What I Learned From Trying to Make Our Hiring More Inclusive

Inclusive workplaces are long overdue but still few and far between. MediaStyle included.

These conversations seem to be taking place in many Canadian organizations, but more often than not, the focus is on the issues and challenges, with few solutions. While we don’t have the solution, I wanted to shed some light on the things we are doing to try and improve.

Specifically, we have put in place a hiring process that is internally blind.

One of my goals as MediaStyle’s CEO is to help build an inclusive and diverse team. Inclusive workforces are stronger and more effective, coming up with a wide range of solutions to issues that don’t lean on the same old ways of thinking and problem solving.

We are a small team, so the opportunity to hire doesn’t come very often. That’s why every time we need to hire we want to make sure our hiring process is as equitable and inclusive as possible.

We are working hard to recognize our unconscious biases and find ways to address them. It’s not an easy road and it’s one that we are walking carefully. In our last round of hiring we realized that we needed to do more than just lightly update and reuse the old job description, as it was laden with potentially problematic language and overreaching requests.

Here’s a quick check list for the next time you go out to hire — it’s by no means exhaustive, but it includes a few things we’ve been working on at MediaStyle to build a more inclusive process:

  1. Always post the job: When you rush to hire friends of friends, you are making your pool quite narrow. Quick hires are rarely diverse hires.
  2. Be mindful of your words: Research shows that the language in a job description affects who applies. For example, words like “rockstar”, “ninja”, and others that emphasize assertiveness may discourage women from applying.
  3. Meet candidates where they are: In addition to reaching out on our usual social channels, we post and advertise in different spaces and ask for help from organizations outside of our typical networks. Hire Immigrants Ottawa and OSCIO are two that we’ve been working to build relationships with in the past few months.
  4. Use a blind hiring process: When we vet candidates, only one person sees the names, which are removed before we rank applicants.
  5. Let people know you are inclusive: We’ve added the following language to our job listings, “MediaStyle promotes the principles of anti-oppression and adheres to the tenets of the Ontario Human Rights Code. We encourage applications from people of all genders, races, ethnic origins, religions, abilities and sexual orientations. We strive to reduce unconscious bias throughout our hiring process.
  6. Hire outside your comfort zone: We often look at folk’s passions and extracurriculars outside of work. We don’t just want eight people who have the same degree from the same school.

The work doesn’t stop when hiring is done. Unconscious bias is constant and requires constant checks. Everything from your onboarding process, to your workflow, to how you handle team meetings and lunches — it is always worth examining how you might be able to improve.

Inclusion isn’t an end point, but a journey.


Important reading from Jay Coen Gilbert, the co-founder of B Lab and the movement of Certified B Corporations: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaycoengilbert/2018/09/18/im-complicit-to-institutional-bias-heres-what-im-doing-about-it/

Caitlin Kealey is CEO of MediaStyle, a social impact communications firm based in Ottawa.

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