The Case for Changing the Way You Hire

Man motioning to shake hands

It’s easy to believe that, when we’re hiring, the best candidates will rise to the top. That we will seek out someone with the skills, experience, references, and through the interview process find the best person for the job. But the reality is somewhat different. Very often, a hiring manager will have someone in mind for a job before it’s even posted – someone from inside the company, someone they know from a previous role, or someone they’ve met at a networking event or through colleagues.

This may seem reasonable. Who wouldn’t want to hire a candidate they already trust, or someone a friend or colleague can vouch for? Does it really matter if hiring depends both on what you know and who you know?

Yes.

It matters for diversity. How many hiring managers – especially higher up the corporate ladder – are people of color? How many are women? If you are only choosing from the pool of people you know, you’re that much less likely to find someone unlike yourself.

By pre-selecting your new hire, you are not only doing yourself a disservice, but potentially your company as a whole. Diverse companies outperform their peers; a McKinsey study found that the most racially, ethnically, and gender-diverse companies are more likely to have financial returns above the median for their industries. Researchers at NC State’s Poole College of Management found diverse teams are more innovative, too. The variety of perspectives diverse teams bring to the work they do can help spark creativity and spur employees to think about challenges in new ways.

It’s natural to want to hire someone you know. There’s risk in the unknown, and most of us are too busy and depend too much on our teams to feel very comfortable with that risk. But I’m asking you to see the risk in not looking beyond your own circles. If you don’t embrace diversity in the candidates you interview, you may end up with a team with fewer diverse experiences to drive innovation and creative collaboration.

I’m not saying you should never hire someone you know, or that there is always a better option. But I’m asking you to look. If a job is posted for 3 days before you can hire the candidate you’ve pre-selected, how many resumes come in during those 3 days? What if everyone interviewed at least a handful of top candidates from diverse backgrounds and experiences for every open role during that 3 days, and honestly looked at how they stacked up? If every hiring manager took the opportunity to look at just a few candidates every time, how many new people would get a foot in the door? And then how many of them would go on to be hiring managers and do the same?

If you look around the room at your next management conference or leadership event and the room is a sea of sameness, you may assume that it’s hard to find highly qualified, diverse candidates for senior leadership roles. But the reality may be that they aren’t there because one or two or three levels down, no one even looked at their resumes to give them the chance to grow their careers and compete. It’s time for that to change.


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