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8 research-backed best practices to improve diversity in technical hiring

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Today, an ever-growing number of companies are recognizing the value that employees from diverse backgrounds bring to an organization as they grow their technical teams. In fact, a recent study found that companies that are racially and ethnically diverse outperform industry norms by 35 percent. 

The PhD Industrial-Organizational (IO) Psychologists of CodeSignal’s Skills Evaluation Lab have identified a range of research-backed best practices for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) when hiring software engineers and developers; these range from sourcing, to screening, to final-stage interviews. They also include techniques for helping candidates put their best foot forward during the technical evaluation stages of your company’s hiring process.

Best practices to advance diversity in technical hiring

The four techniques below have been shown to improve the diversity of candidates in companies’ technical recruiting pipelines.

  • Actively recruit qualified candidates from underrepresented groups, as well as less commonly sought-after colleges and universities. CodeSignal’s annual University Ranking Report shows that the best new grad engineering talent often comes from schools not generally recognized as “top” schools for engineering. Many of the top-ranked schools in CodeSignal’s report are recognized as Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Emerging HSIs, meaning they serve a racially diverse student body. 
  • Conduct a job analysis to create more accurate job descriptions, offer greater transparency to candidates, and help recruiters and hiring managers ensure that they are focusing on only job-relevant criteria when evaluating candidates’ qualifications for a role. A job analysis can also be used to help decide an appropriate cut-off score for a technical assessment used in hiring for the role.
  • Put the assessment at the very top of the funnel (even before resume review). Research shows time and again that resume review is subject to a high degree of bias and subjectivity. Even experienced recruiters have unconscious biases that can shape how they evaluate a resume. For example: people tend to notice educational institutions that are prestigious or which they themselves attended, opening up room for bias toward these candidates. Technical skill assessment, on the other hand, provides an objective measure of a candidate’s qualifications, rather than a resume reviewer’s bias-prone impression.
  • Use structured interviews and train interviewers in best practices for interviewing that mitigate unconscious bias. Structured interviews use a consistent set of questions, steps, and evaluation metrics across candidates. Research shows that structured interviews allow employers to see how candidates will perform on the job, and they help reduce bias in hiring by making the interview process more objective and consistent. 

How to support candidates to do their best in technical evaluations

In addition to the techniques above, an often-overlooked way to support DE&I in technical hiring is by making intentional efforts to help candidates feel welcomed, supported, and prepared for your recruiting process. Here are four ways to do that when your team uses technical assessments in your hiring.

  • Prepare candidates for what to expect from the evaluation. Recruiter and hiring team communications to candidates should be detailed and transparent about what candidates can expect when they take a technical assessment as part of the hiring process. For instance, you’ll want to mention the length of the assessment, technical requirements (ex: supported browsers), non-technical requirements (ex: providing ID to verify their identity), and which resources are and are not permitted during the assessment.
  • Hold practice workshops with prospective candidates before they apply. For companies that hire new grad or other early career candidates, a single job posting may attract thousands of applicants. To give all applicants a fair shot at success, consider offering a workshop for applicants or prospective applicants where you explain your hiring process, talk through example coding challenges, and share resources to help them prepare.
  • Use encouraging language with candidates in your recruiting communications with candidates. Many candidates can be intimidated by the technical recruiting process—and especially candidates from backgrounds that are underrepresented in tech. Friendly and encouraging language can give candidates the morale boost they need to continue in the recruiting process and put their best foot forward at each step. 

Learn more

CodeSignal’s Skills Evaluation Lab is made up of our teams of IO Psychologists and Assessment Design Engineers. Together, these teams develop, validate, maintain, and ensure compliance for our Tech Screen and Pre–Screen Skills Evaluation Frameworks, as well as questions for live coding interviews. If you’re interested in seeing how the Skills Evaluation Lab can help your company reach your DE&I goals, schedule a discovery call here.

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