Hiring for Diversity the Right Way: How to Broaden Your Horizons

Building a diverse team not only strengthens company culture, but also makes companies more competitive. It's not about filling quotas, though. Learn ways to thoughtfully hire for diversity, from how you source and qualify candidates, to offering competitive compensation packages.

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Plane Team

Published on June 1, 2023

Written in collaboration with Manara. Updated March 19, 2024.Diversity is no longer just an HR “nice-to-have” but an HR must-have. According to a 2020 Glassdoor survey, 76% of job seekers and employees believe that a diverse workforce is an important factor when looking at companies and evaluating their job offers.In addition to offering a competitive advantage in attracting talent, building diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) make your company a safer, more productive work environment for everyone. When a workforce comprises people with different backgrounds it can foster a more compassionate, inclusive company culture. Diverse teams, especially in the executive suite, have also been shown to make companies more profitable.Hiring for diversity isn’t as easy (or discriminatory) as simply hiring to fill quotas and boost numbers. DE&I is a commitment to radical, continuous change. You have to make a concerted effort as a human resources team and enact new initiatives throughout the entire hiring process to create opportunities for more diverse candidates. This includes rethinking how you source and qualify candidates, being more flexible with how you hire, and offering a more competitive compensation package.

Diversify your recruiting practices

Oftentimes, it’s not that you can’t find diverse candidates who are qualified; it’s more likely that you’re not looking in the right places. Or maybe your job descriptions are worded in a way that discourages diverse candidates from even applying. Regardless, it’s a good idea to examine your recruiting process for barriers that could exclude less-privileged candidates from consideration.Manara is an organization that connects employers with software engineers from the Middle East and North Africa, with a focus on women and Palestine. We spoke to Iliana Montauk, Manara’s co-founder and CEO, to learn more about the importance of hiring for diversity, as well as the best practices in doing so.“We inspire the top computer scientists in the Middle East and North Africa to dream bigger, to work for global tech companies and startups,” said Montauk. “The region is very rich in terms of women talent, and also other types of diversity. We started in Palestine and Gaza, specifically, where most of our engineers have been through three or four wars during their lifetime. We then have these partnerships with startups and tech companies that hire from our talent pool.”

Cast a wider net for talent

Sourcing more diverse candidates is all about knowing where to look and making your job openings more visible. Use recruiting strategies like posting to diversity job boards, reaching out to collegiate diversity associations, and working with diversity hiring partners.
  • Post to targeted diversity recruiting job boards and job seeker networks like, Pink Jobs, Black Jobs, iHispano, RecruitMilitary, and The Mom Project. These job postings can get your opportunities in front of diverse candidates and show that you’re proactively looking to fill those roles more inclusively.
  • Reach out with potential job opportunities to diversity associations and affinity organizations at universities. Post to college job boards like Handshake at minority-serving institutions such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), women’s colleges, tribal colleges, and more. Attend job fairs at these minority-serving institutions or similar events for underserved populations to meet and network with potential candidates in person.
  • Seek out diversity-focused hiring partners like Manara. These outreach partners can connect you with diverse, highly qualified talents and provide you with referrals, greatly shortening the recruiting cycle.

Pare down your job listing requirements

“Over five years of experience and a four-year degree required.” “Native English speakers only.” “Must live in the US.” These are all things you might think of as standard job requirements, but they could be preventing talented candidates from even applying.We recommend keeping your job listings short and sweet — just the bare minimum. A lengthy list of requirements could give some candidates the idea that they’re underqualified just because they’re missing one or two requirements out of a list of 10. Axe the “nice-to-have” preferred qualifications in favor of the must-have ones. A shorter list of requirements makes your job openings more accessible to a wider candidate pool while still ensuring that applicants have the necessary skills for the job.Requiring a degree can be an unintentionally inequitable hiring practice. The data shows that candidates from most minority demographics are much less likely to attend and graduate from college. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2021, 45% of White people and 72.1% of Asian people ages 25 to 29 had at least a Bachelor’s degree. However, only 26.1% of Black people, 23.2% of Hispanic people, 13.7% of Pacific Islanders, and 10.9% of Native Americans had attained that level of education.“Native English speaker” could discourage candidates who speak English perfectly at a professional level but didn’t grow up speaking it. Try “Speaks English fluently in a professional capacity” instead.A requirement that someone must live in a certain region, like Europe, can disqualify talented international candidates from your search. Unless it’s a legal compliance issue of not being able to hire in certain countries (something Plane can help with), try to broaden your horizons. The right person could live halfway across the world! If you’re worried about syncing and collaboration, you can include something like, “must overlap some work hours with Central European time zone” instead.

