DEI Recruiting Strategy: Define success criteria with competencies and capabilities

Defining success criteria is key to successful hiring - period.

Start every search with a competency-centric success profile

Jeff Diana, Chief People Officer of Calendly and former recruiting leader at Atlassian, says, “One of the fundamental truths about human psychology is that we’re drawn to people who look like us. We also know that organizations today, especially in leadership, are not diverse. So it’s a fact that, despite our best efforts, there’s already all kinds of bias in our organizations.”

So how do we train ourselves to counter our natural biases?

“Defining success criteria is key to successful hiring - period,” Diana says. “Getting scientific on the capabilities that make people successful at our organization helps us avoid screening people out on superficial attributes.”

He's not alone in emphasizing competency-centered success criteria.

Amy Zuckerman, Recruiting Manager at Cash App, is also a big believer in competency-driven hiring. “To solve the diversity problem, we need to stop hiring based on ‘have you worked in this industry or not’ and ‘do you check all these boxes of acceptable prior employers’. The recruiting industry needs to nail how to hire based on competencies, skills, and potential. This is the billion dollar question that we're all trying to solve for."

Success profiles will be more successful in fairly screening candidates from underrepresented backgrounds when we understand which competencies are teachable vs. intrinsic.

Michael Kieran, Head of Talent of Tray.io, agrees that prioritizing teachable competencies will almost always disadvantage the diverse hire. "We should hire more people on the potential to succeed, not what they already know. The more privileged candidate will have had more previous opportunities to learn."

Actionable Recommendations

Here are some strategies that Searchlight helps our customers adopt in order to make competency-driven success profiles a natural part of their recruiting process going forward:

  • Create a taxonomy around competencies per job family and level. This provides a foundation for sourcing and screening candidates successfully.
  • Make intake meetings a core part of your recruiting process. Empower recruiters to be strategic partners in defining success criteria for the role and helping hiring manager recognize where subconscious biases exist.
  • Consider adopting software to model your top performers so you can provide data on why certain attributes and competencies matter more than familiar credentials. Even better would be to continually measure quality-of-hire so you know what attributes map to top performers at your organization.

This is Step 2 of Searchlight's Playbook for DEI-driven Recruiting.  

  1. Be Data-Driven and Set Targets
  2. Define success criteria based on competencies and capabilities
  3. Evaluate your candidates fairly and consistently
  4. Active source from diverse communities, don’t rely on inbound
  5. Treat Quality of Hire as the North Star to continually improve your recruiting process


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