REAL TALK: DIVERSITY IN TECH

Real Talk: Diversity in Tech ​Highlights the Need To Go Beyond Diversity and Inclusion Programs in Tech Last week, on August 2nd, over 100 tech leaders, innovators, talent acquisition experts, and more joined us in New York for our third Real Talk: Diversity in Tech.

Our partners The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Indeed, and Convene sponsored the event along with us to reveal the real experiences of underrepresented minorities as they’ve built their careers in technology.

Karat created the Real Talk event series early in 2018 because we want to share the experiences of underrepresented minorities in tech with honesty and transparency. As the world’s leader in first-round technical interviews, we know that bias in the hiring process is very real. To eliminate this bias we conduct rigorous, human, and fair technical interviews that are consistent and standardized. Not only is bias painful and unfair, but it prevents companies from accurately assessing talented candidates.

Strong candidates are often ignored or treated poorly due to race, gender, the university they went to (or didn’t go to), and other variables that have absolutely no bearing on their talent and future job performance. To fix this, companies sometimes look to diversity and inclusion programs and a financial outcome to justify them. However, the truth is that the value in assessing all candidates fairly and equally goes far beyond financial benefit. Real Talk shared many of the reasons why it is simply the right thing to do.

“Rejected for culture fit”

To start off the evening, our panelists discussed experiences that stood out to them in their careers — good or bad. Our first panelist, a Stanford-educated software engineer, recalled a time she was interviewed for a job and knew “within 30 seconds” that she wasn’t going to get it. She quickly, and correctly, answered each question the interviewer threw at her. Each question he asked was more difficult than the first. It was clear to her that no matter how often she was correct, and how well she answered the questions, the interviewer simply wasn’t going to recommend her to move forward in the process.

Many heads in the room nodded.

She continued to discuss the true meaning of the word “culture fit.” She admitted that this phrase doesn’t exactly make her comfortable because there’s a hidden assumption behind it: that because she’s a black woman, she can’t possibly have had the same experiences, and therefore be part of the same culture, as her colleagues. Due to her job and her education, she has lived “the past 4 years exactly the same as many of the other engineers.” Yet, sharing this culture isn’t enough for some companies.

Knowledge of the Tech Industry is a Huge Advantage

Our second panelist, a talent programs manager from a high-growth Silicon Valley company made the point that growing up in a city without dominant tech companies can often mean that a child simply doesn’t know that it exists and therefore well-paid jobs as software engineers or in other tech roles are even available.

He said, “growing up in the Bay Area, kids dream of being tech company CEOs.” Perhaps in Mobile, Alabama or Dallas, Texas this kind of career path simply isn’t even discussed because kids and parents alike aren’t aware of it.

This might lead a person into a non-traditional career path that may not include going to a top-tier school or even getting a degree in Computer Science. Perhaps they would get their education at a coding school or even be self-taught. Many companies would reject candidates straight away for this simply based on a resume screen, but at this panelist’s company, they relish it and have a more diverse workforce as a result. This non-traditional career path can show that a candidate has fortitude and, above all else, the ability to learn.

At Karat we have learned that companies often only examine 10% of the candidates in their ATS. This leaves 90% that are never given a shot. Making the interview process consistent and efficient means that companies can assess more candidates in the same amount of time — giving more a shot at a great job.

The Value of a Standardized Technical Interview Process

When the discussion turned to advice for folks starting their careers in tech, one message rang loud and clear from our software engineers on the panel: “Work for a big company because they have a standardized interview process.” In their experience, it has been much easier to get through the process at Google or Facebook, than it would be at a high growth start up.

The panelists also echoed the need to “get rid of resumes.” Again, many heads in the room nodded in agreement. The issue with resumes is that they “don’t show coding ability or passion.” That’s really what matters.

Summary

Companies that may be leaning on diversity and inclusion initiatives to acquire tech talent aren’t addressing the entire issue. They must address culture, eliminate bias in the interview process, and ensure that they know exactly what technical skills they are hiring for. In the end, companies and candidates will benefit from this kind of equity and fairness.

*Photo credits to https://www.delayedreaction.co/