By identifying strengths and pitfalls of technology and people, companies can reduce bias and improve their hiring processes.
By Portia Kibble Smith
Interviews are incredibly intimate and vulnerable moments in the hiring process. They are stressful for candidates and can be time-consuming for hiring managers across all industries. With today’s renewed focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, companies are looking for ways to reduce biases and make their hiring processes more inclusive.
It’s easy to look at artificial intelligence (AI) as a silver bullet or an “easy button.” But will making interviews and recruiting processes less human help organizations eliminate human bias?
Not exactly. When looking at industries like insurance or mortgage lending, there are examples of some companies blindly utilizing AI without a human-centered lens. Dropping data into a black box of AI algorithms has been problematic because the equations can actually directly or indirectly discriminate against demographics of people based on specific characteristics like gender, race, ethnicity, etc.
If these tools are utilized without responsible human oversight, AI can codify bias and bake centuries of systemic racism and discrimination into the hiring process by amplifying pedigree bias. For example, if a candidate went to a top 10 computer science program and performed well, companies then optimize their hiring funnel by only recruiting software developers from that specific school.
By identifying the places where technology and people are most useful and the areas most prone to potential bias, companies can create more equitable hiring processes. A good place to start, especially for hiring technical talent, is to look at how a human interviewer’s presence impacts the inclusiveness of technical assessments. As more companies build diverse talent pipelines from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), hispanic-serving Institutions (HSIs), Grace Hopper Conference, and organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers, hiring teams should ask: Are code tests preventing the hiring process from being as inclusive as it should be? Should there be alternative ways to evaluate talent during the hiring process?
Organizations can analyze their hiring process and look for places where underrepresented candidates may be falling through the cracks. Below are some key considerations that recruiting and hiring managers should keep in mind when implementing hiring strategies to reduce pedigree bias.
• Streamline talent pipelines. Evaluating the hiring process by examining how companies build a talent pipeline and assess candidates’ skills can offer valuable insight. Hiring diverse talent begins with deepening and widening the talent pool to represent the demographics an organization would like to hire, then ushering them through an equitable interviewing process.
Another critical step is ensuring all candidates are prepared. Make sure they understand what is being assessed and how, so they become familiar with the process. This can prevent a candidate who has an inside connection from having an unfair advantage advantage and can better prepare neurodiverse candidates for a successful outcome. Programs like Brilliant Black Minds help to unlock opportunities for underrepresented software engineers by providing free practice interviews, feedback, and professional development opportunities.
This evenly levels the playing field and delivers on the belief that real-life human technical interviews are a step toward reducing biases regarding inclusive hiring efforts, especially for underrepresented communities.
• Ensure bias isn’t baked into the job descriptions. To structure an efficient and equitable hiring program, analyze the open role and create a list of relevant competencies. The job description is the first opportunity to formalize the attributes that businesses want to find in a successful team member, so ensure these traits are measurable and inclusive. For example, when hiring for a typical engineering role, attributes could include project discussions, algorithms, or code reviews. These competencies are clearly defined and can be measured in an objective and structured way.
• Don’t overwhelm job candidates. Be considerate of candidates’ time: Don’t load them up with too many assignments during the hiring process. For example, time consuming coding assignments for a software programming position could discriminate against time-crunched candidates like those who have two jobs.
With the help of an inclusive job description, talent acquisition leaders should be looking for three to five core competencies at the interviewing stage. Once interviewees have been identified, hiring managers can examine other core competencies as the candidate field is narrowed down.
Train interviewers to deliver questions consistently and clearly to gain solid predictive insights. A 60-minute, in-depth interview to assess competencies should be all a hiring manager needs, especially if a structured rubric is in place to evaluate and compare candidates.
• Measure the candidate’s experience to monitor the interview drop-off rate. It’s crucial that hiring managers measure and track the candidate’s entire interview experience. Companies can do this by collecting candidate feedback after the fact. Another measurable indicator of how candidates feel about the interview process is the drop-off rate by stage.
If there are concerns about the drop-off rate of a specific interviewer, work with the executive until the issue can be addressed—not just for the sake of compliance, but also for the preservation of employer brand, because candidates will share their experience in some form or fashion.
A human and technology-driven approach is essential to making tech hiring more equitable and inclusive. However, keep in mind there is no “fast track” to building an inclusive hiring process. That’s why it’s up to companies to take the time to ensure they are thoroughly vetting the technology they use to recruit along with utilizing and training all parties to aid the process.
Portia Kibble Smith is an executive recruiter and diversity and inclusion lead for Karat.