Remove bias wherever possible

Whether consciously or unconsciously, everyone is susceptible to bias throughout recruiting. To counteract this, make an intentional effort to eliminate bias from all the steps of the hiring process.Eliminate biased language in job descriptions. Avoid heavily gendered words like “man” a help desk line vs. “staff” or “monitor,” or “clean-shaven” vs. “professional attire and appearance.” Bypass gender-specific pronouns like “he” or “she” throughout your listing; instead, use “they” or “you.” Avoid unconsciously biased or gender-coded language like “aggressive” or “nurturing” to describe your ideal applicant. Tools like Textio and Gender Decoder help to identify this kind of biased language.Avoid able-bodied language to be more inclusive of people with disabilities. Instead of requiring applicants to have a valid driver’s license, consider “has reliable access to transportation.” Or, instead of “must be able to stand for 8 hours,” try “must be on the floor for 8 hours” to accommodate wheelchair users.If possible, review applications “blind,” without names or photos attached, to completely eliminate the chance of unconscious bias seeping into your candidate review. Tools like Pinpoint and FairHire can assist with this.

Screen candidates more personally

Evaluating applicants more fairly means looking at them for who they are and what they bring, beyond just “on-paper” qualifications. Instead of just filtering candidates through an applicant tracking system (ATS), assess them more individually and holistically.This approach doesn’t mean that screening applicants needs to turn into more work. Instead, ask for a personalized intro. A simple question like “What makes you want to work here?” can suffice.“If you’re going to be putting people through your own application process and they’re not already vetted by somebody else, then be prepared for a lot of noise and come up with systems to address the noise and identify the gems,” says Montauk. “So some ways of doing that include asking people to write a description of what interests them in the company as a part of the application process and scanning that information before clicking into a resume. And giving people a chance if it’s clear that they took the time to write something meaningful.”Standardized skills assessments can give you a better idea of a candidate’s skill set than a resume review. Montauk recommends using a coding test for devs through platforms like CodeSignal, which offers proctored custom or out-of-the-box exams.“It’s something that will take 30 minutes or an hour of the applicant’s time and give you 50% of the information that you need, without having to schedule [an asynchronous] meeting asynchronously,” Montauk says.However, unpaid projects or work assignments can get your organization a bad rep, especially if they’re time consuming. When you make candidates complete unpaid projects, it can be inequitable to potential candidates who don’t have the free time to complete a lengthier, hours-long technical assignment. Keep any required screening projects short or offer compensation. Either way, be completely transparent with candidates about requiring a project component as part of your interview process.Another way to be more fair during interviews is to ask the same questions to every candidate. This makes it easier to look at candidates via a more apples-to-apples, side-by-side comparison.

Embrace flexibility in your hiring process

It’s not just about who you hire, but how you hire. Being more flexible throughout hiring can help you reach out to more diverse candidates.

Give less experienced candidates a chance

The best candidates for the job aren’t necessarily the ones with the most experience. Even if an applicant doesn’t have enough experience, that doesn’t mean they’re not worth talking to. Less experienced employees are more adaptable and trainable and often bring creative, fresh ideas to the table. Even though they have the skillsets needed for jobs, less experienced candidates are often passed over for positions in favor of more experienced candidates.“I really want to encourage any company that is thinking about diversity to think about hiring young. Because as soon as you start looking for experienced talent, what that means is you’re looking for people who’ve been able to make it through a lot of hoops,” Montauk says. “And for diverse candidates, it can often be harder to make it through those hoops.”Montauk adds that a lot of young people in Palestine won’t get hired right out of college, especially women.“If you’re going to say, ‘We want diversity, but we want engineers who have three years of experience or more,’ you’re immediately going to be cutting out a really big potential talent pool,” Montauk says.The discrimination can go both ways, though. In tech — particularly in startups — there can be bias in the other direction against hiring older people. As with many things, it’s all about moderation and being open-minded to candidates of all ages and backgrounds.

