Best Practices For Hiring An Inclusive Team
November 17, 2021

Su Joun is a Principal at Diversity@Workplace Consulting Group which works with organizations to diversify their workforces and create inclusive, equitable work environments through consultation and trainings. She was previously the Vice President of Talent, Diversity, and Inclusion at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) where she led the enterprise diversity and inclusion, talent acquisition, performance management and leadership development and associate engagement teams. She has taught Global Human Resources, Organizational Behavior and CareerLaunch at Suffolk University and has presented to audiences such as the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, CFO Roundtable, UMASS Center for Collaborative Leadership, NEHRA, HubWeek, General Assembly, Skillsoft Conference, and the Boston Bar Association. Here, she discusses hiring best practices and effective ways to assemble inclusive teams.

What good places to source talent beyond the usual job postings.

Beyond LinkedIn careers, and all the job posting sites, start by ensuring you're looking for active talent, meaning those who apply for the job, and passive talent, meaning those who are not even looking. 45% of people who already are employed are actually looking for jobs.

The other thing that you can use to source talent is professional organizations. There are professional organizations for everything. Leverage those organizations, they exist to advance the careers of their members.

The third thing that I would suggest is to look outside your network. Our networks are very siloed so if you can't find talent within yours, it may be that you need to reach out to other people’s.

We always say we're looking for the ‘best qualified’, but in many ways, best qualified is a very subjective thing.

How can leaders create more inclusive job descriptions?

Excellent question! Many things can be done to draw in a wider variety of applicants. First, revisit the qualifications and advertise the minimum threshold. Just because a master's degree was needed five years ago doesn't mean it is needed today. Let me also acknowledge the concept of best qualified. We always say we're looking for the best qualified, but in many ways, best qualified is a very subjective thing. We tend to hire people who look good on paper, or we had an immediate connection to, or were referred to us or were already part of our network. The "best qualified" is very biased, mostly unintentionally, but there’s still bias there.

Second, have shorter job descriptions. Studies have shown that women, for example, tend to apply for jobs when they see about 90% of themselves in that job description. On the other hand, men usually apply when they see only 65% of themselves on the job description.

The third thing to avoid is listing personalities and traits. In job descriptions, I often see things like: must be driven, be a go-getter, be world-class, be assertive, and be a people person. And while they sound objective, they're incredibly subjective. For example, candidates may go, "I don't know if I'm a people person. I don't know if I'm world-class. I don't know if I'm assertive. I don't know if I'm as driven as you would want me to be."

Lastly, provide an opportunity to describe qualifications outside of their resume. Studies show that resumes, level of education and where they went to school are the least reliable indicators of success. Veterans, for example, may not be able to put on paper the applicable skills, but they may be amazing project managers because of things they navigated throughout their military career.

If we only look for cultural fit, we're only going to hire people who are like us or think like us and we may not end up with the most innovative team. Instead, look for a cultural add.

What are key components of a great interview process?

I have a few suggestions on how to conduct and fair and inclusive interview process.

  1. Make sure there's some uniformity. All the candidates should get equal time and be asked a similar number and similar type of questions.
  2. Quickly fill out the rubric form. At the end of the interview, each interviewer should fill out the evaluation form and turn it over to the recruiter or hiring manager while it's fresh in their minds.
  3. Have one on one interviews versus groups. We sometimes think group interviews are mor efficient or draw different perspectives, but they often just result in groupthink.
  4. Don't keep the witness. What I mean by that is, we often tend to influence other interviewers. To combat that, add one or two more to your finalist pool to ensure a more inclusive process.
  5. Have a speedy process. If it's clear a candidate isn't going to make it to the next round, let them know as soon as possible.

Finally, here's a word of caution about cultural fit. Ask yourself who would be good additions to your team in terms of personality, industry experiences, and so forth. If we only look for cultural fit, we're only going to hire people who are like us or think like us and we may not end up with the most innovative team. Instead, look for a cultural add. Who would add another dimension, another addition to our perspectives, who would round us out versus who would be just like us?

What are some atypical questions that might help you get to know a candidate best?

I would say stick to behavioral-based questions. Tell me about your experience doing this kind of role. Tell me about the last project you led. Behavioral-based questions are the most standard, safest, best way to go. We want to circumvent having run-off conversations. I'm sure we've all been there, where for 20 minutes we went off on a tangent and never talked about qualifications. If you have things in common with the applicant the deviation could work in their favor, but if you don't it could work against them. So try to stick to the same set of behavioral-based questions rooted in the qualifications needed for the job.

Are we the only ones who think it's time to scrap the traditional resume format?

There has been quite a rallying cry for scrapping resumes altogether - to scrap all traditional ways of evaluating talent. Let me take it a step further. Some organizations have decided, why even have an interview process? Let's just find the talent, bring them on and train them in everything. Our organization, for example, doesn't have an interview process. We don't really look at resumes. We bring in talent and train them. We invest in them. So that's another way to think about it.

I will say this about resumes; we think we have to see everything on paper to know if someone's qualified. Yet all of us have experienced situations where we promoted someone based on this type of statement: "He's a great guy." "He's such a nice person." "She is just so good." And we end up promoting people that way. So many decisions are made on subjective gut feelings. We may cry for paper, but we don't actually rely on it as much as we think.



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