Paving the Path to Inclusivity: How We Changed Our Hiring Processes and Pipeline

June 10, 2021

Topic tags

Jane Jaxon

Operations


Here at Wistia, we’ve always aimed to foster an inclusive environment. But without approaching everything we do through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), we were falling short. But, we’ve been working hard to change that. We’ve spent the last several years creating new initiatives and setting goals to help us create a truly inclusive business that treats everyone fairly and celebrates our differences.

We kicked off this work in 2018, and while it hasn’t been a flawless journey, we’ve made some progress we’re proud of. Since we started our DE&I work, we’ve:

  • achieved gender parity across the company at all levels,
  • implemented fair and equitable pay practices,
  • created a more accessible product, and
  • put guidelines in place to ensure we don’t lose sight of our mission.

But for this post, we want to look specifically at how we’ve changed hiring. From our practices to how we build our candidate pipeline, we’ve been intentional to be more inclusive and support diversity across all our teams. Here’s what we’ve changed and what the hiring process looks like for us now. Let’s dig in.

Changing our hiring and pipeline-building processes

Before we started any work on changing our processes, we had to take a good look at how our culture was as-is. We couldn’t just change our hiring process without a solid, inclusive foundation. By 2019, we felt our company culture was in a good place; we could start working to improve the diversity of incoming hiring classes. We took on this work with two primary hypotheses:

1.) Hypothesis: Without clear objectives, implicit bias and hiring for likeability had the power to influence our interviewers — even if unconsciously.

Proposed solution: Introducing a more prescriptive process would allow us to recruit and evaluate candidates more objectively, resulting in a stronger and more diverse hiring class.

2.) Hypothesis: Relying on our historically homogenous inbound pipeline (both for applications and referrals) was unlikely to drive the change we needed.

Proposed solution: Seeking out employer branding opportunities that reached more diverse audiences and investing in our own outbound capabilities would improve our pipeline’s diversity.

With these assumptions in mind, let’s talk more specifically about how we tackled the work.

A breakdown of our hiring process

Heading into 2019, we had already incorporated Textio — a tool that helps us write inclusive job descriptions — to ensure we weren’t writing in a biased way. But, we knew the tone we use in our listings isn’t the only thing that matters to equity-seeking groups. In fact, we know that women are less likely to apply for jobs unless they feel they are 100% qualified for the role.

“We know that women are less likely to apply for jobs unless they feel they are 100% qualified for the role.”

To counteract that tendency, we decided to streamline our job descriptions. Instead of listing all the requirements of a role, we pushed hiring managers to stick to only four to six of the most critical ones for each role.

After we have a sense of the requirements for a role, we then ask hiring managers to complete interview plans. These plans should outline:

  • what we’re looking for specifically
  • what we are not looking for (or what isn’t important)
  • the best people on our team to assess specific competencies
  • the behavioral interview questions we plan to ask
  • the components of a quality answer

Doing all of this before we interview candidates gives the interview team a chance to discuss the process, develop a consistent rubric, and align on roles and expectations ahead of time. After each interview, our team completes a scorecard recapping the discussion and providing examples to support their assessments. Here are some examples of what interviewer feedback might look like:

An example of an unhelpful assessment:

“I like them, and they have high energy.”

The statement above really doesn’t tell us much about the candidate. This type of assessment could be reflective of a few things. It might say something about the mood of the interviewer; it could be rewarding a candidate for having an interview at noon instead of morning or afternoon when energy levels are low. It could also reflect affinity bias (e.g., they spent 15 minutes of the interview talking about a shared interest). This assessment also fails to provide anything materially valuable for the hiring manager about whether or not a candidate will be effective in the role.

A helpful assessment looks more like:

“I like the energy they bring to their teams. They have a track record at their last two companies of rallying teams cross-functionally and motivating folks to do hard tasks through strong interpersonal skills and high EQ. We’re going to need that with our upcoming launch, given all the teams involved in executing it successfully.”

This scorecard is much more valuable. It gives a clearer picture of why the interviewer thinks a candidate will be successful in our specific role. Plus, it provides the “why” behind an assessment, which is a critical step in recognizing and lessening unconscious bias.

Altogether, this thoughtful interview process helps us evaluate candidates more fairly and equitably. We’re better able to hedge against recency bias, spot and mitigate affinity bias, and limit some of the ways unconscious bias impacts hiring decisions.

Spoiler alert to no one: Having set interview plans made it easier to be more effective and consistent in our interviews. Who would’ve thought? Finally, we found that not only are we more effective and consistent, but we’re also able to better assess candidates better overall. Next, we’re going to look at what we changed to build a more diverse pipeline.

A breakdown of our pipeline-building processes

Once several teams across the business had adopted our new interview process (and it was working), we felt it was time to shift our focus to bringing a more diverse pipeline to the table. Our approach was two-fold on this front. We aimed to:

  • Increase our ability to talk to a diverse audience of folks who are not actively looking for a new role.
  • Increase our visibility with a diverse audience of candidates who are actively looking for a role.

To make these changes, we needed some team members dedicated to the roles. So, in late 2019, we began to build out our internal talent acquisition team. When we interviewed for these roles, we evaluated both for recruiting skills and a genuine passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion. While a talent acquisition team alone couldn’t diversify our company in a meaningful way, we knew we needed to hire folks who cared deeply about DE&I if we wanted to make real progress.

This team is super important and heavily influences our pipeline and timing around hiring. It was mandatory for us that this team care so much about growing a strong and diverse pool of candidates that they wouldn’t compromise — even when faced with multiple hires or when it simply takes forever to find the right fit.

“You can’t fake caring about DE&I. And it can’t just be a nice-to-have in your searches.”

