Improving Diversity in Your Engineering Team

Struggling to diversify your technical hires? You’re not alone if most of these hires are men, but by now you probably know the value of having diverse teams. So, how can you attract and keep more female and minority engineers? It’s tough, but doable!

Many of our clients quietly express interest in hiring female or minority engineers. Some HR folks worry about appearing discriminatory, but actively seeking diversity is not only smart but legal too. Look at Etsy – they boosted female engineering hires by 500%. It’s not about the numbers alone; it’s about meaningful change. Etsy revamped their interview process to be fairer to women, resulting in more female engineers joining them.

Here are three practical steps you can take:

  1. Publicly Commit to Diversity: Don’t keep it a secret. Let everyone know you’re actively seeking to hire women and minorities – add it to your marketing, careers page, all of the above. Transparency matters.
  2. Maintain Standards: Don’t lower the bar for just diversity’s sake. Stick to your hiring standards while actively seeking diverse talent. They’re out there!
  3. Involve Female Leaders in Hiring: Representation counts. Have female leaders lead the hiring process for engineering roles. They can bring valuable insights and help attract top female talent.

Remember, fostering diversity takes time and effort. Start small, but start now. Your engineering team’s future depends on it!

What is a Passive Candidate anyway?

Every hiring manager wants passive candidates – to stumble on those hidden talents just waiting to be discovered. But what exactly defines a passive candidate today? Let’s break it down without the frilly stuff.

Traditionally, passive candidates were those who were not actively seeking jobs. But what does “actively searching” really mean? It used to include only the unemployed, those in irrelevant jobs, or on the verge of being fired. But that’s too narrow in today’s reality.

Recruiters often boast about finding “passive” candidates like they’ve hit the jackpot. But let’s be real. Take Timmy, for example. He seems passive, but he’s quietly applying for jobs while stuck in a dead-end job. Anyone with an online profile is fair game – they may not hunt for jobs daily, but they’re definitely open to offers.

So, here’s an updated definition:

“A Passive Candidate is someone found through various channels, not actively seeking your job.”

A passive candidate isn’t someone you found who hasn’t happened to think about applying to your job, yet. They actually might be the most active candidate on the planet, who you just happen to run into. Think of candidates buried in your database or referrals from employees.

We know a truly passive candidate when we speak to one. They’re a bit nervous. A bit surprised. A bit flattered. You can tell they’re not used to talking to recruiters and feel guilty talking to you. This is the person you’re hiring managers are asking for when they say they want a passive candidate.

This isn’t to say passive candidates are better. That’s an entire other post, but let’s not act like we are providing passive candidates when we aren’t.

Soft Feedback Isn’t Cutting It

Today, it’s rare to get honest feedback. Most people just want praise instead of hearing what they need to improve on.

The thing is, folks struggle with criticism unless they’re expecting it. And not many have the guts to handle it well. So, instead of giving real feedback, we often sugarcoat things to avoid hurting feelings.

Here’s an example:

Soft Feedback: “You’re doing well, but it’d be nice if you could push that project forward.”

Honest Feedback: “You’re good at what you’re told to do, but I need someone who can take charge of projects without constant supervision. I’m here to help you grow, but I need more initiative from you. Can you step up?”

Both say the same thing, but the honest one gives clearer direction. Sadly, we rarely give this kind of feedback because we’re scared of upsetting people.

So, how do we fix this?

It starts with hiring. Candidates need to know we value honest communication and expect them to take feedback well. Those who handle it during interviews are more likely to thrive in a culture that values growth over ego.

For existing employees, leaders need to lead by example. They should show they’re open to feedback themselves and train others to give it constructively.

Coaching and mentorship programs can also help. They give employees support and examples to help them embrace feedback for personal growth.

Sure, it takes time and effort. But companies that prioritize honest feedback build a culture of trust and growth. Employees see the value in open communication, making the company stand out as a place where people can truly grow.

High-Maintenance Who?

Ever wished there was a way to spot high-maintenance behavior during job interviews?

We hire high-maintenance employees because they’re very good at hiding their diva-ness during the interview process. Sometimes they even hide it through the probationary period of their employment. These are the really hard-to-handle ones because they know they’re divas and hide it long enough to make your life difficult.

So, what’s the best approach when you find yourself dealing with one?

Managing these individuals has been a recurring challenge in my HR career. They have a knack for causing trouble and thrive on being the center of attention. The key lies in redirecting their focus from their personal needs to what the organization requires. But how do you go about doing that?

Usually, high-maintenance employees become a problem because their direct supervisor doesn’t stop this issue immediately when it comes to light. But, this is common, especially with new hiring managers, so it’s critical to work with them and help them become better managers.

