Diversifying University Recruiting at Pinterest

At Pinterest, one part of our broader efforts to build a more diverse, inclusive organization is to improve our recruiting and hiring strategy. About a year ago, we began analyzing our recruiting efforts across the board, from how we find candidates to how we interview and make hiring decisions. This analysis led to a number of changes in our recruiting efforts, specifically within our university recruiting process. Since we saw a positive impact as a result of these changes, we’re sharing our practices with the hope that others find them helpful too.

Changes to University Recruiting

Pre-sourcing. We spent time throughout the spring and summer months hosting source-a-thons focussed specifically on candidates from underrepresented backgrounds and previously untapped networks. By focusing on building pipeline early on, we set ourselves up for success when the more hectic fall recruiting season began.

Recruited from new schools. One of the first things we did was collect and review the demographic representation numbers at the schools where we had conducted on-campus recruiting in the past. We found there were a number of schools with great computer science programs and diverse student populations, and added two of these schools to our recruiting list. We plan to continue to evaluate the diversity of our university recruiting pipeline, and make adjustments and tweaks to achieve the results we want to see.

Connected with students from underrepresented backgrounds. Past efforts to connect with students from underrepresented backgrounds had largely been ad hoc and relatively unstructured. This time around, we decided to reach out to groups with membership of students from underrepresented backgrounds at all of the schools where we recruited to identify the type of programming that would be most interesting to the students in those programs. We met with communities of women in computer science, Minorities Alliance in Computer Science, and NSBE chapters. Here are some of the things we did as a result of these conversations:

  • Led a recruiting session, tech talk and dinner with NSBE at MIT
  • Before heading out to campus, we held source-a-thons specifically focused on underrepresented groups in our engineering organization and hosted small group dinners with candidates from underrepresented backgrounds who were in the area over summer
  • Hosted a session at Howard University on how to tackle the coding interview, as well as a group dinner for pre-sourced CS students, and had a number of coffee chats with individual students
  • At UT Austin, we worked with a local group to design a workshop on resume building and interview tips for candidates from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.

Designed campus kits to broaden our reach. We wanted to reach more schools, but our capacity was limited as a three-person university recruiting team. Fortunately, Pinterest engineers were interested in helping us broaden our reach. To enable us to recruit from a broader base of schools, we created “do-it-yourself” kits for on-campus recruiting to enable engineers to recruit from their alma maters, or other relevant schools. Engineers participated in a range of activities, including giving tech talks, attending career fairs, and panels, which helped us reach eight additional schools, and led to 20 additional recruiting events.

Made small changes to our hiring processes. We made a number of small changes to our hiring processes to minimize the potential impact of factors less clearly tied to potential, like where someone went to school, and to maximize our focus on performance. One change was removing the names of candidates’ schools and prior companies from notes given to engineers throughout the interview process. For example, a note that previously read “The candidate is rising junior at Stanford and interned at Google,” would now read “The candidate is a rising junior focused on CS, with internship experience in cloud computing.”

In debrief meetings where we discuss candidates and make hiring decisions, we provide each member of the committee a packet with information on the candidate, including their resume and feedback on their interview performance. In the past we put the candidate’s resume at the front of this packet. Because we want hiring decisions to be made based on how a candidate works through problems, and not on the static information on their resume, we changed the packet structure so that resumes are now at the back.

We also added reminders throughout the recruiting process about the importance of keeping an open mind. We know that small, well-timed reminders can lead people to self-correct behaviors, and we want to ensure that all candidates are reviewed objectively and fairly.

Finally, to ensure that every hiring decision is supported by specific information, we designated a few people to participate in debrief meetings for the express purpose of reminding interviewers to articulate, with supporting examples, the basis for each hire or no hire recommendation.

Outcomes

We made progress between 2015 and 2016 in our new grad and intern hiring. We focused on individuals from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds, where our engineering team is most lacking.

Between 2015 and 2016, we saw a significant increase in the number of new grad hires and interns from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds at Pinterest. The percentage of new grad hires from such backgrounds went from 1.7% to 4.8%, and the percentage of interns went from 4.2% to 13.3%. While the percentage of women in our new grad class declined slightly (by 5%) between 2015 and 2016, our intern class now has significantly more representation of women — 53% in 2016 up from 32% in 2015.

While we’re excited about our progress, we recognize there’s lot more work to do and are looking forward to iterating on our current strategy to optimize for even greater diversity throughout Pinterest. Looking forward, here are some initiatives we’re excited about:

  • Our first Pinterest Engage Intern Program class in Summer 2016 for freshman students from underrepresented backgrounds
  • Participation and Sponsorship at the 2016 Tapia Conference to celebrate diversity in computing
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