I recently did a talk at the IGDA Leadership Conference on the top ten ways to get and retain diversity in your company. Lately, however, one of the the main topics in that talk came up again in casual conversation with a couple of industry veterans as we were talking about hiring for our companies.
“Finding qualified talent is really tough,” I said.
“Yah, and finding qualified talent that fits with our company culture is even tougher,” One of the vets responded.
“Huh,” I said, warning flags beginning to raise in my mind. “What do you mean by that?”
“Well, I mean, someone who.. you know.. fits in. Someone who we all would like to work with and who ‘gets’ us,” he said.
And there is one of the most basic problems in hiring in our industry.
How many times have you gotten an email notice that a candidate was being brought in for interviews and your scheduled time with them was from 3-4pm. You are only told ‘See if you like him. See if he would fit in.”
When someone is told this, what they are actually being told is “see if he’s just like you.”
Don’t believe me? It’s natural. We all tend to like people who are like ourselves. It is because we can easily identify with them. We share similar backgrounds and experiences. We ’speak the same langauge.’ We have common interests, likes and dislikes so it is only natural that we would feel most comfortable with those people who are just like us. And the converse is true. Someone who doesn’t share a similar background or experiences may, at first, not feel as “comfortable” to work with.
The problem with this is, while it may produce an office where everyone is very comfy working together, it also produces an office that is completely homogeneous. An office of people who are all alike in looks, background and even life experience. So, an office full of young, straight, white, able-bodied men will, unless coached differently, naturally want to hire other young, straight, white, able-bodied men. .. and this is how we end up with offices that are completely non-diverse.
To overcome this we need to stop the practice of, when all things are equal, hiring the candidate who is most ‘like us.” This means we have to train the people who are doing the interviewing on *what exactly* to look for. Skill sets, experience, tools, problem solving. And we need to not even mention the “do they fit in.”
In short, we have to be willing to hire outside our comfort zone to hire the best, most diverse workforce possible.
It is this way we can begin to build products that reach the broad market we all want to reach.