Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Overcoming Bias in Recruiting to Create a Culture of Diversity & Inclusion

Written By HackerRank | August 28, 2020

Two women looking at a laptop

Overcoming bias in recruiting is one of the first steps to creating a culture of diversity and inclusion. While eliminating bias as a whole isn’t feasible, taking steps to minimize bias can help you to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. It’s a function of knowing your history, doing the work to seek underrepresented candidates, and treating diversity recruiting as a separate function from traditional recruiting.

To learn more about how to tackle bias through recruiting, our CEO and Co-Founder, Vivek Ravisankar, spoke with Trier Bryant. Trier is the Chief People Officer at Astra, Principal and CEO at Pathfinder, and former Global Head of Revenue, G&A, University & Diversity Recruiting at Twitter. They explored the common obstacles most teams face when rolling diversity, equity, and inclusion into their recruiting. Watch the full interview here, or read on for Trier’s advice on how to begin to overcome bias within recruiting.

Step 1: Learn your terminology

The first step of overcoming bias in recruiting is to educate yourself on diversity recruiting: what it means, and why it’s so important.

That starts with understanding what diversity means. While the words “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion” are sometimes used interchangeably, in reality, each is a distinct concept.

Diversity, Trier says, is meant to describe the makeup of your organization. It’s the composition of people at your organization. Equity, however, is the idea of having an organization that’s free from bias and favoritism, and that facilitates an equitable experience within the organization for all. Inclusion, on the other hand, describes a feeling of belonging at the organization.

Step 2: Enable conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion

Most companies are well-intentioned in their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts—but not all are effective. When it comes to crafting a DEI strategy, one of the first blockers most organizations encounter is the ability (or inability) to have open, frank conversations on the topic.

And according to Trier, one of the most common barriers she sees is language. Even when folks are excited about facilitating DEI at their organizations, some balk for a simple reason: they don’t know what to say. Trier gets around this by starting every conversation with a language primer. By defining the language participants are expected to use in the context of a DEI conversation. She focuses on explaining what each term means, and how you should use them. It helps break down the first barrier to having these important conversations.

But beyond language, Trier says it’s important for those in the conversation to get comfortable being uncomfortable. She stresses that no one expects you to have the perfect words every time you speak—but so long as you have empathy and are willing to listen deeply, you can still participate in a meaningful way.

Step 3: Do the work to build out a specific diversity recruiting function

When it comes to instituting a DEI strategy, one of the biggest issues Trier sees is a misunderstanding of what, exactly, a DEI strategy is. Often, especially at small companies, she sees organizations conflate being part of an underrepresented community with being a DEI practitioner. But being a true DEI practitioner goes far deeper than that, she says. Instead, DEI is a function all its own.

And that goes for diversity recruiting, too. Trier says it’s important to note that traditional recruiting isn’t the same as diversity recruiting. Diversity recruiting, she says, is focused on building long-term, personal relationships between candidates and companies. That relationship building can help foster relationships with developers that might otherwise self-select themselves out of industries like tech, which Trier says is common.

The key is to build relationships, and to look in the right place for talent. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) are just a few places you can start to look. She points out that most colleges and universities share data around the composition of their universities—it’s recruiting’s job to do the work to figure out where underrepresented candidates are.

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