Changing the Conversation: Spring 2018


Event Recap: “What Does it Really Mean to Hire the Best Candidate for the Job”?

The Razzle Dazzle room at AppNexus was abuzz with energy last week for the most recent event in our Changing the Conversation series: “What does it really mean to hire the best candidate for the job?” Over a hundred attendees listened on intently as our panel of trailblazing women, each bringing a unique perspective to the stage, discussed the business case for diversity, introduced the idea of “culture add” vs “culture fit,” and presented actionable recruiting strategies for attendees to employ in informing the Diversity & Inclusion initiatives at their own organizations.


Following a powerful presentation by Ashley Babinecz (Director of Talent Acquisition at AppNexus) on the approach she and the team at Appnexus are taking to recruiting for diversity and building an inclusive culture, Stephanie Sandberg (Director of Out Leadership and President of Sandberg Consulting), Kamilah Mitchell-Thomas (SVP of HR and Global People Management at A&E Networks), and Diane Herz (Chief Diversity Officer at Mathematica Policy Research) joined the stage for a candid discussion moderated by Cynnie King (CEO, CFW Careers) and Rachel Fagnant-Fassler (President, CFW Careers) on D&I recruiting and corporate initiatives.

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Read on for some key takeaways from the evening:


1. The research is clear: More diverse teams make better decisions, drive better business outcomes and exponentially improve financial performance.


2. Start early. It’s worthwhile to invest in Diversity & Inclusion at the earliest stages of your company. Having D&I principles and strategies embedded in your company foundation sets you up to succeed where established companies, who failed to consider these in their initial stages, have fallen short. “Had they started at your stage, they wouldn’t have the problems that they have now”- Diane Herz


3. Evaluate all aspects of your hiring process:


  • When assessing candidates during the interview process, try focusing on “culture add,” NOT “culture fit.” The psychological shift from “fit” to “add” reframes the perspective from which you assess a candidate, and it requires you to consider how a candidate’s different background, culture, experience, and/or personality can be an additive element to your organization. A candidate with strong “culture add” will help your company culture evolve for the better to foster a more inclusive and diverse organization, and this gradual evolution can have snowball effects. “Diversity begets diversity.” - Ashley Babinecz


  • Sometimes hiring diverse talent can mean being willing to budge on ideal, but not required job requisites to make room for valuable intangibles inherent in diversity. One of the easiest, most immediate ways to foster increased diversity in your candidate pool is to pare down your job descriptions to include only core competencies; studies have repeatedly shown that listing too many requirements and responsibilities can drive away qualified, diverse talent.


  • Mitigate bias in your recruiting process. “You need to have standardized procedures in the process; rigor can help you check bias across the team.” –Kamilah Mitchell-Thomas. Use a standardized interview process, inclusive language in your job descriptions, diverse interview panels, and bias interrupters (such as anonymous resume reviews, facilitated team deliberation sessions post-interview, and repeated interviewer commitment to equitable and fair feedback before every interview).


  • Focus on pipeline. Diane Herz shared the power of the Rooney Rule: at Mathematica Policy Research, they set pipeline-level quotas for populations that were lacking in their organization—e.g. include x% women in your candidate slate, and you’re much more likely to hire more women. (Success story: This was a large factor in helping MPR hire their first black female CIO!)


4. Inspire, incite, and invest in your community. Take a holistic approach. “It’s like building the immune system of the company; you get all the cells working together and have initiatives in every corner, not just HR. Inclusion is everyone in the organization’s imperative.” –Diane Herz


  • Internally: Set up Employee Resource Groups (ERGS) to empower individuals at all levels of the organization. Establish a Diversity & Inclusion counsel across departments to impact all facets of your business.


  • Externally: Connect with partners that can connect you to the community you’re trying to engage. Ex. AppNexus has a close partnership with Girls Who Code.


5. Don’t alienate your allies. Use them. “I am not hostile to white men, I’m related to a bunch of them I think!” –Stephanie Sandberg. It’s important to include men and others in a position of privilege in the conversation and to understand where they’re coming from; they can be your most powerful allies. Incorporate Ally Skills Trainings into your D&I initiative to help everyone recognize their own privilege and harness it to step in on behalf of someone who doesn’t have it. “This helps people capture previously undetected micro-aggressions and empowers them to take allyship as a great responsibility.” –Ashley Babinecz


6. D&I should be part of your employer brand, and ultimately, part of your product brand. Incorporate storytelling by profiling members of your company: connect their personal stories (immigrant, disabled, working parent, sexuality, and even, yes, white men!) to their passion for their work and the company.


7. Iterate! Successful Diversity & Inclusion initiatives need to be intentional and in a state of constant flux; you need to be frequently reflecting--assessing what works, what doesn’t, and changing course accordingly to really move the needle.


a.     Where to start? Take a look in the mirror: do a current state analysis to understand workforce demographics, the talent pool you have available, and gaps in opportunity that exist.


b.     Set realistic but aspirational goals on different levels, both short- and long-term.


c.     Make your goals public and set clear strategies on how you’re going to reach them.


d.     Measure your progress, report it, and iterate. Keep track of employee engagement and reported inclusion through repeated surveys, an open-door culture with managers, and 360 reviews. Keep track of hiring, promotion, and retention numbers to make sure you’re on the right track. Make your progress public (it keeps your organization accountable, and shows your employees and future candidates that you care). “Be patient. You’re not going to go from 8 women today to 40 women tomorrow. Celebrate the wins as they come and don’t let the timeline discourage you.” -Ashley Babinecz


If you’d like to learn more about how to incorporate D&I initiatives into your organization, here are additional resources you might find helpful:


-Five Intentional Recruiting Practices for Building Diverse and Inclusive Organizations

-Five Tips to Reduce Female Attrition in the Workplace

-Include D&I in your KPIs!

-AppNexus Diversity & Inclusio


Special thanks to our host!

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...And our sponsors!

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