Saturday, March 24, 2012

Diversity Recruitment Problems Over Analyzed

Yesterday when I presented the “Secrets of a Successful Job Search” at the University of Utah, I asked the participants “How many of you feel you have been discriminated because of your age?” About a third of the people raised their hands.

When you read about diversity recruitment most people discuss systems and solutions but I have yet to see anyone discuss the root problem. Possibly the reason that you do not see the root cause is that most people who write on the subject are outside of the trenches.

In my 30 plus years of professional recruitment, I have worked with thousands of hiring managers. Most hiring managers have never been trained how to effectively interview candidates. If they have not been taught how to effectively interview candidates, they certainly have not been taught how to select the best candidate. As a result, it is not unusual to hear a hiring manager comment after a series of interviews, “This person feels good in my gut!” Generally I caution them that guts are good for storing and processing food – not so good for selecting the best qualified candidate.

Using the premise of behavioral interviewing, I suggest that since most hiring managers have never been taught how to effectively interview, they do what is natural; and how they found success in the past. They choose the candidate that is most like them. Are they discriminating against protected classes? Possibly some are…but based on my experience I truly believe that most people are doing the best they can. They are selecting a new employee based on their prior successful behavior.

So who is responsible? Obviously it would be a great world if everyone did the right thing all of the time. May I suggest that companies take the time to train their hiring managers how to effectively interview and select top performers. Hiring managers do not have easy access to all of the vendors who can offer the best training. The Human Resource department does.

How to best motivate hiring managers to seek candidates with diverse experience? I like to show a problem as a cube. If everyone has the same life experience, they all look at the problem from the same direction. Can they solve the problem? Probably. Can they create the best solution? Maybe not. However, when people with different backgrounds look at the problem from different aspects, can they create a better solution? Probably.

What is the best way to encourage people to change their interviewing and selection behavior? Demonstrate how the new behavior is more beneficial. All it takes is a few early adopters who enthusiastically adopt the new process. Then demonstrate to other team members that the new interviewing process is the best way to select candidates. Once the new process becomes established, it becomes the way to conduct business.

If I were running a business, I would select sharp directors and certify them for interviewing candidates for their department. Train their hiring managers to effectively interview candidates. Then offer to help them in the selection process. This is a mentoring process that encourages desired behavior. Ask the hiring managers questions to help them through the selection process. Allow their hiring managers to select the best candidate after the due diligence and mentoring is complete.

Once managers are taught how to effectively interview and select the best qualified candidate, then companies can work on their attraction of people with diverse experience. Now we are touching on the areas that receive the most attention – sourcing diverse candidates.

When I am on a recruiting contract, if my client wants me to examine their process, I look to see if they perform the recruiting fundamentals well. Does their process attract candidates or is it designed to screen out candidates? If it is the latter, the company is losing better qualified candidates daily, quite probably well qualified diversity candidates.

Once a company sources diversity candidates, the job is only beginning. Many companies and many diversity writers confuse sourcing with recruiting. You may be interested in reading Do You Confuse Sourcing With Recruiting? The recruiting is only beginning once you sourced the diversity candidates.

Now the company needs to begin selling the candidate while determining whether they have the skills and motivation to do the job – note I did not say cultural fit. Almost by definition a diversity candidate may not necessarily be a “cultural fit” if most of the current employees come from the same background.

Remember, if someone interviews at a company and they are the only person there who is “different”, recruiting is more difficult because they may need reassurance that they will be able to make the impacts necessary to have fun. Additionally the difficulty will be compounded if you have to relocate them and their family. In my experience, diversity candidates will want reassurance their family and children will continue to interact with others like them in the new town. The candidate and family are also interested in a cultural fit.

Recruiting diversity candidates is more difficult than simply deciding to do so. On the other hand, when successful there is much satisfaction in a job well done – and the company has attracted someone who will make a difference. Begin a successful diversity recruiting program by teaching your hiring managers how to effectively interview and select the best candidates.