If you’d like to form a diverse technical team, this post is your go-to guide.
Not only will we share the basics of how to source diverse candidates (and why Boolean search strings are your best friend), but we’ll also delve into how to conduct interviews and how to create internal policies that will ensure your diverse team members want to stick around.
You’ll walk away with ten strategies for building a winning team of diverse tech professionals.
Diverse Hiring Strategies:
- Spot Your Gaps
- Establish a DEI Policy (and promote it)
- Ditch Traditional Recruiting Methods
- Rethink Your Job Descriptions
- Ask Your Employees for Referrals
- Create a DEI Tech Stack
- Nail the Targeted X-Ray Boolean Search
- Select a Diverse Interview Panel
- Start at the Top by Hiring Diverse Leaders
- Build an Inclusive Culture
But before we dive into these ten strategies, we first need to align on what it means to have a diverse technical team and why having a diverse tech team is important.
What is a diverse tech team?
Many people only think about race and gender when hiring diverse tech talent.
While these aspects of diversity are important, you should also consider age, sexual orientation, career background, national origin, and disabilities.
Remember the aim of diversity hiring is not to make decisions based on diversity quotas. Rather, your goal should be to clearly understand potential bias towards various candidates – and reduce that bias.
Why is it important to hire a diverse tech team?
When it comes to hiring, it’s easy to keep focusing on the same mold of candidates. After all, if you’re happy with your current hires, shouldn’t you keep adding more people to your company who are similar?
Having a homogeneous team might be appealing since everyone will be a “culture fit”, but it stifles innovation and creativity.
Here are a few benefits of a diverse tech team:
- Diverse teams are better equipped to create a product that meets the needs and wants of a diverse group of users.
- Diverse teams are significantly more productive than homogenous teams.
- Diverse perspectives are necessary if you want to encourage bold ideas and build innovative products.
- Diverse teams increase employee retention.
Building a diverse pipeline and hiring a truly diverse team isn’t easy. But as you make progress, you’ll soon start to see the benefits.
10 Strategies to Source, Hire, and Retain a Diverse Tech Team
1. Spot Your Gaps
Before you actively start building a diverse technical team, it’s crucial to evaluate where your company currently stands.
This process will allow you to spot any existing gaps and will drive future Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts.
Here are some questions to consider:
- What is the makeup of your current team? You can get a pulse on your team’s diversity by asking employees to provide anonymous demographic information. These surveys can include questions about age, gender, preferred pronouns, highest degree or level of school completed, race, and veteran status.
- How do your employees feel about the company’s approach to DEI? Find out what your employees think about diversity and inclusion – and how they feel about the company’s approach to DEI. Here are fourteen questions to measure your employees’ opinions.
- Is there any bias (or practices that aren’t inclusive) within your company? This could be in your recruitment process, leadership styles, or company culture. Note: This step is crucial because if biases exist, it will be difficult to build a diverse culture that lasts.
As you collect these insights from your team, you’ll start to spot gaps within the company and identify ways you can improve your DEI efforts.
The next step is to set some goals. Think through what a diverse tech team looks like for your company – ideally, you’ll want to build a team that represents your customer base.
Keep in mind that it’s okay if the information you gather doesn’t look positive. At this point, you’re just trying to get a pulse on where the company stands so you can build strategies that will improve any gaps. If a candidate voices concerns about the lack of diversity on your team, you’ll be equipped to genuinely acknowledge the gaps and share how your business is working to build a diverse culture.
2. Establish a DEI Policy (and promote it)
Once you’ve spotted your company’s gaps, it’s time to anchor future diversity efforts in a company DEI policy.
This allows both job seekers and current employees to see what your company believes about DEI, as well as what you’re doing to cultivate an inclusive workplace.
Here are a few of the essential pieces to include in your policy:
- Your company’s definition of diversity.
- A high-level statement of what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean for your company.
- A description of how your organization is building an inclusive culture.
You can get started by adapting this DEI Policy template for your own company.
Once you’ve created a DEI policy, you can share it in a number of ways:
- Include it in your employee handbook for team members to reference
- Highlight it when reaching out to diverse candidates
- Share it on your company’s website and career page
- Add it to your job postings
Creating this policy sends a message to both candidates and current employees that your company actively supports diversity and inclusion.
3. Ditch Traditional Recruiting Methods
To recruit diverse technical candidates, you’ll need to adapt some of your methods.
