Diversity recruiting the hard way

By Arthur Yamamoto, Director of Talent Acquisition

Research has shown that the most innovative companies employ diverse workforces. And yet Silicon Valley — widely known as the center of the tech innovation universe — has long been criticized for a lack of diversity. While Checkr’s workforce wasn’t as homogenous as many other companies in tech, we took a hard look in the mirror and realized we could do better.

At the beginning of 2018, our CEO and Executive team made the bold commitment to become the model for what a modern, diverse company should be. (With our company mission to improve fairness in employment, having an employee base that accurately reflects our client and applicant base is a must). As the recruiting leader tasked with leading the charge, I was torn. Fundamentally, I believe that diverse teams are more successful, and that Checkr will be a better company for it. But as a recruiter, I knew it would be hard, hard work (But anything truly rewarding and worth doing is difficult, right?).

We had numerous discussions with our leadership team about the complexities and difficulties of diversity recruiting, and set expectations around the effect it could have on hiring velocity. Ultimately, we had consensus that to do it right, we would have to do it the hard way.

The requirements

The first, and arguably most important requirement is executive buy-in. We needed to have the agreement that:

  1. This is important.
  2. This is going to be difficult.
  3. You will carry this message to your teams as this will be a company-wide effort.
  4. We won’t adjust or give up when we inevitably encounter opposition, roadblocks, or slowdown in hiring velocity.

Thankfully, we started with this buy-in, but made sure to address this and re-address this to ensure everyone’s consensus.

The other requirement are more familiar to most. Ensuring the recruiters are bought in and understand the challenges. For example, traditional candidate pools are not diverse, and diverse candidates in these pools are not always easy to identify. Not everyone in a company believes in diversity, and some may voice resistance, so buy-in across the company was key as well. Everyone naturally has unconscious bias that you consciously have to address. And as a company, you have to identify what diverse means to you, as diversity comes in many forms.

The definition

After our People Ops team completed surveys & research, we were comfortable that we had a wide range of employees from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and different sexual orientation. What we were clearly lacking was gender parity and representation in underrepresented minorities.

And then we set ambitious goals to get to 50/50 gender parity and 15% Under-represented Minorities (URM) in our workforce by the end of the year, and even included them in our company’s quarterly Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).

The process

We agreed that the key change in our process would be what we call “The Rooney Rule Plus” (RR+). What RR+ means is that before a hiring manager can make an offer to any candidate, that hiring manager has to have interviewed (final stage/onsite) two candidates who fit our defined diverse candidate pools (Women & URMs). We also agreed that there could be no exceptions to this rule for it to be effective.

Part and parcel of the RR+ was the understanding that we would never “force” a hiring manager to hire anyone. The process was built simply to ensure that a hiring manager had to see a diverse slate of candidates before making a decision, and the belief that with that information we would naturally see more offers going to diverse candidates.

In addition, we launched interview training for the entire company on the foundations for behavioral interviewing, well known to help reduce bias. We structured our interview process to ensure the same questions would be asked of every candidate for every role — also foundational in overcoming bias. We even launched a training dedicated to the responsibilities around being a hiring manager, with further reinforcement around the importance of diversity and sourcing for diverse candidates.

From a recruiting standpoint, we opened up new candidate pools by doing everything from targeting new geos (and being open to remote workers) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), to finding different organizations and professional associations centered around the candidate pools we were after. We partner with companies that focus on blind interviewing like interviewing.io to recruiting platforms centered around women in tech like PowerToFly. We push our hiring managers to be active in the sourcing process, and have even experimented with Boolean strings that filter out the most common male names. We host referral drives dedicated solely to surfacing diverse candidates. We continue to iterate and explore new things as best we can.

The results (thus far)

What we’ve found thus far is that we’ve been able to maintain our pace without a huge loss to our hiring velocity. The amazing work done by everyone from hiring managers, interviewers, executives and recruiters has allowed for this. And while we still have a lot of time left in the year, we’ve had our biggest hiring quarter to date and we’re again on pace to surpass that with great diversity hiring numbers YTD! (Look forward to sharing year end results of our work later this year)

And while we still have a long road ahead of us, I’m incredibly proud to work for a company that cares about the right things, and isn’t afraid to do it the hard way. (aka the only way)

If you’re interested in joining a company doing it the right way, check us out at www.checkr.com/careers