UNDERSTANDING THE WAYS your interview practices can subtly influence job candidates and your own decision making is a key part of building a diverse workforce. According to a recent ChannelPro reader survey, 74% of respondents make diversity, equity, and inclusion goals part of their hiring process. To help ensure success with that goal, experts say, interviewers first need to be self-aware of internal biases.
The Society for Human Resource Management identifies several types of interviewer bias, from stereotyping to inconsistent questioning of candidates to making snap judgments. Those judgments can start with the resume. Focusing on where an applicant went to school or where they live, along with titles and degrees, is a “”huge pitfall”” to building a diverse workforce, says LaChristian Taylor, head of executive operations, CEO Office, at cybersecurity company Exabeam.
Interview questions about hobbies can also be barriers, says Marvin Bee, president of MB Systems, an MSP in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. For instance, he says, as a Black man interviewing for jobs in corporate America after grad school, the fact that he golfed opened up doors, but an interview question about the sport would leave most minority candidates feeling like outsiders. “”I know that most Black Americans, at least before the Tiger Woods era, did not golf,”” Bee says.
Candidates can note bias in subtle questions, says Lila Kelly, principal of Lila Kelly Associates, a diversity and HR consultancy, and DiversityIntegration.com, which helps organizations build competencies in hiring for diversity. For instance, an African-American she’s spoken with who once applied for a position that would make him the only person of color on the management team was asked how he thought employees would respond to him. What was implied but not said: How would he fit in as the only person of color?
Further, traditional questions that ask a candidate to describe their strengths or weaknesses don’t take into account cultural sensitivities or lack of access to coaching. “”Someone from a cultural background where they learned that you don’t brag about yourself as an individual may find it very difficult, if not impossible, to provide a good answer,”” says Kelly. Moreover, she says, “”Commonly asked questions like these may get rehearsed responses from applicants who have practiced interviewing or been coached on how to interview, and [interviewers] may miss good responses from diverse applicants.””
Getting feedback after the interview is a good way to reshape questions if necessary, says Taylor. Exabeam asks candidates to fill out a questionnaire about their interview experience and uses that information to either rework or enhance the process.
Kelly says questions should focus on an applicant’s skills, knowledge, and abilities to do the job. One example, she says, is “”Tell me about a project you worked on, and what were the results and your part in that.””
Similarly, rather than ask someone how long they’ve been in a role or how much experience they have, Taylor suggests asking a candidate how they would approach a particular type of task. Making the interview more like a conversation, she says, will encourage candidates to open up about their experiences.
If possible, add diverse employees to the hiring team. Exabeam, for instance, has an Ambassador program that enlists a diverse group of employees to participate in the interview process. “”That shows to the candidate, ‘Hey, this company values diversity because it’s not just five white males interviewing me,”” Taylor says.
Kelly also advises using a rubric to rate candidates’ responses, and to fill it out while the impression is fresh rather than rely on memory. When it comes down to decision making, she adds, the hiring committee should hold itself accountable for any biases that may cause a qualified diverse applicant to be rejected by questioning if a particular objection is relevant to skills, knowledge, and ability to do the job.
Hiring teams need to recognize that “”talent comes from all walks of life,”” Taylor says, “”even if it is in a different area code or a different zip code.””