If you don’t know Jackye Clayton, change that now. Jackye eptimizes the word authentic. We invited Jackye to join our latest roundtable discussion, Equitable interviewing to Include NeuroDiverse Candidates, but what we got was 100% Jackye.
The hiring systems are broken
Let’s start with the punchline: the systems are broken. It's more fundamental than just the process - it's the system. And the broken systems impact more than just our neurodiverse community, it impacts all people who can be labeled as non-standard. If a candidate is part of nearly any community (and often with the neurodiverse community, candidates may not even know that they are part of a community at all), they are being judged by the interviewer’s biases, regardless of the well-intentioned behavior of the interviewer.
What the process doesn’t do well is accurately determine what the company needs and what each candidate brings to the table and provide a way for all parties involved to recognize a good match and make a decision. Where have the systems gone awry?
There are so many places where the hiring systems are deeply flawed. It's a people measuring system, each one built from the ground up by that particular company (people) and performed under intense pressure to find someone [and find them now]. From untrained interviewers to measuring on candidate’s culture fit, poorly prepped candidates, to unclear definition of what the company needs in a candidate - the system itself lends itself to more and more ways a candidate has to perform to be selected.
The power dynamics of candidate selection
As a society we have created an imbalance between company and employee. The system itself lends itself to a master-servant relationship. Where the master has all the power. The company doesn’t need employees, but employees need their jobs. That translates into the hiring process - interviewer runs the process, interviewee answers (performs) for the interviewer.
“Workforce economics is a throwback to the Plantation model.” Cory Simmonsen
This lends candidates to have to place a lot of bets on the table to have a fighting chance to be the one selected for the job. As recruiters gripe about how many unqualified candidates that applied to their job, making the process of getting through those candidates a slog, candidates have applied to tens or even hundreds of jobs.
Let’s talk about the age-old interview process. The majority of interviews are measuring a candidate’s ability to manage stress, likability and ability to tell a story. It measures a candidate’s performance.
So when the candidate does get selected for an interview after searching, researching, and applying for a job into a one-way black hole, they are faced with an interview gauntlet that under another lens could be considered ridiculous. There are several types of interviewers. The ones who want candidates to pitch the interviewer the company’s product, being judged on if they are passionate enough about the company, interviewers that want to know things wholly unrelated to the candidate’s ability to do the job, and the interviewers who want to simply hire people who they like. If you’re not likable that day [according to them]? Best of luck.
Don’t fix the process, fix the systems
The problem when you try to fix the process without acknowledging the broader issue - the system itself - you create a process that feels better but doesn’t impact the issue.
The system is broken. If you can acknowledge the issue itself, you can then build processes that will support a better system. You can build a system that celebrates each candidate’s individuality and ability to do the job the business needs without the mismatched power dynamic and misplaced interview expectations. Before you fix the systems, it's time to take inventory of the business itself. Is this a business that celebrates all diversity? Do you have a business of inclusiveness or is there work to do on that front? Be realistic about the business and the business leaders themselves. Culture is important - because better processes to hire equitably for all to have a high churn rate later isn’t productive for anyone. Fixing your interviewing approach to have new employees leave quickly accomplishes nothing. If you have the foundation built of an inclusive organization, start the process of rebuilding your interview approach. Jackye has a handful of key takeaways anyone can implement:
Assume every candidate is neurodiverse and build an interview process that supports that. Don’t ask, but reasonably accommodate if candidates do share that information with you.
Train your interviewers, but then back that up with software. Training is important, but it often doesn't take root. Use your process and systems to back up the changes you want. Training is particularly important in interviewing because you are always one interview away from a lawsuit.
Limit your interviewers to 4. Data shows us that 4 people is about what most people can handle before you have taken candidates out of a reasonably comfortable zone.
Write down your questions for each interviewer before starting the interview process. While you may have some follow-ons that go off script, having the questions written down and agreed to ahead of time makes it easy to ensure you are asking every candidate the same questions.
Share your questions with candidates before the interview. Help lower anxiety by allowing your candidates to have and prepare for the questions beforehand.
Don’t share thoughts about candidates with interviewers and don’t let them share with each other. Hiring managers saying ‘this is a great candidate’ is enough to taint the process. Mum’s the word until the interview process is complete.
Use software to capture interviewers' thoughts. Leverage training to make sure their thoughts are pertinent - your notes are one phone call away from being evidence.
Jackye also has a handful of key don’ts:
Tell me about yourself
Where do you see yourself in five years?
What do you think your role will be at this company?
What do you think your salary will be?
Don’t judge people on body language that doesn’t matter for the job
Hand shake quality
Ability to manage small talk
Don’t let new employees interview
Require a minimum amount of time before becoming an interviewer (even managers)
First few interviewers should be done with a second chair to help coach
Require interview training first
Don’t let hiring managers get themselves in trouble
Don’t hire the wrong person because you need a body - if you hire the wrong person you cement them in the wrong place forever
Don’t let them hire who they like over who will be successful because of skill
Soft skills can’t be the only hiring criteria
The hiring process is a thorn hill of legal, interpersonal and imperfect rules, processes, and systems. The majority of hiring managers have made many many less than ideal hires in their careers. That doesn’t mean we throw up our hands and hire the first seemingly smart person who walks through the door. The data supports that a good hire, the right hire, can have lasting impacts on a business - but how you hire them is as important as who you hire. The process matters, the systems matter - without that, you can’t have a truly inclusive culture where diversity of all definitions is celebrated.