CTO Craft: 5 ways to attract and retain diverse talent in tech roles
We recently hosted an event in collaboration with CTO Craft. Moderated by Zoe Cunningham (Director of Softwire, a leading software development consultancy), Kay Lack (Director of Training at Makers, Europe’s first coding bootcamp) and Sara Tateno (Founder of Happity, the UK’s leading platform for baby & toddler classes.) discussed how to bring more diversity and inclusion into tech hiring and apprenticeships.
What are a couple of first steps you would recommend to a new organisation to build a recruiting process that focuses on diversity from the get-go?
Sara: We’re one of those organisations in that situation — diversity is a specific objective for us. And that needs to build in throughout the entire process. So at the very beginning of writing a job specification and the requirements for that role, we’ve been thinking about how we go about communicating that message, what sorts of profiles are we projecting, showing that it’s a welcoming, diverse organisation, and that’s what we’re looking for.
And when we’re going out to the different recruitment channels, what are the various places we’re advertising with? Because our pool is only going to be as diverse as the places that we reach out to and where we’re advertising.
Kay: A lot of it is removing the stuff you might put in the JD that will put people off, and increase the people and places you’re reaching out to, making sure that you’re reaching a diverse audience. The other thing that I would add is, particularly for a small organisation, you should already be talking to all sorts of people as part of building your organisation — even before you need to recruit.
Make sure that you are having conversations with the people you might want to hire. And when you’re having those conversations, keep an eye on how diverse the group of people you are speaking to is and how those conversations are going. So that you’re building a diverse network of people that you can then use later from which you can recruit. Having your communication sorted and removing the barriers is an important part.
Other tips on candidate attraction:
- Diversify where and how you advertise jobs: explore partnerships with coding groups like Codebar, Code First: Girls, Black Techies, and Makers, to increase the reach of your job adverts among specific minority groups. You can also provide your office space for free to coding groups and host meet-ups for them to grow positive brand awareness that way.
- Create visible role models: send your team’s software engineers from minority groups to conferences, events, and job fairs, to speak publicly about how great it is working for your organisation.
Do you think some job adverts attract a particular type of candidate?
Sara: For me, flexibility is essential in a role. One of the things that we always do is consider different operations of working. We don’t necessarily have to make this role a full-time role. We can consider a job share or part-time work, or all of those things. I know that can be a huge barrier for people at a certain point in their career, and that has opened up the doors to a significant number of people who have got that experience under their belt. So that is another lens that we look at within our job spec.
Other tips on interviews:
- Be explicit on job ads about the scope for flexibility: For example flexible working or the potential for job-share. If it’s not stated, people with other commitments (such as parents or carers) might be inclined to assume that there is no flexibility and won’t apply.
- Put your job ads through a decoder. This can help identify problematic words and phrases, remove lists of ‘essential criteria’ which tend to put women off applying if they feel they don’t meet 100% of the points and remove the need for a CS degree (which limits you to a white male demographic) — or a degree at all! Really interrogate whether every point on the job description is essential, and if you’re questioning it, remove it.
What can we do on a day-to-day basis to promote diversity from where we are now?
Sara: We can make sure that we’re diversifying the entry points themselves. That it’s not just that we are relying on this sort of singular pipeline for talent in the first place. But that is a big issue for the industry. I have a 10-year-old daughter, and there is a bias towards tech being more male-dominated that happens very early. Kids need to be able to see role models from a very early stage.
Kay: The challenge for employers is it takes some energy and work to bring people into the industry. You have to give someone that first job, and somebody has to do that. And why not your organisation? Giving people their first job in the industry is the main thing you can do to improve the diversity of the industry.
Only employers can bring people in by giving them that first job. Apprenticeships are a fantastic way of bringing people in and giving them some job-focused training.
It’s not a difficult problem to solve because the people are out there and want to work in the industry, waiting for your jobs to arrive. So if you’re not doing it already, then it’s a great time to start, and the funding is out there.
Other tips on promoting diversity:
- Don’t limit your organisation to people experienced in specific technologies, even senior engineers. A good software engineer has the right behaviours, approach to building software, and ability to learn new technologies. By limiting applications to those with a minimum amount of experience in particular technologies, you’re often limiting yourself to a very male-biased talent pool.
- Standardise your interview process to reduce the room for decisions based on bias and ‘gut feel’.
If tech companies want to hire an apprentice, can you claim funding?
Kay: For larger employers, they pay an Apprenticeship Levy already. At Makers, we help connect those large employers to people ready to start work. If you are to open up an opportunity for a junior developer role or any really junior tech role, either on the open market or through an Apprenticeship, you can work with a training provider like Makers. You will find so many great people applying to it. There’s no doubt.
Other tips on using your Apprenticeship Levy:
- Check out 9 Reasons for hiring a Makers Apprentice here
- Read more about hiring Makers apprentices here