How to Mitigate Bias in Interviewing & Hiring

A conversation with Shannon Hogue, Global Head of Solutions Engineering at Karat

Read About the Episode
Every stage of hiring — from sourcing to interviewing — is vulnerable to bias. That is particularly the case for employers that are hiring with expediency. Urgency makes it more likely for people to lean on shortcuts, which is how bias is often defined. For instance, a recruiter sees that a candidate went to MIT and quickly surmises that they’re a safe bet.  

If companies seek to foster DEI and gain the benefits that come with a diverse culture, they need to put in place formal structures to de-bias hiring. 

In this episode, Shannon Hogue, offers strategies for mitigating bias that you can implement as early as your next interview.
Karat performs the first round of technical interviews for employers, aiming to make interviews better — more equitable, predictive, fair and enjoyable. Karat helps clients build rubrics and align on necessary competencies, enabling them to make decisions based on qualifications. 

It’s easy to go into a room with someone and say: “They’re a lot like me, and I’m amazing. So they must be amazing.”

Shannon Hogue

Global Head of Solutions Engineering, Karat

Hogue's Nontraditional Background

Hogue grew up in Chicago in the mid-90s — a self-described blue-collar kid who loved the Cubbies and deep dish pizza. Hogue wanted to go to college but knew that her family couldn’t afford it.

 

But she landed the opportunity to start writing software professionally. Eventually, Hogue got into her ’87 Dodge Chateau and set out for San Francisco. There, she was surrounded by folks with degrees from MIT or Stanford. Hogue worried that she wouldn’t be taken seriously.

 

“I think it’s an unhealthy relationship with college education,” she said.

 

As she advanced in her career, Hogue bumped into bias, but, in the end, tech did in fact take her seriously. And because of it, Hogue, the oldest of four, could help her siblings get through college and take care of her parents.

 

Hogue says Karat’s mission is to unlock opportunities — including for people like her younger self, individuals who want to leverage their aptitude for tech to change their lives and their families’ lives.

“If you have candidates from communities you’re looking to hire from that are constantly dropping off, then you probably need to reevaluate.”

The Value of Structured Interview Protocols

Bias creeps into the recruitment process in countless ways. Ultimately, it’s a matter of resisting difference — this candidate didn’t go to a school like mine — and favoring affinity — this candidate looks like me. 

Hogue says step one is creating a structured interview protocol. Create a checklist of competencies to compare your candidate against and introduce accountability among the hiring team. 
By defining competencies, you create what Hogue calls “a defensible position.” When you’re later reviewing interview feedback with your team, the extent to which a person meets your competencies guides the conversation, not whether a team member likes the candidate. 

In addition to aligning on competencies, says Hogue, teams that seek to hire candidates equitably must use a rubric. If your team has determined that the new hire must have a certain degree of seniority, for instance, a rubric will already have determined the candidate must answer a certain number of questions in specific ways to be considered qualified. Suddenly, your defensible position becomes a fortress. 
Listen to the Episode

Before the Interview

To hire the right talent at the right time, Hogue notes that companies need a robust, diverse pipeline full of people who already have an affinity for the brand. She suggests forging relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and organizations like Women Who Code. 

 

It’s also important to understand the dynamics of language in your messaging, particularly your job posts. Hogue suggests eliminating hypermasculine language common in tech (“10x!” and “coding ninja!”) in favor of neutral words like “empathy,” “collaboration,” and “communication.” Aggressive vernacular is likely to turn off women applicants, but neutral words won’t turn away majority-member applicants, says Hogue. 

 

In fact, she adds, if a candidate is turned off by a word like empathy, they’re not likely to be a stellar addition to your team.  

Cater your language and your job postings towards the underrepresented community
that you’re looking for.”

Hogue’s Key Takeaways

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