Diversify your workplace!

March 29, 2016 Geoffroy De Lestrange


Every country has its own recruiting bias. Some European countries are very focused on a diploma: putting the magic letters “Dr.” in front of a name is a real advantage. Other countries value the university or business school you went to, and having access to the alumni directory is an open sesame to some companies. Public sector often use exam-based recruitment, which is a great way to ensure people have the proper knowledge necessary for the job, but which doesn’t tell much about the behavioural skills.

Whatever the method, the outcome is frequently the same and results in a lack of diversity in the workplace, with clones that have the same university degrees, the same cultural background or the same relations. The consequence is the drying of ideas, the development of, potentially poor habits and a growing inability to change.

There are a lot of articles on this topic, talking about the advantage of having different types of attitudes and personalities in the office. But this goes way beyond. Different profiles such as career pivoters or apparent misfits can be very good candidates and produce exceptional results. The main question arises: how can we spot them at the early stage of the hiring process and avoid putting them aside inadvertently?

  • Start with the job description.

How did you write it? Do you leave any room to let unexpected candidates apply, especially those who might not master all the skills you requested but could learn them very quickly? When preparing the text, put forward the challenges that will need to be fulfilled. Then you can list the most essential skills, but be open: if you need someone to master a specific software, don’t eliminate candidates that know how to use an equivalent tool or have experience with other complex software in related areas.

In the application process on your website, instead of asking candidates to copy/paste their CV (which they are sending as attachment anyway, or which is in their LinkedIn profile), you should rather ask about their competencies.

The main goal of the job description is to make potential candidates want to apply because they feel they could do it. Don’t discourage unexpected talents!

  • Apply filters carefully

Of course, if you find yourself with hundreds of candidates for the same position, you really want to optimise the pre-selection of the most interesting profiles. Yet you need to be careful not to use criteria that might remove great people. In addition, this is a step in the recruiting process which might lead to unconscious bias, based on the place where people live for example (e.g. popular areas vs. posh districts). Try and filter only according to the real “must have” that you need for the role, not “nice to have” that are actually not so important.

Don’t forget that some preconceived ideas have been proven wrong. For example, job hoppers are not unstable people, but the opposite: they are talents with multiple skills!

At Cornerstone, we have analysed that other profiles usually left aside were actually great candidates, such as people having been unemployed for a long time, who come up being efficient, highly committed and motivated. 

  • Mr. Perfect might not be the best

If you have selected your finalists based on their skills, you might end up with some profiles that seem to shine more than others. But what matters is the performance on a daily basis. Would all applicants be ready to roll up their sleeves to help other team members? Would they accept to do the boring part of the job (and all jobs have a boring part!)? Or would they be the sort to try and delegate what they don’t like? Attitude and culture fit are at this stage more important than skills.

Could you share any other tricks to avoid hiring clones?


About the Author

Geoffroy De Lestrange

Product Marketing & Communication Director EMEA at Cornerstone OnDemand

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