What does it take to build a diverse and inclusive team? To find out, we spoke with Jana Rich, Founder and CEO of Rich Talent Group, and Candice Morgan, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Partner at Google Ventures, and previously Pinterest's first Head of Inclusion & Diversity.

Q. When you’re preparing to make your organization more diverse and inclusive, what are some key questions to ask yourself?

Candice Morgan: One of the most common questions I hear from companies is when to hire a head of diversity. This is a hard question to answer because in doing so, you have to really dig into whether your leadership team is actually ready to tackle this mission, and put the necessary resources behind it. More importantly, are they ready to drive the accountability necessary to sustain this diversity mission? Sometimes there are one or two individuals — often the CHRO or the Head of People — but that’s not enough to put a Chief Diversity Officer in place or start an executive diversity council. You need your CEO to kick this all off. You need your executives who are running your largest P&L functions to hold their teams accountable. Without these pillars, it's hard to make traction on any DEI initiatives.

Q. When companies commit to hiring diverse talent, we often hear about “pipeline problems.” How do you combat this complaint?

CM: These complaints can make you grit your teeth. But to combat pipeline skepticism, you need to break down what people are really asking. When people say they just can’t find the “pipeline” for diverse talent, they’re usually operating on unspoken criteria that were not on the job description, but are ways in which the hiring manager is judging how “good” a candidate is. For example, a recent report by Richard Kirby shows that 40% of venture capitalists come from two business schools, and for underrepresented venture capitalists, that figure is 50% from those same two schools. So why do VCs all share these alma maters? Has this become unwritten criteria to trust a candidate? Answering those questions needs to be part of the honest conversation when you're talking about your pipeline. And if you accept that yes, this is a bias, then you need to redefine what a “qualified” candidate looks like.

One of the most creative and effective ways I’ve seen organizations internally address these questions is by creating apprenticeship programs, which focus on getting people who didn't go to one or two top computer science programs into technical roles. These programs allow hiring managers to actually see diverse individuals’ coding skills, working styles, thought processes, and problem solving skills in real time. After their apprenticeship, top candidates should be considered for permanent positions.

Q. Then there’s the actual interview. How can we best structure our interview processes to promote inclusivity?

Jana Rich: First, you need to decide who the decision makers are. Who has the right to veto a hire, and who must say yes in order for the hire to be made. Who is involved in an interview process to expand the candidate’s exposure. Next, you need to align on the key criteria among the decision makers. Everyone may not all agree with every piece of criteria, but everyone needs to understand what has been agreed upon. Within this criteria, there also needs to be a differentiation between must haves and nice to haves.

You also have to think about who your interview team is as it relates to women, people of color, LGBTQ folks. It shouldn’t be an all straight white male interview panel, but you also cannot tokenize the one Black employee at your organization. Ideally, you will have already recruited a somewhat diverse team, and you’re picking interviewers based on their skills, jobs, and aptitudes. Then you need to clarify what each interviewer's role is. Match each interviewer with different job criteria so they know where to go deep, instead of all asking the same questions. Lastly, be wary of having a “culture carrier” interviewer who is interviewing candidates more for “culture fit.” This idea of culture fit is very risky. Often we’ll end up hiring people who are just like the people we already work with, and that’s not what creates a diverse and inclusive culture. We are looking for values alignment. Do we believe in the same mission? Are we inspired by the same things?

Read Next: Why Turnover is so High for DEI Leaders, and What to Do About It

Originally Published: October 2, 2020