Over the last 2 years, employee churn and unprecedented job openings have caused the software engineering sector to rethink its hiring strategies. It is more important than ever for organizations to demonstrate their commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. This commitment includes recognizing an enormous problem in recruiting today: pedigree bias. With the right tools, companies can get an early start in recruiting for a better workforce from a candidate’s very first interview.
Pedigree bias is an unconscious or a conscious inclination toward candidates based on familiarity within company networks and can even be related to preference for candidates who graduated from particular colleges and universities. This bias can not only wreak havoc on your recruiting initiatives but also serve as a significant barrier to entry for many candidates from underrepresented backgrounds in tech and limit the company’s opportunities for expansion. Pedigree bias reinforces stereotypes and limitations, stunting a company’s growth and perpetuating the cycle.
Efforts to identify and reduce bias may seem daunting, especially within specific organizational processes that have remained firm through time. Yet a different approach can be taken to the traditional application of corporate inclusion attempts to strengthen efforts to reduce bias.
Interviewing transparency is a substantial factor in reducing pedigree bias in recruiting efforts. If there is a focus on transparency early on, there is a higher chance candidates will feel more confident in themselves and their preparation. A lack of transparency can set up underrepresented candidates to fail early on and allow those from similar backgrounds to be favored. This results in a conscious or an unconscious prioritization of subjective “likeability” over skill and leads to a decline in efficiency and equity.
It’s essential that companies understand their role in maintaining a transparent interview process so underrepresented candidates can become more knowledgeable about their past and future interview experiences.
By avoiding pedigree bias, you can find more candidates with the right skills rather than those who are similar to other people you’ve hired from the same companies, schools, or regions.
Applicant Tracking and Bias
Software engineer recruiters often lack time to devote to the interviewing process, but with digital transformation accelerating at an unprecedented pace, strategic companies are turning to hiring software to gain a competitive edge. For example, today’s hiring teams are adopting applicant tracking tools, which use artificial intelligence (AI) to help screen potential hires early in the process. While useful, this technology is in desperate need of continuous monitoring and scrutiny, specifically as it relates to how it can project pedigree biases onto recruiting practices.
We have to be aware that bias doesn’t necessarily stem from clearly defined preferences or exclusions in the AI training data; bias can sneak into hiring algorithms via measurements of success and data interpretation on the back end. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that all hiring practices integrate fair and equitable methodologies coupled with consistent human oversight.
Shifting some workflows to an Interviewing Cloud, an always-on network of interviewers who can provide on-demand interviewing capacity, is one way to increase bias awareness. Aside from reclaiming the engineering hours spent on technical interviews, the Interviewing Cloud also helps organizations stay ahead of the talent competition. And by increasing interview capacity without compromising your team’s productive working time, you reduce the need for résumé screening tools that can inject bias by inviting more direct applicants to demonstrate their technical skills in live interviews.
In a time of the “Great Resignation” and intense employee churn and workplace revolution, strategic and actionable diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts can be applied early on to create a candidate experience that rewards skills and experiences, moving away from previous pedigree biases. Investing in a human + technology interviewing strategy allows organizations to hire diverse employees who can distinguish themselves from others while becoming leaders and replenishing the workforce with exceptional people.
Portia Kibble Smith is an executive recruiter and diversity and inclusion lead for Karat, a company that conducts technical interviews on behalf of businesses hiring software engineers to create a more predictive, fair, and inclusive process. She has recently been the driving force behind the Real Talk: Diversity in Tech series and the launch of Brilliant Black Minds.