May 2019

Is it time to disrupt the traditional interview process for the sake of greater diversity?

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There can’t be many of us that would say we enjoy the interview process. At a point in our lives where many of us will be experiencing some doubt, anxiety and perhaps struggling with confidence – even if we are sure that moving roles is the right thing to do – we have to undergo a process that puts us in the spotlight and under pressure to perform.

This month 10 Digital Ladies and PhotoBox held an event to look at whether the traditional interview process creates particular issues for women and if it does, what the solutions could be. The stellar panel consisted of PhotoBox Chief of Product, Dave Wascha, The_Dots founder, Pip Jamieson, CTO of Monzo Bank, Meri Williams and Jo Wickremasinghe, Product Director at Babylon Health. It was in fact an interview that Jo attended with Dave Wascha that provided the trigger for the event. It was hosted by our own Lucia Adams.

It was a fascinating discussion that ranged across a wide variety of subjects all liked to why companies, even those with the best intentions, struggle to employ a diverse workforce. Here are ten things we learnt from the discussion

  1. Diversity is difficult even if you work really hard at it. This event came out of the fact that despite PhotoBox being completely committed to ensuring diversity in its workforce it struggled at times. “If a company as committed as us is finding it hard then there is lot that needs to happen before true diversity can become a reality for most organisations.” (Dave Wascha)
  2. This is not a ‘man’s issue’. Unconscious bias affects us all. “I was called out for the fact that although we have a huge commitment to flexibility for working mothers the same wasn’t true for our working fathers. That made me realise my own unconscious bias.” (Pip Jamieson)
  3. Diverse teams really do perform better. It is easy to hire what you know and what makes you comfortable but “in the end you will create a team in which everyone looks and behaves like you. When all the evidence shows diversity increases the odds of success that doesn’t seem like a smart plan.” (Meri Williams).
  4. There are already great examples of how companies are disrupting the hiring process themselves if you know where to find them. A lot of these examples come from the tech sector. “Pairing interviewers and interviewees together to solve a problem is quite common in the tech sector” (Meri Williams’ and “blind interviewing where feedback from one round of interviews is not shared with those doing the next round to prevent bias contagion has been the norm for a while at Microsoft” (Dave Wascha)
  5. The best companies hire to add culture not to fit into an existing one. “Everyone talks about cultural fit, but the secret of good hiring is actually cultural add. Look for people who will bring something different to the team” (Meri Williams)
  6. Be honest and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Interviews are full of unrealistic expectations. The interviewer doesn’t know anything about you and will make snap judgements. “It is far better to be honest about the things that you feel could be a barrier to expected performance. My dyslexia means sometimes I struggled to find the fight words. By explaining this up front, I created empathy and also understanding.” (Pip Jamieson)
  7. Be conscious you are hiring based on how well someone will do a job, not how well they perform at interview. This is very hard to do but “be aware that success is not about whether they pass the interview test but whether they will perform once the interview is over and they are working in the role” (Dave Wascha)
  8. There is an ‘I’ in team: give yourself credit for the things you have done. It might be a bit of a generalisation, but it is true to say that women are more likely to talk about ‘we’ than ‘I’. “There is nothing wrong with taking the credit for the things you have done. In my experience women simply don’t give themselves enough credit full stop.” (Jo Wickremasinghe)
  9. Practice makes perfect. “One of the reasons that men might outperform women in interview situations is that they do more of them. Research shows that men will attend interviews even when they are not that keen on the job. Women however are pickier” (Pip Jamieson). “There is no doubt that every time I have been actively interviewing, I have got more confident with each one I complete. It is an unnatural situation so the more familiar we can make it the better.” (Jo Wickremasinghe)
  10. Don’t sell yourself short! “In the digital and technology space in particular the ‘seller’ is definitely at an advantage. Take time to find the right role and remember that these companies need you and what you can offer as much, if not more, than you need the role.” (Pip Jamieson)

Thanks again to everyone who made this such a great event. The conversation could have gone on all evening so it’s definitely a subject that we will be returning to! For those that missed it a video of the live stream from the event can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOElBvhir-c.

Remember, if you have any thoughts on hiring for diversity and would like to share them with us please comment below or join us on Twitter or Instagram (@10digitalladies). As always, we encourage our community to offer ideas for our next 10 Digital Ladies book! If you still haven’t got your copy of our first book, Career Hacks, you can register for a copy here: http://bit.ly/10DLbook.

Emma SindenIs it time to disrupt the traditional interview process for the sake of greater diversity?
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