Setting Goals

5 minutes, 5 links


Updated August 24, 2022
Technical Recruiting and Hiring

You’re reading an excerpt of The Holloway Guide to Technical Recruiting and Hiring, a book by Osman (Ozzie) Osman and over 45 other contributors. It is the most authoritative resource on growing software engineering teams effectively, written by and for hiring managers, recruiters, interviewers, and candidates. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, over 800 links and references, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

When Google released its diversity data in 2014, it led to a flurry of more big tech companies releasing theirs and promising to do better with bold targets—like reaching certain demographic percentages. Companies largely missed these goals,** because it is incredibly difficult to change the demographics of organizations that are already in the many thousands.* While the data helped to raise awareness, releasing it wasn’t a solution.* Companies that initially championed diversity reports have since delayed releasing these reports on schedule, or stopped altogether.**

caution Looking only at how many URGs are hired can lead to misaligned incentives, where recruiters and teams think they need to beef up their numbers just to look good. Facebook, for example, instituted a policy by which recruiters were given “diversity points” when they brought in “someone who was a woman, or who was not white or Asian.”* This initiative failed, in large part because those charged with making hiring decisions felt that the company had done enough by offloading responsibilities to recruiters and asking them to broaden the pipeline. Even if Facebook had hired a significant number of underrepresented engineers, having “good” diversity numbers does not mean those numbers will last, particularly if there are no efforts at improving inclusion at the company.

story “In the vast majority of cases, it is incredibly obvious to candidates when a recruiter or hiring manager is targeting them for whatever group they think they’re part of. When you get some random person reaching out with a position that seems like a poor fit, it’s a waste of time, and being known for doing that sort of thing is going to hurt the reputation of that company even further.” —Ryn Daniels, Senior Software Engineer, HashiCorp

There is certainly disagreement among experts on whether specific number-driven goals* are the right approach to D&I. But it’s also true that for a business initiative to be taken seriously, goals of some kind need to be set. What gets measured gets managed.

Companies may make ambitious, realistic goals more achievable by moving away from a single focus on demographic stats, and instead doing more to improve the overall hiring process. Set process goals, not outcome goals, and focus on what you can control.

Investment in an inclusive hiring process rather than a dedication to meeting specific demographic goals will better serve your team and future employees, for a number of reasons. First, hiring a diverse workforce is not the whole deal—an inclusive work environment must be fostered to help those individuals thrive. Second, if you are leading a reasonably sized team—say, an organization of 50+ engineers—significant demographic shifts may take something on the order of years rather months, and a focus on day-to-day processes will help ensure that your team doesn’t get burnt out trying to reach only far-off goals. Finally, building a great candidate experience that’s sensitive to the needs of underrepresented groups will be the biggest signal of a valuable employee experience, and will make the team that much more attractive across the board.

Making adjustments to your hiring process with a D&I lens will not only mitigate biases and allow underrepresented candidates to shine, but will make the hiring process better for all. So look at the process recommendations we include here and set goals to improve where you can. Don’t let big goals distract you from the human beings in front of you today.

Remember the Big Picture

While focusing on number-driven goals may not be the best approach, it is important to remember why you’re making these changes, and to make sure your team does too. Because implementing inclusive hiring practices is similar to implementing complex software systems—you can ensure that every software component is functioning as intended and still end up with a nonfunctional system. In our engineering world, this is a use case for integration tests.

When implementing changes to your recruiting and hiring process, it’s easy to get too focused on the functioning of each step and lose sight of the larger intent of your changes. If making a particular change to your process ends up taking you further from your goals, lean toward system function over component function. At the end of the day, success is measured in how people feel about coming in again tomorrow.

Write Better Job Descriptions

At many companies, writing the job description is a perfunctory task, something to just get through so we can hire someone right now. But taking a thoughtful approach and investing in a good process for writing job descriptions with a D&I lens can have a significant positive effect on the rest of your hiring process. How you advertise your jobs has a proven impact on who applies.

The patterns that show up across your company’s jobs show what you truly value.Kieran Snyder, co-founder and CEO, Textio*

Improving the Job Description Format

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