By BROOKLYN DATA CO

JULY 12, 2022

PeopleProcess

Inclusive hiring at Brooklyn Data Co: Recruiting

By BROOKLYN DATA CO

JULY 12, 2022

PeopleProcess

At Brooklyn Data Co, we believe prioritizing inclusivity and creating an equitable, diverse workforce should be part of every organization’s DNA. There’s no “secret sauce” to getting this right – in fact, it’s something that the tech industry, in particular, continues to struggle with. Building an equitable recruiting process takes intentionality, a willingness to self-reflect, and the acknowledgment that this is a process, rather than a destination.

In this 3-part series, we’ll outline the steps we’ve taken to keep inclusivity top of mind when hiring, the considerations we’ve made to ensure we’ve curated an equitable process, and the rationale behind it all.

For part one, we start at the beginning: the top of the recruiting funnel.

Generating inclusion from the start

One of the keys to inclusion in hiring is fairness, i.e., equity. With so many steps in the hiring process, a little bias at each step adds up and can end in a very unfair result. So, it's important to have this top of mind as you build your job description and think about where your candidates are coming from. Simply saying you want to be inclusive and hire diverse talent isn’t enough to create an inclusive process and access a diverse talent pool – it's critical to think about how you’ll get there.

While fairness on its own is a worthy pursuit, a true business case for hiring inclusively is worth calling out. Deliberately recruiting a more diverse workforce gives you a broader pool of candidates, increasing the chances you’ll find great talent to bring on board. Having an inclusive hiring process needs to go beyond box checking - it exists to identify the most qualified people for a role and those who will support the company in meeting its business and workplace goals.

Job postings

Inclusion starts at the beginning of the hiring process – job posts. When creating job descriptions, we put a lot of thought into each post. We provide examples of realistic projects and activities for a role, and what experience may be relevant to qualifications. We try to keep the job descriptions unambiguous, and you’ll find no appeals for “ninjas” or “rock stars” to apply (and as cool as unicorns may sound, we’re not looking for those either). We do our best to distinguish between the “must-haves” and the “nice-to-haves”. We also remove arbitrary qualifiers like resumes (yes, resumes! you read that right!), degrees, and previous companies. By doing so, we remove barriers that could otherwise prevent qualified candidates from applying.  Instead of relying on indicators correlated with a privileged background, such as college affiliation, we screen for specific qualities of high-impact talent: skills, experience, and work style directly related to the core needs of the role. In addition, we include transparent salary and benefits information upfront so that candidates can make informed decisions about whether to invest their time in the application process.

Once we have a job description ready to go, our team starts by focusing on the top of the recruiting funnel; it’s important to make sure that you’re advertising broadly. Looking further than your company network for referrals is a critical approach; when relying on referrals, it’s easier to fall into the “like group” trap where everyone is homogenous. To this end, posting in forums dedicated to historically underrepresented talent is worth the financial investment, as is building relationships in demographically-focused professional communities.

We also know that potential hires can get really good signals from a company based on the first thing they see, which is typically a job description. No company is perfect, but it’s usually a good sign when a job description is thoughtfully written and folks from the team make themselves available to talk about the day-to-day of working at the company – this is the gold standard for us.

We have a few recommendations for sourcing diverse talent:

Group 2 (1)

Application Review

Once we have focused our sourcing activities to drive a diverse candidate pool to our open roles, we take several additional measures to ensure that we mitigate bias from the very start of our hiring process:

  1. We anonymize applications. Application tracking systems are lacking in de-identified review functionality, hence, the introduction of Pinpoint which strips away applicant-identifying information as a means of reducing bias during technical and non-technical reviews.

  2. As mentioned earlier, we don’t collect resumes. We are very conscious of the bias resumes can introduce (e.g., (e.g., working for a famous brand may impress a reviewer, but may not provide the skill/experience needed for the role). We feel the same way about cover letters. Instead, we’ve carefully curated a series of application questions (we call them “kickstarter” questions) that directly relate to the work the candidate would be doing should they join the team. The application responses are reviewed by several team members. By focusing on targeted questions instead of a resume scan, we are able to get a more accurate sense of how the candidate matches what we’re looking for. You get the most important information you would need from a resume, but with much more added context.

    Here are application questions we include in our Senior Data Analyst job posting. Each question has been carefully mapped to the core requirements of the job and are a mix of dropdown self-ratings and freeform answers.

    • How would you rate your SQL skills?

    • How would you rate your proficiency with business intelligence applications (e.g., Looker, Mode, Tableau, Sisense, etc.)?

    • How would you rate your proficiency with dbt?

    • How would you rate your proficiency with version control tools such as GitHub?

    • How would you rate your statistical expertise (drawing valid interpretations from data)?

    • How proficient are you (if at all) with the technologies of our data stack? And if you’re not, what technologies are you proficient in that you believe would transfer well?

    • What is your preferred toolset for performing work and delivering results to stakeholders?

    • What is an example of a business question you’ve answered? What was your approach? How did you deliver it to stakeholders? How was it received by stakeholders? What impact did it have?

    • Describe a time where you detected a problem in a pipeline, query, analysis, report, or process and the steps you took to determine what the problem was.

    • What are you really good at professionally? What types of projects would you love to work on?

    • What are you not as good at or not interested in doing?

    • Are you interested in any of the following growth paths: “Technical Lead (peer-to-peer)”, “Client Lead”, “Team Lead”, “I’m not sure yet!”

    These questions don’t (and shouldn’t) exist in a vacuum, even if we’re posting the same role - there should always be a feedback loop from the team and candidates to verify that the questions are still serving the team well in evaluating candidates.

  3. Our reviewers rate candidates independently from others. Each reviewer rates candidates without seeing the other’s review. This helps avoid groupthink, which can unfairly sway reviews toward the direction of a previous review. Pinpoint also allows us to collect data on where we post jobs so we can monitor the effectiveness of each recruiting avenue.

As part of those efforts, we dedicate a fair amount of time to developing internal guidance and workshopping to make sure that we stay aligned with reviews and expectations as the company grows and needs change over time. That said, continuously evolving is one of the most important aspects of how we maintain inclusivity and fairness in our recruiting processes.

Considering this approach generally takes more time than a standard application of submitting a resume, we always want to make sure it serves its intended purpose: filter out bias and noise, and focus on a candidate’s skills and interests. This thought process inspires the structure of each stage in our recruiting funnel.

That wraps up Part 1 of our hiring series. In Part 2, we share more about what to expect throughout our interview process.


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