Building Diverse Engineering Teams with University Recruiting and Inclusive Interviewing


Diversity, engineering, and talent leaders from Karat, Databricks, and Lowe’s will share University Recruiting and inclusive interviewing tips for building diverse engineering teams

This week, Karat is hosting a virtual event with University Recruiting (UR) and talent acquisition leaders from Databricks and Lowe’s. This free webinar will take place this Thursday, August 20, at 10:00 am PT, and will highlight why UR and inclusive interviewing are critical in building diverse engineering teams. Register for free, here.

Portia Kibble Smith, Director of DEI at Karat, with host the webinar, with Lusen Mendel, Director of Developer Relations at Karat, and featuring Alexa Friedman UR leader at Databricks, and Tricia Lincoln Corporate Recruiting Manager, Technology at Lowe’s.

In advance of Thursday’s discussion, Portia connected with Alexa and Tricia to highlight a few of the topics they’ll plan to cover in a brief Q&A.

Portia: Thank you both for joining us this week! I’d love to share a little bit of background about each of you with our readers ahead of Thursday’s event. Alexa and Tricia, can you tell us a little bit about your experiences and roles?

Alexa: I manage our University Recruiting team at Databricks, building out our Intern and New Grad programs. We find that early talent offers a great opportunity to be intentional with the way we are building the future of our team, especially as it relates to hiring and supporting a diverse workforce.

Tricia: In my time working on early-in-career and diversity topics, I’ve found that inclusive interviewing and consistency in the interview process are the foundations for a sense of fairness and positive candidate experiences.

The more consistency you build into your process, the more trust you build between your organization and your candidates. Inclusive interviewing starts with informed interviewers who understand how diversity positively impacts an organization and who look for more than just the baseline skills of a candidate.

Consistent and informed interviewers also build candidate trust and comfortability where interviewers can make the most out of the time spent with candidates in evaluating skills, potential, future outcomes, and candidate motivators that help teams to better understand placement and long-term growth.

Portia: Alexa, what are you most excited about sharing with our audience?

Alexa: I’m looking forward to sharing some of our approaches to choosing what schools to target. In short, data is your best friend here!

Many companies start their campus recruiting programs based on where founders come from and where they have faculty connections. This is a great place to start, and there is a lot of room for growth. By incorporating more open-access events (especially true in our all-virtual world these days!), you can open up your pipeline and use the data to show how students from a diverse set of backgrounds can be successful.

Portia: Once you have a target school in mind, how do you start building new inroads there?

Alexa: Be authentic! I’m always up-front about what we can offer when I’m speaking with students, faculty, and staff. We may not have the same resources as a large company, but that doesn’t mean I can’t connect with partners to find new ways of partnering.

Portia: Databricks is a very forward-thinking company, and you’re competing for high-bar engineering talent with the biggest tech companies on the planet. Have you found that going outside the traditional top-10 CS schools gives you a competitive advantage?

Alexa: There are so many ways to expand beyond the traditional core school model, especially in a virtual world. Using virtual interviews expands access to our interview process, which increases the pool of candidates we’re able to consider.

We’re in a unique time where nearly everyone is running an entirely virtual Fall recruiting program, which means that we can open up access to events and programs in ways we couldn’t when recruiting was all in-person.

But it’s also important to maintain that personal touch. Would you want to work for a company where you’d never spoken with someone who works there? We also maintain the importance of holistic review; we look at things like a candidate’s coding score, previous experience, academics, and interests when making decisions. Finding a balance is key.

Portia: I’m definitely a champion for reaching out beyond those traditional powerhouse schools, so looking forward to learning more on Thursday! Tricia, you’ve championed live interviews as being more personal and inclusive compared to over-indexing on code tests. Why is that?

Tricia: Live interviews give candidates a chance to showcase both their communication and problem-solving skills.  Many non-traditional candidates may come to conclusions in different ways or they may approach the problem in a way that generates a non-traditional response that contributes to a better team outcome.

I’m also looking forward to sharing some additional insights on creating a positive and inclusive candidate experience, which is the responsibility of both TA and the greater organization

Diversifying your pipeline by ensuring your campaigns and postings are you-centric and help your candidates see themselves in the role is critical.  It’s also critical to review posting for gender bias and other biases that may subconsciously influence a candidate’s beliefs about their ability to perform in the role.

Also, don’t forget to partner with your DEI team! TA is the tip of the spear, but any diverse hiring that takes place needs to be supported by a diverse, meaningful, and connected employee community.  TA should work alongside company DEI programs to promote employer value propositions and postings that support the company’s overall objectives.

Portia: I always like to say that retention starts at the interview! I can’t wait to get into the discussion with everyone later this week.

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