How to hire: 9 strategies for diversifying your engineering candidate pool

I’ve been hiring a lot for my engineering team at work (contact me if you are looking!) so this has been on my mind.

Here are some strategies for engineers & engineering managers to build a more diverse pool of candidates from which to hire. 

  1. Understand different kinds of diversity: Diversity is a catch-all term and it’s worth considering what you are thinking of when you think diversity: Race? Nationality? Gender? Sexuality? Neurodiversity? People with non-traditional work backgrounds? First-generation college students?
  2. Start as early as possible: If you have diverse people on your team from day one, these people will help build your team’s culture & practices and it will be easier to create an environment that supports and attracts diverse candidates in the long run. When I interview, a manager who has a diverse team appeals to me because it means the manager and the team are more likely to value & have experience working with diverse people.
  3. Network: Find people in underrepresented groups and ask them if they know any folks who might be interested in joining your team.
  4. Reach out to groups: Find lists/meetups/Slack groups for underrepresented groups and contact them!
  5. Reach out to people directly: Send 1:1 emails rather than blasting mailing lists.
  6. Meet people & groups face-to-face: Attend these groups and gatherings in person! It’s much more meaningful when you and your engineers take the time to attend these groups in person — so few people do this that this will surely make your team stand out. Even better is if you have teammates who regularly attend and/or are members of these groups. Recognizing and making it easy for people to do this can help!
  7. Know & explain why you are interested in diversity in your job listings: In your job descriptions, explicitly state that your team values having a diversity of perspectives and lived experience. Explain why diversity is important — this is all about showing that your team makes diversity a priority rather than just trying to hire for diversity as a nice-to-have for diversity’s sake. It makes all the difference for a candidate if they know that their manager/team will go the extra mile to make sure they are successful.
  8. Write inclusive job descriptions: Scrub your job post of gendered pronouns. Use language such as “preferred experience, but not required.” This article explains more about how to do this.
  9. Proactively create an environment that helps diversity flourish and call these practices out on your job listings: Call out family-friendly policies, employee resource groups, mentorship programs, etc.

    For example, most teams would say that they value gender diversity, but it’s one thing to pay lip service and another to go through the effort of unconscious bias training, dealing with the possibility of having to give people uncomfortable feedback, redesigning hiring practices, adding stork parking, and proactively-checking that team events appeal to people of all genders.

Thanks to Sumana H., Matt W., Nancy Ouyang, and Eric D. for the idea brainstorm!

These are my opinions and not those of my employer.

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