Jobs & Gigs
How to Practice Equitable Hiring in 10 StepsBy Emma McAleavy
January 6, 2022
In professional settings, structural racism and systemic inequality can have a compounding effect, harming people with marginalized or non-dominant identities in the short and long term. Fortunately, some organizations and individuals have thought deeply about how individual employers and organizations can reduce bias and prevent discrimination in their workplace and hiring practices. At Listings Project, we have benefited from the help of a number of wise consultants and organizations who have advised us on best practices for hiring. We’d like to share some of what we’ve learned here.
If you find yourself in a position to hire someone—whether for your organization or to help you as an individual with some aspect of your personal or work life—we strongly recommend you take the time to educate yourself about equitable hiring. In the meantime, though, we’ve compiled a brief overview of some of what we’ve learned about hiring equitably.
1. Give yourself plenty of time to hire
A hiring consultant we’ve worked with at Listings Project says you need at least two to four months to conduct a thoughtful, structured, equitable hiring process. If you’re in urgent need of assistance, consider how you can manage your, or your organization’s, needs while you conduct your search. If you rush your search, it’s unlikely you will be able to do an equity-centered hiring process.
2. Make sure your job description is highly accessible to a wide audience
You want to be careful when you write your job description that you don’t use niche terminology or jargon. After all, the ideal person for the role may not know the acronyms your organization uses. You should also avoid using words that are often experienced as gendered (such as “aggressive” which many people consider a masculine trait or “nurturing” which is often considered a feminine trait). Gendered language tends to influence who feels comfortable applying for the role.
3. Be realistic about your “must-haves”
The most important section of your job description is your “must-haves” section. This is where you list out the qualifications that are required in order to be successful in, and considered for, the role. This list will be the backbone of your assessment process later on, so it’s important that you think deeply about what really counts for the role. It’s also important to be realistic about what qualifications are actually required to do the job. Many certifications and credentials are a reflection of privilege rather than skills or relevant experiences. For example, it is far easier to acquire an advanced degree (like an M.A.) if your family is wealthy, if you have no undergraduate debt, if you’re not a parent, or if you have access to people with influence in academia. But a person with an advanced degree isn’t necessarily going to be the best person for the role. If you include too many extraneous qualifications you may inadvertently inject bias into the hiring process. If you need help thinking through your “must-haves,” the Management Center has a useful worksheet that can help you get started.
4. Include the salary range
We know that people with more dominant identities (like white people, or cisgender men, for example) are often more comfortable negotiating their salary and talking about money. If you put a salary range on your job description you bring some transparency into the process. You also ensure that everyone’s expectations are similar regardless of their identity and level of comfort advocating for themselves. Some states and municipalities, including New York City, have even passed laws requiring employers to disclose the pay range on the job description. If mayor Eric Adams approves the new salary disclosure law in New York City, it will go into effect in April of 2022.
Finally, a few organizations have taken their commitment to salary transparency a step further by including a set salary on the job description and making it clear they don’t negotiate. While that might not be the right choice for you or your organization, it’s a commendable way of making sure bias and privilege don’t affect how much your hire ends up getting paid.
5. Share your job description with a wide variety of networks
Ideally, you, your colleagues, and your organization have already cultivated relationships with groups and individuals that are diverse across identity. When it comes time to share your job description you should take the time to thoughtfully reach out to colleagues and professional contacts in your network. It’s worth the extra effort to write a personal email, make a phone call, or even set up a one-on-one meeting to build a diverse candidate pool. The goal here is to reach beyond your friends and closest colleagues to communicate with communities that might not otherwise hear about the role you’re hiring for. The key—regardless of your personal identities—is to move beyond traditional jobs boards and LinkedIn posts, to access networks where people with a range of identities might congregate.
6. Create a diverse hiring committee
When it comes time to begin evaluating candidates, you want to make sure your hiring committee is as diverse across identity as possible. The easiest way to reduce biased decision-making is to have decision-makers with a wide variety of backgrounds and identities. Don’t be afraid to include people from all levels of your organization, as well. Junior employees may have important perspectives for the hiring process. If you run a small business or are hiring alone, consider whether or not you have colleagues or professional contacts who might be willing to be on your hiring committee (just remember to compensate them for their time, or pledge to return the favor).
7. Anonymize the candidates as much as possible
Research shows that anonymizing resumes and other application materials reduces bias in the hiring process. As you sort through applicants, you want to remove as much personal, identifying information as possible from the process. You should have a separate person remove the names from resumes, and you should review any candidate exercises or work samples anonymously.
8. Standardize your evaluation
When it comes time to evaluate your candidate’s resumes, sample work, or hiring exercises, you want to do so in a standardized way. You should evaluate all candidate materials against the “must-haves” list you created for your job description. You should develop a standardized rubric for evaluating candidates and their application materials.
9. Communicate transparently
As your hiring process progresses it’s critical that you communicate consistently and transparently with all your candidates. Dominant cultures have been able to perpetuate inequality by keeping decision making processes shrouded in secrecy and making decisions behind closed doors. Communicating how and why decisions are made can help level the playing field for all applicants.
10. Consider compensating candidates for participating in the hiring process
If you are doing a thoughtful and comprehensive hiring process, chances are you are asking your candidates to put in a significant amount of time and effort. This can put people with limited financial resources, multiple jobs, or care-taking duties at a disadvantage. You can ensure you’re not limiting your candidate pool by compensating candidates who participate in the hiring process. You might also consider asking candidates to submit work they’ve already produced, rather than asking them to participate in time-consuming candidate exercises.
Feature image by OSTUDIO
Emma McAleavy, Listings Project's Content Editor, works to bring the stories of our community to life. Emma’s writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Outside Magazine, and Architectural Digest. You can follow her on twitter @emmamcaleavy.