Fakequity in Hiring Processes

Photo by Linda Eller-Shein on Pexels.com

I’ve been consumed with a few different hiring processes over the past few months. They have been a pain in the ass and fascinating at the same time. A pain since they require care and attention. If you try to shortcut any part of the process and you can see the repercussions fairly quickly. Fascinating for the same reason, very rarely do we run processes where the timelines are short enough to see outcomes so quickly.

What I’ve Learned

When it comes to hiring getting the process right is crucial to getting the outcomes you desire, assuming you’re using the standard US based hiring processes (e.g., put together a job description, launch it into cyberspaces for hopefully viral or just short of viral sharing, applications get emailed in, etc.). The process is fairly rote and as far as I can tell has not been adjusted much for decades, except with the internet now we don’t use newspaper classifieds anymore.

In the non-profit and government sectors it is also connected to personal networks in the sense we often rely upon people we know to help share the job postings and refer candidates or encourage people to apply.

Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are a staple of a hiring process. The description is a chance for the organization to get clear about what they are looking for, what the job details, the process for applying, etc. Like a dating profile it says “this is who I’m looking for,” and sometimes a little about who the organization is.

When focused on equity and inclusion, this document says a lot about the organization. Our friend Vu who blogs at NonprofitAF, has been on a campaign to have all job descriptions disclose a salary range. Salary ranges are important for transparency and benefit people of color when they negotiate a salary. There is very little defendable reasoning for not listing a salary range.

Carrie, a frequent guest blogger on Fakequity, has schooled me on the ways ableism shows up in job descriptions. Samples of ableist phrases that show up in job descriptions include:

  • must be able to lift XX pounds
  • must be able to sit and stand for long periods of time
  • valid drivers license required
  • view a computer for long periods of time
  • ability to type on a keyboard for long periods of time, and so on
  • must be able to speak and read English (I’ll give a hint, ASL is not English and people with learning disabilities can still participate in the workforce even if they can’t ‘read’)
  • dogs/cats are in the office (for organizations that are not animal serving)

For many of these requirements, there are reasonable accommodations. Such as while it is nice to be able to lift and move things around the office, is that really a core function of the person’s job? When I mentioned this to someone they pushed back and said “well the person needs to carry the lunches to the board meeting,” I rolled my eyes. Can’t the caterer move the lunches? Are you hiring someone to move lunches or are you hiring an administrative assistant to organize a board meeting? Providing lunches is part of the job, but there are many ways to accomplish that part of the job.

Requiring a drivers license is another ableist and classist requirement. Many people can’t drive, but that doesn’t preclude them from navigating physical environments. There are also people who can’t afford the cost of a driver’s license. Unless the job they are being hired for is a driver, such as a bus or van driver, the job can probably be accomplished without them needing to drive as a core function.

If you aren’t listing salary ranges and/or are including physical and other requirements that are unnecessary start eliminating those requirements. This is low hanging fruits for ways to be more inclusive. As a human resources person once told me, your job description should be as bias free as possible. That isn’t the time to impress your organizational culture on the person, you want people to apply not rule themselves out.  

Hiring Processes

I’ve participated in several public (government) hiring process recently. These processes was steeped in protocol. I appreciated some of the guardrails on the process, since this was for a position where everyone wanted a piece of the decision making and it could have stretched on forever. That said the process was not set up for families of color to have a strong say in the selection, and it felt like we were making artificial choices out of scarcity (if we only have one seat to fill who gets it, vs. let’s build a process around what is best for families of color representation). While pocs were appointed to the hiring team, the power and control of the process rested with the formal organization.

To the organizers credit they did push the boundaries of the process to allow for more input where possible. A listening session was cobbled together by community members and the official hiring team was invited and they all joined. The listening session was quite wonderful, although not super well attended because we didn’t have a lot of time to do a lot of outreach to get people on the Zoom line. We had a companion written survey with the same questions we asked during the Zoom call. It was heartening to see people used the translated surveys and replied in their home languages which proved they were paying attention, wanted a say, and the process itself didn’t allow for greater engagement.

Hiring processes, especially ones where the leadership position interfaces with the public, need to be structured in ways that allow for community input. Timelines should be stretched out so people can participate in various modes of inputs.

The last piece I learned from this process, is the engagement shouldn’t stop when the hiring team makes their selection. Onboarding and continued engagement are important pieces to setting the new person and the community up or success. This part of the process should center communities of color too. Perhaps in another post we can dig into this topic, but for now just remember to pay attention to it.


I’m not going to write a lot about interviews, we’ll save that for another post. I do want to share it is Ramadan right now and many Muslims are fasting (no food or water/liquids) from sunup until sundown. My colleague reminded me for people who are fasting it can be very challenging to interview. Perhaps a reasonable accommodation would be to offer an interview after they have broken their fast for the day, at the very least keep this in mind as you interview people.

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