Practical Methods for Implementing Diversity During Hiring

There is well-documented research about the value of a diverse workforce, from driving innovation through input from multiple perspectives and backgrounds, to overall organizational success.

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Companies often initiate programs to support diversity or communicate diversity as a company value. One of the first processes to consider when analyzing the diversity or lack of diversity in a workforce is the hiring process. Following the practical tips presented below can help organizations to implement hiring practices that are objective, job-related, and that ultimately yield greater diversity.

The Critical Importance of Objectivity

First and foremost, hiring practices should be objective and valid.  With increased objectivity, validity, and structure in the hiring process, there is less of a chance for unconscious bias to play a role in selection decisions and less of a chance that people will be hired because of an irrelevant quality.

For example, it could be tempting to want to hire a person because he or she seems to have similar hobbies to others in the organization, or he or she offers opinions that are aligned with others and will be easy to get along with. Hiring people based on similarities to others, rather than on job-related criteria could create an organization with a lack of diversity.

When objective and job-relevant hiring practices are implemented, there is a greater chance of hiring a workforce with differences in thoughts and opinions, as well as a workforce that will still succeed at the technical aspects of a job.

Methods for Promoting Objectivity

There are numerous ways to add objectivity and validity to a hiring process, one being  the use of a scientifically validated personality assessment. When validated in a work context and used properly, a personality assessment is an objective measure of an individual’s personality traits, behavioral preferences, and inherent competencies with strong potential.

Validating a personality measure by linking it to high performance in a role is an effective tool to combat unconscious bias in hiring. In addition, there is virtually no risk of discrimination against protected classes in a personality assessment. Therefore, personality can predict successful work outcomes without creating unfair or discriminatory hiring practices. The result can be a workforce that is highly diverse in terms of demographics, thoughts, and opinions.

Consistency Through Structured Interview Guides

Another tool to implement into an effective hiring process is a Structured Interview Guide (SIG). While interviews, in general, are used ubiquitously, the structure surrounding this tool can vary widely. For example, an unstructured interview usually does not have a predetermined list of job-related questions and feels conversational and free-flowing. d It does not have a formal rating system to determine how well a candidate performed. On the contrary, a structured interview is a much stronger selection method with greater validity and one that adds objectivity to the interview process.

A SIG has a list of predetermined questions that are directly related to behaviors and competencies linked to success on the job. Each question in a structured interview has a purpose and sheds light on how one is likely to perform in relevant job behaviors.

In addition, a structured interview can be used to score the effectiveness of interview responses, called a behaviorally anchored rating scale. In this format, sample responses are given to the interview rater that are examples of a low-quality response, a moderate-quality response, and a high-quality response. When the rater hears an interview response from a candidate, he or she is better able to determine the quality of the response through this type of rating scale. This also allows multiple interview raters to have the same interpretation of a good response versus a bad response.

The SIG format is superior to the unstructured format in identifying strong candidates and avoiding the unconscious bias that can easily factor into an unstructured format. An unstructured interview could potentially lead to a lack of diversity for these reasons.

Don’t Forget Hiring Criteria

While implementing either of these tools for hiring can add many benefits to the hiring process, the hiring criteria must be considered as well. There should be a clear idea of what is needed for success in a role or within a department so that selection tools can be used to identify those that have the potential to demonstrate successful work behaviors.

When taking a high-level view of team or department performance, it can be useful to have an awareness of the types of employees currently on a team, as that information can help to identify gaps that could be addressed in future hiring. For example, your team may have a majority who think alike and have similar work habits. They may all be big-picture thinkers that are not as focused on details and process. They share lots of ideas, brainstorm, and discuss strategy. While these types of employees are necessary for a company to succeed, detailed thinkers and implementers who establish processes and steps to complete work are also necessary.

A team may fail by only having one of these types of workers and not the other. Using an assessment to identify the types of roles currently on a team can help to guide hiring for future roles within a department to address the gaps and to ensure the team is diverse.

Validity and Structure Are Paramount

The common themes behind any strong employee selection system are validity and structure. Use tools that are valid predictors of job performance and add structure to the hiring process so that unconscious bias can be prevented and hiring managers can truly focus on job-relevant qualities when making decisions. This can lead to a workgroup that brings greater diversity in thoughts, ideas, and demographics, while also having the job-relevant and technical skills necessary to perform a job.

Tara Gullans is an Industrial Organizational Psychologist at Caliper.