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Remove Bias Out of Job Interviews

Everyone is naturally biased, but when hiring and promoting people, we want to avoid our bias to eliminate discriminatory actions. In 2016, an article from the Harvard Business Review reported the following:

“When sociologist Lauren Rivera interviewed bankers, lawyers, and consultants, they reported that they commonly looked for someone like themselves in interviews. Replicating ourselves in hiring contributes to the prevalent gender segregation of jobs, with, for example, male bankers hiring more male bankers and female teachers hiring more female teachers.”

What can we do to make sure we hire a diverse team and avoid being bias during the recruitment and interviewing phase? One way to avoid this is to make sure you offer interviews to candidates based on merits and nothing else. A good start is to expand your personal network to increase the candidate pipeline with more women, people of color, and other underrepresented minorities. With a wider and more diverse pipeline, you can then focus on selecting people based on merits and nothing else.

Be blind

We need to be blind to information such as names, age, gender, or any other information that isn’t experience or skills. Companies like Applied, Blendoor, Edge, GapJumpers, Interviewing.io, Paradigm, and Talent Sonar offer services to help you remove this information from applicant tracking systems to avoid any sort of bias. These services these companies offer can be integrated with existing candidate tracking applications to remove information that can cause discriminatory actions.

Structured interviews

Being blind to some of the candidate’s information is a good start, but it isn’t the final solution. After the initial process of qualifying candidates based on merit, you’ll want to interview the candidates in person, phone, or a video call. In order to do this and remove any bias, you should have a well-defined and structured interview process. Make sure you ask all candidates the same questions, and in the same order, and encourage the interviewers to rate each answer as soon as the candidate answers the question. Standardizing this process will allow for clear comparisons between all candidates and leave very little room for bias.

Avoid group interviews

Another thing to consider is avoiding panel or group interviews altogether. For once, it is difficult to diversify the interview panel and there isn’t any data that proves that a panel or group interviews result in better hires. People interviewing candidates should be independent of each other to get the benefit of a personal and unique perspective about a candidate. After interviewing a candidate, submit their assessment before meeting with others to discuss the applicant. Individual interviews will allow you to collect multiple data points and different perspectives instead of one data point from a group of interviewers.

Work-sample exercises instead of resumes

Resumes are really not a good resource to determine if a person has the skills and experience for a job. Work-sample exercises require applicants to perform tasks or work activities that mirror the tasks employees perform on the job. Prepare work-sample exercises that candidates can use to demonstrate their know-how. To make these work-sample exercises and its results unbiased, do not include the name, gender, age, race, or any other unneeded information about the candidate.

The above suggestions can help eliminate some of the biases, but it will not stop all of our shortcomings. This isn’t perfect but it is a good start to help reduce our biases which can then lead to discriminatory actions.

Want to learn more and participate in our Diversity in Tech Meetup? Please join our meetup and attend an event if you are in Austin, TX.

Image credit: Gary Waters/Ikon Images/Getty Images

Thanks for reading! 🙂 If you enjoyed this article, hit that share button below ❤ Would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

 

Expand your personal network and be part of the solution

Last week I wrote an article where I mentioned we need more color in tech leadership roles. This was the second of a series of articles I am writing on the topic of diversity. I received a lot of praise for the article but also some unexpected reactions to it, like the example below:

 

The purpose of that article wasn’t to force or pressure anyone into doing anything they don’t want, obviously.
Oh and by the way, here is the definition of people of color in case another person out there starts making fun of that term again.

Thankfully, most of the feedback I received about the article was positive. And the reason of this post is an answer to a question that has come up repeatedly.

Where do I find qualified people of color for tech leadership positions?

My answer to this question is simple, reach out and build relationships with us, people that aren’t white and with no European parentage, also known as POC.

Hiring managers, executives, and even recruiters are overwhelmingly white women and men, and it isn’t uncommon that their personal networks aren’t filled with POC.

Therefore, while we try to increment the number of POC in these positions, white men and women need to make the effort to expand their network beyond people who looks AND behave like them. Diversity in personality is just as important.

Diversity is important, and it is good for business too! I don’t need to list all the benefits of having a diverse workforce, we all know the benefits. My personal favorites are the variety of perspectives and personal networks you find in diverse environments! Both crucial to be a competitive business in today’s world.

How do you expand your network? Reach out to POC within your organization, invite them to coffee, ask them about their ideas, promote them, make them part of your life. Also, attend events and make it a priority to talk to POC.

