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Up, up, down, down, left, right, … keeping it fair in hiring


In the 1980s there was a beloved secret among Nintendo game enthusiasts called the Konami Code. With this code you could unlock all sorts of cheats and extras in various games. Without it… well, you died more… a lot more.


Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start


The lucky ones who knew the code won far more often and more easily and with greater point scores than those who didn’t.


It doesn’t seem fair, does it? So much advantage to those in the know vs. those unlucky enough to not have access to this fabulous secret.


And yet… with so many hiring programs suffering from poor communication, this is exactly what we do.


Some are lucky enough to have access to the code that unlocks all sorts of cheats and extras – the people to send their resume to, the keywords to use to pass the ATS filters, the list of preferences that the hiring manager is obsessed with. Others are left to play by the rules, or worse, play the game without knowing any of the rules.


To create a truly equitable process, all candidates and hiring team members need to be bound by the same rules, with the same access to any information and cheat codes.

But how can you ensure that communication is equitable and consistent?


1) Set a communication strategy


Having a defined process with set questions, responses, and metrics, is fantastic. What’s even better is if people know about it.


Identify what each participant (candidate and hiring team member) needs to know in order to successfully execute the process. Include when they need to know it and how responsive they must be from when they receive the knowledge to when they must act upon it.


Keep in mind, not all information is equal. Too much information and it won’t be absorbed, too little and the participants won’t know what to do.


Alongside what to communicate and when, the strategy also includes what not to say, or what not to say ‘unless’.


For example, don’t give candidates access to interview questions until they are in the interview.


For example, don’t provide examples of ‘good designs’ to candidates unless they ask for it.


Note: the ‘don’t tell candidates unless they 'ask’ can be a powerful evaluation technique to see if candidates naturally seek answers or provide them. But it doesn’t work unless all candidates are held to the same ‘must ask’ standard.


2) Use multiple formats


When executing the communication strategy, keep in mind that not everyone absorbs information the same way or has access to the same formats. Not everyone has a facebook account, checks emails religiously, or enjoys reading page after page of official and incredibly detailed procedure.


To effectively communicate, use multiple formats – both in technology and content.

  • Create a single, accessible place for operational content.

For example, a website for candidates that explains the company and hiring process. It should have FAQs, policies around requesting and receiving reasonable accommodations, links to benefits, compensation policies, employee programs, diversity initiatives, and any other relevant information a candidate could want to know.


For example, an internal webpage for employers that explains the hiring process and philosophy, roles and expectations of the hiring team, FAQs, what to disclose and not disclose to candidates. Also, resources for the hiring team such as recruiting, HR, legal, and operational, should they need it.

  • Use small content in multiple forms for high-priority and call to action.

For example, send a series of emails and/or text messages to candidates to remind them of upcoming events, due dates, and priority pieces of information. Link these back to the main webpage.


For example, send a series of emails and/or chat messages to hiring team members reminding them of upcoming events, action items, due dates, and priority pieces of information. Link these back to the main webpage.

  • Augment with the human touch.

For example, give the candidate a call the night before their onsite interview to ask if they have any questions or requests before the big day. Use the time to go over next steps and timelines, and to get a sense of how they are feeling about the organization and position.


For example, set a 20 minute check-in meeting for the full hiring team weekly or bi-weekly or after major events like interview rounds. Check in on progress, review open tasks and timelines, and highlight any potential issues or necessary adjustments. Get a sense of how they are feeling about the process and the candidates.


Note: make sure all candidate-facing content is fully accessible – that means mobile accessible, available to translators if applicable (i.e. accessible to those who are blind or not well versed in your website’s language), and can be accessed through other means for those who do not have consistent access to the internet.


3) Train & validate


Communication is important. But so is verifying that those who are receiving the communications are understanding and absorbing the information.


Use training with validation to verify that the hiring teams are truly understanding and absorbing it. There are different techniques to do this – from pre-recorded or written materials with associated tests to webinars with Q&A to class-like sessions with exercises. Use the techniques that best fit your organization, budget, and time.


Training topics include:

  • Familiarity with the hiring processes, systems, and procedures

  • How to interview candidates

  • What to say and not say during an interview (especially legal/compliance content)

  • How to document results and feedback

Don’t forget that training is never once and done. Have periodic refreshers, especially for those who do not often serve on a hiring team.

4) Enforce


You set up your communication strategy including a thorough list of what is to be shared and what is not to be shared. Your plan is well documented, and the communication has been executed flawlessly for every participant. Your teams are fully trained and only those who have validated the knowledge are able to participate. Everything is perfect.


And then someone gives a candidate the secret code.


A friend of a friend, a nephew of a colleague, a sweet kid who reached out via social media… up, up, down, down, right, left, right, left, B, A, start.


And with the code, the candidate instantly has an unfair advantage.


Now what?


Without enforcement, the best strategies will fall flat as soon as they are inconvenient to a participant. There must be consequence for those that break the rules and give out the code. Consider what happens to both the employee and with the candidate (or process) if this happens. And make those consequences known.


#NoBias #diversityandinclusion #hiring


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