Category Archives: recruiting

Favoritism is No Friend of Diversity

469735239  -- workplace diversityI thought Martin Luther King Day might be a good time to reflect on the forces that make workplaces less diverse than they can and should be. Many are well-known and well-documented, including discriminatory hiring and promoting practices, lack of disability accommodations, insensitivity to gender-identity issues, unequal pay … the list goes on.

But as this recent piece in the Kansas City Star points out, it’s not just about tangible practices and accommodations — or lack thereof. It can be far more subtle and hard to pinpoint, writer Michelle T. Johnson says, when your diversity culprit is favoritism. As she writes:

“What does favoritism even look like? Favoritism is usually about choice. In some workplaces, the work and the people who do it don’t have much variance in how the work is done and who does it. However, in other workplaces, work decisions are made frequently — assignments, shifts, territories, days off. With most decisions come subjective judgments. Every industry and workplace is so different, yet everyone can probably relate to some area of the job that bosses influence [subjectively] at least weekly.”

Her advice to all managers and HR leaders is to always be examining “why you make the personnel decisions you do.” She continues:

“People are quick to defend their decisions, saying they base them on the best person to do the job. But over time, what conditions have you created to allow, for example, one person to inevitably do the job better than another? And if that has happened, what is the reason? Is it that the person reminds you of yourself or has similar interests, or because the person has a personality you find easier to get along with?”

Favoritism can be just that simple, she says. Some people make you spontaneously smile when they walk through the door. Others make you instinctively come up with an exit plan out of a conversation. “Know who those people are and go from there,” she says.

Granted, not all employers can be as proactive as Intel was in its recent announcement that Andrew McIlvaine blogged about earlier this month. Specifically, CEO Brian Krzanich shared in his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas his company’s plans to spend $300 million dollars over the next five years to improve the gender and racial diversity of its U.S. employee base, and of Silicon Valley at large.

Though he made the announcement, the real powerhouse behind this initiative is Intel President Renée James, as this Fortune piece suggests. Since taking over the presidency in 2013, it says, James “has pushed to review a decade’s worth of diversity data and commissioned a new hiring program that incentivized managers to hire more women and minorities.”

Whichever end of the initiative spectrum you and your organization currently find yourselves on — boldly spending and going where few have gone, like Intel, or simply taking the kind of inward look at your management and personnel choices suggested by Johnson — there’s no better time than now to start thwarting your business’ inequality and no better day to get started than this one.


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Intel Takes the Lead

diversity Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel Corp. is a lot like most other Silicon Valley tech companies: Its workforce is primarily male and majority white. Women make up only 24 percent of its workforce, blacks and Hispanics just 12 percent (and only 4 percent of its senior execs and managers). However, the company just announced a bold move at the Consumer Electronics Show: CEO Brian Krzanich said Intel plans to make its workforce much more representative of the U.S. population — at all levels of the organization — by 2020. And, it’s committing $300 million to the effort.

“Intel plans to lead by example,” said Krzanich. “We invite the entire technology industry to join us.”

The technology industry has been under pressure in this area since May of last year, when Google released statistics that underscored the lack of diversity in its own workforce. Google’s move sparked a conversation among other large tech companies about their own lack of diversity; last December, Microsoft’s general manager for global diversity, Gwen Houston, told 300 attendees at a forum organized by Intel that “the reason we haven’t seen the progress is our leaders haven’t been held accountable.”

Intel’s move drew praise from Operation PUSH’s Jesse Jackson, who’s been in the forefront of the move to push Silicon Valley to diversify. “It’s morally right, and it’s also good business,” Jackson told the San Jose Mercury News. “I think there are pockets of talent that Silicon Valley had not imagined to exist.”

Intel plans to spend a chunk of the $300 million on efforts to encourage more women and minorities to enter the tech industry. It will also increase its hiring of women and minorities, focus on retaining them and tie some of its managers pay to meeting its diversity goals. It plans to release regular progress reports on the 2020 plan.

“This isn’t just good business,” Krzanich said. “It’s the right thing to do.”