I host the Diversity in Tech Meetup here in Austin, TX, and you’ll be surprised by the small number of white men who attend the meetup. We need to increase the number of white folks who attend and invite them to be part of the solution, without them, it’ll be hard to move the needle towards getting more diversity in tech and other areas.

We don’t want to exclude white men from the diversity and inclusion programs, everyone is welcome and everyone is needed for true diversity to take place in tech.

What are your thoughts about this? Think of your personal network and decide if it is time for you to reach out to POC and minorities in general.

Thanks for reading! 🙂 If you enjoyed this article, hit that share button below ❤ Would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

We need more color in tech leadership roles

Last month I wrote about the need of sponsoring more women and minorities in tech. The post was inspired by a tweet from Lara Hogan and it also inspired the Diversity in Tech Meetup here in Austin, TX.

Why aren’t there more blacks and Hispanics in tech? The reason to me is quite simple because there aren’t enough people of color in tech leadership roles. That is why. It isn’t difficult to find people of color who have the skills and passion. However, if you are not involved with blacks and Hispanics, of course, it will be difficult to find them, I grew with them, I hang out with them, they are my friends, they are my family, and I am one of them.

There is also the idea that the problem has to do with not enough black and Hispanic students graduating with tech degrees. This isn’t true. While the percentage of black and Hispanic students majoring in computer science and engineering is lower than that of white and Asian students, the truth is that the number of black and Hispanic students hired by tech companies is much lower than the number of them graduating from college with tech degrees.

Those who enter the candidate pipeline fall out somewhere along the way — and the culture and recruiting methods of tech companies seem to have a lot to do with it. — The New York Times

The issue is that blacks and Hispanics who enter the candidate pipeline, fall through the cracks somewhere along the way. You see, the issue for many of these candidates is the lack of other black and Hispanic people in tech companies. Most people do not feel comfortable being the only one person in the team who isn’t like the others. This also affects women, the number of women in tech jobs is also very low when compared to that of white men.

If companies want to increase the diversity in their teams and want to hire more blacks and Hispanics, they need to do it from the start instead of doing it as an afterthought. For established companies, they should seriously consider hiring blacks and Hispanics into tech leadership positions, it will be an advantage for these companies. You see, as minorities, diversity comes naturally to us. It is what we know, it is our life. When we think of minorities, we think of people who are in fact, the majority of people in our lives.

At the Diversity in Tech Meetups, most attendees are black, Hispanic, and Asian. About half of them are women. And a good percentage have identified as LGBT. There are also people of different ages, from recent college graduates to people who have decades of experience in the workforce. It is a very diverse group.

Most black and Hispanics might feel in disadvantage when they see the small percentage of people like them who work at tech companies. I have felt like that before, but since I don’t get intimidated easily, I have been able to find a small level of success while working in tech. Most people of color don’t feel comfortable working at companies where diversity isn’t embraced, and the numbers are there to confirm it.

This is why we should hire more people of color in tech, and into leadership positions. We want more blacks and Hispanics to feel welcome when they obtain a position in tech. And to help them stay, we have to provide a diverse environment in which they and everyone else can thrive. This is one-way companies can help to start changing their workforce and their culture into something that it is more diverse.

More color, and diversity, in general, is good for business.

Sponsoring and promoting women and minorities in tech

The other day I saw the following tweet from Lara Hogan and it inspired me to do something about it.

The first thing that came to mind was what is the difference between mentoring and sponsoring, then I read the article, and while its focus is about women being over-mentored instead of sponsored, the article painted a clear picture about the differences between the two.

In short, the idea is that while women and other underrepresented minorities are being mentored more than ever, the number of them being sponsored is still low. Sponsoring within the context of helping them get a job, get a raise, a promotion, funding, etc.

This article and the tweet made me think about ways that I could help sponsor women and other underrepresented minorities to get their foot into tech and succeed in it.

Many years ago I was sponsored by a small business owner in Minnesota who believed in me. At that time I was a young Hispanic man who had just graduated from a technical school, didn’t have any professional experience, and couldn’t even speak English clearly (I am still working on it). This person knew that I didn’t have the experience but he saw something in me, he trusted me and took me under his wing. The way he sponsored me was by hiring me to take care of his small office local area network (LAN), maintaining the computers in it, and taking me with him to see his clients where I learned about the business, sales process, and how the business worked. Within a year, I was writing software, meeting with clients to explain the technical side of the projects, and helping with hiring and other tasks.

