Toward Equity: Hiring Processes in Action

By Nicky Goren
President and CEO, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation and Vice Chair, WRAG’s Board of Directors

Over the last two years, my colleagues and I at the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation have reevaluated how we work – both operationally and programmatically – through a racial equity lens. We’ve communicated about some aspects of these efforts on our website. When new positions opened at Meyer during this time, our reflection led us to try out different approaches to hiring.

In my first year at Meyer, before we became more intentional about prioritizing racial equity in our hiring process, I noticed a pattern; despite our strong desire to recruit diverse employees at all levels, we weren’t generating pools of racially diverse candidates. Because we value a variety of lived experiences this had to change. I’ve had many people ask me to share the practical shifts we made at Meyer to build equity into our processes, and so, here are my four recommendations as they relate to hiring:

  1. Define your organization’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Across organizations, definitions for diversity are, well, diverse. The motivations to advance diversity are, too. It shouldn’t be about diversity for its own sake. Cut through the ambiguity and be real about who’s on your team and who’s missing. Are you working in service to communities that have no representation on your staff? Are there key voices that should be a part of enhancing the perspectives of your staff at various levels, but have been underrepresented thus far? Have conversations with your team and include voices from every level. Much of our work at Meyer centers on people of color. We can’t claim to operate effectively if people of color with varied experiences don’t have a voice here.
  2. Scrub your position posting carefully. Ask yourself what qualifications and experience you actually need for the position in question, then only include those things in your posting. For some positions, for example, having a college or advanced degree may not really be necessary. Instead, specific experience or demonstrated expertise may be what really matters. If that’s the case, don’t require a degree as part of your criteria – you will likely expand the pool of qualified candidates for your position.
  3. Pay attention to where you post. If you want to increase diversity in your applicant pool, think about posting your positions in a way that will increase those odds. In the DC area, post positions with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, or on the Howard University or Trinity University job boards. Look for professional affinity groups, like ColorComm for women of color in communications. Posting in places like these, beyond Idealist and other common forums, will reach more diverse applicants and demonstrate your commitment.
  4. Blind names and education in your resumes to eliminate implicit bias. We all have implicit biases that affect how we review applications – whether it’s favoring particular schools or unwittingly discounting people based on their names or gender. Studies have shown it happens everywhere, and we are often not even conscious when we are doing it. At Meyer, we have changed our process to try to address implicit bias: we now include in our process an initial scan by an outside reviewer (HR consultant or search firm) who reads resumes for key objective criteria, and then blinds them – masking name and education – before sending to us for review. That has forced us to focus primarily on the applicant’s experience and expertise as they relate to the position description, in order to create a slate of candidates for interviews. This has been transformative, and has helped us have a more equitable hiring process with more highly- qualified and diverse candidates.

These are not difficult shifts to make and, quite frankly, they’re worth it. We have transformed our process, which has consistently yielded the most diverse pools of highly-qualified candidates we’ve ever had across all our positions. Hiring is, of course, just the first step – once you build a diverse workforce, it is then critical to maintain an inclusive and equitable workplace – and to support and value those new hires once they are on board.