Hiring practices that need to die, and some new ones we need to adopt

Written by: Vu Le
Published on: May 27, 2022

cat grave reba-spike

(Image: Reba Spike)

The job market is shifting. People are leaving their jobs everywhere and in great numbers. Employers are scrambling to hire people. More unions are forming. And yet, so many organizations and companies still continue to engage in crappy, inequitable hiring practices as if it were still the 1960s and everyone could smoke and drink whiskey during a team meeting.

On Twitter, someone wrote, “So apparently job candidates’ sending a thank you note isn’t a thing anymore? Candidates, pro tip: Send a thank you note.” It got several thousand comments and quote tweets saying requiring the follow-up thank-you note is an archaic, ridiculous practice. Christopher Chan of the University of Washington called it “Victorian performances of white middle class professionalism.” And I agree. It is an unwritten rule steeped in power asymmetry. If employers don’t send job candidates thank-you notes, why should job candidates be expected to do so?

While we put the final nail in the post-interview-thank-you-note coffin, here are some other practices we need to stop doing, and a few we need to adopt.

  1. Disclose salary range in every single job posting. There is no more arguing about this. The research is so clear now that not disclosing salary on your job posts furthers racial and gender wages gaps. So either you disclose salary ranges on all your job posts, or else put up a banner on your website that says “we are proud to perpetuate inequity.”

  2. Stop asking for work outside candidates’ portfolios. I saw a job posting that required each job candidate to give one recommendation to improve the company’s website. No: You haven’t hired them, so don’t ask job candidates to do work for free. Don’t ask for bespoke presentations, communications plans, fundraising appeal letters, etc. Not unless you will pay them consulting rates to do it.

  3. Stop requiring formal education for every position. As I wrote here, it is inequitable to require a Bachelor’s or other formal college degree for most positions. And yet tons of organizations still do it. Unless it’s a specialized position (legal, accounting, counseling, etc.), knock it off.  

  4. Stop asking “creative” interview questions. What is your astrology sign? If you were an ice cream flavor, which one would you be? How many gummy bears would fit in this interview room? Don’t ask inane questions and think you’re being clever. You’re not. You’re annoying job candidates while also leaving behind people from different cultural and economic backgrounds.

  5. Stop ghosting people after they spent hours or months on your process. One of the biggest complaints from job candidates is going through hours of a job process and then never hearing from the employer again. Have the courtesy to notify everyone who took time to engage with you.

  6. Spell out your ENTIRE hiring process and timeline in your job posting. If you plan to have finalists do five interviews, a presentation, and a Thunderdome battle with only office supplies as weapons, say so upfront. Job candidates deserve to know how much time they will need to spend with you and whether it’s reasonable. If you haven’t thought out your process in its entirety enough to spell it out, you’re not ready to hire.

  7. Send interview questions in advance. If you want thoughtful answers, give candidates time to think and reflect. We need to stop equating being extroverted, charismatic, and good at talking with a high degree of intelligence and qualification. Most jobs require thinking, research, and deliberation, so give job candidates time to do that.

  8. Reserve plenty of time for candidates to ask questions. Don’t interrogate candidates for 50 minutes and then give them two minutes to ask questions at the end. That’s thoughtless. Candidates deserve an equal amount of time to gather information to make their decision about whether they should work for you.

  9. Pay job candidates who make it to your interview process. As I wrote about here, it is time to pay job candidates that you interview. Not gift cards. Not swag. Literal money to compensate for the hours that they spent helping you explore whether this is a good fit.

  10. Pay candidates what is fair, not what you can get away with. Don’t tie people’s pay to their ability to negotiate. Women, people of color, and especially women of color are systemically underpaid, in part because negotiations are rife with inequity and unconscious biases. So pay people fair salaries, even if in the negotiation process you could get away with lower offers.

Additionally, from colleague Mosswood Lark:

  1. State clearly if you welcome disabled candidates, and how/when candidates should disclose the accommodations they would need to do the job.

  2. State clearly if you are open to qualified candidates applying for part-time or job-sharing.

There are plenty of other hiring practices worth discussing as well: Please examine yours and make improvements.

Vu Le is a writer, speaker, consultant, and the former ED of Rainier Valley Corps.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on Vu Le’s blog, NonprofitAF.