women in computer science

Addressing Hiring Gaps Through User Research

The hiring hot take is a regular feature of every tech conversation. Newsletters. Conferences. Blogs. Twitter. We talk about hiring a lot, because the market is competitive, and hiring well makes a big difference. Hiring effectively goes well beyond the “quality” of people you hire – it sets them up for an experience inline with their expectations, and contributes to – or is detrimental to – your company brand.

Within that, we talk about diversity in hiring. Companies set goals, often publicly, commit to targets that are way in excess of their current demographics, without similar transparency on how they approach inclusion. Meanwhile, under-indexed people receive a volume of inbound interest, often for roles completely different to, or way less senior than the ones they have.

Message from a recruiter I received last week. Note – my LinkedIn profile is set to Colombia – 4,500KM away from this event.

With the volume of information out there, it’s hard to pick through what’s good and what’s not, what’s correlation and what’s cause. Much of the information is situational – what works in one context may not work in another – and conflicting.

Meanwhile, hiring processes have an information imbalance that makes learning from them hard. You know how the people you hired performed – after a long lag time – you don’t know how the people you didn’t hire would have done. You know how some of the people who applied found you, but you don’t know anything about the people who looked at your job posting and decided “nope”, or the ones who never found you at all.

In the product development process, we have a process for learning about the people we are trying to reach. User research. It’s something we do a lot of at Automattic, as we aim to understand the people we hope to serve with our products. It informs our roadmaps and prioritization, the way we present things, and how we talk about them.

To that end, as we reviewed our hiring process, we realized that the demographics of people we attract to apply are not inline with the demographics of the people we hope to hire. Whilst we have implemented a strong focus on metrics, and made certain adjustments, we’ve not seen the improvements we want. If this was a product, we would go to our users and ask them – so why not do the same here?

To that end, we are kicking off a user research project, to better understand the ways that people think about the process of finding a new job. Like all our user research, it’s compensated. Like everything we do, we share it openly – so whilst we will use the results to inform our process, we will also be sharing a public write up of the things we learned.

For our initial research, we’re looking for women and non-binary people (trans/cis/gnc) who may experience similar gender discrimination in the workplace, who have multiple years of experience in a software development role. If you’re open to participating, please fill in some information in our pre-screening form.


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