Thanks to a bounty of research in recent years, the case for diversity is clear: companies with higher percentages of gender, racial, and ethnic diversity are better performing teams. They are more likely to have financial returns above their industry average. Diverse teams also make better (and faster) decisions, are more creative at solving complex problems, and are smarter collectively. Increasing diversity has always been a priority for our team and the companies we work with, but the past six months have laid bare the true depth to which systemic racism and injustice continues to oppress and terrorize Black and underrepresented communities across this country and ignited a new sense of urgency for this work across businesses large and small.
Similar to many tech companies out there today, a number of companies we work with in the Two Sigma Ventures portfolio are expanding their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in recruiting, hiring, and employee experience. But one of the questions we hear most is where should we start? Research has shown training alone isn’t sufficient to eliminate bias. Additionally, status quo hiring practices are often biased and adversely affect underrepresented candidates. The good news is that there are many tactical ways to diversify your candidate pipeline. We’ve shared these tips with the startups in our portfolio over the last few years. We hope they can benefit others looking to improve their candidate pipelines and hiring practices, as well.
Attracting a Diverse Talent Pool
As you start building your recruiting processes, it’s important to think through two distinct groups: prospective candidates who may already know about your company (i.e. those in your network), and those who don’t.
Engaging those in your network
Let’s first start with those who are already seeking out your company. When someone comes to your website to learn about your business or explore job opportunities, what do they see? Do the photos on your landing page showcase the diversity that makes up your employee population? What other information do you share about your team culture, benefits and perks, and more? If you have a parental leave policy and/or flexible work policies for parents, it might be worth noting it for current and future parents. Adding two or three company benefits (commuter benefits, medical insurance coverage, etc.) can actually help fill your role faster. Also, try to avoid language that feels too age or gender-specific, as it might isolate those who don’t fit within that demographic (e.e. We have a real work-hard, play-hard culture!).
Job descriptions are another place where some minor tweaks to language and formatting can go a long way in increasing your candidate pool. First, the choice of words can actually deter underrepresented qualified candidates from applying. Words and phrases like rockstar, genius, and fast-paced environment have been shown to deter women and people of color from applying. For help reviewing your job descriptions for subtle biased language, try a tool like Textio or TapRecruit. You can paste your job description in a field and it will flag words that have a masculine/feminine tone. Preferences change across roles, locations and industries, so a language sparcing tool can help you continue improving your job descriptions as your company grows. For example, Textio has found that collaborate is preferred over interface when it comes to sales roles, but collaborate underperforms compared to teamwork when it comes to manufacturing roles.
Additionally, make sure any qualifications you have listed are absolutely necessary for success in that role. Listing too many qualifications can deter women from applying for a role; studies have shown that while men will apply for roles when they meet only 60% of the listed qualifications, women will often only apply if they meet 100%.
Finally, adding a diversity and inclusion statement to job descriptions has also been proven to increase the diversity of the candidate pool. A recent study by TapRecruit found that listing the subgroups the organization protects (age, gender, race, ethicity, etc.) increases candidates’ perceptions that your organization is inclusive and fair.
Reaching outside of your network
There’s also a whole world of candidates out there who don’t even know your company exists! How can you reach them?
The first step might be overcoming the bias in our own networks. Many teams we work with will say, “our diversity & inclusion problem is a pipeline problem.” And yes, objectively, the candidates coming into their pipeline are homogeneous. However, this is often because their networks are homogeneous. At startups in particular, a large percentage of roles filled go to friends and past colleagues of the current team. After all, we already know these people, right? The problem is that most people are connected with others who look and think a lot like them. And when we refer candidates, we often refer those who look like the rest of our team, because we subconsciously think about who would fit in with our team and our pattern-matching brains first think of those in our network who look most like others on our team. To begin overcoming this bias, when you promote internal referrals, regularly remind your team that hiring a diverse workforce is important to your company and that people from all backgrounds are welcome.
You can also broaden your network by partnering with organizations supporting candidates currently underrepresented in tech. There are a number of conferences like the National Society of Black Engineers, Lesbians Who Tech, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and Grace Hopper Celebration that partner with employers and offer sponsorship opportunities where you can get to know candidates and tell them about your company. If you’re working with or know any other great organizations, let us know! We’re always looking for new partners.
Interested in learning more?
We’ll be sharing more on hiring the best candidates from a diverse pool in the coming weeks. Additionally, feel free to send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your diversity & inclusion strategy.