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The more the merrier… applying DEIB hiring practices to panels and group interviews

When designing inclusive, equitable hiring practices, there is no shortage of tips and techniques. From drafting inclusive job descriptions to diversifying sources, to ensuring true requirements, to creating insightful questions, there are so many ways to increase and sustain equitable practices.

But what if it is not just you?

Having control over every aspect of the hiring process is easy when you’re the one in control. But for many, hiring is a team sport.

For example, committee hiring, panel interviews, and multiple interviews are all commonplace practices. And that is a good thing. Multiple people involved in the hiring process can smooth out individual bias, improve the candidate experience and showcase the depths of your culture and employee experience. However, it also adds more opportunities to go sideways such as adding inadvertent or intentional bias, preferential treatment, or poor candidate experience.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to.

On your own, or part of a team, the concepts of equitable, inclusive hiring are the same. However, how they are applied is slightly different. The key for teams is clarity, accountability, and transparency.

CLARITY – set the goals, responsibilities, and expectations

Just like with any group activity, success depends first on the team knowing what success is and how to reach it.

Consider being part of a team where you don’t know what you’re supposed to accomplish. Or being part of a team where each member has a different understanding of the goal. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of that experience, it probably wasn’t enjoyable. At best, it ends up unproductive, and it probably just sets you up for endless arguments and confusion. Right?

What about being part of a team where the responsibilities of each individual are fuzzy or there isn’t agreement on the expectations, timeline, or quality of the work for each individual?

Leaving teams without clear goals, individual and group responsibilities, and expectations is an excellent way to set teams up for failure.

Now here’s a potentially uncomfortable question. How many hiring teams have you been part of or worked with that have clear goals, responsibilities, and expectations?

To set your team up for success, bring the team together (so they can react, respond, and question together) and give them CLARITY.

  • Set clear goals for the hire including the priorities for what the future employee must be able to do or what environments they must thrive within. Use examples of tasks, work output and achievements. Strong job descriptions are a great place to start.

  • Establish clear responsibilities within the hiring process. What part does each person play. Where are they owners, contributors, consumers, decision makers. If they are part of an interview panel, or multiple interviews, what is their focus and individual goals with the candidates. For example, are they evaluating a specific hard skill, experience in a specific area, or to convey information about the company. Do not overlap responsibilities. Too many people asking the same questions will feel repetitive and burdensome to the candidate and lead to a bad candidate experience.

  • Define clear expectations for each member of the team. How much time they are going to spend, the prep work, execution, and output of the tasks (such as drafting inclusive, equitable interview questions before the interview, taking notes, and recording those notes in the ATS). Provide any support that’s needed (for example, how-to videos and support contacts for using the ATS). If possible, provide examples especially if you have team members who have not hired before or who do not hire often.

ACCOUNTABILITY – with the assignment comes consequences

Just like with any group activity, even if success is known, if it does not matter, it may not happen. Our colleagues are often very busy, and, for many, hiring is only a small portion of what they do. Therefore, if there is not a priority on the success of the task, it has a tendency to linger or suffer from poor quality. Unfortunately, that often means abandoning DEIB (and effectiveness) best practices in favor of speed.

Have you ever been part of a team where the success didn’t matter? No matter how hard you worked, no one seemed to care. And if you just ‘phoned it in’ and did the bare minimum, no one seemed to care. How willing was the team (or you, for that matter) to continue maintaining high quality work when doing next to nothing got the same reaction?

To set your hiring team up for success, your team needs ACCOUNTABILITY.

  • Celebrate when the team and/or individuals on the team are living the values and best practices, when they are doing what’s right, even when it’s hard. That includes celebrating the team even if by doing it right, it’s taking longer to find the right person, or the nephew of the CEO is being turned down. Celebrations must be genuine, impactful, and valued by the recipients. This could be public gratitude, monetary reward, showcases of success, etc. Celebration reinforces behavior.

  • Correct when the team and/or individuals on the team are not living the values and best practices. Corrections are all about getting the team back on the right track and achieving the goal. It doesn’t have to be negative, but it must be done or the incorrect behavior will continue. This could be anything from a conversation, to retraining, to removing the individual or team from the task. The conversations may be private, but the consequences should not be. Corrections must be visible and impactful.

TRANSPARENCY – objectivity in evidence

Just like with any group activity, transparency through documentation, communication, and organization can mean the difference between reaching a goal and getting stuck running in circles looking for that lost detail or debating the truth among the multiple versions living in memory.

Have you ever been part of a team that neglected to take notes or had a hard time organizing materials? How much time was wasted looking for that one document or trying to reconstruct the last meeting? How many mistakes could have been avoided? How much time could have been saved with more transparency through documentation, communication, and organization?

And, so it is with hiring teams. Ensure your team is efficient, objective, and accurate through TRANSPARENCY.

  • Require documentation at every step. For example, record the questions asked, the candidates’ responses, the notes for why the interviewer thought the answers were good or bad. The notes don’t have to be long, but they do need to be timely to increase the accuracy. Budget extra time at the end of interviews and panels for the interviewers to enter their notes. Not only will this protect the team against fuzzy memory and lost time, it will also increase equity by leaving evidence of their responses and not just an emotional impression (which is longer lasting and more heavily influenced by biases).

  • Use a pre-established system of organization. All notes need to be accessible for when the time comes to make a hiring decision. Storing them all in one place makes it even easier. It doesn’t matter where it is, as long as everyone knows it’s location and have appropriate access (i.e. some data may need protection and limited access). Applicant tracking systems, team workspaces, and share file spaces, etc.

  • Use the documentation. One of those things that should go without saying and yet, here we are. Documenting and storing is not enough, teams must also use the documentation when making the final hiring decision. The documentation will keep the conversations’ objective, accurate, and enable more equitable and fair decisions.

Bringing it all together – set your hiring teams up for DEIB for success

Hiring teams, like individuals, can do so much to enable inclusive, equitable hiring. However, teams have the extra facet of multiple people with multiple experiences, biases, schedules, and opinions. This diversity works in your favor if the teams are set up for success. Provide the teams with CLARITY on success and how to achieve it. Hold them ACCOUNTABLE for their actions by celebrating what’s done well and correcting what is not. And enforce TRANSPARENCY through documentation, communication, and organization so their efforts culminate in successful, equitable hires.

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