Some companies are turning to software that anonymizes potential hires to prevent recruiters from unconsciously discriminating against candidates, Claire Cain Miller writes for the New York Times.
Researchers have found that talented candidates are sometimes overlooked due to a lack of an Ivy-league education, their minority status, or other factors unrelated to performance.
One reason minorities are underrepresented in professional jobs, experts say, is a pipeline issue: Fewer minorities enroll in college in the first place, leading to underrepresentation at the professional level.
But that's only part of the story, Cain Miller says. For instance, blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans comprise 16 percent of law school graduates but only 8 percent of newly hired associates at law firms. At the nation's top 25 undergraduate computer science programs, such minorities represent nearly 9 percent of graduates, but they make up less than 5 percent of the workforce at leading tech companies.
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So what other factors are keeping minorities out of highly skilled jobs? Conventional recruiting methods may be partly blame, Cain Miller writes. Recruiters often emphasize finding good "culture fits"—but sometimes that can mean hiring people demographically similar to existing employees.
How Google, others have tackled the problem
Google realized it had a problem when in 2014 it released employment data showing that only 2 percent of its employees were black, only 3 percent were Hispanic, and only 30 percent were women.
The company, which had been known to prefer new hires who fit company culture, now uses standardized questions to interview candidates. It is also trying to build diversity into its definition of its ideal corporate culture.
Other organizations are turning to third-party software companies to improve their diversity recruiting and hiring rates. Software company GapJumpers works with businesses to create a test that mimics what applicants would do on the job, Cain Miller reports. Recruiters decide whom they'll interview based on test results—not the applicants' degree or credentials. They gain access to applicants' names and resumes only after they commit to interviewing them.
GapJumpers says that in more than 1,400 tests of its software for various companies, its technology increased the proportion of candidates who are not white, male, disabled, or from "elite schools" from about 20 percent to 60 percent.
Other companies start looking at diversity before the candidates even apply. Textio uses software to comb through companies' job listings and analyze the demographics that respond to different types of language. For example, Textio says non-white applicants are less likely to respond to a job description that uses corporate buzzwords, such as "synergy," while women are more likely to respond to a job that describes ideal candidates with a "passion for learning."
Armed with that information, companies can tweak their language to appeal to a wider range of applicants (Cain Miller, New York Times, 2/25).
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