Beyond the Usual, Passive DEI Efforts in Tech

Blog: Diversify Your Recruitment Funnel

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Manny Becerra as a child

November 2014

Today, I thought I'd share a few quick thoughts on recruitment, diversity and inclusion. When folks ask me what they can do to diversify their teams, I often start with some discovery questions, like asking them, "What are you doing now?" This helps me get a clearer picture of what they're not doing; in other words, sharing what you are doing now, often helps identify potential gaps including biases.

Other questions I also often ask folks are:

  • What does diversity mean to you, your team, and or your company?
  • Who takes part in the recruitment process?
  • Where does your recruitment process end?

If your team and company focuses to recruit and sustain from a candidate pool that is based on a homogenous background of people in the majority and from a similar set of lived experiences—you're not listening, or you don't care... or possibly both.

While these are not all the questions I ask to get a sense of what someone's recruitment process looks like, they do offer a good place to start to identify short- and long-term areas of improvement, particularly in the area of diversity & inclusion. At least, it's what I and my teammates keep in mind and practice when hiring for our immediate web and software engineering teams at Tesla.

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So, let's unpack this, starting in reverse-order:

Who takes part in the recruitment process?

TL;DR: Look beyond 4-year colleges, Ivy League universities, and expensive bootcamps; empower employees to tap into their networks. Attend vocational and community colleges job fairs to also recruit.

Attend 2-year and technical school job fairs as a part of your recruitment funnel. Don't limit your search to only 4-year universities (or 4-year elite/Ivy League institutions).

What you're aiming for here is empowerment and reach; specifically, empowering people to look into their networks (non-traditional networks) for potential candidates and meeting people—in this context, excluded, marginalized communities—where they're at. To highlight the importance of this, and as just one example, there are a lot of people in our society that for various reasons, don't often get that shot to go to a 4-year college and Ivy League universities where many tech companies often, and unfortunately, limit their candidate search to. Empowering employees to tap into their own network can often reveal and elevate people with incredible talent, both technically and interpersonally that too often are overlooked. If your team or company has dedicated recruiters, they should not only work with a team's staff to look within their networks to refer potential candidates, but recruiters should make it a point to also attend 2-year and technical school job fairs as a part of their recruitment funnel.

Limiting your recruitment funnel to only 4-year schools, maybe even just 4-year elite or Ivy League institutions can leave you and your team with only a homogeneous candidate pool to work with, which only maintains barriers-of-entry for already marginalized communities and doesn't do much to diversify your workplace and team culture.

Does your team limit diversity to just mean, diversity in thought, or does it extend to diverse backgrounds, race, and ethnicities—marginalized communities?

What does diversity mean to you, your team, and or your company?

TL;DR: Diversity is more than just differing opinions. It also includes challenging yourself and your team to look beyond your immediate world and lived experiences. Use your privilege to recruit from and elevate marginalized communities so they have a chance to live their dream and pay it forward.

Knowing what diversity means to you and your team or company is critical; it's a critical ingredient for how you can measure if you're 1) fulfilling diversity in a deep, meaningful way, and 2) how you're fulfilling diversity in relation to the state of society.

For instance, does diversity mean just diversity in thought or does it extend to diverse backgrounds and race/ethnicities? Does diversity to you and your team also include people with various abilities, or does it exclude individuals with certain disabilities? If you're team is only focused on diversity in thought, then I would say you're severely limiting your talent pool and missing the point.

Many people with extraordinary perspective and talent don't often get that first chance to enter an industry, or rise to leadership positions once in an industry, because they are from a marginalized group in society. Use privilege to address this shortcoming in society!

Keep in mind that many people with extraordinary perspective and talent don't often get that first chance to enter an industry, or rise in leadership positions once in an industry, because they are from a marginalized group in society. This can be because of sexual or gender orientation, ethnicity, or the color of their skin, even a disability. Know who these people and their communities are—that are marginalized and overlooked—and prioritize centering them for opportunities with your team and company. Use your privilege to address this shortcoming in society. And, don't expect marginalized people to always find you; they may have limited access and opportunities to do reach you—try to meet them where they are and adapt your recruitment channel sources accordingly.

Meet candidates where they are and adapt your recruitment channel sources accordingly. Not everyone has privilege to easily access or reach you and your company.

If your team and company focuses to recruit and sustain from a candidate pool that is based on a homogenous background of people in the majority and from a similar set of lived experiences—you're not listening, or you don't care... or possibly both.

Where does your recruitment process end?

TL;DR: Don't stop at simply hiring someone. Recruitment should involve retention, which then, rightfully challenges you and your team to evaluate workplaces practices of diversity and inclusion.

Often times, the answer to this question—at least, that I've received from folks thus far—is: recruitment ends when we hire the right person for the position. Wrong, kind of. This answer is correct if recruitment is defined solely as hiring someone; even then, it may work for immediate needs, but it's gauranteed to fail to address systemic issues which also leads to an unsustainable and unreliable practice for your team. I challenge teams and companies to broaden their definition and responsibilies to include retention, so the scope of becomes: Recruitment and Retention.

Is your workplace culture one that creates and fosters psychological safety nets and instills a sense of trust, especially with marginalized people that can often experience imposter syndrome?

Including retention in the recruitment process allows you and your team to look at the "bigger picture", particularly, when it comes to diversity and inclusion. For instance, look at your workplace practices and culture: does it offer 'psychological safety nets' and does it instill a sense of trust? Marginalized people can often experience imposter syndrome. If your workplace culture is lacking in compassion and inclusive practices, you might recruit people from maginalized groups, but will likely experience, and unfortunately, lose great people pretty quickly because they experience feeling excluded and disenfranchised in day-to-day interactions with your team.

Okay, so there you have it—I hope that what little bit I shared above is helpful to you and your teams in reflecting on and adapting your current recruitment process with diversity and inclusion in, both, mind and practice. If you'd like to exchange ideas, I'd love to hear from you, as I'm always learning and growing myself.

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Manny Becerra as a child

I operate from a place of compassion, possibility and imagination. My work and efforts share a common goal: create a better, sustainable and equitable world by building inclusive communities, products & experiences.