Most companies source tech talent by looking through applicants in their Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and sourcing on LinkedIn. This approach can often lead to homogenous teams that look (and think) alike
To cultivate a diverse tech pipeline, you’ll need to think outside the box. Here are some of the best ways to do that:
- Source from tech conferences such as ChickTech and Blacks in Technology. This approach can be more time-consuming, but often has a high return on investment, especially if you’re looking for senior talent. Many of the speakers are incredibly skilled in niche areas and may be open to new job opportunities if you have an opening that’s the perfect fit for them.
- Join Facebook groups. You’ll discover a plethora of technical communities for women in tech, people of color in tech, and more. Join these groups and pay attention to the discussion. You’ll start to find senior tech professionals giving advice to junior ones, as well as people who are looking for new career opportunities.
- Connect with coding bootcamps. Bootcamps tend to attract diverse candidates due to their affordable pricing, flexible scheduling, and scholarship opportunities. They’re also more manageable for mid-career professionals seeking a career change. By partnering with bootcamps, you’ll likely come across a much wider group of job seekers.
- Network with alumni groups from minority colleges, including HBCUs and women-only educational institutions.
- Partner with diversity-focused groups. There are countless groups for diverse tech professionals and it’s worth researching ones that are relevant to your organization. Here are a few to keep in mind:
- Communities for women in tech: Women Who Code and Tech Ladies
- Communities for veterans: Vets Who Code, Vets in Tech, and Tech for Troops
- Organizations for Black and Latinx tech talent: ColorStack, Code2040, Latinas in Tech and Black Tech Pipeline
- LGBTQ tech groups: She+ Geeks Out and Out in Tech
- Disability-focused communities: Disability JobSite, abilityJOBS, and Mentra
While you can’t choose who applies to your jobs, these recruiting strategies will ensure that a wide array of people learn about your openings.
4. Rethink Your Job Descriptions
Your company’s job descriptions will be a huge factor when it comes to attracting diverse tech talent.
There are two main things you’ll want to consider:
- The wording of the job description
- The listed requirements
Let’s take a look at each.
Write Inclusive Job Descriptions.
Job descriptions often contain wording that can discourage certain job seekers from applying, especially those from minority groups.
Here are a few steps you can take to appeal to a diverse audience:
- Remove gender-coded words. Certain soft skills tend to attract men while others attract women. An individual might shy away from certain jobs if they perceive the other gender is better suited for the position. Run your job description through this gender decoder to determine whether there is any bias within your description.
- Avoid unnecessary technical or industry-specific jargon. These kinds of phrases can alienate candidates who come from a different educational or professional background.
- Use a dyslexia-friendly font. Some great options include Arial, Comic Sans, or Verdana. Even better, include a video of a hiring manager describing the role and requirements. Many great programmers are dyslexic and this will benefit those who struggle with large bodies of text.
Reconsider the Requirements.
You’ve probably heard the statistic that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women only apply if they meet 100% of them.
With that in mind, it’s important to assess the requirements in your job descriptions to see if they’re truly necessary.
This will encourage more women in tech to apply to your roles.
In addition, reconsider any requirements that are related to specific degrees, alma maters, or high-profile companies. Instead, write a description of what this employee will be doing day to day, the essential skills they’ll need to succeed, and what you expect them to accomplish in the role.
If you focus on finding a person with the right skills and experience (over pedigree), you’ll open the door for a wider pool of applicants – including those who transitioned into tech mid-career, attended a bootcamp, or entered into the field through a nontraditional avenue.
5. Ask Your Employees for Referrals
One of the easiest ways to build a diverse technical pipeline is to ask your own employees for referrals.
But keep in mind that employee referrals can be both a help and a hindrance since your team members will likely have a network that comes from the same background that they do.
In order to do this well, have your employees go through DEI training, specifically with an emphasis on unconscious bias. In addition, take the time to talk through your DEI policy with your employees and help them understand what true diversity looks like. Equipped with this knowledge, your employees will be able to share job opportunities with a diverse network of people that you might otherwise not be able to reach.
6. Create a DEI Tech Stack
A DEI tech stack allows you to leverage tools that help eliminate unconscious bias in your hiring process and therefore diversify your candidate pool.
After all, as humans, we all have cognitive biases that impact our hiring decisions (even if those biases aren’t intentional). That’s how we end up building teams that look just like us.
A DEI tech stack can help you eliminate those biases. Here are a few ways you can incorporate one into your hiring process:
- Leverage AI to complete the initial screen. Use an AI platform like Bryq to filter applicants for specific skills and experience, preventing human bias from coming into the screening process.
