap in a candidate’s work history? We do not, so this is not in the resume rubric.
- Standardized interview questions. This one can be tough, since it’s easy for this to become robotic. But at least most of your interview questions should be standardized so that all candidates are asked the same thing and thus getting the same opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge.
Again, this is a work in progress, and we reevaluate our hiring approach each time we do it. But with the great resignation still going strong, many organizations currently may have the opportunity or need to hire. We hope this inspires some evaluation of your own hiring process.