There is no quick fix to diversity hiring. The easiest way to hire for diversity is to start with diversity — to start when you add the second person on your team — but if you reading this post, you likely have an imbalanced or homogeneous team. I’ve primarily written this for all-white or all-male teams in tech. I believe the diversity has little to do with appearance, but gender and race is a shortcut to noticing the problem and visible variety actually affects behavior.

Before You Start

Make sure the women and people of color on your team already are happy. See if you can find out if is any aspect of your current workplace or team that might create a hostile or unproductive workplace for any team member. Fix that without making it the responsibility of minority folks. If your team is bigger than 2-3 people and you don’t have any women or people of color, be aware that you may have teammates who would alienate the person you are trying to recruit. Develop stated values. Publish a code of conduct. Create ways you can put yourselves in a diverse crowd with customers or community events, and talk to your team about how to be open and respectful to people who are different than they are.

Imagine Your Dream Team

Brainstorm 10 women or people of color that you would dream of hiring. People who would bring incredible talent, skills, energy and enthusiasm to your team if you could somehow inspire them to come work with you. Play the #one4one game with your team.

There are a small percentage of software engineers who are women, but quite a large number of them. Relative to the number of qualified women engineers in your region, the number of positions you have open to fill is tiny. Spend a bit of time doing web searches or just reflect on people you know or have heard about and put together a list of 10 amazing women and people of color who would be part of your dream team — if you could hire anyone who would it be? Look at the people who speak at conferences centered around your technology, blogs, books, etc. Look to your local meetups. If you have budget for relocation, broaden your search. Once you have your list of 10, methodically go through the list and try to meet each of them. Follow them on twitter, go to where they are (meetups, conferences), reach out and have coffee or lunch. Start a conversation about shared interest in technology. Seek out their opinion on something they are expert at. See if they are happy in their job. Would they consider a new one? If not, ask who they know who would be good. Do not qualify your request with gender or race.

If you are really lucky and good, one of your dream team will come work with you. If not now, sometime in the future. You might find a new advisor or a new friend. You have definitely expanded your network, and if you show up at events where women and people of color are speaking, who you admire and are relevant to the position you are hiring, your next team member may be in the audience.

Important Details

If you want a great team, you want to have a tough decision to make between two or three amazing candidates. Do the hard work. Get the details right.

Post the Job

A public link is the easiest was for people to help you recruit. It’s amazing how many people post their job late in the recruiting process or not at all.

Write a Good Job Description

Think about why you want diversity and add requirements that will find those people. For example, if you the person will be responsible for hiring, consider adding a requirement “experience leading diverse teams.” You are more likely to attract diverse talent and find someone who has a network of diverse talent, in addition to actually finding someone to lead the team you want to have.

Consider what you actually need in someone performing the job and include that in the job description. Give thought to the words you use. Find a few people with different backgrounds who are qualified for the job give you feedback on the job description.

Confidence != Competence

Interview for skills. Look for evidence they have done similar work. Ask about what they did individually to lead to outcomes in past work. Don’t get sucked in by bravado from people in the majority crowd. Don’t mistake quiet for weak. Watch your own biases. Be on the lookout for greatness that doesn’t look like you.

Always Be Recruiting

Get involved in a local meetup. If there aren’t diverse speakers, talk to the organizer and see if you could help make that happen.

Host a RailsBridge workshop, ClojureBridge workshop, or make a *Bridge for your language or framework. Host
Women Who Code hack night or study group, maybe Girl Geek Dinner. Even if you don’t find engineers from these groups who want to work for you, many women will be more likely to work for a company that is actively trying to be part of the solution.

If you can hire less experienced talent, recruit at women’s colleges (in the SF Bay area, I’ve heard great things about Mills, a local women’s college where the CS dept has a great reputation) and look for colleges which have a good diversity track record, like Harvey Mudd.

Background

At Blazing Cloud, I hired over 20 people with 50-50 gender balance, but I’m most proud of the other kinds of diversity — people with and without CS degrees, early experience in Java, C and SmallTalk, sailors and farmers, awkwardly dressed and stylishly hip. Whenever we did user research, chances are someone on the team knew a group in our target audience. Our diversity fostered creativity and was a key component to our success.

These tips are based on over 20 years of experience building technical teams. I wasn’t born knowing how to recruit women because I’m female. Most of the engineers I’ve worked with are white men, so I started with the same challenges as everyone else. Over the last ten years, I worked to develop a network and I have repeatedly applied these simple, yet time consuming techniques. You can too.

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