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How to support DEI as a hiring manager.

Photo of Catherine Tapia
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As you begin the hiring process for a new role, it is important to remember that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is everyone's responsibility. This includes not just the recruiter but, more importantly, the hiring manager, other interviewers, and the company overall.

If you’re a hiring manager, you may wonder, what can I do to support DEI as I search for my new hire? If you're asking that question, you’re already on the right track. Below are three concrete things you can do: be aware of potential biases, standardize how you assess candidates, and start using panel interviews.

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Be aware of potential biases so you can mitigate them

While all DEI recruitment strategies and hiring initiatives should include unconscious bias training for hiring managers, it’s important to go beyond that. Labels and stereotypes can affect how people think and act, even if unintentional. When people realize their biases, they're more likely to change how they make decisions. Then they can make a more unbiased decision based on facts instead of potential stereotypes.

For example, some words or phrases may turn off or alienate many candidates and reduce the number of people who apply. Hiring managers and recruiters should collaborate on creating a list of job skills to guarantee a quality hiring strategy. Which competencies are crucial for success? What characteristics set a top performer apart from an average player? What skills are critical? Job posts that list everything as "required" discourage underrepresented groups from applying. So it’s important to focus on communicating the skills and experience you need and eliminate any exclusionary or biased language in job descriptions and job ads. This is one way to help increase the pipeline of diverse candidates that apply.

After hiring managers have identified the qualifications they seek, they need training on how to interview candidates to understand their skills, experience, and job fit. While it may seem obvious to train hiring managers on how to hire, few companies provide this support to new managers or new hires in management roles. If you haven’t been trained on interview best practices, reach out to human resources, learning and development, or your DEI council to find out what resources they might offer.

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Standardize candidate assessments with structured interviews

Structured interviews are the fairest way to gather data. When done successfully, this approach ensures all candidates are asked the same questions and that those questions focus on the skills, competencies, and behaviors outlined in the job description.

When using structured interviews, a candidate interview matrix is a valuable tool. Interviewers can keep track of each candidate's responses to interview questions, the quality of those answers, and their overall performance during the interview by assigning points based on predetermined criteria.

The matrix helps the hiring panel compare candidates more objectively and ensures that unconscious bias or criteria unrelated to the role don’t creep into the evaluation process. Your matrix can be as simple as a shared spreadsheet that you customize for each job opening and update for each candidate, or it can be part of the workflow in your hiring platform.

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Start using panel interviews instead of one-on-ones

Panel interviews, particularly when they include people from different backgrounds and experiences, are incredibly helpful to the hiring process. One benefit is that they help ensure hiring decisions are not based on stereotypes or biases. During panel interviews, it's essential to make sure that the hiring manager is present for each interview. In a panel, feedback is based on everyone hearing the same thing. Then, the hiring manager can ask questions, and if the input from others isn't clear or if it seems like bias might be creeping in, the team has the whole story.

Panel interviews also help hiring managers to cover more topics comprehensively, which provides a fuller picture of a candidate than individual interviews. It’s helpful to brief the hiring panel and discuss the role, job description, and interview matrix ahead of time to ensure all the questions and criteria are relevant and that the role of each interviewer and what questions they should ask are clear.

While panel interviews may seem intimidating at first, they can also enhance the candidate experience. Candidates have a chance to learn more about the company, meet potential teammates, and figure out if the job feels like the right fit. Seeing representation is also helpful, and they can hear the perspectives of employees who have different backgrounds and experiences.

It can be challenging when a candidate from an underrepresented group seems like the front-runner but isn’t favored by other interviewers. If this happens, it’s time to ask some hard questions:

  • Can you share why this candidate is not your preferred choice?
  • Did you see something lacking in the candidate’s experience based on the job description and matrix?
  • What feedback can you share with our recruiter so we can find a better fit next time?

Don't let the team off the hook so quickly. While it might feel uncomfortable, it’s ok to ask these questions respectfully so they can think about any bias that may have influenced their hiring recommendation.

Takeaways

  • Diversity recruitment strategies should always include unconscious bias training.
  • Training hiring managers on the hiring process and best practices may seem self-explanatory. But it isn't often done, so it’s up to hiring managers to ask for the training they need.
  • They should also be aware of how their terminology may be exclusionary.
  • Structured interviewing is often the fairest way to give the interviewer the needed data.
  • An interview matrix is a valuable tool for conducting candidate interviews.
  • When conducted effectively, panel interviews help paint a more complete picture of candidates than one-on-one interviews.
  • Diversity on the interview panel helps avoid hiring decisions based on preconceived notions.

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