I'm not a hiring manager, but I play one on TV
September 6, 2019 11:22 AM   Subscribe

I've been asked to help out with a hiring event at work. How can I do my best at this task while also ensuring that a diverse population of candidates are sent on for consideration?

My manager is unable to be present for a hiring event coming up and asked for a volunteer to pinch hit for him. I am not directly responsible for hiring anyone, and in fact have not done any corporate recruiting in a long time. I'm expecting some guidance from the folks running the actual event, but I'd like to see how other people have handled this kind of event in the past.

The hiring event itself is essentially an open "pre-screening" thing - job seekers can show up, hand out resumes, ask a few questions, and we get to chat with them. There's food; it sounds like it will be fairly casual. The goal is to find the right people to bring back for more formal interviews.

The available jobs are mostly white collar "tech" positions (engineering, analysts, program management, etc.) at a variety of seniority levels. The company does have a stated commitment to diversity and inclusion, and I want to ensure that I can recommend a diverse and well qualified candidate pool to the hiring managers.

What are some good techniques to not only identify good candidates to bring back for interviews, but also ensure that the list isn't a bunch of white dudes at the end of the evening?
posted by backseatpilot to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Where is the job fair being advertised? From my experience, and from the literature I've read, one of the most effective techniques to get a diverse candidate pool is to advertise in many areas. Consider contacting diverse professional organizations with the specifics of the fair and the specifics of the how you fulfill your commitment to diversity and inclusion.
posted by saeculorum at 11:32 AM on September 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

Also consider making the people at the job fair justify their choices to either pass along a candidate or drop their resume. Objective hiring criteria are a great step towards removing unconscious bias in the hiring process. If you have objective criteria, your representative at the job fair (or you) should be able to point to them to determine why a candidate is moving forward or not (as opposed to bias).
posted by saeculorum at 11:39 AM on September 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Research shows that on average, women will apply for a job if they believe they are 100% qualified for it according to the job description. Men will apply if they are 60% qualified. So if you want gender diversity, make sure the job descriptions are realistic. Many tech job descriptions are near-delusional in all they ask for, and only over-confident men will apply. Make sure you have the *real* requirements from the hiring manager (and not HR) and then speak about them realistically to candidates. Realize that women will often present their qualifications realistically, while men will inflate and grandstand. Often we are told that women should be more "confident" as if hot air equals confidence. Please do not penalize realistic candidates. These are tech jobs. Not jobs in marketing or PR where hot air is useful for the job itself.
posted by nirblegee at 12:21 PM on September 6, 2019 [9 favorites]

I need to reiterate that my entire involvement in this event is acting as a representative for my manager to meet people in person at this "open house" type event. I have no say in advertising, job descriptions, or the actions of anyone else at the event. I have been asked to be present and meet people, ask some questions, and then provide my own recommendations about who should be brought in for interviews. I'm looking for ways that I, personally, can make recommendations about candidates who show up (and I have no control over who shows up) without introducing any unconscious biases about those candidates.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:07 PM on September 6, 2019

You will remember best the earliest and the last people you meet. Make a point of actively seeking out diverse candidates at those times at the event. You will be swarmed by anxious white dudes; everyone else is more likely to be hanging back looking for a more nonobtrusive way of getting in front of you. I would try to make sure that, like, the first five people and the last two I spoke to were not white dudes. Also, don't let white dudes monopolize more of your time per person than the average person is getting.

I assume HR has pre-set the kinds of questions you can ask. If you are asking "soft" questions about hobbies, etc., remember that people not of your particular subculture may have different demands on their time and preferences and consciously think of yourself as out to learn about them, not to fit them into one box or another.
posted by praemunire at 1:15 PM on September 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I recently heard a fellow engineer tell me about a hiring practice they want to start using at her company, especially when the candidate is male and the role is a techie one: interview is conducted by both a male and a female engineer. The female engineer asks a question. If the candidate looks at the male engineer and answers "at" him, he fails the interview.

Thanks for clarifying that you don't have any control over where the position is advertised and how the ad is worded. Your influence begins and ends within the interview room, yes? The strategy above (perhaps think up variations on it and tailor it to suit the role/interviewers you have) might be useful and easy to implement.
posted by MiraK at 1:25 PM on September 6, 2019 [9 favorites]

The practice about interviewee focus is flawed - keep the ones who manage their replies appropriately. The problematic implicit bias is wide-ranging. Have the male candidate identify an over-focus, consistently, with a matter of fact, “she asked the question, we’re both interested in your response” Remind those who monopolize your time a) that you are working with a pool of candidates and b)if they are under-represented, that you’d like to see them do well, either for this position or a future one. Part of diversity includes disability (20% of the population has a qualifying health condition), review your accommodation process so you’re conversational, as easily 70% of qualifying conditions are not obvious.
posted by childofTethys at 3:40 PM on September 6, 2019

