Rethinking the hiring process is helping diversity take hold at LTSE

Teagan Russell
Operations Manager
Jul 08 2019

We have worked to make diversity and inclusion part of how LTSE operates from the start. We prioritized it early, with the goal of making it easier for us to attract and retain employees from all backgrounds as we scale and grow.

Of the 20 people who currently work at LTSE, half are women, with 11% being underrepresented minorities (which we define as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Native American/Alaskan Native, or two or more races/not Hispanic or Latino). While that puts us ahead of the trend at most startups — 5.4% startups are all men; 43.4% are mostly men, according to the latest annual “State of Startups” survey — we don’t consider these stats a win.

We realize we have our work cut out for us. That’s why we continue to investigate best practices and are working to implement a series of initiatives that can guide us at each stage. And we’re learning as we go.

Last fall, we noticed that the candidate experience depended heavily on the hiring manager. Though we had best practices in place, each hiring manager handled the search in their own way. The lack of consistency created opportunities for bias.

With that in mind, we decided to invest in further standardizing the process, with the aim of creating consistency. Here’s what we learned:

  1. Titles don’t tell the full story of someone’s experience. Underrepresented minorities and women might have the experience your team is looking for but don’t have the title to match it. It’s important to hire for the skills required.

  2. Consistency in process doesn’t erase bias but can mitigate it. We all have biases. When hiring depends solely on the hiring manager, it allows for bias to become more present in the interview process. Having a consistent interview process in place ensures each candidate has the same opportunity for success.

  3. Clarity of hiring criteria matter. People don’t know what they don’t know. If the hiring committee is not clear about what they need to be assessing (e.g., skills the candidate needs to succeed at the position), then they can’t interview for it.

Here’s how we updated our practices:

  1. Intentional Job Descriptions. Our job descriptions prioritize skills-based hiring over intelligence or talent as the sole criteria. Skills-based hiring means we focus on the candidate’s skills versus their background, which tends to favor the opportunistic candidate. Once written, we socialize the description internally and check-in with “dream candidates” for additional feedback.

  2. Candidate Experience. We require the hiring manager to assemble a hiring committee that draws from differing levels and teams internally before interviewing anyone. We want to use the candidate’s time to the best of our (and their) ability. We also map out the interview process for candidates during our initial phone screen. Besides interviews, for the vast majority of our open roles, we ask each candidate to complete an exercise that a member of the internal team has completed to gauge its complexity and “do-able-ness.” If we can’t figure out a problem, we don’t expect a candidate to either.

  3. Modified Rooney Rule. The National Football League’s Rooney Rule mandates that teams interview at least one person of color before hiring. We aspire to a more aggressive standard: having hiring teams interview at least two women and two underrepresented candidates before we extend an offer. Research shows that minority candidates tend to not be hired when there is only one.

We know that diverse teams perform better. And we continue to learn. In that spirit, we’d love to hear about practices or insights that you or your team have found to be helpful. We welcome any learnings that can further our work to have diversity and inclusion take hold.

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