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The coronavirus pandemic is one of those events that change our lives so drastically, in such a short time, that there will always be a vivid line marking “before” from “after.”

Who would have guessed that our children would be out of school for weeks, that movie theaters would be shut, and that toilet paper would surge to the top of everybody’s wishlist? Or, that parents and their children would be competing for bandwidth as entire families worked from home?

It’s hard to predict what things will look like after this virus has run its course and “social distancing” restrictions are lifted. But one thing is for certain: Businesses everywhere will have a new appreciation for remote hiring, remote work, and the technology that makes them possible. To some degree, it will be part of the “new normal.”

While it’s still too early to be talking about “silver linings,” we here at Codility have given a lot of thought to the benefits of remote hiring. And one in particular stands out: Remote hiring leads to more equitable hiring processes, and equitable hiring processes lead to more diverse engineering teams.

Why diversity is important for engineering teams

All of us — yes, even you — are susceptible to unconscious bias. For instance, you might subconsciously assume that a developer is more skilled because they worked for Google, Amazon, etc. But just because a developer worked for one of the top-notch companies doesn’t mean they’re more skilled. Maybe the reason they’re looking for a job is that they couldn’t keep up.

There are scores of factors that affect how we judge candidates: their alma mater, fraternity/sorority affiliations, gender, race, piercings, tattoos, etc. Most of the time, those things have nothing to do with a candidate’s skills. But that knowledge isn’t always enough to cancel out “familiarity bias” — when people gravitate toward people who are most like them. It’s a well known fact, for example, that tech engineers are predominantly white and male. So, despite the best of intentions, they tend to hire engineers who are also white and male. And it happens on a subconscious level, so it’s hard to stop it.

Many companies, however, are actively working to change that. Not only does a commitment to diversity fuel good will among customers, diverse teams deliver better results.

  • Homogenous teams can become complacent: When everybody thinks the same way, there’s no one to play “devil’s advocate” and poke holes in the team’s work. Innovation dries up, and human error creeps in. And because everyone assumes everyone is writing code the same way, those errors often go unnoticed.
  • Just the presence of diversity makes a team more innovative. Diversity knocks teams out of the rut of complacency. Experiments have shown that people work harder and prepare more when they know they’ll have to persuade someone who’s socially or demographically different from them.
  • Members of a diverse team stop assuming that everyone is in agreement. Instead of assuming that everyone agrees on a proposed solution, members of diverse teams actively seek input from all team members. That makes it more likely that mistakes will be discovered before they reach the customer. It also spurs innovation by introducing factors a homogenous team may never have considered.
  • Diversity of background is important, too.  Diverse teams challenge the concept that “code is code.” Engineers who have been creating code for IoT devices will have a different perspective than developers who have been working on apps that integrate with SaaS platforms. Developers who have a data security background can provide valuable input on how to security IoT devices. And people who have been programming handheld devices for retail environments will have their own views.
  • AI and machine learning applications are only as good as their training data. When the teams that create these applications are homogenous — usually white and male — the results make the problem strikingly obvious. If facial recognition software, for example, is seeded with “training data” that includes mostly white, male faces, it will have trouble categorizing faces of women or people with darker skin. One researcher found that AI software at leading tech companies failed to correctly classify pictures of Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and Serena Williams.
  • Unintentional bias can also show up in the language used to screen resumes: Some screening software shows preferences for words that are more often used by men, such as “executed” and “took charge of.” Screening software written by a diverse team would be more likely to come up with gender-neutral job search terms.

We all have implicit biases. And the solution isn’t to overcome our biases, because we don’t even see them. The solution is to create diverse teams that challenge those biases, so that people with a variety of opinions, perspectives, and experiences influence the work being done.

How remote-first hiring can enhance equity and diversity in your hiring processes

Codility’s remote-first hiring platform is designed specifically to help you build teams of engineers that are both diverse and extremely talented. Let’s take a look:

Access a broader pool of candidates with CodeChallenges

All developers love a challenge! Our CodeChallenges allow you to reach developers all over the world. Promote your challenges online through social media and paid ads; then sit back and wait for the best  contenders to rise to the top. If you’re looking for new graduates, you can schedule CodeChallenges to coincide with graduation season. Or you can host them throughout the year, filling your pipeline with qualified candidates even before you have open positions, so you’ll be able to jumpstart the hiring process when the need arises.

CodeChallenges can generate hundreds of candidates, but you don’t have to sift through a mountain of resumes to evaluate them. When you do that, they all start to look the same after a while, which can drive even the best recruiter to make a selection based on gut feeling.

With Codility, there’s no manual evaluation of resumes at this point. We use pre-screening tests to help you identify only the most qualified candidates in a way that’s fair and unbiased. 

Objectively assess candidates’ skills

One way bias sneaks into the hiring process is that some candidates never make it to the interview stage, even though they’re highly qualified. 

CodeCheck eliminates that bias. You can choose from our library of coding tests, selecting assignments to fit the job and skill level you’re looking for. Our tests have been designed to weed out the inherent biases that often present obstacles to diverse candidates, so they present you with an objective assessment of a candidate’s skill level.

Streamline the interview process

Long, convoluted hiring processes — like being called back to interview with yet another executive — are one of the main reasons candidates bail out early. 

With CodeLive, hiring managers or recruiters can interview candidates remotely. Our product is designed to provide seamless interaction, so that you can present new coding challenges and watch how candidates work through them. 

You can also ask candidates to explain their thought processes. This is a big help in building a diverse team, as candidates from different backgrounds may approach the problem in a way that looks wrong at first but is actually just a different way of thinking — one that could enhance your team’s productivity and innovation. In addition, knowing that the candidate performed well on coding tests can help you set aside any irrelevant impressions you may develop.

And since these interviews are recorded, other interested parties can review the recording rather than conducting yet another interview. It’s a great way to scale the hiring process.

Remote-first hiring: The world is your oyster

With remote hiring, you’re not limited to local candidates — or even candidates in your country. You can draw attention from candidates around the world, and then use objective, non-biased coding tests to build your interview lists. You’ll find yourself interviewing candidates you might have weeded out using traditional hiring methods, and your team will be the better for it.

Roy Solomon is Chief Revenue Officer at Codility, and an expert in the future of work. Roy leads Codility’s customer-facing teams and advises TA and Engineering leaders from around the world build their technical hiring and retention plans.

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