- Utilize blind resumes. You can use tools like MeVitae to remove personal information on resumes that lead to bias (such as name, school, date of birth, and specific location). These tools keep all key information on the resume so you can still determine whether the candidate is equipped for the role.
Use objective assessments. Tools such as CodeSignal utilize AI to assess a candidate’s tech assessment (rather than requiring someone in your company to do it manually). These assessment results are more insulated from human bias, allowing more diverse applicants to progress through your hiring process.
Want more information? Check out this article from Lever for tips on how to build your DEI tech stack.
7. Nail the Targeted X-Ray Boolean Search
One of the best ways to ensure you reach candidates from all backgrounds is to leverage Google X-Ray (or Boolean) searches.
When you do a LinkedIn Recruiter search, the candidates who show up are likely swamped with recruiting messages. However, if you utilize Boolean searches, your results will display a wider range of candidates including people who aren’t contacted by recruiters as often (and who are therefore more open to hearing from you).
These searches also allow you to create a more tailored search. For example, you can include specific names of diverse organizations or colleges in your search. Plug the names into your search string and your search results will reveal many diverse candidates.
As you conduct your search, it’s also worth using demographic data to find out what regions you should target to diversify your sourcing efforts. Justice Map and City Data both showcase cities that are heavily populated with underrepresented groups. You can include the names of these cities in your X-Ray searches to ensure you reach minority candidates.
New to this method of sourcing?
Wizard Sourcer and AmazingHiring offer tips on how to use these search methods in your recruiting efforts.
Here’s a cheat sheet from AmazingHiring to help you get started.
8. Select a Diverse Interview Panel
Having a diverse team of interviewers will be a huge factor as you build a diverse technical team.
After all, if a diverse candidate conducts an interview with a panel of people that look the same, have the same degree, are the same gender, and are in a similar stage of life, then it will be hard for the candidate to believe that your company is striving towards diversity.
Instead, try to get representation from different career levels within the company (everyone from junior IC’s to leadership should conduct interviews), as well as people who look and think very differently.
A diverse interview panel will be more open-minded than a homogenous one, and therefore will be less likely to make a biased hiring decision. In addition, candidates will gain a more accurate view of your company by hearing from employees of all levels.
9. Start at the Top by Hiring Diverse Leaders
There are a couple of ways you can approach diversity hiring. First off, you can start by hiring diverse individual contributors and hope that over time your company will start to become more diverse. Or you can start at the top by hiring a diverse team of leaders.
The latter tends to be more effective.
Your leaders are often the most public-facing members of your company. They’re usually featured on your website and perhaps are even thought leaders in the industry. If you hire just a few diverse leaders at your company, job seekers will notice. You’ll find that diverse candidates of all career levels will be more likely to jump at the opportunity to join your team. On the other hand, without a diverse team of leaders, the process can often feel like an uphill struggle since job seekers will wonder whether your company truly cares about diversity.
The bonus? Having diverse leaders at your company leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance.
10. Build an Inclusive Culture
Crafting an inclusive culture will not only attract diverse talent to your team but is also crucial for retaining your current employees.
There are many ways you can build an inclusive culture. The most important thing is to get feedback from your employees and build a place where every team member can thrive.
Here are some practical steps you can take:
- Offer advancement opportunities and work-life policies that are relevant to dual-career couples and single-parent heads of households.
- Give paid parental leave to new mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents.
- Provide remote work options (note: this would especially open the door for employees with disabilities and single parents)
- Establish career tracks and offer mentorship opportunities so employees can progress in their careers.
- Change your PTO policies to include more religious holidays and community events.
As you create an inclusive culture, establish ways for employees to give honest feedback. After all, your own employees will be a great source of truth regarding the company’s culture.
Now Start Building Your Diverse Team
Building a diverse technical team can be a challenge. But take the time to get it right, and your efforts will pay off.
With these 10 strategies and a willingness to put in the hard work, you’ll be able to build a winning team that represents different age groups, genders, backgrounds, ethnicities, and much more.
Get started by sending some surveys and collecting employee feedback so you can identify any existing diversity gaps within your company.
Then leverage the other strategies to successfully build a diverse team.
If you ever need support along the way, our team at hatch I.T. knows how to find diverse technical talent. If you’re not sure where to find diverse candidates — or if you struggle to attract them when you do — let us help. Schedule a free call with us today!