Facebook’s hiring process hinders workforce diversity
Facebook has placed itself at the forefront of efforts to recruit a more diverse workforce, including a targeted internal recruiting strategy in 2015 designed to recruit female, black, and Latino software engineers.
Yet within Facebook’s engineering department, the push has been hampered by a multi-tiered hiring process that gives a small committee of high-ranking engineers veto power over promising candidates, frustrating recruiters. and hindering progress towards diversity goals.
Facebook began urging recruiters in 2015 to find engineering candidates who weren’t already well represented at the company — women, black and Latino workers. But in the final stage of engineering hires, decision makers were averse to taking risks, often turning down minority candidates.
The engineering leaders who made the ultimate choices, almost all white or Asian men, often rated candidates on traditional measures like where they had gone to college, whether they had worked at a high-tech or whether current Facebook employees could vouch for them, according to the former recruiters, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about their work.
Focusing on where someone went to school or who they know at work can often exclude applicants from underrepresented backgrounds, said Joelle Emerson, a diversity consultant who helps technology companies to make their recruitment more inclusive. “Having people do hours of interviews and then walk into a room and then talk about where people went to school seems like the most confusing waste of time,” she said. declared. The last step should focus on how the candidates behaved during the interview process, she said.
“Facebook recruits from hundreds of schools and employers around the world, and most people hired at Facebook are not recommended by anyone in the company,” a company spokeswoman wrote. in a press release. “Once people start interviewing at Facebook, we look to make sure our recruiting teams are diverse. Our interviewers and those who make hiring decisions take our bias management course and we remain very focused on improving our ability to hire people from different backgrounds and perspectives.”
Despite the efforts of recruiters, Facebook’s demographics in tech roles — which includes engineers and some other job categories — have barely changed, according to its annual diversity reports. From 2015 to 2016, Facebook’s share of women in tech rose from 16% to 17%, and its share of black and Latino American tech workers remained steady at 1 and 3%, respectively.
At most Silicon Valley companies, women, Latino and black employees make up a small percentage of the workforce. Many companies have pledged to work harder to change that. Facebook has presented itself as a leader in this effort, with executives giving public speeches about the benefits and best practices.
In 2015, Facebook released videos of its internal diversity training and said it hoped other companies would use it as an example. COO Sheryl Sandberg has been a strong advocate for promoting and encouraging women in the workplace.
Urging recruiters to prioritize diversity without applying the same pressure to those who make final hiring decisions is common in Silicon Valley, said Emerson, the diversity consultant. Tech companies focus on recruiters, not hiring managers “because it’s a lot easier to think about getting people into the funnel,” she said. “It’s harder to think about changing a broader process that a company has been using for maybe ten years.”
She said successful companies like Facebook are particularly reluctant to change a system they say has worked well.
In 2014, Facebook first released its demographics, and the following year it hadn’t shown much progress in increasing the number of women, black or Latino workers. The following year, the company decided to do something more. Publicly, executives have talked about expanding programs that have appealed to students from a wide variety of backgrounds to intern at Facebook.
Behind the scenes, the company dangles a carrot for recruiters: double the points. Recruiters usually got one point for each of their candidates who accepted a job at Facebook. With the new incentive, they would receive two points if that person was a “diversity hire” – someone who was female, or not white or Asian, according to two former recruiters. A points system is rare among Silicon Valley companies, Emerson said. The Wall Street Journal first reported on Facebook’s points system in August.
Points are a major metric for Facebook recruiters, and the double point system has energized them. Those who don’t earn the expected number of points are placed on a performance enhancement program, two recruiters said. Recruiting teams were meeting in a room for several hours a week to focus solely on finding a diverse set of candidates, one recruiter said. They widened their search to include engineering colleges in Africa and assigned applicants “buddies” of Facebook employees of similar demographics for their on-site interviews to make them feel welcome.
But after about six months, their enthusiasm turned to frustration. Recruiters saw that many of their diversity candidates ultimately did not receive offers. Two former recruiters partly blamed the engineering department’s application review process, a meeting two or three times a week where every engineering offer had to be approved.
At these regular meetings, those in the room might include recruiters and “sourcers” – the recruiters who originally found the candidate. Occasionally, a “good” – an employee who had referred the candidate or interviewed him – was present. A hiring manager, who sometimes had more say in hiring, might also be there, according to three former recruiters.
But the final decision was made by representatives of a group of about 20 to 30 top engineering leaders, according to two former recruiters. Each meeting typically had about two people from that group, which included director- and vice-president-level engineering leaders and chief technology officer Michael Schroepfer, according to three former recruiters. Not all members of this group came to the application review meetings often, and it was not always the same members who came to the meetings, the former recruiters said.
The very people recruiters had been pressured to bring in were often blocked at the last hiring meeting, they said. They weren’t the only candidates turned down in the final stage, but getting “diversity candidates” hired at Facebook proved to be such a struggle that many recruiters gave up trying, even with the dual system. point, and went back to their usual strategies, two alumni told recruiters.
© 2016 Bloomberg L.P.