Consider remote work instead of relocation

Many companies want candidates to relocate to collaborate more closely, in an office, in real time. Allowing employees to work remotely instead can help you attract talent that might not be willing or able to relocate.Relocation can be impossible for some, especially female candidates, due to cultural norms. Remote work also is more accessible to disabled candidates, caregivers, and parents than relocation for hybrid or in-office work.“In our community, we often see that women face more barriers for relocating than men,” says Montauk. “Women often are expected to stay in their countries and support their families, or just be closer-knit to their families.”Montauk shared a story about a woman named Samira, who had spent years looking for a remote job on her own, despite having four years of work experience locally. A talented developer who saw herself as a big fish in a small pond, Samira kept getting rejected when applying for jobs — and it wasn’t clear why. Was it because most companies weren’t hiring remotely or weren’t set up to hire from Palestine? Or because the technology on her resume was outdated because that was all that was available to her at the time?Samira was a phenomenal candidate when she joined Manara’s training program. According to Montauk, Samira almost immediately became the leader of her cohort and was eventually identified and hired by Relational AI, a startup that is passionate about remote hiring.According to a recent chat Montauk had with the CEO at Relational AI, Samira’s now thriving in her remote role.“He was telling me, ‘Everyone at the company loves Samira. We see her on Slack everywhere. We have a channel where we’re congratulating and thanking employees, and she’s getting kudos all the time,’” says Montauk. “I think this is the kind of talent that is easy to miss out on if you’re not looking remotely.”

You don’t need to commit to hiring employees vs. contractors

Businesses looking into hiring remotely or internationally sometimes get scared off. Should you hire workers as employees or contractors? Which one would workers prefer? While some workers may prefer to be hired as one or the other due to more favorable taxes, the good news is that it might not really matter.“People who are being hired remotely are open to a variety of approaches. They’re happy to be hired as contractors. They’re happy to be hired as employees,” says Montauk. “What matters the most to them is feeling like they’re part of a team that respects them and gives them really meaningful work.”When you lock into hiring workers either as employees or contractors, you can miss out on talent in countries where you’re not set up to hire them as employees. Due to compliance with international laws, it can be tricky to hire as employees without setting up a foreign subsidiary first. Solutions like Plane help you hire the right person, either as a contractor or employee, with a legal team to consult so you don’t have to navigate all the compliance concerns by yourself.

Target diverse candidates by offering competitive compensation

Offering high salaries by remote standards — not necessarily by North American ones — can help you attract more qualified candidates from all over the world. It’s hard to compete with Google, which can relocate candidates to the headquarters closest to them, unless you offer compensation that can accommodate their needs.

Pay workers competitively, regardless of where they are

It can be challenging to figure out how to compensate remote workers competitively for their market when they live all over the world. Luckily, we’ve written an entire guide about how to choose a remote pay strategy.For international candidates, Montauk suggests paying double their local salary or more to be competitive.“For example, in Palestine, a new grad typically would be making $20,000 to $30,000 a year. So pay at least $40,000 to $60,000,” says Montauk (as of May 2022). “And we see some of our hiring partners paying $100,000, $120,000. And when you do that, you immediately captivate the top talent in that market, and your recruiting goes a lot faster.”Pay fairly for the role and its work — target a certain hiring market and pay super competitively for that market. Outbid local companies by offering a salary that makes the work worth it for diverse, international candidates especially.

Provide perks that accommodate your employees’ needs

Your company’s perks tell candidates a lot about its work culture. That’s why you need to show current and prospective employees that you care by offering benefits that prioritize your employees’ unique backgrounds and needs. Perks that make your employees’ lives easier also help you hire more diversely because they give less-privileged folks much-needed accommodations.For example, shipping a new employee a company-sponsored laptop means a lot to someone who might not have the ability to buy a new laptop for themselves. A parental leave or childcare stipend gives your working parents a breather so they can focus on work without worrying about their kids. Meanwhile, floating holidays accommodate diverse employees by giving them time off on the days that really matter to them, which is much more inclusive than enforcing a US-centric holiday schedule.Some of the best perks are free. Flexible schedules or flex hours let people work around things in their lives, like medical appointments, family care, religion, and more. Having a relaxed dress code, or better yet, no dress code at all circumvents economic disadvantages for people that haven’t had the privilege to amass a professional, business-casual wardrobe.These perks don’t necessarily need to be an expensive or lavish benefits package. As long as you provide enough benefits to show that you care about your team members, the effort will show.

Legal Disclaimer:

The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.

Hire the right person, whoever they are and wherever they live, with Plane

When you find that perfect candidate who not only adds to your culture but enhances it, make them an offer right away. No matter if they live halfway across the globe or right across the street, Plane is there to connect you with the right workers, hiring them with compliant contracts and paying them on time, in their own currencies.“Pilot [now called Plane] is literally the only solution we found that has Palestine built in as a country that you can hire people remotely from,” said Montauk. “None of the other platforms offer that. And it’s just easier to do it through Pilot.”Try Plane today and find out how we can help you hire and pay the best workers, wherever they are.

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