Choosing a platform in a sea of homogeniety

Taking Responsibility for Our Hiring Process

It’s time to start hiring again at Tito. We don’t subscribe to a hyper-growth mentality, so we’re taking it slowly. I want to share a lesson from last week where I came to the realisation that my approach was wrong.

In our coaching sessions with Kim over the last year, we learned that there were a good number of barriers to hiring with inclusion in mind, that were invisible to us. We could of course barrel ahead with our ad-hoc approach, but with Kim’s help, we discovered our fundamental core value of integrity, specifically reducing the potential for harm to be caused as a result of our actions. We want to do better.

We’re a team of 10, all white, majority male. I understand that we need to work harder on creating an environment that would be safe for marginalised individuals, be that by virtue of their ethnic or social backgrounds, their beliefs, their gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion (or lack thereof) or technology choices (with thanks to Conf Code of Conduct). I’ve been mindful of researching and working with companies who share or have made progress in meeting these standards.

As part of the work above, we’ve also been busy making roles and responsibilities more explicit at Tito. Things that we take for granted may not necessarily be apparent to people from backgrounds different to ours. What are our specific jobs as leaders? What are theirs? How do employees progress in the company? How do we hold each other accountable? Where would they fit in? Having put the work in to answer questions like these, we felt like we were now ready to start hiring.

The next step to me seemed obvious: choose a tool to use to post and manage the applications. I had been chatting to the folks who run Cobot recently. Their company values seem in line with ours, and I noticed that they are using Workable to list their current openings. It seemed to me that the next step would be to post our job listing on Workable.

We need a tool. A company we admire uses a tool. Let’s use that tool. Job done!

 Checking with Kim

I ran it by Kim just before committing, and the response wasn’t what I was expecting. I think it’s worth sharing the whole exchange as it happened:

We’re just wondering if you could see any reason not to use something like Workable, particularly around the way that it posts to lots of job sites automatically.

@paulca I’ll put that question back on you. Does “posting to lots of job sites automatically” align with your core values?

@kmcrayton7 I wouldn’t say it does or it doesn’t. Unless in some way it would cause harm.

So the next question is, which takes priority, evaluating the potential for harm or automatic job postings?

@kmcrayton7 I would say evaluating the potential for harm, for which my first step was asking you, and second was talking to Alex from Cobot to see what he thought.

I mean, the automatic postings don’t specifically appeal to me as a selling-point. It’s the hosting and management that I’m interested in, so maybe there’s another platform that does that better.

@paulca 1. the reason I shoot it back to you is that I want you to start digging into answering these questions for yourself. I’m happy to be included in a conversation but I want you to start bringing the “points” to the discussion for us to wade through

In all honesty, this is a lazy option and will only get you the same results as before and here again is where tech keeps fucking up. The ONLY way that you’re going to get a diverse pool of applicants that you can be proud of is by getting uncomfortable and building relationships in those communities. It’s the same work you’ve done to build your current privileged network, only this time your don’t have the familiarity of whiteness.

I was a bit taken aback by the implication that I was being lazy. Now, from working with Kim, I’ve realised the futility of listening to my initial emotional response, and instead taking the assumption she’s pushing back on something, she has a good reason to. Oh, and this isn’t personal. I nodded to myself, put the task on ice, and slept on it.

Some research

The next morning, I set to work. It seemed to me that if we want to create a more inclusive environment in our company, we should look to companies whose leadership has demonstrated an ability to do so in theirs.

I opened the Workable About page, and the very first sentence flagged a warning:

For years, we recruited for fast-growing companies.

From the outset, that doesn’t describe Tito, so maybe we’re not the target audience for this tool.

The page features a team photo with lots of white faces. Scrolling down, the management team is 100% white, all but one male. I clicked on “Careers”. A quote from the CEO:

“Your gender, your gods, your sex life, your skin color or your bigshot uncle don’t make a difference here. If you’re smart and good at what you do, come as you are.”

Clearly, something isn’t altogether true about the above, because the Workable team—a recruitment platform—is mostly white people.

The Workable team—as here at Tito—is clearly not very diverse. For a company of 275+ employees, a recruitment platform no less, to have a company photo where finding a person of colour is like reading a page of Where’s Wally/Where’s Waldo, is, in my opinion, a failure of management. A failure that we share at Tito.

