Candidate Search Diversity

Looking Past Qualifications to Find Talent

October 7, 2021

The vast disparity between men and women in leadership roles prompted me to advocate for women who are regularly overlooked for these roles.  When I describe the value proposition of my company, CEOX, I often hear, “I don’t care whether the candidate is a man or a woman. I just want the most qualified person.” 

More often than not, the people making these statements truly believe what they are saying and are trying to convey what they assume is an unbiased approach to hiring. They don’t think about gender. Instead, they’re only hiring based on experiences, skills, and sheer merit. But hiring on experiences, skills, and merit means they are missing out on exceptionally talented people who were never given the opportunities to gain the experience that is the focus of hiring.

More often than not, opportunities like that go to white men.

Women still only comprise 5% of CEOs at companies across the country and roughly 8% of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. So why—if so many people are happy to hire a qualified woman leader—do organizations rarely actually do so?

@LuannAbrams, the founder of @ProjectCEOX, discusses why #HiringManagers and #recruiters need to shift their focus from a candidate’s experience to a candidate’s #talent in @IQTalent’s latest blog.Click to Tweet

A key part of the answer is not in intention but approach. The qualifications people tend to consider when hiring for executive positions are usually based on who has been successful in the past. And bias baked into the system ends up excluding capable, qualified applicants who have different but equally valuable experiences. By rethinking the narrow definitions of job-qualifying experiences, organizations can access a growing pool of more than qualified women and BIPOC candidates who are primed for success.

Rethinking Experience

For organizations that want to diversify, rethinking what constitutes “experience” to more accurately reflect candidate capabilities is paramount. I want to be clear: I’m not advocating for companies to lower their standards. Instead, I believe that re-evaluating the type of experience that matters and what makes an effective leader opens organizations up to increased opportunities for top talent (potential new markets and increased revenue as well).

Assessing For Talent, Not Qualifications

So how do we go about assessing for talent over qualifications? You can start by asking better questions when you are interviewing. These questions need to be designed to assess their leadership skills instead of just focusing on their experience. Here are several questions you should try to incorporate to get a good understanding of someone’s ability to work well in your organization:

  • Tell me about a time when something went wrong. How did you handle it?
  • Have any of your personal experiences helped you to become a good leader?
  • When was the last time you faced an unexpected setback? What happened?
  • How do you come up with ideas? 
  • What’s the most difficult decision you’ve had to make recently, and how did you come to that decision?
In the latest blog on the @IQTalent site, @LuannAbrams, founder of @ProjectCEOX, talks about how focusing on recruiting for #talent rather than experience will help organizations to hire more #inclusively.Click to Tweet

These questions are all intended to get to the core of a person and their ability to handle difficult working situations, ultimately making them more successful. You can also come up with your own questions to suss out some of the qualities that make people most successful such as:

  • Learning mindset and curiosity
  • Determination
  • Initiative
  • Resilience
  • Collaborative
  • Handling Conflict
  • Handling Ambiguity

It’s time to reconsider how biased systems inform what we think of as qualified. By opening our minds to the different—but valuable experiences and leadership skills—of talented women and BIPOC leaders, we can diversify our ranks and reap the rewards that follow.

Creating a strategy that embraces diversity and inclusion in your hiring plan is integral for organizations hoping to attract the best talent on the market. When you utilize the support of Diversify by IQTX, you can begin to refine your approach for recruiting and retaining underrepresented talent. Our platform allows you to identify women and underrepresented minorities within your candidate research results, helping you to reduce bias in your hiring process. To learn more about how Diversify by IQTX can help you hire a more qualified and inclusive team, reach out to our team of experts.

About the author

As the founder of CEOX, Luann Abrams works to elevate women into CEO and board roles. From her time in venture capital as a partner at FoundersPad, an early-stage venture fund, she was compelled to find a solution to the inequities in leadership she saw at growing start-ups. As a founding board member of Strengthening Central Oregon Political Action Committee (SCOPAC), she supported under-represented individuals in their run for political offices, which led to five diverse candidates being elected to office in 2020. When she is not working and living the Bend life with her husband and two sons, you will find her curled up with a good book and a hot cup of coffee.

The recruiting you need. When you need it. Contact IQTalent Partners today