The Search for Greatness Will Drive Companies to Hire for Cultural Additions, Not Cultural Fits

Donna DeBerry of Indeed, Sal Mendoza of NBC Universal, Portia Kibble Smith of Karat, and Jason Rosario of Oath

On October 2nd, more than 200 talent acquisition, HR, and D&I leaders gathered in New York City for Indeed Explore. The theme of the event was the “Search for Greatness.” This is particularly relevant as many companies are starting to remove tangible barriers to great careers and career growth — such as the college degree requirement which Indeed themselves recently removed. Leading companies know they will only be successful in finding great talent they need to compete if they remove intangible barriers, like the idea of “cultural fit”, and instead focus on skill.

Companies eager to create a culture of equity and inclusiveness, in which all candidates and employees have a equal chance to succeed based on their skills and performance, often turn to D&I programs. To help leaders along their journey, Indeed invited our D&I Leader, Portia Kibble Smith, Sal Mendoza VP of D&I at NBC Universal, and Jason Rosario Head of D&I at Oath to share what they’ve learned about creating company cultures that embrace diversity and how to succeed in being inclusive.

Read on for the key discussion topics and learnings from the session.

What should diverse candidates look for in a company?

  • Look for evidence of an inclusive culture. Candidates want to know that their voices will be heard and they will be given the same opportunities as others in similar roles.
  • A company willing to earn their trust through authenticity. Candidates want somebody to say, “I’m talking to you because I need you on our team.” Not because we have to. Being authentic will remove skepticism about the idea that they may be, or be made to feel like, a “diversity hire.”
  • Experiences, not programs. Candidates can see through a “program” that is designed to make them feel a certain way. They must experience the culture of the company on their own. This will go a long way to earning their trust.

How can recruiters be more transparent about the inclusion climate in the business?

Portia Kibble Smith recommends an approach that she has used in her 30 years as a corporate recruiter: she encourages companies to take down the walls and offer candidates the opportunity to experience “a day in the life.” This is particularly important for early career candidates or interns entering technical roles — most of which may require them to move to a larger city like San Francisco, Seattle, or New York:

“Oftentimes children of color are not encouraged to move out of their environment. So they are hesitant to apply for jobs that are lucrative but require them to move.

Take down the walls. Provide opportunities for them to ask basic questions about interacting with their team members. Provide suggestions on neighborhoods to live in and the parts of the city they can find cultural activities along with religious institutions and personal grooming expectations — all of this matters and decreases fear of change.”

Where are our panelists’ companies succeeding in D&I?

  • Clear communication about the business benefits. At Oath, Jason is working to clearly communicate the business upsides of a diverse team. “Difference plus imagination equals innovation,” he said. “Move away from this ‘I don’t see color’ idea and embrace uniqueness. It’s healthy.”
  • Empower allies to be ambassadors. At NBC Universal, Sal is including allies in important and difficult conversations. This also means including them in interviews, but not using them as substitutes for diverse employees.
  • Ensure that diversity and inclusion is a focus at all levels of the company. At Karat, we practice what we preach. Those interviewing to be a software engineer or interview engineer at Karat will go through the same consistent and structured technical interview that identifies skills, is predictive of on the job performance, and seeks opportunities to identify empathy.

What can be done to mitigate unconscious bias in the recruiting process?

  • Sal’s recommendation is to “be conscious of hiring for ‘cultural fit’ and instead, hire for ‘cultural add.’”
  • Jason recommends taking a long hard look at your job descriptions. Avoid words that are clearly masculine or are “buzzwords.” Not all candidates will internalize these words the same way or understand them.
  • Portia recommends being confident that your interview process is consistent and capable of evaluating skills needed on the job. Take measures to prevent biasing the process for things that are irrelevant and instead hire for competency. Above all, make candidates comfortable — a little humanity can go a long way.

Looking ahead

Prepare to go beyond diversity in race and gender. Talent leaders should start talking about neurodiversity. In a few short years, 35% of the workforce will be neurodiverse — this means having Autism, ADHD, dyslexia, or a similar disorder. Harvard Business Review has argued that this will be a competitive advantage for companies that embrace it.