Spotting the Brown M&Ms in Your Recruiting Operations 

It’s the stuff of rock-n-roll legend: In their peak touring days, Van Halen’s contract required every concert venue to place bowls of M&Ms in their backstage dressing rooms — with absolutely no brown pieces.

Though the request comes across as needlessly finicky, it served an important purpose: When band or crew members spotted brown M&Ms backstage, it tipped them off that folks at the venue hadn’t paid close attention to the contract — opening up the possibility of more serious omissions around performance and safety.

Similarly, small errors in your recruiting processes can be a tip off to bigger issues, particularly when it comes to diversity and inclusiveness. Here are the three I see most frequently, along with what it tells me about the broader issues that could be holding back your recruiting efforts. 

“20 Years of Experience in Social Media Marketing”

Do your job descriptions contain requirements that aren’t realistic or necessary for success in the role?

When I see such requirements, it tells me companies aren’t regularly reviewing their job descriptions with a critical eye. 

It’s a pervasive problem. According to SmartRecruiters’ State of Diversity Hiring Report 2021, only 31% of companies have benchmarked predictors of success by assessing high-performing employees in the role. Without those objective measures, companies rely on arbitrary factors, like years of experience, to make their hiring decisions. This produces inconsistent results and often unnecessarily excludes qualified talent.

Action item: Meet with your hiring managers and HR business partners to determine what knowledge, skills, and experiences actually correlate with success in a role. Identify the business outcomes they are looking for this new hire to achieve. Then update your position descriptions to match that reality.

The Accommodations Request to Nowhere

What kind of hoops do candidates have to jump through to request accommodations? How quickly will they get a response?

All too often, accommodation requests are routed to an unmonitored shared inbox. By the time someone responds, the position has already been filled. 

When I see this, it tells me that the employer hasn’t really prioritized accessibility — no matter what statements they may have published on the matter. 

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Historically, disability is an overlooked dimension of diversity. Indeed, the same report found that only 18% of companies do a good job of showing inclusion for individuals with disabilities. 

Action item: Perform an accessibility audit of your website. Then devote the budget necessary to build out technology or people processes to accommodate requests for accommodations. 

Rogue Interview Questions 

Fair hiring processes are grounded in consistency. 

If your panelists are frequently going off-script in interviews, that’s a sign of a much larger problem. When hiring managers ask each candidate different questions, it’s nearly impossible to make an objective hiring decision.

However, barely over half of the companies (55%) use standardized questions across the board, all the time. And only 43% have scorecards aligned with the competencies needed for each role to support objective decision-making.

Action item: Develop structured interview practices and scorecards to help hiring managers make informed choices and reduce bias. Ensure that hiring managers and other members of the hiring team are trained and understand their roles and responsibilities in making informed hiring decisions. 

Holland Dombeck McCue plays in the talent attraction and candidate experience space and currently heads up global hiring success for SmartRecruitrers. She is an active member and founding board member of the Talent Brand Alliance.

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