Aside from this due criticism in and of itself, I was starting to think that Workable wasn’t quite the platform we needed for our own needs if we wanted to be hiring in an inclusivity-forward way. On this matter, choosing this platform wouldn’t be aligned with our own core values.

So I kept on. I searched “HR platform” and found 644 results on Capterra. That seemed quite extreme, so again I deferred to what others are using. 

Intercom use Greenhouse. Their marketing leads with “Build Stronger Teams with Diversity & Inclusion”. This seemed better. Clearly Greenhouse have put a lot of marketing resources into telling this story. Their About page doesn’t do a huge amount to back-up that Greenhouse is actually walking the walk themselves. There’s a well produced video showing a legitimately diverse handful of people, but no team photo or way to drill down into how the company is doing overall. As far as I can see, management is all white.

While scanning Twitter, I noticed a Tito partner using Recruitee. Recruitee is much smaller than the two larger firms listed above, but again, overwhelmingly white.

None of the three examples above had a page where I could find out about their values as a company. None had places I could visit that outlined their own commitments to inclusivity. It’s reasonable to me, in 2020, to hold all companies to a high standard when it comes to recruiting for inclusitivity. It seems fair to me to hold recruitment firms to an even higher standard.

I’d also like to note that this criticism is simply based on my external observations. I don’t know anyone at any of these companies and have never dealt with them in any way.

At this point, I broadened my search to “diversity hiring platform” and found Jopwell, “…a career advancement platform for Black, Latinx, and Native American students and professionals.” In jest, at least I know now where recruitment specialists from a more diverse set backgrounds go to work. I wasn’t sure if Jopwell met my needs, but by now I was starting to realise that maybe searching for a tool might be the wrong approach.

Diving a bit deeper

On a whim, I searched for “Diversity reports”, having remembered that at the very least Apple and Google had published a report highlighting their commitment and results to improving diversity. I found, a sort of advertorial-style microsite made by Drafted, another recruitment platform ironically perpetuating the status-quo when it comes to team-building. Irony aside, seems to be a useful general-purpose tool for this kind of desktop research. pointed me to a very expansive suite of tools called Lever. Lever boasts a team with over 50% representation by women both overall and in leadership, and nearly 50% in tech. When it comes to ethnicity, however, Lever doesn’t even show up on the chart. Kim teaches us that white women are not diversity.

Clearly it’s not an exhaustive list of companies, but one thing I noted that correlated with my findings from earlier: of the list of companies that score with any degree of significance for representation of ethnic minorities on, none are HR firms.

Do we really need a tool?

In digging for a solution to what tool to use, I realised that I had jumped to the end of the process, rather than starting at the beginning. Instead of asking what tool we ought to use, I should have been asking: what does the experience of being hired at Tito look like? Who are the kinds of people we want to attract to work here? How do we reach them?

I thought back to when we’ve hired previously. We’ve had applicants who never got a reply. Who didn’t know precisely what they were applying for. We’ve had folks get in touch, do an initial interview and not really have any further feedback from us as to why we didn’t choose them. We posted on our blog without any intentional effort to attract people from networks outside our own.

We’re still a small company. We have our growth targets, but we’re not growing fast. We’re setting our own pace. We have the option to design our hiring process to be as good, and inclusive, as we want it to be. We have a chance to design the process that we’d love to be a part of if it were us applying for the job.

So that’s what we’re going to do. Instead of diving head-first into using a tool that doesn’t align with our core values, we’re going to go back to the first question: what does hiring look like at Tito? Once we have the answer to that, we can decide what tools to use. Until we have a process in place, tooling is irrelevant.

Also, in researching these big companies’ websites, I found it quite difficult to find out much about their teams and their company values. This is something that I’m now motivated to improve for Tito. If you search around, read this blog, do some of your own research, my hope is that it becomes evident that we’re trying to establish and live by strong ethical values. If you’re looking for a quick overview, that’s harder to find. We’ll fix that.

It’s clear to me that as an industry, there’s so much work to be done. Hopefully our baby steps will encourage others to follow.