The Hiring and Organizational Diversity Book Everyone Should Read
A Book Review of “Hiring for Diversity” by Arthur H. Woods and Susanna Tharakan
In many organizations, everyone has a role in the hiring process. The hiring process grew from a single conversation with a hiring manager to a complex organizational undertaking. Both sides, the organization and the applicant, are investing significant amounts of time, people hours, and effort into the process.
Particularly with the expansion of these people hours, more individuals across organizations engage in the search for new colleagues. This has advantages and disadvantages. Biases can be decreased with more than one person’s opinion leading the effort. Similarly, biases may be entrenched by the involvement of more people and louder voices may drive the group decision making process. Yet, this is just one example of the potential complexities.
For The Write Climate, I wrote about my experience leading the development of an organizational equity search process. Check out Creating a New Road into the Future!
Both job searching and hiring processes are about as much fun as dating. (Read: absolutely miserable for so many reasons). Everyone seems to have an opinion. Many norms have changed so much that what was typical a number of years ago means nothing today. Norms also vary across sectors and industries. Ah much like the good old advice of “why don’t you drop off a resume?”
The book that I wish I would have read before creating the organizational equity search guide is Hiring for Diversity by Arthur H. Woods and Susanna Tharakan.
Everyone across organizations, regardless of role, would benefit from reading this book. Not only does it have an essential, broad diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) lens to the content, it approaches hiring in a way that can engage everyone. With the trends towards expansion of the process and greater involvement, everyone can benefit from understanding more about hiring for diversity.
Nearly as soon as I opened the book, I knew this book would be different. The note on accessibility and available resources clued me in to the difference in process for these authors. This is a key indicator that these authors are walking the walk with this book (and, I am guessing, were able to convince the publisher to go along with their plan for making the content inclusive).
The preface of the book makes an incredible, and so often overlooked point: diversity and inclusion efforts most frequently are offloaded to marginalized individuals and groups within organizations. These people are overburdened with the tasks as they are considered that they “can (and should) carry the water because of how they identify, even though there is often less structural power among these identities… to throw behind efforts.” In this preface, Jennifer Brown of Jennifer Brown Consulting brings readers into the space. This welcoming introduction invites the reader in, having them join from wherever they are in the process, in their learning, and invites them to value the discomfort of leadership and impactful work.
The first chapter begins with an exploration of motivations and organizational dynamics. It has the same feel of the “something happens” approach that often leads to one-and-done implicit bias training. Importantly, this book establishes the engagement responsibilities in the DEI space for everyone in the organization. Everyone has a responsibility and an influence. Importantly, diversity is not a checkbox or a list of numbers of individuals in a certain group, particularly visible diversity. The authors focus on starting with inclusion.
The book highlights specific strategies that organizations can develop and apply. Other than being well written, it is accessible to readers across different professional sectors and organizational roles.
This book covers the entire process in enough detail to be useful but without getting lost in the minutiae. It sets a strong foundation for DEI efforts and hiring for diversity with a focus on the inclusive brand, then leads into the process of hiring. This stepwise approach walks readers through from biases, to job descriptions, interviews, sourcing, and job offers. As a bonus, the book is well organized by chapter topic and quick as a reference guide.
One of the key highlights is the focus on specific groups. While the book cannot (and no resource can) include every single intersectional identity relevant to the hiring process and the workplace, the book makes specific, pointed efforts to focus on several key groups. In this analysis, the authors provide specific, concrete examples of how to support 12 different groups of underrepresented and marginalized job seekers. The questions for reflection for the reader are a valuable addition to orient the reader to awareness, advocacy, and support. Outline specific potential challenges, terms to use and avoid, strategies for empowerment, and methods for support are essential.
Most importantly, this book provides a roadmap for change, but shows how to adapt. There is no “one size fits all” in the hiring process. Had I read this book before creating the equity search guide, my plan would have been quite a bit different. Most likely, it would have been “let’s read this book” plus developing a one-pager on how to implement it.
From my experience, this is not only the key starting point, but - at minimum - the one book to read to start engaging more productively in hiring for diversity, regardless of your role within your organization. Check out Hiring for Diversity by Arthur H. Woods and Susanna Tharakan at your favorite bookseller.
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