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Neutralizing hiring inequities – organization research

“I look for people who take the time to research us. I want people who show interest in our organization and in the job.”

It’s a common wisdom, and a sound one. Candidates who show interest in an organization and take the time to research it are probably more likely to engage, accept an offer, and stay… probably.

But, when it comes to equity, there are a few little hiccups to this wisdom.

1. ACCESSIBILITY is not created equal

Not everyone has the same accessibility, both in access and in opportunity, to do their research.

Consider access to technology – devices and internet. Some, especially among those applying for lower-paying jobs, may not have access to a computer or reliable internet.

“But what about their phones? Everyone has a phone.”

Many have phones, but not everyone. And for those relying on phones to do their research, consider the quality of the mobile experience. Not all organizations are mobile friendly with all their web content, making it harder to find and absorb information.

“But there is always the library.”

Yes, there is. If that library is accessible (i.e. people can get to it) and the hours of operation are not in direct conflict with work schedules. A library is only a solution if those who need it have the access and time.

This brings us to the second part of accessibility – time.

Some must work multiple jobs. Some have demanding family or other obligations carving away at every waking hour. Some have little to no vacation and demanding work schedules offer minimal flexibility. With such limited time, it’s very hard to find enough of it to do a decent job researching an organization or a position.

Equalizing ACCESSIBILITY to enable organization research

Inequitable accessibility is the perfect opportunity to be part of the solution – increasing equity without compromising the desire to test candidate interest.

Here are a few things you can do.

  1. Ensure mobile-friendly content. Take out your phone and research your own organization. Were you able to find everything as easily as when you use a computer? Were you able to explore content, click around different links, and find the shortcuts to the content you want? If you find hiccups in the mobile experience, so will your candidates. Address the hiccups or shift the expectations of the depth of research to match mobile accessibility.

  2. Ensure access with bad internet. Conduct the same mobile test but, this time, do it in an area with bad internet. Do your pages take forever to load, or do they not load at all? What happens when you click on a link or other navigation or use the search function? Slow loads are annoying, but pages not loading at all will make it impossible for some people to conduct any research.

  3. Provide access. For those that may not have access to devices or internet (or the library), provide an alternative. This can be as simple as inviting people to budget extra time to use devices in a lobby or public space before their interview, or a partnership with a library or educational institution to provide access to candidates. You can offer hard copy materials for anyone who requests it.

  4. Provide Time. For those with tight and demanding schedules, it may not be technology standing in the way, but the time to use it. This is especially true when the time between apply and interview is fast. Be flexible with the interview schedule to give those who need it a little extra time to do their research. This includes interview options on the far side of the weekend so they have at least one weekend available before the interview.

2. INTERESTS are not equal

When doing research on something as personal as a potential new employer, there is no shortage of interests. We may be drawn to the job and the team, or the stability and success of the organization. We may love the products or brand or customer experience. We may be drawn to mission and values of the organization, the juicy tidbits covered by the press and third-party websites, or the history of the organization and leadership. We may want to understand the culture, employee experience, and stance on diversity and inclusion. We may be interested in career mobility and opportunity, compensation, benefits, and networking. There is no shortage of interests. And, for many organizations, there is no shortage of information.

With so much information available and so many avenues to research, how candidates spend their time exploring the organization can look very different.

“Yes, but if they really care, they will take the time to know what we do and our key products.”

Are you sure? What if the role doesn’t have much to do with your products and services? What if the candidates are driven by employee experience, career growth, or culture? What if the candidate already worked at an organization where they loved the brand and product but hated the experience and now they focus on what they know is important for their success and longevity?

And this makes another basic assumption – that candidates know that research is a sign of interest. There are many reasons why candidates may not know that organization research is a ‘thing’. Those exploring their first jobs, those who are first-generation educated, those coming out of the military, those who’ve never interviewed at an organization with research expectations, etc. Candidates can be very excited and interested, they just don’t know the rules of the game.

Equalizing INTERESTS of organization research

Inequitable INTERESTS is the perfect opportunity to be part of the solution – increasing equity without compromising the desire to test candidate interest.

Here are a few things you can do.

  1. Define the expectations. If you plan on evaluating candidates on their research, especially if that research is in specific areas such as products, mission, or job requirements, say so. “We would love to hear your thoughts about our mission”, or “As part of the conversation, be prepared to discuss what attracted you to our organization.” Setting expectations increases the equity in understanding of expectations and allows more people to participate.

  2. Let the candidates tell you about their interests. For more open-ended research expectations, let the candidates set the tone by telling you about their focus. Once you know what they researched, you can evaluate the depth and success of that interest.

Bringing it all together

Unfortunately, inequities lurk in all sorts of corners of hiring and other practices. But these are also opportunities to be part of the solution. When it comes to the common wisdom of ‘candidates who care will research our organization’, take steps to ensure equity so candidates can present their true interest and engagement. Make sure that your expectations are clear so everyone is in ‘the know’ and offer candidates accessibility in the form of both content access and time.

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