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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Diversity in Tech – How to Design a Hiring Process That Limits Bias

Written By Jannelle Sanchez | August 2, 2019

Illustration of three people on a bench out of which two are working on their laptops, with a bunch of people surrounding them

Today, 77% of companies agree that D&I is important to their company and want to establish diversity in tech. It’s the right thing to do, provides a competitive advantage, optimizes a company’s overall performance and raises revenue. The data proves it.

Building diversity in tech and creating an atmosphere of balance and belonging can be hard, but it is possible. The first step is redesigning your hiring process.

As a human, your brain is naturally biased. As a recruiter or hiring manager, it’s up to you to be aware of these biases and prevent them from sneaking in during resume screenings and interviews.

At HR.main() Palo Alto, Aubrey Blanche, the Global Head of Diversity & Belonging at Atlassian, said that in order to establish diversity in tech, companies need to create a hiring process that limits potential biases. If you’re interested in building a diverse workforce, check out Aubrey’s 5 practical steps to remove bias from the hiring process.

1. Skip the resumes


diversity in tech

Most recruiters form their first impression of a candidate based on a candidate’s resume. But how much insight into a candidate’s skills, work ethic, and values do resumes really provide?

“So the fact is, you know that you could throw resumés on the floor and pick up half of them and interview those candidates and you’d have the same success in job performance as if you scanned resumés?,” says Aubrey, “Literally, the number one thing about resumés that predicts whether someone gets an onsite is typos on it, so like, resumés are useless. I genuinely think so.”

Instead of screening resumes, Aubrey recommends that companies use skills assessment tools like HackerRank, to help unbiasedly determine experienced candidates. Using a skills assessment tool to evaluate every candidate can accurately determine who has the skills your companies need.

2. Consider the whole story while examining resumes

If you’re not at the point where your organization can get rid of resumes, restructure the way that you read them. It may be intuitive to immediately reach out to applicants who worked at notable tech companies or attended a top 10 school, but Aubrey advises that recruiters wait. Why?

Because past data shows that the Ivy League schools aren’t very accessible to low-income students. A student whose family ranks in the top 1 percent is 77 times more likely to get into a top 10 school compared to a student who comes from a low-income family.

“If you’re looking for signs that someone has had a lot of money, go hire someone who went to Stanford. Go hire someone who worked for Google or Facebook,” says Aubrey, “When you’re looking at a resume, especially for a university student, does that student have a 2.8 GPA but did they work an extra job because they had to support family at home? Because students of color are significantly more likely to have to be like that.”

In order to create more diversity in tech, recruiters have to keep their mind open mind to all candidates. The candidates who come from Ivy League schools and giant tech companies, and the candidates who graduated from a coding boot camp or state school. Read their resumes with a conscious set of criteria in mind, ask more questions about their background and work history during the phone screen and give every candidate the same tech assessment.

3. Kill the concept of culture fit

how culture fit can ruin diversity in tech

Culture fit is often prioritized at a majority of tech companies, but Aubrey advises that companies re-evaluate their concept of “culture fit”,

“All that [culture fit] is, is an intractable morass of unconscious bias,” says Aubrey.

If not monitored, Aubrey says culture fit interviews can easily morph into an opportunity for interviewers to hire through a biased lens and only pick candidates who think like them, look like them and act like them. Companies who use culture fit interviews are at risk of overlooking people with different experiences, perspectives, and strengths, and produces homogenous teams.

Instead, Aubrey suggests that companies replace culture fit interviews with a values interview. In a values interview, recruiters and hiring managers can determine candidates that share the company’s sense of purpose and guiding principles. With value interviews, companies can also find and hire candidates who will thrive in the company’s environment.

4. Attend meetups to connect with candidates from different backgrounds

Want to add more people of color to your developer team, or hire more women developers? Start attending local meetups that your potential candidates attend.

Aubrey believes that local meetups are a great candidate source, and even encourages managers at Atlassian to visit meetups and make connections with potential hires. If you’re not sure which meet up to go to, look at the different teams you’re hiring for and ask yourself, “Who is not in the room?”.

Then go out to a meetup where that person would be, like Bay Area Black Software Developers, /dev/color, or Girls Who Code, and connect with them.

 5. Ask your employees to reconsider people in their circle

Many companies rely heavily on referrals because they often lead to quality hires. But if you’re trying to build a more diverse and balanced team, Aubrey proposes that you tweak your message to help your employees consider quality candidates they know, who are from underrepresented backgrounds.

“People tend to more easily cognitively recall people like themselves,” says Aubrey, “When you ask for a referral, follow up with ‘and please take a special moment to consider whether there are people who are from underrepresented groups, who you would also like to refer.’ ’”

According to this Pinterest study, when Pinterest recruiters subtly prompted their team of engineers to refer candidates from underrepresented backgrounds, the result was a 55% increase in referrals who came from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.

Closing thoughts

Changing the company culture and building diversity in tech is a process. It won’t happen overnight and will take time, commitment, intentionality and teamwork. But by implementing any one of these steps, you can make a huge difference in correcting a flawed system and create equal opportunity for talented and qualified candidates.

To learn more about building balanced teams, watch Aubrey’s H.R.main() Palo Alto talk here.

How to Make Technical Interviews More Inclusive