Healthy Hiring

A few months ago, I started a new journey in my career — I’m cofounding a healthcare startup, Rested, focused on helping people sleep better. I had planned on writing a post about my motivations, aspirations and goals, but today I want to talk about something more timely: diversity.

We recently released the Rested iOS app to the App Store. It’s an exciting time. We’ve been getting great feedback, and now need to grow our engineering team to support our user base. As I began the process to start hiring for the new roles, I realized that as a founder I have both the opportunity and responsibility to prioritize diversity in our team and hiring practices.

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure where to start, so I began my asking some really smart people (thanks shaherose!) what my first steps might be. Here are a few of the steps I’m working on / thinking about:

  • Ensure the language in the job description is inclusive. Besides learning some key terms to avoid, I also have started to learn about how different groups perceive requirements in a job description. Reshma Saujani did an excellent TED talk on this topic, focusing on girls. There are some great tools out there to help with this, like Textio.
  • Post in job boards that target diverse groups. I found a fantastic article by Eva Zheng which gives an incredibly thorough list of where to post your job openings to reach a diverse set of candidates.
  • Create a welcoming office environment. It’s important to recognize that even with the best intentions of a hiring manager, the external perception of your company and office can discourage candidates. This challenge requires effort not just from yourself, but from your team. I’m hoping to start by initiating discussions about this topic, and eventually creating action items of how we can improve.
  • Be open-minded. We all tend to have ideas in our head of what the perfect candidate looks like. While it’s important to have a sense of the skill-sets and experience you’re looking for, it’s equally important not to include specific schools or degrees in our “required” list of traits in the candidate. We need to remember that not everyone benefits from the privileges of top tier schools, and when they succeed in the field despite that, it demonstrates a level of perseverance and dedication that is often hard to find.
  • Consider diversity training. Building a diverse hiring funnel is hard work. It takes effort and perseverance to get right. Sometimes, it can help to get some guidance to ensure that the whole team (not just the hiring manager) is on the same page in terms of building the right environment and working against unconscious bias. If you can spare the budget for this (remember that a diverse team is not just morally sound, it’s economically sound too), there are a few services out there that can help you with this challenge through training and consulting, such as RecruitHer.io and ParadigmIQ. We recently had a training from RecruitHer and it was incredibly useful — we’ll probably do a few more.

Ultimately, it became clear to me that ensuring your hiring process is inclusive toward a diverse group of candidates isn’t easy. You can’t just decide to do it one day, and expect results. It takes consistent action and dedication, both in terms of the language you use in your job descriptions, the locations where you post them, and the office environment that welcomes them. Also, the earlier you start to address it, the better — we all know the impact of ignoring technical debt, but are far less familiar with the dangers of ignoring diversity debt.

I’m just getting started, and I’ve already learned a lot. I’m excited by the prospect of growing as a founder and hiring manager. There is a fantastic pool of talented people out there, and it takes just a bit of effort to connect with them. It’s our collective responsibility in the hiring community to become better listeners to those who aren’t given a privileged voice. Let’s look forward to smarter, more inclusive, and healthier hiring practices.


Additional Resources:

  • Homebrew put together a fantastic document on how to approach diversity at startups. I found this incredibly useful, but also a bit intimidating given all the things I’m not doing well right now.
  • Recently found a job board dedicated to connecting women in tech to employers: HireHer. Hopefully there will be more tools similar to this that target all underrepresented communities.