10 tips for hiring managers to increase diversity

The following 10 tips are tailored to any hiring manager in the technology space looking to increase diversity on their team.

  1. Ask for diversity targeted referrals - When sourcing referrals from your own team, explicitly ask for diversity referrals. Most people tend to know folks like themselves (gender / race), and their first thought for referrals might be within their own group. To improve the amount of diversity in your pipeline, explicitly ask for diversity referrals to get folks thinking beyond their immediate circle. To get really hands on, consider sitting down with each team member and walking through their LinkedIn network with an eye towards diversity.

  2. Write inclusive job descriptions (esp. for gender diversity) - A body of research shows that how you write your job description makes a difference before a candidate even reaches out. Consider reducing the number of required qualifications. Men are more likely to round up on their accomplishments, whereas women tend to round down and opt out of applying to jobs where they don’t meet the minimum requirements even though both the man and woman in a given scenario might be equally qualified (HBR article). Also take a pass to ensure the adjectives and phrasing could be attractive to women (examples and study) and that there aren’t implicit or explicit mentions of gender or race in the job posting. 

    1. Resource: Textio will test your current job descriptions for gender inclusiveness.

    2. How to measure job posting appeal to diversity candidates? Look at the gender ratio of applicants. How does it compare to your industry’s gender ratio? Aim for higher than average, and if it’s not there, tweak your job descriptions or maybe even A/B test to measure the impact. Continuous experimentation is key.

  3. Interview at least one diverse candidate for each role - Apply the Rooney Rule (or take it even further like Clara Shih), where you interview at least one qualified diverse candidate before committing to hiring for a role. When I’ve pitched this to other hiring managers, this suggestion receives the most skepticism. They say it’s hard to apply the Rooney Rule since most hires are opportunistic and the pipeline doesn’t often produce diverse candidates. Ask yourself, though - is the trade off worth it? You might fill a role on your team one or two months earlier, but you’ll lose out on the opportunity to have more diversity on your team for the next few years.

  4. Run a re-engagement campaign - There are two flavors of re-engagement that can increase your diversity pipeline:

    1. Reaching out to rejected diversity candidates - If you’ve borderline rejected diversity candidates, consider reaching out again. Six months to a year of extra experience might be enough to give them the skills they need to pass your hiring bar. These candidates might not proactively re-apply, but could be some of your most qualified candidates.

    2. Reaching out to Boomerang hires - Boomerang hires are successful hires who have left your team or the workforce, especially mothers who might have left your team to start a family. You already know these candidates are qualified with a track record of success, and maybe all they need is a little extra nudging to come back and work with your team.

  5. Require at least one diversity interviewer - Requiring at least one diversity interviewer for a diversity candidate has benefits for you and for the candidate. For your team, it ensures that diversity hires aren’t inadvertently rejected due to the unconscious bias of a homogenous set of interviewers. For the candidate, it demonstrates that minorities are included in your decision making process and makes the role you’re hiring for more attractive. As the hiring manager, when you evaluate interviewer feedback, look for differences between the interviewers for indications of unconscious bias (e.g. Male interviewers saying the candidate is “too nice” or “passive” and a female interviewer not noting any personality issues).

  6. Make a public commitment to diversity - Making a public declaration to diversity hiring and development signals to prospective hires that you actively care about diversity and that they can expect support once they join your team. This can be another tactic to make your role more attractive than other roles the candidate is considering. If you’re looking for inspiration, here are public diversity support statements from Facebook, Google, and Pinterest. These are larger organizations making this commitment, but consider a one-pager about your commitment that you can share with your immediate team.

  7. Foster an inclusive and supportive community - How your teammates talk about your team with candidates helps to sell your role. For diversity candidates (many of whom may not have come from previously supportive environments), showcasing that your team cares about and supports each other makes a difference. One easy tactic would be to use inclusive pronouns when giving examples or talking about users during the interview.

  8. Do champion calls to sell candidates - Once you've decided to hire a diversity candidate, give them a champion call from someone senior in the organization to sell the role. This signals that they’ll get visibility within your organization from the beginning. Also consider a diversity champion call, where a more senior member of the same minority group pitches the candidate on joining the team. This also signals that underrepresented minorities can achieve high levels of accomplishment within your organization.

  9. Bootstrap advocates from previous teams - Senior teammates from underrepresented minorities can be hard to find or may not exist within your organization, so it might be hard to source your senior champions for sell calls. Champions don’t always need to come from within your immediate org. Enlist former colleagues that know what it’s like to work with you and can vouch for you and your organization. Ask them do some champion calls to diversity candidates on your behalf.  

  10. Hire junior folks from underrepresented minorities - The pipeline for diversity in tech is getting better and better each year (thanks to an increasing number of diversity outreach programs), so if you’re struggling to hire more senior diversity hires, turn your attention to hiring junior diversity candidates. Being the first or second underrepresented minority on your team can be hard (i.e. diversity hiring is better when there’s already momentum) and more senior hires might be hesitant to join a team without an existing track record of diversity hiring. However, junior folks might not think about minimum diversity hiring as a strong criteria when choosing a job. And once you have a more diverse team, hiring senior diversity leaders may become easier.