Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Building Great Teams - One Recruiter’s Rambling Thoughts on Inclusive Hiring

Neal Campbell

thoughtbot has always prided itself on open source contribution; collaborating and sharing ideas. This extends far beyond Ruby Gems, and with this blog post I hope to share some insight into our own DEI practices within the hiring team. Something worth reminding ourselves of, as we strive to make our hiring processes more inclusive, is that there is no such thing as perfectly equitable and inclusive recruitment. There will always be more to learn, ways to improve and failures to learn from, and iterations to be made in any process. But as inclusion is a choice… making that choice is as good a start as any.

Diversity is a fact - Inclusion is a practice, and Equity is the goal. I’m sure you’ve heard this before (or at least seen it paraphrased across the interwebs), especially last month. Businesses and organizations, now more than ever, are striving to create more inclusive companies, as it becomes more and more clear that being an inclusive and diverse business makes you not only more appealing to a wider audience, but also gives you the internal advantage of building better teams, better products, and better services.

Being a recruiter, I like to believe that the hiring process plays a crucial role in achieving higher levels of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion - perhaps the most crucial role. The hiring process decides the future of the company by its ability to attract diverse and talented people. Indeed, we are the gateway to the company, and the days of gatekeeping, homogenous teams and nepotism are long past… for most companies at least. Inclusion is not only a practice, but a choice. As you choose to strive for a more inclusive workplace, you also choose to be a more competitive company. Therefore, if you’re not weaving DEI into your everyday hiring practices, you’re already behind the curve.

Generating Interest

When we open a role we have one main goal to attain before we review any applications - our representative pipeline goal. We keep a role open to applications for a minimum period of time to give ourselves the best possible chance of building a representative pipeline of candidates, including ratio goals across gender and ethnicity. We capture this information via a voluntary self-identification survey at the application stage.

we cannot rely on applications alone. With our pipeline goals in mind, the hiring team will actively reach out to candidates via a number of channels and networks, engaging folks in conversation and generating interest in joining thoughtbot. Teammates will also refer folks they believe would be a good fit.


We publish our salary ranges for all roles on our website in order to create a more equitable process. Asking candidates their salary requirements would put folks at a disadvantage; a candidate who is underpaid in their current role or unfamiliar with the market may undervalue themselves. Candidates already understand very clearly what to expect before they apply to a role. This also means that they don’t waste their time or our time if their needs do not align with our bands. - this saves a lot of time further on - it allows us to avoid awkward negotiations. We also never ask a candidate’s current salary.

Reviewing Candidates

Once the role has been open for a sufficient amount of time and we have reached our representative pipeline goals, we close applications and begin resume review. We’ve found that hiring in cohorts creates a fairer, more inclusive process; the ability to drip-feed candidates to hiring managers makes it too easy to move forward with smaller numbers of candidates and throw DEI out the window, potentially missing out on talented people.

Resume review is typically a first stumbling block for companies hoping to build more representative teams. Numerous studies have shown that conscious or unconscious bias can impact who makes it through the review stage. Something we do to counter this is to anonymise all applications. We decided to take this step back in 2018 to help reduce bias at the review stage. When we couldn’t find an ATS that did what we wanted, we built our own app to do it. Thankfully a lot of applicant tracking systems (ATS) now offer this feature!

Anyone reviewing a resume can easily fall into the bias trap. We’ve been brought up in a world where negative and incorrect stereotypes are blared at us from all angles, and our brain subconsciously stores this information. Removing any identifiable information from an application means we are selecting candidates based on the only thing that truly matters - their ability and experience. This runs much deeper than gender - anyone could have unconscious bias against any number of things, based on their own life experience; like a candidate’s education (do they have a masters in Computer Science or did they attend a bootcamp?), perceived social class, affiliations with clubs or societies and many other things, can have a subconscious impact. It’s impossible to completely remove any form of bias, but this definitely gives us a strong start.

The Interview Process

Once we have a pool of candidates who have passed review and are potentially capable of doing the job, it’s time to start the interview process. This consists of three interview stages - non-technical, technical, and final stage.

Creating an inclusive interview process helps us to maintain a representative candidate group from initial review through to the final stage; so, how do we achieve this, and stay on track with DEI goals? Every candidate will react differently to interview conditions, so creating a similar interview experience for everyone can be difficult. Something we’ve implemented to ensure a fair process is the use of scorecards.

When objectivity is crucial, scorecards are an effective tool at reducing bias during an interview, no matter what stage. They help to move those most aligned with our values and the needs of the role forwards; by remaining objective and not relying on anecdotal feedback or hastily scribbled notes that lose their context the more time passes after the interview, we avoid moving folks forward based on who “just seemed like a great fit. This all relates back to the original goal - avoiding homogeneity and echo chambers, and building representative teams that think differently, offer different ideas and solutions, and challenge our current perspectives.

For a candidate, a three stage interview process is a lot of time to devote to a single process. Everyone who completes our full interview process is paid for their time, regardless of whether they receive an offer: \$500USD for Americas based candidates and £300GBP for EWAA (Europe, West Asia and Africa) based candidates. This helps us ensure we’re not excluding folks who don’t have paid annual leave entitlement, or may need to pay for childcare to attend interviews.

Making an Offer

At this stage, striving for representative teams and an inclusive process doesn’t just mean making an offer to an underrepresented candidate - the best candidate for the role is the best candidate regardless of their background. If you’re able to bring as much inclusive thinking into your process as possible, you’ve gone further towards creating equity of opportunity for folks from all walks of life - you’ve made the choice to be inclusive. What’s worth doing at this stage is providing useful feedback for any candidates that didn’t make it, and potentially offering help in terms of up-skilling or mentoring to those who would benefit. Show that you aren’t closing the door on anyone who is willing to learn and improve!

Other things to consider

  • Where possible, we will have interviews carried out by a representative group. This will help folks from underrepresented backgrounds feel more comfortable during the interview.
  • Whilst it’s common practice in some areas to ask for candidates’ notice periods during interview, this can potentially be another source of bias (favoring those who can start sooner). Unless this information is absolutely vital, it’s worth thinking about leaving this information out of your discussions unless it’s offered freely. We also include a target start date in our job postings.

Final thoughts

In my experience, hesitancy to incorporate DEI practices within recruitment has almost never stemmed from companies or hiring managers actively choosing to exclude underrepresented folks. It stems from either a lack of knowledge/knowing where to start, or a fear of somehow bringing hiring to a grinding halt whilst trying to reach representation goals at different stages. Hopefully this blog helps with the first reason. As for the second - it’s absolutely possible to build a diverse and inclusive team, and do it at pace, if your outreach and sourcing strategies are up to the task!