An expanded candidate pool will accelerate your ability to problem solve and meet future challenges.
For Bitwise Industries, creating opportunities for underserved communities is at the foundation of its origins in July of 2013.
The Fresno, California-based company pursues a three-fold mission: workforce training, technology consulting and software development, and a real estate portfolio with the goal of revitalizing the community where employees live. It’s a potent business model, rooted in the belief that investing in people always pays off.
The mission is one that resonates for employees, with 99% saying the company is a great place to work. The company’s commitment to care has also earned it recognition in several Best Workplaces™ lists, including the Fortune Best Medium Workplaces™ in 2022 and PEOPLE Companies That Care®.
After helping thousands of students of all ages build careers in tech, Bitwise Industries has learned a thing or two about the barriers that keep promising, yet overlooked, talent out of the workplace. It’s only by uplifting these underrepresented demographics that organizations will be able to solve the complex challenges facing American cities of all sizes.
“People who are left on the outside — or haven't been given the same opportunities — are the ones who are living with real-world problems,” says Channelle Charest, chief operation officer for Bitwise Industries. “They usually have the best ideas for a solution or can speak to the real challenges, the real gaps.”
Charest, along with co-CEO and co-founder Irma Olguin Jr., will share lessons from Bitwise Industries’ effort around diverse hiring during the Great Place To Work® For All Summit™, Oct. 11-13 in Orlando, Florida.
Barriers to entry
Before these overlooked candidates can start solving problems for your organization, they have to get in the door. That’s why Bitwise Industries has placed such emphasis on its training programs, helping people learn how to get into the selective tech world and start having an impact.
Why is a training program needed to get smart, enterprising people into the industry? Won’t the cream always rise to the top?
In Charest’s experience, there are too many obstacles in traditional hiring processes that encourage applicants to remove themselves from consideration.
“It starts with the entry process,” she says. Here are some of the things that could be a barrier:
- Only one person in the organization does all the hiring.
- Only the executive team decides who gets to join the organization.
- The job description is overly long or complicated.
- A full background check is required for every role.
- A college degree is required for all applicants.
And then there’s the emotional experience of job searchers in today’s landscape.
“The economy is terrifying for the average person — for the average family,” says Charest.
Hiring managers should think about the hiring experience for candidates. Job seekers might not show their authentic self because they’re trying to fit a mold, which can have disastrous consequences.
“You can end up with someone who really shouldn’t have that job or is really unhappy with the work because they felt they had to represent themselves in a certain way to meet your criteria,” Charest says.
To make sure the most diverse candidates are walking through your doors, Charest has a couple of suggestions:
1. In job descriptions, focus on the big picture — not role requirements.
Rather than focus on all the position details that could make a candidate self-select as not a fit for the position, Charest recommends focusing on your overall mission.
“What is it that you’re building from a global perspective that you want people to engage in?” she says. By trying to connect with a candidate’s passion, you are more likely to get a genuine response to your job posting.
2. Don’t require a degree if it isn’t necessary.
That doesn’t mean you have to entertain unqualified individuals for roles.
“Obviously if you’re in the second interview to be a general counsel on our legal team, we’re going to make sure you can practice law in California,” Charest says.
Yet, there are many times a degree is listed as a job requirement when it isn’t necessary.
“The openness to multiple levels of different experience can actually provide you with a much more creative, responsive team,” Charest says.
3. Reevaluate the proficiencies of your hiring team.
Is your recruitment team prepared to evaluate a candidate beyond the credentials on a piece of paper?
The team at Bitwise Industries developed what it calls “a gut check.” The process is a 15- to 30-minute, one-on-one conversation with a potential candidate to evaluate their potential to be successful within the organization.
The team that conducts the gut check is trained to understand how people will fit into Bitwise Industries’ culture and fit the needs of the open roles. Without even looking at a résumé, the team can assess a candidate quickly and overlook some of the barriers that traditionally keep people out of the candidate pool.
“It’s about giving yourself the opportunity to open the funnel as big as you can and narrow it down fast,” Charest says.
Learn more from Channelle Charest and Bitwise Industries, as well as other exemplary people-first leaders, at the Great Place To Work For All Summit, Oct. 11-13 in Orlando.
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