You can’t fake caring about DE&I. And it can’t just be a nice-to-have in your searches. We needed strong partners for our hiring teams to help coach and guide folks through the process and work towards deeper, more representative pipelines of highly qualified candidates.

We’re happy to now have a fully-staffed talent acquisition team that focuses solely on driving qualified and diverse candidates across all roles at Wistia. Now that we’ve talked about our team, let’s take a look at how we were changed our investments.

A deeper look at our investments

As we built our outbound capabilities, we took a hard look at where we spent our advertising dollars, too. There are a ton of job sites where you simply need to have a presence. But, we didn’t want to do the bare minimum. We wanted to ask thoughtful questions when deciding how much to invest and how to make the most of those investments.

For example, when talking to some of the big-name sites focused on amplifying employer brands, we started to ask more about the audiences they reached. When a provider couldn’t (or wouldn’t) share more about demographics, we decreased our investment. Simple as that.

As we decreased our investments on sites like those ones, we instead focused on sites that truly targeted and reached a more diverse audience. Plus, when given the opportunity to be featured, we avoided highlighting our fun perks or environment. Instead, we requested that our values and DE&I strategy were highlighted. We felt (and still feel) like this more accurately represents what matters to us at Wistia.

“We actively sought out job boards serving niche audiences — like people of color in tech, the LGBTQ+ community, and women in tech.”

Finally, instead of just advertising on the biggest (or free-est) boards, we actively sought out job boards serving niche audiences — like people of color in tech, the LGBTQ+ community, and women in tech — and brand new boards looking to serve their audiences differently. So, what have we seen from all these changes?

The results we’ve seen so far

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a way to track the demographics of candidates in our pipeline before we started implementing changes. Lesson learned there. But, anecdotally, we’re seeing a more diverse pool deeper in our funnel, giving us more opportunities to add diversity to our team. We’ve seen other positive effects, too. For instance:

  • We’ve been able to more consistently hire great candidates because our process is more thorough.
  • Once people start the process, we feel like we can set them up for success because we have a fuller understanding of their strengths, experience, and growth opportunities.
  • We’re able to deliver a better, more consistent, and more efficient overall candidate experience. We’re not worried about wasting candidates’ time with unfocused or duplicate interviews. We know what we need to assess and have a plan to do so for every candidate.

And truthfully, some results have yet to be seen. We began piloting listing our roles on some of the niche job boards in late 2020, and we’re currently measuring any impact on the diversity in our pipelines. That said, we’re continuing to look for other ways to reach different groups of job-seekers in the future.

Evaluating our progress

To evaluate how we’re doing, we needed to have something to measure to keep us on track. So, toward the end of 2019, we started to see indications that our incoming hiring classes’ demographics differed from Wistia at large. That was encouraging to us and gave us the confidence to push out hiring changes to all roles for 2020.

As we check in now, looking back at our 2020 hiring class, we’re again optimistic that the changes we’ve made to our hiring strategy are steps in the right direction.

What does this data mean? At a high level, for the last two years, our incoming hiring class has been more diverse than Wistia as a whole. Another thing to note is that the company-level numbers move slowly — even with the positive changes we’ve seen so far.

Reflecting on our work, here are some things we’ve learned along the way:

Rolling out an entirely new process is hard, particularly when it involves more up-front work

For us, it was helpful to pilot with just a few interview teams to work out the kinks and learn what works. During that time, we could build a solid track record and get some Wistians to advocate for the process before we rolled it out more broadly to the team.

It’s important to find an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that supports a fair and equitable experience

Simplifying the process makes it easier on the team who has to do the interviewing. As far as tools go, we use Greenhouse (and their inclusion upgrade) because their scorecards and timely prompts are designed to mitigate bias. And they make it easy!

Having the patience upfront to build a diverse candidate pool first pays dividends later

When we kicked off interviews before building deep and representative funnels, we were more likely to have a homogenous pool of candidates. Plus, hiring managers then felt pressured to make decisions based on who they had already met. Lesson learned? Wait until you feel good about the candidate pool to start interviewing.

Ask your employer brand and job listing partners and vendors about their audiences

Sometimes all it takes is a good question to find the right partners. When targeting a diverse audience, we had to make sure our partners know it was important and necessary for earning our business.

Track your data (especially when it comes to partnerships)

Make sure you go into a partnership with some idea of what you’d like to see — then track it. We invested in initiatives in the past without setting or measuring our goals. If you want to reach a diverse audience, you need to direct your dollars more intentionally. The data taught us that we could allocate our spending with the companies serving (and delivering) a more diverse audience.

Progress is slow

Even though our hiring classes have become increasingly diverse, it’s going to take a lot to move the company demographics in a sustainable and meaningful way. It can be a little frustrating to realize how long progress takes, but we’re in it for the long haul. And we’re both confident and excited about the work and know it’s all worth it.

Looking to the future

You just read about some of our more recent changes. But, what about the future? So glad you asked. We have a goal of making Wistia as diverse as the U.S. as a whole by 2024. To do that, we believe our hiring classes need to be at least as diverse as Suffolk County, MA. That gives us a solid place to start.

“We have a goal of making Wistia as diverse as the U.S. as a whole by 2024.”

While we still have a ways to go in hitting this next goal, we’re super excited about the results we’ve seen so far. By narrowing our focus and making a deep commitment across the company, we think we’ve been able to make a more significant impact on our team and our community.

We know there’s a lot more work to be done, and we’re excited to be on this journey with you. We’re committed to making change, failing, and learning — all while never giving up to make sure every Wistian is respected, heard, and celebrated every day. So, keep an eye on this DE&I page and our blog for more updates as we share more about our progress.

June 10, 2021

Topic tags

Jane Jaxon

Operations

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