How to diversify your IT hiring pipeline

Sharon Florentine

"How many times do you use 'mission critical' in your job descriptions, or 'leave it all on the field'? That's automatically going to exclude a whole bunch of people who aren't interested in what those imply. Not to mention that they're clichéd. Your candidates are going to roll their eyes and you'll lose them," she says.

Textio's data also shows that one of the most significant indicators that a company's hiring process is biased is use of the word 'Nerf', and the word 'synergy' is a huge red flag for a generally toxic workplace.

Finally, Snyder says, always include an Equal Opportunity Employment statement, but make sure it's a personally crafted statement, not a regurgitation of the old standard. "Make it sincere, thoughtful, honest and unique. You need to state that you're open to all groups, that you value variation in thought, background, class, race, gender, sexual orientation, experience and education, and you need to write it yourself," she says.

The culture conundrum

While most companies have good intentions when they emphasize the need for a cultural fit, that strategy can backfire, especially when it comes to increasing diversity in the hiring process.

"The problem with asking someone to be a culture fit is that unconsciously it means someone else who looks and acts exactly like who and what's already at the company. I think the term is problematic, but it's tough to know what to replace that with. We like to use 'culture add' -- to stress that you're going to add value, insight and perspective to your teams, and gain something you're missing," says Emerson.

Culture fit is sometimes a panacea for organizations that don't consider the value that differences of opinion and perspective can bring to the table, says Caroline Simard, research director at the Clayman Institute for Gender Studies at Stanford University.

"Don't be afraid of conflict. You're not hiring for everyone to get along -- innovation happens when there's conflict. You want inclusion, yes, but you want it not just for its own sake, but to leverage different ideas, different work styles, different backgrounds and opinions," Simard says.

Technical screening

Finally, when you're hiring for IT roles, a technical screening seems like the last place bias and discrimination can occur -- most organizations feel this is one area where candidates are strictly judged on competency and merit. But even here, unconscious bias and a tendency toward reducing time to hire can negatively impact women and people of color, Simard says.

"There is no situation in this process more prone to unconscious bias than in tech screenings. Part of that problem is companies need to move fast to hire talent, so they fall back on stereotypes and unconscious bias comes into play. We've discovered that, even in a process that's supposed to focus only on tech skills that women and minorities are often penalized for things like 'communication skills' and 'leadership skills,' which shouldn't have a place in a strictly technical assessment," Simard says.

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