Tips for Hiring a Diverse Development Team

There’s no denying that STEM fields have a problem with diversity. Despite a focus on the issue, and overwhelming evidence that diversity helps companies grow and retain the best talent, very little progress has been made overall. In 2014, analysis of large companies like Yahoo, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft showed that only 5% of these companies’ workforce was made up of African-American and Hispanic workers, and women make up around 36% of the national computing workforce and 15-17% at tech giants.

Also read: Can Corporate Diversity Change the World?

These numbers may be disheartening, but the good news is that as a hiring manager, you have the power to make meaningful change, in both your own organization and in the diversity of the American workforce. Unfortunately, it’s not always an easy task—there are some challenges you’ll face along the way, and you’ll need to be prepared for them. If you’re looking to create a more diverse development team, here are some tips for navigating the process.

Advertise Your Values

If diversity hiring is important to you, don’t keep quiet about it! Advertise your values on your website, and create a welcoming environment for incoming developers. Include your diversity stats, if you’re already creating cultural shifts within your organization. Spread the word internally as well—offer a special referral bonus for diversity hires to help prevent monoculture.

Reevaluate the Job Posting

Right from the beginning, you may be alienating potential candidates with your job postings. If they’re lazy and full of startup buzzwords, they won’t stand out and may even be a red flag to your target candidates. Emphasize the “soft” skills you want as well as the education and experience. Instead of reusing a template, create a posting that speaks to the audience you want to bring in. What are their concerns? What would make them pause? Are your “must haves” really musts, or just a nice bonus?

Also read: Workplace Inclusion, Diversity and Mentoring

Don’t Wait Passively

Many recruiters and hiring managers site a “lack of pipeline” as a hurdle to hiring for diversity. While it’s true that many women and minorities face problems like microaggressions and cultural roadblocks that discourage them from pursuing programming and other STEM field, there are graduates out there. About 13-15% of computer science graduates are African-American or Latino, but only 3-5% of tech employees are from this group. So where are these missing graduates? They may not be coming to you, so it’s up to you to find them.

Reach out to promising candidates on Linkedin. Connect with relevant social media groups. Partner with coding schools and bootcamps. Sponsor and support tech events for women and minorities. Offer internships and connect with students long before they graduate. This last one is particularly important as now more than ever as 85% of job openings are now filled due to networking. Reaching out proactively will build your pipeline and sends a powerful message to candidates and leaves a positive first impression. Anticipate your needs and start networking early.

Recognize Your Own Biases

Cultural conditioning is something none of us our immune to, and instead of ignoring its impact on us, we need to acknowledge our own biases and actively work against them. It’s important to understand that we are also more likely to hire people who remind us of ourselves—which can result in monoculture. Recognize your biases and the potential problems they can create in the hiring process, then monitor them throughout the process and make adjustments when necessary.

Also read: Ways to Improve Results of Workplace Diversity Initiatives

Reevaluate the Interview

There’s no need to have potential developers scribble algorithms on a whiteboard for you. That’s not an effective way of determining how well someone will work as a developer, and can be intimidating. Instead, have a simple conversation. Keep in mind that not all diverse candidates will be familiar with coding interviews, so sending some materials to help candidates prepare can help the process run smoothly.

Some groups of diversity candidates like new graduates and service members returning from the military may not have interviewed before, or at least in this context. If you want to distribute a programming test or sample project, it’s best to have this project be a take-home assignment, to take some of the pressure off and encourage candidates to submit quality work.

Don’t Rush It

While it’s tempting to rush the process when you need an extra set of hands, remember that the hiring process has high stakes. The cost of a bad hire can be high, and it’s important to find not only a diverse group of candidates, but the right fit as well. It’s easy to make diversity a buzzword, but making it a priority takes dedication and time. The rewards, however, are significant.

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