Many leaders in the technology industry believe that success in STEM or at a big-name technology company requires a prestigious education and focus on STEM from early on. This thinking is reflected in many companies’ hiring practices. In fact, according to Pew Research Center’s studyOpens a new window , today’s STEM workers are about twice as likely as other workers to have earned a bachelor’s degree or more education, and roughly three-quarters of these workers hold a degree in a STEM field.
However, by imposing steep requirements for STEM roles, employers can drastically limit the pool of available candidates and disproportionately impact certain groups. For instance, according to Harvard Business ReviewOpens a new window , women only apply to positions that they are 100% qualified for, whereas men will apply if they are only 60% qualified. This confidence gap is even more prevalent in the tech world.Â
Additionally, minorities or economically disadvantaged individuals often find their future employment prospects limited by not having the same opportunities early in life. Unsurprisingly, fewer opportunities early on have led to underrepresentation in STEM jobs for Black and Hispanic workers.Â
As the demand for STEM workers continues to spike and tech employers continue to deal with the most competitive job market since the dot-com boom of the late 90s, they cannot afford to leave these groups behind and need to rethink their strategies for landing the best talent.Â
See More: 3 Creative Ways to Recruit Tech Talent
Success in Technology Can Take Many Different Paths
The way we get to a workforce that is more appropriately representative of society is by putting away the assumptions of the required checkboxes to achieve success and providing the opportunity for all of us to bring our unique perspectives to the table.
I myself had an unconventional rise to the top. I was a community studies major at UC Santa Cruz and studied women’s healthcare policy. I started my career in a sales and marketing role for a non-technical B2C company called Klutz Press. Despite not having a tech background, ComputerCare took a chance on me, bringing me on as an account manager. With some hard work and a commitment to learning about the company and technology, I climbed the ranks until I was eventually named CEO.
I think my story is a testament to what a non-traditional path can look like. From this experience, I’ve made it my own goal to provide opportunities for individuals who have experience and qualifications outside of what a tech company would normally look for. It’s paid off for us in terms of the quality and commitment of our team.
Creating Inclusive Hiring Practices (& Finding Better Candidates)
Many great candidates get written off very early in the application process because they don’t tick off the aforementioned checkboxes. To find better candidates and be more inclusive in the process, I follow these best practices:
1. Hiring individuals without STEM backgroundsÂ
There is a whole pool of candidates out there with talent and experience but don’t have a Computer Science degree or haven’t worked at Amazon or Google. Yet, these workers have dedication, eagerness, problem-solving, quick thinking, organization, reason, and countless other admirable traits. These workers would make an excellent addition to a tech team but may never get the chance to prove themselves because their applications are quickly looked over. I make sure we consider other indicators of a prospective team member’s potential when reviewing applications, such as increased responsibility and advancement, desirable soft skills, and transferable hard skills.
2. Giving second chances to those with criminal recordsÂ
Another way candidates are often summarily disqualified by employers is if they have a criminal background. In my experience, many individuals who have made mistakes in the past and paid their debt to society are ready to move forward and contribute positively to a team. If a candidate shows great promise for a role we are hiring for, I don’t let a criminal record stop me from considering or hiring them.
3. Avoiding overly detailed job descriptionsÂ
This is a conscious choice we’ve recently started making at ComputerCare. Understanding how few women will apply to a job if they aren’t 100% qualified, we’ve started writing job descriptions with fewer required skills and years of experience requirements. This has opened the door to a much greater number of female applicants and allowed us to build a more diverse workforce.
While many technology companies have preconceived ideas about what makes an â€œidealâ€ candidate, they are often irrelevant to who will make a good employee. Occupations in the STEM field are expected to grow 8% by 2029 (compared with 3.7% for all occupations), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor StatisticsOpens a new window . With this in mind, the time is now for employers to consider often overlooked but fully capable and high achieving candidates for their growing number of open technology roles.Â