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Recruiting Beyond Traditional Social Networks

An interesting little recruiting story came out of a late-afternoon session at the HR Technology® Conference in Las Vegas Thursday. 178915467--social mediaSlugged “How Red Hat Approaches Hiring Beyond Traditional Social Networks,” the session featured Brad Warga, senior vice president of customer and employee success for Gild Inc., a San Francisco-based technology-talent search firm, and Don Farr, director of global-talent acquisition for Red Hat, a global open-source provider.

“We found [traditional candidate sources such as] LinkedIn just weren’t providing the recruiting results we needed,” Farr told conference attendees. Long story short, he knew Warga, but not much about Gild, so decided to try him out with an assignment: Find him 200 top technology developers in a city abroad where Red Hat does business. Warga turned it around in record time “and more than half of the developers on his list were already employees of Red Hat,” said Farr.

Pretty convincing. So Farr decided to use Gild’s sourcing and reporting tool, based on far-more specific tech-developer social-media data — including code information and technical questions and answers, indicating levels of focus and expertise — to complement the recruiting system he already had in place.

Not only has it enriched Red Hat’s recruiting, with vastly improved and far enhanced returns on the right kinds of candidates for the growing company, it’s even provided some surprises.

Key among them was proof it needed to enhance its employee-referral service as well. Using Gild’s tools and services, Red Hat was able to determine that 70 percent of its developers who came in outside the referral program were actually connected in some way to current employees through social media.

“In other words,” said Farr, “we could have hired them ourselves if we had just sourced them through more social [streams]. The connections were out there.”

Long story short, Farr convinced his CEO to invest more in employee referrals and the savings are already being realized.

“We now have an employee-referral portal tracked through our applicant-tracking system,” Farr said. “We’ve effectively built a process where referrals aren’t going into a black box anymore.”

Lesson learned here? “Take advantage of the opportunity to embrace social media in multiple ways,” particularly when you’re looking for something as specific and hard to find as tech developers, he said.

“This is really the story of the old guard and the new guard,” Farr added. “You have to adapt or die.”

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Christmas Gifts for 1 Million: Jobs

There’s a movement afoot to put a million people to work by Christmas that does seem a bit outside your standard hiring 482134293 -- job seekingapproaches. First off, understand, this is not a company looking for employees. Nor is it a mere job fair. This is a relatively new organization known as Apploi, a jobs app and ecosystem that’s been traveling the country and hosting events aimed at helping job seekers find work.

It’s last week-long event in the Chicago area culminated this past Thursday, Aug. 28, in a final event at the city’s House of Blues. The event featured an information and training session, networking opportunities and meetings with hiring managers. That event capped off a week in which job seekers, using the app, were able to apply to jobs with a number of big companies in the region, including UNIQLO, Best Buy, Cinnabon, Piercing Pagoda and Forever 21.

Working under the banner and social hashtag #Million4Christmas, Apploi’s goal, according to its release is “to increase access to jobs for people across the United States and even beyond, while providing training and career advice to those looking for jobs in retail, service and support.”

Here is a video from an ABC News special in December of last year explaining how the app works. As its release states, it “transforms the initial point of capture for job seekers, allowing companies to see personality and soft skills up front, through video and audio questions; hire talent quickly, both through filters and screening tools and instant communication; [and] also provides greater access to people who previously couldn’t apply, due to lack of Internet, or who didn’t know about opportunities.”

Its public kiosks, it says, are available at companies, as well as job centers, community centers and colleges, workforce centers, and libraries in cities and towns throughout the country.

Exactly how this plays out and how the jobs are to be tallied and verified remains to be seen. As Apploi CEO Adam Lewis says, “helping 1 million job seekers find work by Christmas is, by no means, an easy task.”

On first impression, though, the effort seems to be one that can only help all involved, employers included.

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CIOs Value Experience Over College

collegeIf you’re in the tech field and still struggling to pay off those hefty loan payments for your Ivy League degree, the following will not make you feel better: A new survey from Robert Half Technology finds that 71 percent of chief information officers prioritize skills and experience over college degrees when making hiring decisions, while only 5 percent say they’re heavily influenced by a job candidate’s impressive alma mater.

The survey is based on more than 2,400 telephone interviews with CIOs from a random sample of U.S. companies. The CIOs were asked “When evaluating a candidate for an IT position, what value do you place on the prestige of their college or university?” Seventy one percent chose the response “I place more weight on the skills and experience than on whether or not a candidate attended college/university.”