In my limited experience, if you're doing a cattle call type interview for tech people you are going to get mostly people who are unqualified and people with zero experience, so you can pretty much report the names of everyone who sounds promising and not worry about having too long a list. (That said, it's useful if you can note one thing about a person that explains why they're going on the list, like "she was enthusiastic about databases and told me about her Excel project"). The only other thing that you are likely to be able to do is try to be approachable and talk to people if they're hovering around the booth - a lot of the people you want to talk to are going to be new at this and feel awkward, so it's on you to try to ease them into things. If you can put out something for them to come over and look at, all the better.
posted by inkyz at 4:43 PM on September 6, 2019

Will you be wearing a corporate name badge or otherwise be conspicuously Working For The Company? If so, figure out a quick 10-second intro spiel and 2-3 questions ("what do you do?" "what brings you here?" "how long have you been in the industry?" etc) then just consciously walk up to diverse prospective candidates during the event and introduce yourself. If you just mill around waiting for people to introduce themselves and ask you questions, you will generally not talk to minority attendees.
posted by Xany at 6:03 PM on September 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I have done similar events I have worn a lanyard that has buttons representing values of my workplace - so LGBTQ2S, feminism quotes, etc. Also I would include in the listed “perks” of working such things as dedicated prayer rooms, nursing parent rooms, parental leave top-ups, “floater” days that can be used for religious/cultural holidays, a commitment to not send employees to non-inclusive places (convention centres or countries) etc. I would also check that the event itself is not being held on a day or time of significance. Any philothranpic work by the organization should be highlighted (which reminds me of the Baroness Von Sketch - but your org isn’t like that, right?)
posted by saucysault at 6:53 PM on September 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've done this many times. The single best thing I can tell you is to lead people to the answers you want. Namely, what did you do above your responsibilities that make you better than another warm body in the chair. At best, 5% will give you something, even if you ask for it directly. It levels the playing field a bit on who has been coached to who hasn't.

If it's a university event, things are a little easier. You'll learn exactly what projects were done in coursework in talking to 5-7 people, because they all tell you the same thing. Find anyone that tells you something different - be it an internship or pet project or working during school.

Bring tea and take breaks. You will probably be yelling over ambient noise all day. I lost my voice at the first one I did.

Hand sanitizer. Don't get yourself sick.

Overall, though, the best thing you can do is make sure you understand minimum criteria for an interview or follow up and stick rigorously to that.
posted by bfranklin at 5:35 AM on September 7, 2019

First, ask people what kind of role they're looking for. Folks who want something that your company isn't offering may or may not make sense to bring in, depending on how far off they are. If you only need people for x and someone only wants y then maybe that can't happen. But if you want someone for x+y and someone expresses and interest in x and another in y it might work to make two jobs. And if a person wants to be an x+y person but you only think you need a y person, then hey, maybe you get a bonus top x performer that you had not imagined was possible.

If they say "anything" or "junior" then ask the what kinds of projects they have worked on. Get folks talking about what they enjoy working on, or what challenges them, or what they have worked on most recently. Leave hobbies out of it. Try to steer that conversation toward something you know about your company. So in the example above with databases and excel, ask if they want to learn other ways to deal with databases, or if they're more interested in working with data using other software (R or Python?). This is like a choose your own adventure game, because they might tell you they really love Mongo, which is great if that's what your company is using. They might tell you they've used a little bit of SQL and lots of Java or C#. They might just stare blankly at you and tell you they haven't done any projects. Be careful with that last possibility, that might be anxiety or downplaying talking, especially if it comes from anyone who is not a white guy.

Have loads more business cards than you think you will need. Now double that. Ask every single person you interact with to send you a resume. Most of the people will not reach out to you. They might toss the card in a drawer, or pass it along to a friend, or leave it in their pants pocket until it runs through the washing machine. This is fine. When you get resumes, respond. (I know, this is going to take a ton of your time. Sorry. Applying for jobs is demoralizing and a single "thanks but no thanks" email that is the slightest bit personalized can really fuel the searcher to keep going. Marginalized folks are most likely to drop out of "the pipeline" and look for work outside tech. The vast majority of resumes go into some kind of vortex or black hole or algorithm.) Many people are in tech just for the money. This is not a black mark against them! Very few people get dinged for being in insurance or car sales or sanitation work "for the money" but for some reason many in tech have this idea that it's ok to filter for "passion about tech." Please do not do that.

Ask for business cards or email addresses. write a little note on each one, "excel project, HUNTER COLL," or "loves mongo, builds games," or "career change from dental assistant, loved patient education, wants to work with customers." Send them each a message thanking them for stopping by, asking if they have any questions, request a resume. Bring up what you remember from your conversation (and you will only remember enough if you jot it down, I promise!)

THIS WAY, in 3 months, when your sales guy leaves, you can dig out the card of the person who loves working with customers and ask if they're interested in and available for a sales role. And if they aren't, can they recommend someone who is?
posted by bilabial at 10:42 AM on September 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

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