By the time I left this job to move to Texas (Minnesota winters are long and harsh), I had developed a few web applications, a couple of desktop apps, and an automated process which helped increase the revenue of this business and it also created new revenue streams and offerings to new and existing clients. I acquired experience and self-confidence. It was a win-win.

Today, while I am not in a position to hire or promote someone, I can help others get more exposure and self-confidence. As an organizer of a meetup group and a techie, I can sponsor underrepresented minorities by promoting them, their businesses, and their ideas with the rest of the Austin tech community.

I think we can all agree that diversity in tech (and everywhere) is not only beneficial for the people in these minority groups of which I am part of, but it is also beneficial for the company and people who work around them. A company who embraces diversity and inclusion in the workplace will have the advantage of having access to a variety of viewpoints, increased adaptability, and new perspectives and ideas.

There are already many organizations and programs to help bring underrepresented minorities to a level where they can compete for a job or start a business. However, there is still a lot of work to do to help them get to the finish line, or near it. Once people gain the skills and are ready to start a business or apply for a job, we can still do something to help them get a job, a promotion, a meeting with an investor, etc.

I can help by providing a framework and a platform for underrepresented minorities to expose themselves, their experience, their ideas, and their businesses. There is also a new list on Github that I created today where people can add themselves, a short bio, and a link to their website, business, etc. The goal is exposure and promotion.

This will at the very least increase their exposure and help them create those connections that are indispensable in any industry to succeed.

This is what I can do today.

A weekend of code, ideas, and diversity

This past weekend I attended the 2016 Diversity Hackathon organized by Women Who Code Austin. This event was a 3-day hackathon and a celebration of diversity. This type of event sparks my curiosity and creativity in a very particular way. There are always constraints of time, resources, equipment and space. And yet, somehow people at these events create interesting applications. It is very exciting and motivating to be part of a hackathon.

Photo: 2016 Diversity Hackathon

ATX Diversity Hackathon 2016

 

These events usually start with a networking meeting where hackathon participants have an opportunity to talk about their ideas, listen to other people’s ideas and to form new teams. The networking is also a good ice-breaker, and it helps participants feel a bit more relaxed and comfortable, knowing they’ll be working surrounded by strangers for up to three days.

Many people participate in hackathons as an opportunity to try a new programming language or framework. Others are looking to start a startup and see a hackathon as the perfect place to create a prototype of their app and perhaps even find people who can join them in their efforts. For example, I met a group of individuals who had just completed a computer programming boot camp in Austin, TX. They signed up for this hackathon to force themselves to write an application using the newly acquired knowledge and skills. One of them created a chat application using Angular, FireBase, and Bootstrap while the other group ended up creating something using Heroku, React, and MongoDB.

When I first heard of this hackathon, I noticed they were looking for mentors, and so I signed up as one. But after the second day, I didn’t have much to do, and so I decided to create a little app of my own. My goal wasn’t to use a new programming language or framework. Instead, I wanted to see what I could do with the Stack Exchange API. After brainstorming for a bit, I decided to visualize user data from StackOverflow.com on a map using the Google Maps API. The result was a fun application that lets you see where developers are in the world and what countries, states, and cities have the biggest concentration of them. I called my project, Hacker’s Map.

In the last day of the hackathon, there was a bit of chaos as the deadline to stop writing code was approaching. We had until 2:00 PM to write code and by 2:30 PM we had to send an email with a link to the app’s code repository, the app name, description, tech stack used, and some screen shots of the application. By 3:00 PM teams started demoing their project to all attendees, including a group of judges who was voting for the top 4 applications.

Everyone had a chance to explain what their app did. Each team had only a few minutes to present, so you needed to get to the point and try to show and describe your app as much as possible in just two minutes. It feels great to do a presentation under this pressure. There is something about it that I enjoy.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Three days of code, ideas, and diversity. I enjoyed mentoring, meeting people, writing code under pressure, eating sandwiches and drinking tons of coffee. I am already looking forward to the next hackathon.

If you are a new developer and are trying to get more experience under your belt, hackathons are a perfect place for this. Also, if you are an experienced developer but haven’t had a chance to participate in a hackathon, I urge you to sign up for one as soon as possible. You can take part as a hacker or a mentor. Either way, you’ll get the benefit of being surrounded by intelligent people, wanting to create something from scratch, under pressure, and with a very tight deadline. It is great, trust me. I am already looking for the next hackathon.

Many thanks to Women Who Code Austin, Capital Factory for hosting it, and everyone else involved in making this such a great event.