Promoting both diversity and merit in hiring

Let’s face it. We are a long way from the era that Martin Luther King dreamed of when people are not judged by the color of their skin but rather by the content of their character. Unconscious biases, whether based on race or gender or anything else, work against promoting diversity in the workplace. At the same time, any hiring manager would be remiss for not seeking merit in candidates he or she hires, no matter what their background.

An article in Commonwealth suggests ways to overcome unconscious bias in order to hire the most diverse and skilled workforce possible.

The first would be to present the hiring manager with resumes that have the names removed in order to prevent biases against people with female or “minority-sounding” names. That way, the hiring manager will not filter out candidates based on anything but skills and experience.

Another idea is to invite job applicants to provide written answers to questions that would ordinarily be asked during a job interview. That way, personal biases based on a candidate’s demeanor or body language are minimized. Also, the hiring manager would not be tempted to lob softball questions to candidates that they feel comfortable with.

Next, seek out candidates who might have a different point of view than the one dominant in your workplace. We tend to hire people who think and act as we do, thus contributing to groupthink. Having people with different perspectives, even those that might be unpopular, will lead to better decisions in the long run.

Finally, seek out candidates who reside outside your usual networks. The idea is to promote diversity of experience and education as well as race and gender, the better to promote both diversity and merit.

The idea is to not so much hire people who “fit in” the prevailing corporate culture as “add to” that culture. Thus, you can promote both diversity and merit, which should not be mutually exclusive but are reinforcing of each other.