This depressing article from the NYTimes by a researcher who has been documenting how selection criteria in corporate America suppress diversity. He finds that the practices of selecting applicants for "cultural fit" (a trend which accelerated in the 1980s) has morphed from focusing on traits that are relevant to corporate culture, to a new form of the "old-boys club" in which managers pick candidates who share their background, interests and hobbies. People they feel comfortable hanging out with. People, in other words, who resemble the existing power structure--largely white, male and affluent. This adds a disturbing new dimension to the already troubling literature documenting unconscious bias in hiring, because sanctioning "cultural fit" in hiring, without drawing careful boundaries around the practice, can institutionalize bias without overtly violating employment laws.
This NPR story gave me hope, however. It profiles GapJumpers, a company that facilitates blind auditions: offering job applicants a challenge to tackle, via the web, in order to rank and present the most promising candidates on their merits, not their resume (much less whether they like golf, or single malt scotch). It is a digital cousin to the practice orchestras began to adopt in the 1970s to combat gender bias. Turns out that placing auditioning players behind a screen made it 50% more likely that a female musician would be selected. For now, GapJumpers is offering blind auditions for software engineering, design, marketing and communications--what other positions might this approach address? I've blogged about my desire to hire via challenge--one of my challenges being how to create and administer a site that would "blind" me (as the employer) to the identity of applicants. A third party service like GapJumper might be just the ticket. I've contacted the company inviting them to talk to me about their approach, and I'll report back on the conversation.
Meanwhile, spend some time (as I do) reflecting the attitudes you bring to the table when you interview candidates. It's only human to want to hire someone who you like, feel comfortable around and will enjoy being cooped up with in an office for 40+ hours a week. How can you challenge yourself to select qualified candidates who don't share your interests and life experiences, who may not feel socially comfortable with...at least not yet? How can you work with your HR staff to draw appropriate boundaries between selecting someone who is a good fit for your museum's culture, and filtering out people who would challenge you to grow?
|Blind audition at the Colorado Springs Philharmonic|
Monday musings are my way of sharing brief, off-the-cuff thoughts about something I have read recently, both to help clarify my thinking an in the hopes of generating discussion and response. I give myself 15 minutes or so to jot down a summary of the article(s) stuck in my brain, and outline why I think they may be important.