Widen your pool of candidates.


When we’re looking at the hiring process, we often take shortcuts because the entire scope of work is onerous and ends up taking a long time. So once we’ve brought together a committee or a team to revise a vision for the work and craft a job description, written that fantastic job advertisement, and designed a process and timeline, we just send the advert out there into the world, to everyone in our contact list and all of our professional listservs, and ask folks to “network.” We post the advertisement on a handful of websites whether they’re useful or not, and we share the posting with folks who we think have a significant reach and a broad and diverse network. Then we wait for the resumes to pour in.


Typically, we miss the mark. And what results? Our candidate pool is made up of folks who look just like us, or folks who know our organizations, know our work, or have similar profiles as the rest of our employees. We don’t end up reaching for diversity of people, ideas, or personal and professional backgrounds and connections, which likely will mean that we miss out on an opportunity to push our edges around new work, new thinking and new organizational learning, too. Then we say that we don’t have the “right” candidates, or we don’t have enough candidates, running the risk of making assumptions about who the “right” candidate is, and often creating a situation where a search is shut down in the middle or doesn’t come to fruition (no candidate is hired).


Consider widening your pool of candidates using what we call a networked approach to hiring. Do this by beginning with your social network, or your professional network, or even both in combination. Inside your networks, you’ve got two kinds of social capital. One is called bonding capital, and is the glue that holds community together and lives within existing groups. It’s the stickiness that keeps us together in groups: what makes the Jewish people a “people.” The other is called bridging capital, and it does exactly what it says: it bridges between networks, across social groups, social classes, race, religion or other disparate communities. We desperately need to access our bonding capital. Who are the folks building bridges who can help you reach across to other networks and social groups and help you find (or even make) valuable connections in new communities? Who can bridge from our narrow places, from our comfortable offices to new spaces and help us see things–and people–differently? Recall that this helps us to make better choices to diversify our pool of candidates across both gender boundaries and with other marginalized communities.


Let’s consider how all kinds of ways of identifying ourselves may play into this: gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, class identity and every other way we might find ourselves identifying might interact with the way we “see,” search out or find candidates in the world, or choose to look past them when we do receive their resumes. Can we bridge to new candidates by looking at these groups with a fresh eye? Do our processes shut them out or make it impossible for them to rise? Are our processes favoring those who already know how to navigate through searches, who understand how to move through patriarchal or hierarchical organizational structures, or are they already clear, well defined and scaffolded for those who are just orienting themselves to the world of work? Are groups of candidates being shut out as a result? Consider how your process might shut out particular groups of candidates, and how you might want to redesign for access to not just your “in-group” but also the groups of folks who are on the periphery of or adjacent to your network.


No, this approach won’t solve your diversity problems in one fell swoop. It won’t solve your gender issues and it won’t get you that star candidate right away who will save your organization. It will help you shift your mindset, though. Who are the connectors in your midst? Who helps to break down old patterns, demolish the old bridges that only turn inside, and who turns outward? Who does this not just within your community, within your already existing networks, but looks outside? Who are the connectors in your midst who build bridges to new communities, new people, new networks? We want to identify how we might be stuck in our ways, stuck inside our well-worn patterns of reaching inward to the same people. Instead, we encourage you to disrupt old patterns and push to the edges and the peripheries of your networks and find the folks who are able to connect you with people who think differently, act differently, look differently, learn differently, speak differently, and even more. This is the beginning of a networked approach to hiring. We’ll share more about this in later posts.