These employees are skilled at playing you against their manager. It’s essential to prevent this from happening. Collaborating closely with the hiring manager to create a unified approach is vital. When they attempt to stir up trouble, it’s important to intervene immediately: “Let’s bring in your supervisor so we can sort this out together.” Despite their objections regarding confidentiality, emphasize the importance of clarity and alignment among all parties.

High-maintenance employees hate to be on the same page because they get their power from the lack of communication within organizations. So the best way to limit their impact is to get everyone in the same room and nip the issue in the bud before it gets way out of hand.

Say Goodbye to the Employee Handbook Snooze Fest

Updating an employee handbook is like doing your taxes – it’s a necessary chore that nobody looks forward to. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

There’s two types of companies when it comes to these handbooks:

Option #1 – We’ve had the same employee handbook since the beginning of time. It’s written on stone tablets.

Option #2 – We rewrite our employee handbook each year because it’s the most important document on the planet.

The problem is both options usually end up writing an employee handbook that reads like a welcome packet to prison. If you forced candidates to read your employee handbook before actually accepting a position with your company 99% would decline your offer!

Your handbook can be more than just a boring document; it can be engaging and reflective of your company’s culture. Here are some tips to make your handbook more appealing to people like me:

  1. Tell a Story: Instead of listing rules and regulations, try to tell a story. People are more likely to read through something if it’s presented in a narrative format. Work with someone in your organization who has a knack for storytelling to craft a more engaging handbook.
  2. Explain the ‘Why’: Many rules in handbooks seem arbitrary. To make them more understandable, explain the reasoning behind them. Even if the rule itself remains unchanged, transparency helps employees understand its purpose.
  3. Add Visuals: To make your handbook more visually appealing, bring in a graphic designer to add some color and simple illustrations. This can help break up the text and make it easier to read.
  4. Communicate Your Culture: Your real culture. Don’t have a funny and engaging handbook when you have a buttoned-up culture, it sends a mixed message. Also, don’t write this boring legal document of a handbook if you have “No Pants Wednesdays” in your office. It doesn’t fit your culture!

Does anyone have a good employee handbook story? What’s the longest handbook you’ve seen?

The Truth About Reference Checks

When I started in Talent Acquisition and HR, I was sold on the idea that checking references was the key to snagging top-notch hires. The whole “past performance predicts future performance” spiel is practically carved in stone tablets right?

But around 100 reference checks into my HR career, I stopped believing it. Either I was a hiring genius (mostly true), or the reference check thing was a massive hoax.

Reference checks are the perfect scam. And not just any scam, but a scam that everyone is in on. Everyone knows the set up: The candidate wants the job, so they want to make sure they provide good references. The candidate provides three references that will tell HR the candidate walks on water. HR accepts them and actually goes through the process of calling these three perfect references.

Let’s face it: When was the last time a company passed on a hire based on a reference check? Most draw a blank; we hire based on references every single time. Is that a solid system? If you’re struggling for an answer or it’s always ‘never,’ maybe it’s time to rethink the whole reference check circus.

  1. Get Your Own References: Ditch the usual references candidates throw at you. In interviews, get the names of their old bosses. Give them a call – you might get some real talk even if official references are a no-go.
  2. Go Automated: Use fancy tech for reference checks that doesn’t make references feel forced into singing praises. It spills the beans on a candidate’s work style without giving away the game.
  3. Fact-Check with Tech: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn – they’re not just for stalking. Use them to fact-check a candidate’s story. With over half of people stretching the truth on their resumes, tech is your truth serum.

Smart HR folks should question a system that gives the green light to almost everyone. Catching less than 0.1% of fakers isn’t a sign of quality; it’s just lazy.

Break the mold, try new things, and maybe your company will see you as the one who can pull off walking on water.

What are your tips for checking references?

It Takes a Village

In the hiring game, going solo just doesn’t cut it. It’s like raising a kid – you need a village. This village isn’t just HR and TA; it’s the whole organization.

Dealing with clients who think we can do it all on our own is a challenge. Even if we’re an outsider, we still need input from TA, HR, and the hiring manager to know what makes their company tick and why a candidate would want to join.

And guess what? The same goes for in-house hiring.

For me, it starts with the hiring manager and the team needing a new member. Sure, TA does a lot, but the big cheese in hiring is the one making the final call.

Some top-notch hiring managers stand out by doing a few basic things:

  1. Making it crystal clear what they need in a candidate.
  2. Getting all the info out there pronto, even redoing job descriptions on the spot.
  3. Jumping into the candidate search, getting the team involved until the job is filled.
  4. Making hiring a top priority in their schedule.
  5. Setting up a simple communication plan to stay in the loop without the drama.

If more leaders did these simple things, hiring would be a breeze. Too often, though, we’re told to hire alone – just fill the position and stop complaining. Usually, it’s from leaders who are as clueless as us about how to make it work, so they vent their frustration this way.

Give them these steps, and suddenly, they become team players. Define the roles, and things start moving smoother for everyone.

