Stop the Blame Game: How Hiring Managers and Recruiters Can Partner to Improve Diversity Efforts

November 19, 2020

Photo of two people walking and talking outside

As a part of my consulting business, I do diversity recruiting training programs for both recruiters and hiring managers. My most favorite reaction from participants happens when I make this bold statement during orientation:

“In diversity recruiting, recruiters are accountable for the diversity within the candidate pool and hiring managers are accountable for the diversity among those hired into the company. To increase diversity within an organization, recruiters must hold up their end of the partnership. Hiring managers must hold up their end of the partnership.”

With that statement, recruiters often release a sigh of relief — no longer feeling the weight of the pressure to increase diversity alone. Clearing up this misconception at the start of training is what course corrects the team and prepares each for a new journey toward increasing diversity.

However, the aforementioned is the ideal. All too often, I hear the following phrases:

  • “We submitted representative candidate slates; hiring managers just aren’t selecting candidates from historically underrepresented backgrounds.”
  • “These candidate pools are too small; I need to see more candidates.”

Rather than providing support and accountability toward the partnership, recruiters and hiring managers blame each other for the lack of diversity within the company. Recruiters blame hiring managers for passing on solid candidates and hiring managers blame recruiters for ineffective candidate pools. Both offenses reinforce the talent pipeline myth despite being debunked by many professionals.

So, how do we move the dial toward improving diversity in the workplace? In other words, how do we move away from this blaming to ensure that both parties can live up to the expectations necessary to meet an initiative to increase diversity? Here are a few ideas:

1. Understand that diversity recruiting is a partnership between the recruiter and the hiring manager. Playing the blame game does not help anyone, especially marginalized groups.

2. Clarify roles. The recruiter is accountable for the diversity within the candidate pool. The hiring manager, as the final selection decision maker, is responsible for the diversity among those hired into the company.

Next, before I share the third thing that should happen, we have to clear up a major misconception: Does the size of your candidate pool actually matter?

The answer is yes: When it comes to increasing diversity at an organization, candidate pool size does matter, but it is not where most hiring leaders believe it should matter. It is unlikely that you need a larger finalist candidate pool.

As a hiring manager, you do not have the time (or likely, the desire) to screen tons of resumes and interview tons of candidates. The role of the recruiter is to do the frontline work by screening resumes and applications so that you are only reviewing top talent. If your recruiter is sending you hundreds of resumes to review, that is a problem, because you, as a hiring manager, are now doing much of your recruiter’s work. When the hiring team has a handful of finalists to interview, that is a good thing. In recruiting, if your finalists are all competitive talent, then you can celebrate because you have a solid recruiting partner. So, here is my third point.

3. Understand that the size of a candidate pool matters in the beginning when the position is initially posted. By the time the finalists are selected, candidate pool size no longer matters. Psychology matters.

And this leads me to a fourth point:

4. Because psychology matters as it relates to the shortlisted candidates, implement proactive measures to disrupt bias.

To better help explain what I mean, I want you to think of a funnel. In order to reach the one candidate that you will hire, it is likely that many candidates will be assessed along the way. For example, for the one candidate that gets hired, your hiring team may have interviewed four finalists. To get to the four finalists, the hiring manager may have reviewed 16 resumes and interviewed many of them. To get to those 16 resumes, the recruiter may have screened 64 resumes and interviewed many of them. To get to those 64 resumes, nearly 256 folks may have applied to the open position.

If the 256-person candidate pool is homogenous to what is already overrepresented in the workplace, the recruiter has the added responsibility to increase diversity among the candidate pool especially if the workforce supply confirms availability of historically underrepresented populations. To build a representative candidate pool, often the net must be cast further and wider — increasing candidate pool size.

In diversity recruiting, your short list of finalists is where size no longer matters. It is where psychology and understanding status quo bias matters. In short, because change can feel uncomfortable, we have a bias to preserve things as they have been (i.e.., status quo) and if we are not careful, that baseline becomes our reference point for who should be hired next. For example, if your department consists of all white women in their twenties, this status quo bias, unchecked, creates an unconscious preference for the next hire to be a twenty-something white woman.

In diversity recruiting, you do not need to increase your finalist candidate pool to 10 individuals, for example, it can remain with four. Just ensure diversity among that group. In other words, if you have four finalists and one is a twenty-something white woman, for organizations serious about increasing diversity, I would expect the remaining three candidates to be anything but the same.

This solution goes beyond the Rooney Rule which says, at least one woman and one underrepresented minority be considered in the slate of candidates for open positions. That was a good start, but not enough to move beyond status quo bias. Why? According to Harvard Business Review, for one thing, it highlights how different [she] is from the norm. And deviating from the norm can be risky for decision makers, as people tend to ostracize people who are different from the group. For women and minorities, having your differences made salient can also lead to inferences of incompetence.

In order to give a fighting chance to historically underrepresented groups to be hired into your organization, change the status quo of the candidate pool. Ensure overrepresentation of top talent within your candidate pool with groups that are underrepresented on your team. You will find that this is a solid start on your journey to increasing representation.

Jenn Tardy is the CEO of the boutique diversity recruiting consulting firm, Jennifer Tardy Consulting (JTC). Through her #CareerSuccess coaching programs for job seekers and #HiringSuccess diversity training programs for recruiters and hiring managers, she is on a mission to make it easy for recruiters and historically underrepresented job seekers to meet and forge career success. Jenn has vast industry experience as a Recruiting Thought Leader, Diversity Practitioner, and Career Success Coach with over 15 years of experience in the field of human resources and recruiting. Click here for her free checklist of 10 actions leaders and hiring professionals must stop doing in order to increase diversity.

This post was republished from LinkedIn.

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