Why you're probably not hiring the best

Hiring for Tech
June 8, 2020

A group of people, of different races and genders, running.

We all want the fastest runner, but are you even putting the right people onto the race track? Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

(As usual, all viewpoints below are my own and don’t reflect those of my employer.)

I’ve heard people say we shouldn’t focus on race or gender during the hiring process because it’s discriminatory. After all, don’t you want to hire the best, regardless of these attributes?

Yes! But I’m here to tell you: if you’re not thinking about how to hire minorities in tech (in the U.S., these would be women, Black, Latinx, Native American, etc.), you’re probably currently discriminating. Here are three reasons why.

Your team is not qualified to build the right products

If your employees don’t adequately represent your target audience, they aren’t qualified to build products that meet the needs of that audience. That’s because your employees don’t understand those needs in the first place. There are countless examples of this, of which I’ll share two:

That means, if your product is meant to be used by people of a certain demographic, you need to hire people who understand that demographic, especially in senior, decision-making positions. Everyone else is less qualified, but you’re still hiring them.

You’re pushing away good talent

The makeup of your current team perpetuates itself, preventing new qualified candidates from making it into your company.

While it’s true people generally have to work to live, they prefer to work at companies that support them. A Black candidate who sees a company with only White employees would rightly think most people won’t understand them, or won’t support them in the areas that matter most. For example, I think LinkedIn is a filled with great, well-meaning people, but after last week’s Town Hall, I don’t blame any minority who feels unwelcome within the company.

In this way, your company may be turning away qualified minority candidates in favor of less qualified candidates! Not working harder to make these minority candidates feel welcome is putting up additional barriers only they have to deal with.

And of course… unconscious bias

This is a topic that gets talked about frequently, so I won’t go into too much detail. A famous 2003 study showed a bias against “Black-sounding names”, and personal fit often plays into the hiring equation too much.

If your interview has any aspect of “culture fit”, you may be discriminating against minorities in tech today.

We should absolutely hire people who are qualified, instead of hiring based on gender or race. But minorities in tech face challenges unique to their demographics. That means, if you’re not thinking about how to address each of those challenges associated with gender or race, you’re currently discriminating against those candidates.

This post was sent out on the June 8, 2020 edition of the Hiring For Tech newsletter. Subscribe to get future editions sent to you by email, once a week.

powered by TinyLetter