Technology is not the only field that appears to value experience over a sheepskin: A recent Glassdoor survey of 2,059 adults finds that 72 of them believe specialized training to acquire specific skills is more valuable than a degree in the workplace, as my colleague Mark McGraw noted.

“We see [organizations] placing less emphasis on the academic credentials, and working harder to better identify the skills and experience that are needed within the company,” Glassdoor’s Rusty Rueff told McGraw.

Organizations have viewed college degrees as a way to identify candidates whom they believe have the drive and willpower necessary for success, to the point of requiring degrees for positions that previously didn’t require them. But now, perhaps, the pendulum is beginning to swing in the  other direction.

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Branding, Schmanding

brandingHR hears a lot of talk about the importance of building a solid employer brand in order to lure top talent, and to make the company known as much for its cool, unique culture as the products and services it provides.

There’s no doubt that establishing and maintaining a reputation as a great place to work is extremely important. And, working for an organization with a fashionable employer brand may indeed be important to some job seekers. But not nearly as important as the work they do and the people they work with, apparently.

In a survey of more than 2,400 visitors to the site, job seekers were asked the question, “Aside from salary, benefits and location, which of the following would most likely attract you to a new job?”

The most common response, by a wide margin, was “the opportunity to work in an industry I’m passionate about,” at 61 percent, followed by “the opportunity to work with people I professionally admire,” at 17 percent. Thirteen percent cited “a lively and energetic office environment” as the biggest selling point for a potential new gig, with 6 percent and 3 percent saying the same about “the opportunity to work for an aspirational/cool brand” and “an innovative office design,” respectively.

“Job seekers are naturally most concerned about salary, benefits and convenience to their home,” said Mary Ellen Slayter, career advice expert at Monster, in a statement. “But once that’s settled, the intangibles come into play. People are craving ways to bring meaning to their work, and they want to work in an industry they feel passionate about. Employers can take an active role in supporting these positive feelings by helping people see the connection between the work they do and how it benefits others. No fancy office can replace that sense of satisfaction.”

From touting their freewheeling work environments to overhauling their “conventional” office spaces, some organizations are forever looking for new ways to present themselves as cool and progressive employers. And while there should always be room for innovation, it seems that coolness quotient still doesn’t quite trump passion for their work and respect for their peers in the eyes of most prospective employees.

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Could Women Be ‘Fry’-ing Their Prospects?

vocal fryYou may not be familiar with the term “vocal fry,” but if you’ve heard women from the ages of 13 to 35 or so speak recently, then you’re most likely acquainted with the phenomenon itself. Also known as “creaky voice” and “glottalization,” vocal fry refers to a speech pattern in which people lower their voices to a more guttural sound at the end of a sentence so that “interesting” sounds sort of like “interestaaang” or “awesome” sounds like “awe-suuhm.” Here’s a video of someone demonstrating vocal fry.

Often derided as an affectation, celebrities such as the Kardashians and the singer Kesha are regular practitioners of vocal fry. Although it’s practiced among both male and female speakers, vocal fry appears to be most commonly employed by young American women. And it could be holding them back in the job market, according to a new study published in peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers from the University of Miami and Duke University recorded seven women between the ages of 19 and 27 and seven men between the ages of 20 and 30 saying the phrase “Thank you for considering me for this opportunity” in both their normal tone of voice and using vocal fry. Next, they had 800 study participants listen to five audio pairings and asked them to select people — the ones speaking normally and the ones using vocal fry — was the more educated, competent, trustworthy and attractive, based solely on the audio recording. When asked which of the pair they would hire, study participants chose the speaker with the normal voice 80 percent of the time. Participants also tended to judge female speakers exhibiting vocal fry more harshly — particularly when the listener was a woman, the study found.

Male recruiters and hiring managers should be aware of their perceived bias when interviewing female job applicants who use vocal fry in their speech, Casey A. Klofstad, one of the researchers, told CBS News. However, applicants themselves (ones who don’t have naturally low-pitched voices, that is) may want to avoid using vocal fry, he said. “Humans prefer vocal characteristics that are typical of population norms,” he said. “While strange-sounding voices might be more memorable because they are novel, humans find ‘average’ sounding voices to be more attractive.”

