Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Series: The hiring system and its hidden obstacle course

by Susan Mullin

Part 1 of our interview with Jennifer Tardy, Career Success Coach and Certified Diversity Executive and Practitioner

In part 1 of our series on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, TorchLight’s Stephanie Ranno recently sat down with Jennifer Tardy. Jennifer is a Career Coach and Certified Diversity Executive and Practitioner and discusses obstacles in the hiring system. She explores the future of DEI and explains how to navigate the industry as both a job seeker and employer.

Jennifer Tardy posing in yellow drress with hand on chest

Thanks so much for agreeing to be part of our learnings and conversation regarding diversity, equity and inclusion in hiring.

Jennifer: I’m beyond excited to bring your knowledge and experience to both our client and candidate audiences.

Just to give everyone a bit of background, you spent the first part of your 14-year career in recruiting. Specifically–corporate recruiting–working in a variety of industries. And then in 2018, you made the move to entrepreneurship. You wanted to help both job seekers and companies through the hiring process.

Tell us about the moment you knew that you needed to found your own business.

Jennifer: Thank you for having me, Stephanie. The last confirmation that I needed in order to finally bet on myself (and start this business) was when I watched a White woman with less experience, but more access to exclusive networks of White men in power, get promoted to my level and then above me within the matter of two years. No positions were ever posted; no chance to throw my hat in the ring. Only an email announcing her new opportunity. When I asked why, the answer was because of her relationships with these leaders.

The passion I have for helping others gain access is rooted in all of my experiences in the career environment. Both good and bad.

It is my calling to help others create influence and gain the success they are looking for in every possible career. All the while helping recruiters create the most diverse pool of potential talent possible.

Give us the context of how bias shows up in a company’s hiring system. Even more basic, what exactly is a “hiring system?”

Jennifer: To talk about a hiring system, let me shed light on what a system is. A system includes all the policies, practices and behaviors with which we comply to make something operate. There are many examples of systems, like the healthcare system, education system, criminal justice system and housing system. These happen to be some of the most powerful systems in the world.

So, a hiring system or the employment system is another example of a system. When you hear people speak of something being systemic, they are referring to something being deeply embedded inside of a system.

Ok, so how do many company’s hiring systems create a biased obstacle course for traditionally underrepresented populations?

Jennifer: When bias (unconscious or overt) is deeply embedded into a hiring system (i.e., systemic bias), it can create challenges for even the most qualified candidates to gain access to positions. Here is a great example:

If a hiring manager has only worked around nuclear engineers who identify as White and male and are over 30 years old, they may already have an image in their mind of what a nuclear engineer should “look like.”

Many companies are spending thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to source and attract top talent. Specifically, in diversity recruiting, companies are investing lots of dollars into new partnerships and platforms.

This investment in diversity recruiting seems to be a good thing. Yet, all the investments don’t seem to be making an impact on the numbers of underrepresented populations employed by a company. I’m guessing diversity recruiting is more than just a pipeline problem?

Jennifer: Correct. The challenge is that  many companies are funneling this talent into a hiring process that historically was meant to reserve the most coveted opportunities for White men.

Don’t get me wrong. A lot has improved with the advent of legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which enacted to safeguard protected groups from discrimination. But what was once overt discrimination still has remnants of covert discrimination and what was once intentional bias now shows up as unconscious bias.

And that is what we still have yet to dismantle. This bias creates a leaky talent pipeline, where candidates withdraw from your hiring process, are prematurely/immaturely rejected–or even get hired–and soon after, exit the organization.

There’s no way to increase diversity if candidates (or new hires) are withdrawing, being rejected or exiting your organization as fast as you are sourcing them.

So what you’re saying is, a company has to look at the entire system of hiring, management, promotion, and retention–pretty much the entire culture of the company–to begin to make measurable progress in diversifying their company.

So, how can employers best identify areas within their hiring process that create an obstacle course for candidates?

Read Jennifer’s response to this crucial question in part 2 of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion series next week. Visit jennifertardy.com for career resources.

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