Don’t let yourself get stuck hiring solo. Your gig is to lead a team effort. TA’s main job? Keep things on track and make sure everyone knows their part.

HR and Recruiting: The Unspoken Rules

Some unsaid rules guide us through HR. They’re not really hard and fast rules, just practical tips that we’ve learned along the way. Let’s break them down:

  1. Stay away from personal questions in interviews.
  2. Keep reference checks simple – just confirm dates of employment.
  3. Guard employee files like they’re top-secret.
  4. If it’s important, put it in a policy.
  5. Take every accusation seriously and look into it.
  6. “Mutual decision to leave” usually means otherwise.
  7. Measurement gets things done.
  8. Be careful about setting precedents.
  9. Expect things to go haywire on day 2 of your vacation.
  10. A candidate hasn’t really accepted the job until they show up to work on Day 1.
  11. If it’s on the ‘roadmap’ of your HR or Recruiting technology vendor, it means it’s not actually built and might never be built.
  12. Employees tattling on others probably have their own issues.
  13. Employee harassment stories are rarely simple.
  14. Open enrollment meetings need cookies.

We love our rules in HR! Ironically, I love the profession so much because I’m a low-rules kind of person. The reality is, in my couple decades of HR and recruiting work there really has only been one Rule of Thumb that has been the same at every organization I’ve worked in. Big and small. Public and private. Across all industries…

– Things change.

This basic principle reminds us that flexibility is crucial in the ever-shifting HR landscape. What’s your go-to rule in HR and recruiting?

Are All Employment Brands the Same?

I’ve always thought that 9 out of 10 employment brands are basically clones. If you asked candidates to tell the difference between them, they’d probably draw a blank.

Employment Brand #1 claims to hire top talent, treat employees well, value diversity, have a fun work vibe, and actually listen to staff.

Now, Employment Brand #2? They do the same as #1 but their logo is blue!

Then comes Employment Brand #3, doing the same as #1 and #2, but adding the twist of exclusively hiring top-tier talent.

And, of course, Employment Brand #4 follows the pattern but sweetens the deal with pay-for-performance.

Everyone’s saying, “We’re just like them, but better because we say so!” So, what makes some brands stand out from all the spam? The only answer that clicked with my limited marketing brain is a genuinely transformative leadership vision.

Sure, any company can offer more money, better perks, and all that jazz. But having a clear, inspiring, and unshakeable vision is a rare gem. Think Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Oprah Winfrey – leaders with a vision that stands out and makes employees follow without question.

If a transformative vision is the only thing that sets organizations apart, and the rest of us are pretty much the same, what’s the real message to candidates? Are we just serving up more spam? If so, is employment branding just a waste?

We’re living in an Instagram world, where good design and a smart media strategy are seen as ‘better’ – even if they don’t make you a better employer. Let’s not kid ourselves; we all play the game. And that’s okay, as long as you’re not playing without that transformative vision.

It’s even cool if you truly believe your company is great! Because, let’s be real, belief is what makes employers stand out. It’s the basis of a transformative vision.

Your Recruiting Process Is Doomed

Here’s the real talk: sooner or later, you or anyone in recruiting will feel the itch to shake things up, thinking it’ll make the process smoother, sharper, or just better. The old ways failed, usually because you didn’t create them, so you figure a makeover is in order to match today’s standards. The revamped process promises to make hiring managers happy and completely change how talent flows into your organization.

Sounds legit, right?

It does, been there, done that. But here’s the kicker – it won’t work. The ‘new’ process is just the same old one with a fancier look. Sure, it might be somewhat ‘better,’ but that’s not the issue. The real problem is you’re missing something crucial. Why the urge to ‘re-process’? Let’s say it’s about getting “more” out of your recruiting game – more talent, more compliance, happier managers, better retention, just more.

But let’s be real. If your current setup was delivering, you wouldn’t be fixing it.

Wondering why the ‘new’ process won’t be your golden ticket either? It’s not because you don’t want ‘more.’ You’re scared of it. ‘More’ means facing things you could dodge in the old routine.

That’s the real reason your ‘new’ process is set up to fail. Deep down, where water cooler talk doesn’t reach, you don’t actually want it to work.

Having a successful process means opening up to failure. It needs hard numbers, accountability, a clear line in the sand that screams “we own this.” Those things spell out success and shout out failure. Success is cool to show off, but no one wants to flaunt failure. So, you go on this ‘re-processing’ spree, hoping to secure success without risking failure. Newsflash: that’s not happening. Success only matters when you know what failure looks like.

Sure, failing as a team isn’t the end of the world, but on a personal level, it’s terrifying. This fear keeps you from building the process your organization actually needs. A process that calls out the winners and the not-so-great players. A process that pinpoints where things need fixing. A process that calls for clear decisions.

Why is your new recruiting process doomed? Because you’re not willing to build one that shows your failures.