Recruiting for Diversity

By Stacey A. Gordon

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The last time I guest blogged on Social -Hire, I wrote (sarcastically) that you should be happy you have a job. So this time, I’m going to flip it and talk to the recruiters.

Have you ever been invited to an event where everyone was speaking a different language? Have you attended an event where everyone was casually dressed and you were in a suit? Or maybe you were under dressed and everyone else was in formal attire? How did that make you feel? Self-conscious? Unwelcome? That is what it’s like when you are attempting to start a diversity program without any diversity in your recruiting team.

"Sometimes I don't even think people know, or are conscious, or aware that they're judging, even if it's by a name, but I think we all do it all the time" says José Zamora, the man who changed his name from José to Joe to get a job.  Why? Because Joe’s inbox was flooded with emails from prospective employers who wanted to interview him. José, not so much. By dropping the ‘s’ from his name, this man who applied to 50 to 100 jobs every day for several months, without receiving a single response, suddenly was being contacted.

Diversity recruiting is just one attempt to combat bias in hiring. And I hear you thinking this one example doesn’t mean anything - it’s just a one-time thing, right? Well tell that to Yolanda Spivey. Yolanda had 10 years of experience in insurance but couldn’t get a job.  On Monster.com’s “diversity questionnaire” she stopped answering that she was black and decided to check the “white” box. That’s Caucasian for you politically correct folks. Yolanda Spivey became Bianca White (nothing else on her resume changed except her phone number). The very first day she did this she received a response. After a week, Bianca had received nine phone calls and seven emails. Yolanda received zero phone calls and two emails; the two emails were for commission only sales jobs. Should I let you draw your own conclusions? Nope, I’m going to continue to beat you over the head with this.

I have personal examples of this type of bias at work from when I was an independent recruiter, but I don’t want you to think diversity is all about race and ethnicity, because it isn’t. Instead, I’ll move on to the example of bias that we’ve all seen and accepted before.

A father and son have a car accident and are both badly hurt. They are both taken to separate hospitals. When the boy is taken in for an operation, the surgeon says 'I cannot do the surgery because this is my son'. How is this possible?

Even though you’ve probably read this example before, did it take you long to remember the doctor is a woman? This used to stump people every time. Why? Because it wasn’t widely accepted that a woman could be a doctor. Now it is. How did that happen? More women were encouraged to become doctors. More women became doctors and it became the norm (almost).

When attempting to incorporate diversity into the recruiting process, don’t just focus on adding more women. If true diversity is what you’re seeking, you can’t accomplished it by focusing on only one dimension. It’s strange how that works.

So how can you overcome bias and incorporate diversity into your recruiting process?

First, admit you’re deficient. We are all deficient and if you are sitting here saying you’re not and you would never, you are lying to yourself and that is the biggest obstacle you will have to overcome.

Second, take stock of your network. Who is in your LinkedIn network? Who do you eat lunch or share watercooler info with? Who do you golf with? Do you only have that one Black friend? Not enough Asian people in your network? Start associating with people who are different than you and different than the majority of people in your network. People with different perspectives can help navigate a new culture, provide referrals, invite you to events you otherwise wouldn’t know about, etc.

And third, stop harboring stereotypes. Latino ≠ less educated; Black ≠ inarticulate; Asian ≠ inflexible; LGBT ≠ loud and boisterous; Young ≠ inexperienced; Woman ≠ less ambitious.  Science says we can overcome bias through exposure, self-awareness and flexible social networks.  Associating yourself with people who are different than you gives you the opportunity to see people in a different light. It makes you more likely to hire someone different and it makes you less likely to question whether that person would be successful in the role.  The association doesn’t even have to be prolonged. It just needs to happen.

If you would like to obtain different results, start by changing your current recruitment process.

About the Author

Stacey provides sound career advice and strategies to individuals, while offering companies recruitment, training and professional development solutions via The Gordon Group. As a consultant with Right Management and LinkedIn, Stacey has assisted professionals through outplacement and job search strategies. She has been an expert contributor to the Career Attraction blog, is a featured coach on TheMuse, served for many years on the Board of the Los Angeles Chapter of MBA Women International and is now the COO & EVP of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources. The author of The Successful Interview: 99 Questions to Ask and Answer (and Some You Shouldn't), her writing has appeared in Forbes and she has contributed to articles in Essence, Black MBA Magazine and Monster.com.

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