Tech leaders have made their commitment to DEI loud and clear. Meta, Google and Apple publicly back affirmative action, cybersecurity companies are trying to close the talent gap by hiring diverse employees for entry-level positions and some of those meticulously tracking their numbers have met some of the goals they set for themselves. But tech’s progress in hiring workers of color, women and other underrepresented folks is still incremental.
One excuse leaders give is that underrepresented talent is “hard to find.” Usually, they’re just looking in the wrong places.
Last month, LinkedIn began rolling out a feature called “Diversity Nudges” for LinkedIn Recruiter, the paid plan that companies use to find and manage candidates. The new update is designed to challenge that “hard to find” myth and help hiring managers find a more diverse group of candidates. According to LinkedIn, the feature will be available everywhere in the coming weeks. Right now, the feature only works for gender diversity.
How LinkedIn’s Diversity Nudges work
If a recruiter’s search results skew either too male or female, the nudge feature will recommend ways to broaden the pool of results. LinkedIn says that if less than 45% of the talent pool is male or female, hiring managers will see a banner in their search urging them to change the criteria. The nudges also recommend certain locations, skills and companies that will most impact the hiring search. For example, adding candidates from a particular location or with a particular skill might increase the percentage of female candidates.
“It’s not an extra step that we’re asking recruiters to take,” said Jennifer Shappley, VP of global talent acquisition at LinkedIn. “It’s built into the day-to-day activities of a recruiter.”
Diversity Nudges will direct recruiters on ways to appropriately widen their talent pool.Image: LinkedIn
The goal is to help hiring managers expand their preconceived ideas of what makes a candidate qualified. Shappley noted that women tend to emphasize soft skills and men tend to emphasize technical skills. A nudge might tell recruiters that including soft skills in their search criteria will amass more female candidates. Ideally, that knowledge will stick with them.
Mandy Price, co-founder and CEO of Kanarys, a diversity, equity and inclusion technology company, told Protocol that “while many organizations claim there’s a pipeline problem when they can’t find diverse talent, we know that’s not the case because talent resides everywhere.”
How does LinkedIn know my gender?
LinkedIn infers gender through the information you provide in your profile and pronouns that others use when they endorse you. According to its website, LinkedIn does not infer gender through profile photos. Some people tell LinkedIn their gender in an “anonymous manner,” Shappley said, as the information is not public-facing. LinkedIn can also infer gender via LinkedIn identity-based groups listed in profiles. Anyone using LinkedIn can read how the company uses their demographic information, update their own and remove that information later if they so choose.
Diversity Nudges are limited to gender right now, as the company doesn’t have enough data yet to identify race, age, sexuality or whether someone is nonbinary. “Once we have sufficient self-ID data to have accurate sample sizes, we’ll also be able to expand our insights to race, age and more,” a LinkedIn spokesperson told Protocol.
Challenging recruiter bias
The idea is that Diversity Nudges would make it that much harder for leaders to lean on the “they’re hard to find” defense, and is one more way to hold companies accountable to their DEI promises. Many big tech companies invest in elaborate tech that uses machine learning to root out recruiting bias. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try the simpler solutions too.
Recruiters might not be aware that their approach to the day-to-day candidate search is actively impeding their diversity goals. “It is really hard to get people out of the routine that they have become used to,” Shappley said. “Being able to connect folks to that outcome they say they want with their daily behavior is really important.”
Two recruiters who spoke to Protocol were interested in the idea of the Diversity Nudges, but pointed to another feature of LinkedIn Recruiter as potentially even more useful. Both Kindall Carlson, senior technical recruiter at DailyPay, and Dan Logan, senior director of global recruiting at Beamery, said the tool that allows recruiters to hide photos and names in their search could do even more to eliminate unconscious bias.
Price from Kanarys called the Diversity Nudge “a great first step.” But if companies really want to fix their diversity problems, they must look within. “They need to examine their entire policies, practices and procedures to eliminate bias — not just change how they search for talent on job boards and other online platforms.” Price said this includes “standardizing interview questions, creating diverse interview panels, reworking job listings to include inclusive language, shifting to skills-based hiring and more.”