October 6, 2021

How About Some Diversity in Work Experience?

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Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

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Lots of companies want to be inclusive in their hiring. Unless it comes to little things like…previous experience.

Vetting for necessary skills is one thing. But creating ideal profiles of who you think will be successful based on a couple of previous hires? 

Kind of a recipe of everyone thinking and looking the same, don’t ya think?

Jeff Smith and James Hornick will rage on the downsides of poorly conceived requirements in Episode 29 of The 10 Minute Talent Rant, “How About Some Diversity in Work Experience?”

Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Episode Transcript

The 10 minute talent rant is live. I’m James Hornick, I’m joined by Jeff Smith and we are on the clock. The 10 minute talent rant is our ongoing series where we break down things that are broken in the talent acquisition hiring space, maybe even pitch a solution or two. We’re actually definitely doing that this week.

We actually have four. Before we dig in, all of our content can be found on talentinsights.hirewell.com. This week’s topic: how about some diversity in work experience? Yeah, I know it’s taken us 29 episodes to get to a DEI related topic and I can assure you, it’s not from lack of interest.

It’s really because I think the last thing the world needs is like two more middle-aged white guys, mansplaining diversity to everybody else. So that’s kind of why we’ve actually- well I should say that’s why we have other people who actually are experts take this on. So another quick plug: Hirewell does have a whole series called The DEI speaker series, where we have actual experts in diversity inclusion from the outside world, come in and have these conversations once a month.

So you don’t have to hear us talk about it. But- frankly hit up Holistic, our sister company. They are much more well-versed than you and I as well. Yes. But there is one area specifically that I think is right down the lane and that’s why we want to kind of talk about today. So the intent to build a diverse team is good.

Saying it out loud is good, but a lot of it just stops there. A lot of companies as much as they want to be inclusive of race and gender and age and all these other things, they still end up narrowing things down from an experience standpoint that it just brings you back to that same point.

There is a fine line between requirements that are necessary to get a job done and the requirements that are just absolute nonsense. And if you look at it from a hiring funnel standpoint, because I don’t wanna be overly critical but I want us to kind of explain like how this works. When you create job requirements, initial set, like you might get flooded, you might get a hundred people apply and you have to have a way of filtering that. It’s impossible to actually give everyone a fair shake across everything you’re doing.

You can’t have as many conversations with everyone. So what happens? You add more requirements, you whittle it down by making it a little bit more and more and more granular and to make things more manageable. But the problem is sometimes when you add things that really aren’t that important, it’s just like when you add a lot of nice to have that seem like they feel good,

you end up with people who come from the same types of environments and have very similar work histories of work backgrounds and shoot yourself in the foot with anything you’re trying to do by being inclusive or having a more diverse talent pools. Yeah. I mean, great points. I think- so if you’re thinking about this real-world application wise, I mean, we kind of talked through a few examples. But like think about an instance we’ve had instances, you know, even recently where there is a specific skill or an experience, some sort of experience that the candidate potentially prior had that would make them a perfect fit for the role, right. And it’s funny. We went through a process with said client and they ended up passing on the individual and in it, then subsequently individuals with diverse backgrounds across many different facets.

And those exact individuals got offers with the exact experience that they were requiring and not one offer, two offers. So it made the point super tangible for that client and to that client’s credit, they absolutely listened to it and said, “Wow. That’s like super interesting.”

The other thing that we see is like, and we’ve talked about assessments in the past is, okay we’re going to give a candidate an assessment to see where they’re at as it relates to our environment. And it’s like, “Okay, we’re open to all this experience” but the assessment is written in exactly what is necessary to do the job within that company.

So how could anyone know how to correctly answer that? And what we see is time and time again, folks fail that because the requirement is super narrow. Finally, companies are super excited about, like you said, walking the walk but everybody requires a bachelor’s degree, regardless.

We will not accept anybody without a bachelor’s degree. Like why? And I would love to do an- we might’ve done one, but we got to talk about the state of education right now and how you can literally learn everything you need to know online nowadays for free. Anyways, that’s another rant. I think also leveling is something we’ve kind of talked about before is one thing we see a lot of is companies will evaluate talent.

Let’s say they want to hire someone at a principal level, you know? And they’re like, “Well, they’re at their principal at their current company, but they’re not a principal here because we’re just different. And what we need is a little different because there’s something-” like there’s definitely the market overvalues institutional knowledge, which makes it harder for people who don’t fit in that really, really super narrow definition to get a role.

When companies finally do loosen things up, they realize three months later “Wow it really wasn’t that hard from them to pick this up.” Yeah, no it’s time and time again where we say things like, wow, you could have hired this individual four months ago and we still wouldn’t be looking for that needle in a haystack.