Interestingly, those “humans” may not include college-age humans, among whom studies have shown vocal fry to be both widely practiced and accepted. Approximately two-thirds of the college women observed by Long Island University speech scientist Nassima Abdelli-Beruh used vocal fry in their speech, according to Science magazine. When samples of a young woman’s speech employing vocal fry were played for students at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Iowa, students viewed the affectation as “a prestigious characteristic of contemporary female speech.” In an essay last year, Slate columnist Amanda Hess wrote that older men may find vocal fry objectionable because it represents a rejection of their own way of talking:

As women gain status and power in the professional world, young women may not be forced to carefully modify totally benign aspects of their behavior in order to be heard. Our speech may not yet be considered professional, but it’s on its way there.


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Zappos Finds a New Way to Recruit

ZapposJob postings? They’re so old-school! Las Vegas-based Zappos, the online shoe retailer, has decided to do away with posting jobs on career sites such as Monster and LinkedIn in favor of a new social network designed specifically to help the company create a new “talent community” that it hopes will serve as a constant supply of top talent.

The talent community, called Zappos Insiders, will replace a hiring process that was losing its effectiveness, Michael Bailen, who oversees talent acquisition for the company, told the Wall Street Journal. “We spam them, they spam us back” was how he described for the WSJ the normal hiring process, in which companies post job descriptions, candidates flood the companies with resumes and recruiters spend only a few seconds reading each one before moving on to the next. Last year, the company was inundated with 31,000 applicants and ended up hiring about 1.5 percent of them, according to the WSJ.

With Zappos Insiders, people interested in the company can sign up and network with Zappos employees, participate in contests and chat with recruiters, who will have more time to suss out whether potential candidates are a good fit with the company, Bailen said. The recruiters will use software to help them sort Insiders members based on skill sets or personal interests into pipelines for areas such as merchandising or engineering, according to the Journal.

Bailen said he’s surprised that Zappos appears to be the first company to do this. “We’re hoping a lot of other companies jump on board,” he told the Journal.


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Prayer Rooms as a Perk?

prayerTech companies have long set the standard for unique on-site amenities, from free haircuts and laundry service to regular massage days and rock-climbing walls.

Could prayer rooms be the next perquisite that employers in Silicon Valley and beyond put in place to help recruit and keep top-notch talent?

They just might be, if a recent article appearing in Crain’s Chicago Business is any indication.

Earlier this week, Crain’s highlighted a few tech firms adding spaces dedicated to prayer and meditation, meaning that “religious employees no longer have to use conference rooms or other shared spaces—sometimes uncomfortably—for daily prayers.”

The rooms, the article notes, “can be a tool for attracting and retaining talent, proof that the boss welcomes Muslims and other people of faith,” not to mention “another way that tech companies disrupt the traditional office, like informal dress and flexible hours.”

Gogo Inc., for example, will provide employees at the in-flight Internet service provider’s new Chicago headquarters with two rooms set aside specifically for prayer and meditation. At its current Itasca, Ill.-based office, employees have typically reserved conference rooms for such purposes, but “it wasn’t a great solution,” Debbie Fangman, Gogo facilities manager, told Crain’s.

Online travel company Orbitz Worldwide Inc. had a similar room built when it moved into its new Chicago digs last year, after managers had noticed employees slipping into stairwells to pray at the company’s old offices.

“[The prayer room] is No. 1 for me, ahead of the soft drinks, the coffee machines or the game room,” Zaki Sharabash, senior director in business intelligence at Orbitz, told the paper.

“When you’re a minority, you don’t feel comfortable enough to ask for something like [a prayer room],” added Sana Mohammed, an Orbitz project manager who uses the room daily. “It’s welcoming. As an employee, you feel respected, that there’s a place for you.”

Those few minutes spent praying also provide an energy and productivity boost, according to Mohammed.

“I come back refreshed and focused. I’m able to put more toward my work.”

A growing number of tech companies seem to be realizing as much, with more of them asking to build prayer rooms into their floor plans, according to Theresa Williams, a design director with interior design and architecture firm Nelson & Associates.

“It started in the past year or two,” Williams told Crain’s. “It’s something you ask about now.”

