How to Source Diverse Talent
Time is an engineering trade-off. If every candidate who applied for a job went through multiple hours of interviews with multiple engineers, it would be impossible to keep up. Engineering teams would miss product deadlines and hiring goals, stuck in endless interview loops. It’s not efficient.
On the other hand, filtering candidates based on resumes by looking solely at pedigree indicators like previous employer or school can introduce noise and create false negatives. It’s not equitable.
The problem is, by using pedigree as a proxy for capability, such resume screens eliminate candidates who don’t come from traditional backgrounds (top computer science schools, previous big tech experience, and the like). If your talent pool is filled with engineers who only come from top computer science programs, you risk creating in-groups, which I argue becomes dangerous.
As technology, especially AI advances, it is extremely important to include diverse voices, thoughts, and opinions at the table. If the technology we create is only serving a select group of people, are we really advancing? Or are we just creating self-reinforcing data loops?
I challenge you today to consider how you can effectively rethink your hiring strategy to not rely solely on resume screeners.
Here’s how to start.
How to Bring More Diverse Candidates Into Your Talent Pipeline
- Expand your direct applicant pipeline.
- Make your process more transparent.
- Broaden your pipeline.
Expand Your Direct Applicant Pipeline
According to Karat’s internal data from over 80,000 technical interviews, less than 10 percent of direct applicants (those who apply directly to a job posting) end up getting interviews. There’s a distinct bias for proactively sourced candidates versus direct applicants.
The thing is, once they get to the technical interview, the same data shows that, for many companies, it’s common for candidates from the direct applicant pools to outperform the ones your recruiters are sourcing. But the majority of companies are over-screening direct applicants before they can reach the interview and demonstrate their capabilities.
Try to diversify your candidate pool by filtering in more of the direct applicants. One tactic I’ve recommended to clients is to review technical interview pass-through rates for each of your recruiting sources. If your direct application pool is close to your proactively recruited candidate pool, experiment by increasing the number of direct applicants you let through. Try loosening your pedigree requirements and send through 15 or 20 percent of direct applicants to the interview.
If the candidates are just as successful in your technical interviews, not only have you reduced your sourcing costs, but you’ve diversified your pipeline sources, instead of relying on the same demographics from the same schools and other companies that everyone else in the industry is recruiting from.
The other good thing about direct applicants is that our data shows they have close rates that are, on average, more than 10 percent higher than proactively sourced candidates. So not only can expanding this talent pool help make your process more inclusive, but it can help you get more efficient at hiring as well.
Make Your Process More Transparent
Once you do start sourcing more direct applicants, it’s critical that they’re being set up for success in the interview process. A candidate who has no connection to the big tech world isn’t going to have the same knowledge of the hiring process or interview questions as a candidate who, say, has a family member working at your company.
Sure, your software engineers probably have friends and family that could be a great fit for your company, but if they come into the interview knowing what questions they’re going to be asked, you really aren’t getting a valid hiring signal compared to a direct applicant with no visibility.
At an industry level, programs like Karat’s Brilliant Black Minds are working to close the access gap at the industry level by ensuring that underrepresented candidates have the same understanding of the interview and hiring process as your director of engineering’s nephew.
At an organizational level, one immediate way to close the access gap at your company would be to share sample interview questions with all candidates to level the playing field. Or even better, record and post a mock interview with one of your existing engineers on your career page so they know exactly what to expect.
Broaden Your Pipeline
Let’s face it, it’s easy to get stuck hiring from the same institutions because we’re familiar with their talent and programs, and may even have many alumni from there. Stanford University graduates are probably pretty smart, so it’s a useful (and expedient) proxy to use for technical abilities. But if you want to create an inclusive company, you have to broaden your search.
As COVID-19 makes it hard to have in-person recruiting events, branch out and send your recruiters to attend remote career fairs. Try to find events like QurantineCon, a unique remote-inspired and culture-driven career fair for diverse communities, or the National Society of Black Engineers’ annual convention (which is being held virtually this year). Find ways to partner with organizations like these to source underrepresented talent. I promise they are there.
It’s important to understand that many underrepresented candidates don’t have as much exposure to computer science education as their traditional counterparts. In fact, Black students are less likely than white students to have classes dedicated to computer science at the school they attend (47 percent versus 58 percent). This widens access gaps for potential Black engineers as they simply don’t have exposure to these courses.
However, they may later find computer science interesting and complete a coding school or bootcamp. Using a resume screener that automatically rejects the applicant because it doesn’t recognize the certification or college is indirectly punishing the applicant for something they have no control over.
Start building relationships with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). HBCUs make up just 3 percent of the U.S.’s colleges and universities but account for 25 percent of Black graduates with STEM degrees. If a large number of our nation’s engineering talent comes from HBCUs, it almost seems obvious to find ways to recruit talent from there.
Equitable Hiring Is More Efficient
Engineering leaders who are struggling with reaching their hiring targets should consider all options for opening up their pipeline. Just be careful not to overlook the great candidates that are already knocking on your door.
Expand direct applicant sourcing and make sure all of your candidates know exactly what their role will be or what sorts of qualities they need to succeed at your company. Help them understand what their day-to-day may look like. The more you set them up for success, the better they can perform.
Not only will you meet your organizational hiring goals faster, but you’ll also have a leg up on your strategic diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives as well, and the world of tech will be better for it.
I hope to see more companies start to reflect and really understand what they can do to make sure their employees look like and serve the whole population.