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Want to Diversify Your Workforce? You May Need to Rethink the Interview

Suzanne Lucas

Founder, Evil HR Lady

The data is clear: When an organization hires a diverse workforce—people who represent different races, income levels, nationalities and genders—it performs better. Bringing these varied perspectives to the table results in more creative thinking. According to a Boston Consulting Group report, diversity is a key driver of innovation, and companies with diverse teams produce 19% more revenue than their competition.

When it comes to increasing diversity at their organization, many HR teams look to diversify their candidate pool. But while this is an important step, it's only part of the solution. Actually hiring those diverse candidates means adjusting the interview to make sure that it's not putting them at a disadvantage.

Beyond determining who is most qualified, here are some ways companies can encourage diversity—and guarantee a quality hire.

Pay Attention to the Time

Traditionally, recruiters conduct interviews during times when they are in the office. For most companies, that tends to be between the hours of 9:00am and 5:00pm.

There is a problem with this timing—it’s also when most of your candidates are working at their current job. Many senior executives with flexible schedules, they can say "I’m working from home" and disappear or shut their office door and instruct their administrative assistants to tell people they are busy. Easy enough.

But employees that are more junior have much less flexibility. So many of them end up calling in "sick" or lying to their current employer about having a doctor appointment, to make it to the interview. This increases a candidates stress level and detract from their ability to interview confidently.

These challenges are intensified when applied to candidates who belong to marginalized communities, including people of color, disabled workers and women. WayUp, a company that specializes in recruiting and screening, found that when they offered candidates the chance to interview as late as 11:00 pm, historically underrepresented groups took them up on this offer. Ninety percent of candidates who choose to do phone screens between 7 pm and midnight are Black, Hispanic or women. If you’re looking to make your workforce more diverse, those are probably some of the main groups you’re trying to target.

Reducing Unconscious Bias In the Interview Process

Another problem that can arise during the interview process is unconscious bias. While many companies have invested in unconscious bias training and are generally becoming more open-minded, these incidents still occur. Mitigating unconscious bias in the interview process could be as easy as changing up your technology. Instead of one-on-one, in-person interviews, asynchronous video interviews (where the manager records the questions and candidates can answer them at their own convenience) are a worthy alternative.

According to Sonru, one of the leading developers of automated video interviewing software, this technology helps decrease unconscious bias. As Adam Gretton, Regional Development Manager at Sonru, explains, every candidate gets the same experience. "Can you truly claim that with telephone or face-to-face interviews? Does each candidate get treated exactly the same? If someone has a different culture or background to the assessor, will they get as warm an experience as someone who is ’just like them’? They may not consciously be aware of treating people differently, but it will be felt by the candidate, and they may not perform as well, as a result."

Sometimes just changing a few things about how you conduct your interviews can have a significant impact on who you hire. You want to hire the best person for the job, but that person may not be able to get time off work to take your phone screen during the day. The best person may be someone who you would have subconsciously discouraged in a face to face interview.

This is not to say that you should conduct all interviews at 11:00 pm via video. People can feel awkward recording an interview, and daytime interviews are more convenient for many people. But giving candidates the option can be a gamechanger.

The key here is consistency and flexibility. Remember, the point of interviewing someone is to fill the position. If you can make it easier for the candidate to succeed, why wouldn’t you?

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