The realities of our industry cannot be ignored. In 2016, 67% of employees in tech in Portland were male. 84% reported were white. When we joined the Portland Techtown pledge three years ago, it was because we knew there was a problem and, up until that point, hadn’t done a better job to change it.
Since joining the pledge, we’ve identified ways we can collectively address the problem. This starts with recruitment and hiring. Here are five steps we’ve taken to help remove bias in our hiring process:
1. Being involved in underrepresented communities
You may think that hiring begins with the job post, but getting the right candidates interested in your company can (and should) start before that. Being involved in local and underrepresented communities has given us a chance to introduce ourselves, and let them know they should consider companies like ours. From hosting events in our space to volunteering at events, just being present and talking about opportunities with them can bridge that gap.
2. Checking posts for bias
Without even realizing it, our job posts can turn groups away. The tone or the words we choose can hold an unconscious bias – a prejudice over the type of candidate from gender to education to even age and social status. Because those biases aren’t always as clear, we’ve relied on applications like Textio to spot where we might be unintentionally narrowing our pool and excluding groups.
Words like ninja or rockstar seem positive and on point, but actually turn away women from applying. Years of experience can also deter candidates. While there’s a certain need for experience in our roles, we’ve balanced that by increasing the number of internship and junior opportunities we support. This ensures that we’re not always pulling from the same white, male pool that has ten years of experience.
3. Sharing opportunities with underrepresented communities
Whenever we have an open job, we like to share with underrepresented communities and groups. Posting on their social media accounts or job boards gives us access to groups who may not see the ad through another channel.
Just as important to sharing is being present in their networking events. We recently spoke with PDX Women in Tech, a local non-profit promoting women in technology, about their experience with their job board. They mentioned networking at their events is extremely beneficial for future recruitment as it establishes a personal connection with the company, and that companies who are present at networking events see a greater reception to their job posting.
4. A process for interviewing
Prior to receiving training and researching best practices for removing bias in interviews, we held interviews much like most companies. We started with initial phone screenings, then had a role-specific interview, and sometimes one last interview with more team members.
Before each interview, we’d read through the notes from the last interviewer. During the interviews we’d each have a handful of questions, but nothing standardized. And immediately after each interview we’d huddle in a room and talk about what we thought.
What we didn’t realize is how much bias we had allowed to enter our process during each step. Based on what we learned, we’ve amended our interview process.
Using a web application, Workable, we establish a set of interview questions for each interview stage. By establishing a list of questions it ensures we aren’t inconsistent in how we evaluate candidates by asking different questions of different candidates.
We also removed the “What’d you think?” step before and after an interview, and have asked team members to keep evaluations private and evaluate each candidate in Workable before they talk in a group. This removes any influence one person in the group might have to sway individual opinions. Groupthink is real, and this helps avoid it.
Just by removing a little of the informality of our process, we improve the chances of providing a fair and honest assessment of each candidate.
5. Trainings & Documenting Best Practices
With the help of a few resources like best practices for a successful interview and resources on unconcious bias, we’ve been able to build out our own processes and best practices, and document everything in our Employee Playbook. This allows us to refer to it in the future and expand on it when needed.
It also ensures that we collectively work from the same set of rules and can easily train new employees on these best practices we’ve embraced.
We still have a lot of work to do, and even with these new guides, we are still learning and making mistakes along the way. And while we may not be actively hiring all the time, we know there are ways for us to affect change in our industry just by being involved.
If you’re looking for new ways of reducing bias in your recruitment and hiring processes, we invite you to try some of the steps we mentioned above. While they aren’t perfect, trying even some of these incremental changes can make a big difference. We hope that with this increased awareness and ongoing conversations within our team and the broader tech community, we can invite positive change sooner rather than later.