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Hiring for diversity: How can you best be inclusive? | S02E04

Why is it so important that you have a diverse team from the very beginning? In the latest episode of The Early Stages Podcast by APX, host Søren talks to his guests about this important part of the hiring process and how it affects your customers.

In the fourth episode of the second season, Amélie Gagné, community manager at APX, joins Søren as co-host. Their guests include Claudia Nassif, CEO and co-founder of the indoor gardening start-up FYTA, and Julia Carloff-Winkelmann, Chief People Officer at Dance, an electric mobility subscription service.

There are many young male founders out there whose heads are full of innovation. But they don’t represent the entire population. If start-ups want to reach their clients, they need to be as diverse as them. “Diversity is something that fosters innovation. This ultimately leads to success,” says Amelié Gagnè. “And the later you start being diverse, the harder it will be to change. First, you should get a hiring manager who has experience being part of a marginalized group to build a diverse team.” In Amelié’s opinion, women or people of color find a job less attractive if their job interview is with four white men within the same age group.

But what does diversity even mean? “We are speaking about multiple dimensions,” says Julia Carloff-Winkelmann. “LGBTQ+, ethnicity, disability but also hiring more introverted people, non-native speakers, and people with varying educational backgrounds.” Not every customer will be a white male in his thirties who went to a certain university. However, this also raises questions like: Can we afford employees older than the founders?

For Claudia Nassif’s start-up FYTA, diversity is a definitive part of its brand values. She knows its benefits: higher productivity, more innovation, and more fun. “But how much diversity can you actually manage? It’s one thing to say you want to be diverse, but the reality is the more diverse you are, the higher the management requirements are because you have to create an infrastructure and a culture at your workplace that actually caters to your co-workers.”

Because of this, a culture check is a later part of the hiring process at FYTA. In Claudia’s opinion, co-workers should not just be a perfect fit. “How willing would you be to hire someone with a personality that is very different to that of the rest of your staff in terms of personality?” she asks. Amelié agrees that similar values are essential, but personality can differ and be a great way for the team to think more diversely.

Julia adds that diversity is easy to manage if you have five HR managers, but if you are a company with around fifteen employees, it becomes a challenge. “It’s a process — of being honest and thinking about these issues and recognizing that you are biased.” She supports an approach that takes the emotion out of feedback and strengthens one’s self-reflection. “Admit that you have a diversity problem if all your people look more or less the same. And admit that you didn’t put in the effort to make the team more diverse — because it’s not that difficult.”

Claudia concurs: “A strong drive to diversity comes naturally if you are coming from a diverse team, but diversity itself does not happen on its own.” Being a diverse team starts with small things like adopting anonymous challenges and CVs, writing approachable job descriptions, and actively recruiting in a network to find a talent pool that would not usually apply by themselves. For example, “try to lower the barriers for females in tech,” says Claudia. “Interview them faster and even interview them if they don’t meet all the requirements.” Women apply differently than men and do not apply if they don’t check all the boxes — however, men still do for the most part. “Be flexible!” Claudia proposes. “This will solve your problems much faster.”

Listen to the full episode for more insights and subscribe to our podcast series on your preferred podcast platform to listen to a new episode every other week. If you have feedback or topic ideas, send an email to soren@apx.vc or leave a comment on the episode through our social media channels. We hope you enjoy it!

Our podcast series “The Early Stages” discusses all the relevant questions for your “Startup-Journey” in 24 episodes. We touch on topics like hiring a team, brand building, fundraising, and leadership. In each episode, host Søren sits down with founders and an APX expert to discuss one stage of the company building process, sharing their personal experiences, learnings, and advice for other up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

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APX

Europe’s leading earliest stage VC. Based in Berlin and backed by Axel Springer and Porsche, we support the most ambitious pre-seed startups. APX.vc.