Look, companies that can train and are thinking about how to train well and develop learning and development programs win. They win- fact. It’s kind of a case closed situation. There’s a wealth, a wealth of diverse skilled talent that will run through brick walls for you if you give them the chance. Bootcamp, like you said, certification programs- we’re not all opening up

Encyclopedia, Britannica, anymore. Like Google is a thing. We can all learn this stuff. And companies who are developing avenues to develop that sort of talent at the associate level are crushing it. It’s why professional services firms in the big four continually turn out the best of the best because they have programs that are dedicated specifically to developing and training entry-level talent.

So if you’re able to home grow your individuals, A.) The better and more quickly they become experts in the institutional knowledge that you talked about. But to the other point, it widens the pool of entry for all of these types of candidates. Yeah. I want to jump on that one too because you said for entry-level talent, I have an idea. How about train your older employees? How about look at like- one to talk about facts? It’s a fact that people who are older in age stay longer at the companies they’re at. They have more loyalty, they’re less likely to make a move by any study ever.

And I think it’s just also- that’s why if you need to make hires, people who are older have more range, they have more wealth of experience, they’re willing to be trained in things, and they’re going to like, I hate to say it’s not a knock on younger people, but just like by the statistics, people who are older end up having longer tenures actually better investment in training.

Yeah, agreed. I mean, that’s a great point. I had a call with an amazing gentleman working through kind of, if we’re going to be a good fit with each other but I made a reference- I’m 41. So like, I do remember the Relic that is a Rolodex and I made a joke about it and he said, you know, he admitted he wanted to make the same joke, but he didn’t want to be judged.

And it was a really eyeopening experience to me. It’s not just us on our side who are selling all the time. It’s this is an individual that we are prospecting, who wanted to seem “with it” or cool or whatever, whatever that feeling was. And his reticence to bring that up was exactly the point that we’re trying to make here.

We keep harping on it but the barrier to diversity expansion is lack of people in these Uber narrowly defined skillsets. And newsflash, like there’s been a shortage of tech talent for 20 years now and if we keep whittling things down to where it becomes so narrow, it’s unmanageable. The problem is going to continue to get worse.

If you’re going to be proactive on inclusion and you’re still limiting based on certain types of experiences, the cycle just continues. Yeah. I mean look, the point is nonsense requirements are nonsense requirements. If you knock them out, you’re going to have a- you’ll have a shot at it.

All right, let’s get to fixes because we actually do have some thoughts on this. First off, one idea, crazy idea. Most of us know that job descriptions are kind of bullshit anyway, like they’re either copies of copies or you made one years ago and you just keep holding onto the thing. And here’s the thing, it’s not just the piece of paper, it’s what that actually represents the requirements in there. Go through those things and update them. Like I guarantee you, if you have something you haven’t updated in a year or two years or even longer, there are probably some requirements you’re still requiring just because you had them previously that aren’t even relevant anymore.

And you’re nixing new candidates based on that. So do a quick look just to make sure those things are even current yeah. Hiring teams. So recruiters, hiring managers, anybody involved in that get together and talk about what are the real things you want? They can be tangible, they can be cultural, they can be behavioral, whatever it is, and figure out how to assess them.

Talk about who’s going to ask the questions? What questions they are and make sure that they’re getting to the root of what you want to acquire in this new candidate. We have to get away from like dismissing candidates at mass because they don’t fit a plug and play like narrative. Lots of folks can learn things quickly.

And then finally, look at the big picture when you’re assessing talent. Yes, you might be looking at somebody and they may not be a perfect fit for exactly what you’re looking for, but holy crap, they have search engine optimization experience and you haven’t even built that out in your company

and you’ve been talking about it at the executive leadership level for three months. Could there potentially be an opportunity for some cross-functional work there? And it might be interesting to the candidate? Maybe? Seems like a win. Yeah. The last thing before we let everyone go here, cause we’re going to way over and I don’t care-

shut down referral bias because that’s the other thing too, is that when you do look at people that like somehow get through without having the requirements, it’s always somebody’s friend. I have a friend who’s a go getter. I mean, that always comes down to- I mean, that’s how the old boys network perpetuates.

So if you’re going to give people who are your friends that shot just cause you- someone’s friend, just because you have that feeling they could figure it out, like you should be giving same type of opportunity to anybody. Yeah. For all the sabermetrics fans out there, this is the David Eckstein analogy.

Nobody will get that. We are short on clocks. That’s a wrap for this week. Thanks for tuning into the 10 minute talent rant part, of the talent insight series which is always available for replay on talentinsights.hirewell.com as well as YouTube, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify and Amazon. Jeff, thanks again! And everyone out there, we will see you soon.

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