While tech firms may be on the leading edge of the trend—as they often are—making space for prayer at work “is a fantastically good thing” regardless of industry, said Jeff Carlson, professor of theology at Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., in the Crain’s piece.

“It honors the fact that religion or spirituality is real, and is to be honored and respected,” said Carlson. “Diversity is a fact. It’s how [employers] react to it that matters.”

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Recruiting By the Numbers

Attendees took a deep dive into a sea of numbers on Day 2 of the ERE Recruiting Conference & Expo at the San Diego Convention Center.

Keynote speaker Tara Sinclair, an economics and international affairs professor at George Washington University, delivered an address titled a “A Recruiting Leader’s Guide to Key Workforce Trends and Economic Indicators.”

From her desk in Washington, “inside the sausage factory of economic data” as she put it, Sinclair  tracks everything from NFP (Non-Farm Payroll figures) to JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) data in an effort to better understand the trends about the economy.

“But the most watched-government data are old news,” she says, referring to those figures. “They’re not telling us where the economy is going, they’re telling us where the economy was.”

The latest job numbers, she said, are coming back to pre-2008 recession levels, but slowly.

“Don’t just look at the initial numbers for previous month, but also look at the revised jobs number for the month before that as well.”

While economic forecasts may do well on average, she said, “they can fail miserably at key times. We really had no idea, one year in advance, or even one quarter in advance, what was coming.”

Indeed, in May 2009, the forecasts overestimated U.S. jobs by 7 million, she said.

“So when you include forecasts in your plan, leave some space because when the economy changes, the models will fail.”

While she acknowledged that no single series, or even a set of series, should be trusted about the others, she nonetheless offered three sets of figures recruiting leaders may want to start following in order to get a better sense of just where the economy may be headed in the  coming months and years.

1. Quits rate (from JOLTS): The Bureau of Labor Statistics calls this figured a measure of a workers ability or willingness to leave their job.

“It’s a great number to watch”, she said, but added that the figure wasn’t being tracked until 2000.

Unsurprisingly, the quits rate dropped off dramatically between 2007 and 2009 as the full effect of the recession was being felt. From 2000 to 2007, the average rate was 2.1 percent , while the 2008 -2013 average hovered around 1.7 percent and is now slowly rising, she said.

“The reality of what we’re facing going forward is that we are going to be looking at a lot more people willing to leave their job as that number goes up as the economy improves,” she said.

2. Unemployment Insurance Initial Claims

“If I had one series to take to a deserted island and still  continue forecasting,” Sinclair said, “I would take this one. It’s perhaps the best single variable to forecast the direction of the economy. We get it every week from Department of Labor, so it’s timely, and we get a sense of how many people have been signing up for unemployment insurance over the past four-week period.

“It’s a great signal for when the economy is going to turn and be quite different than it was,” she said.

3. Employment to Population Ratio

Sinclair calls this data “the most dramatic graph of the U.S. labor market today.”

The numbers have plummeted since the end of 2007 and it’s not really coming back up, she said, adding that we’re now “actually stuck at mid 1908s levels.”

But is this a result of an aging work population in which baby boomers are retiring en masse?

Apparently not.

“If you change it from ‘population’ to ‘working-age population’ the graph largely remains the same,” she said.

So where are the hidden pockets of talent? Sinclair offered the attendees a group of sources that may yield quality hires for organizations: career changers, flexible workers and what she called “movers,” people willing to relocate for a job. She noted a survey found eight out of 10 millennial workers are willing to move for their first job.

Another survey Sinclair cited found less than 50 percent of those currently employed are actually looking for jobs in their current occupation.

“Overall,” she said, “job seekers like to change careers.”

As for flexible workers, the low-inflation economy may make it difficult for employers to differentiate themselves based on wages, “but offering flexibility may be a good way to attract that talent.”

While overlooked for many years, the long-term unemployed are another avenue that may lead to quality hires, she noted.  “There are 3.7 million long-term unemployed, and those people are very similar in experience to both other unemployed AND employed workers, but these people are not getting callbacks. It’s a population to look at.”

And, the college professor noted, don’t forget the new grads, as there will be 24 million students enrolled in higher education by 2022.

Economic data may not be perfect, Sinclair concluded.

“But you need to know where the overall labor market is heading.  So be prepared for a much tighter labor market in 2015 and beyond.”

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