Ideas by Eitan Markus
5 key design principles for more human hiring
The Designership is Bridgeable’s annual internship program. From the beginning of May until the end of August, a group of three or four participants join the Bridgeable team and work on a project with a direct social impact. This is a unique opportunity for curious and creative problem solvers to work on important initiatives and learn how to apply service design methods to real life challenges.
In the past, our Designership teams have collaborated with our clients and their stakeholders to design more human experiences and tackle social challenges like youth homelessness, food insecurity, and home care for older adults.
Hosting the Designership every summer has been a great way to bring in a diverse group of new talent who bring fresh perspectives and experiences to the team. For this reason, it was unfortunate that our team had to put the Designership program on hold during the first years of the pandemic.
In the fall of 2021, Bridgeable made the decision to bring back the program for summer 2022. With so many organizations considering ways to recruit more diverse talent, the relaunch of our Designership presented an opportunity for us to think differently about our own approach to hiring and try new ways of working as a team. At Bridgeable, we pride ourselves on having a culture that celebrates continuous learning and improvement. Trying new approaches to hiring through the Designership gave us a starting place to build more equitable hiring processes, learn from the experience, and keep improving how we bring on new talent.
In the fall, we formed an internal team to support the Designership relaunch and set some guiding objectives for our work:
- Ensure that the Designership recruitment experience is inclusive and equitable
- Focus less on required education or experience and more on each candidate’s problem-solving abilities
- Try and reach new-to-Bridgeable sources of talent
- Find ways to streamline our internal processes
We’ve reflected on our work and identified five key principles that helped make our relaunch unique and successful. These principles can act as a guide or thought starters when considering how to make hiring more human:
Make decisions as a team
In many organizations, hiring decisions are ultimately made by one or two people. This can mean that the views of only one or two people, usually more senior team members, determine a candidate’s success. In an effort to reduce bias from being introduced into our hiring process for the Designership, we made decisions as a team at every stage. Together, we developed a shared set of criteria to score submissions, hosted panel interviews with at least two members of our team and spent time together to deliberate before recommending which candidates should get offers.
Give people the flexibility to express themselves in their own way
Design-related roles often ask candidates to submit portfolios for the hiring team to review before inviting them to interview. This approach can exclude great people who may not have had the opportunity to hone their visual communication skills just yet. To make the process more inclusive for all types of creative problem solvers, candidates were allowed to choose the format they felt best fit their communication style. The only requirements were for candidates to tell us about the problem they were addressing, why it was important to them, the process they followed or would follow to solve the problem, the impact of their work, and lessons learned. We received a range of formats including academic-style papers, podcast-style audio recordings, videos, slide presentations, and more.
Use the same criteria for assessing every candidate
To make sure our relaunched recruitment process was inclusive and equitable we developed a shared set of criteria, taking the form of a scorecard, which we used to assess each candidate at every stage of the process. In the first round, our team reviewed anonymized submissions from candidates – we asked them to share a problem they had solved or would like to solve – and scored their submissions using our scorecard.
In the first round, we used a scorecard to assess:
- Whether candidates attempted to consider many different sides of the problem they were addressing
- If they displayed an ability to navigate ambiguity
- How clear their communication style was
- How novel their approach to storytelling was
In our second round, we used another scorecard to assess:
- How well candidates communicated in their interview
- How excited they were at the prospect of a problem having no clear answer or approach
- How well they displayed an ability or interest in navigating ambiguity from management and teams
- The candidate’s level of curiosity
- Their interest in learning new and challenging skills
- How well the candidate might fit our team dynamics and values
By developing this shared criteria, our team was able to make decisions based on the same information and feel good about who we were recommending to move onto the next round. While it might not eliminate bias from decision making, it goes a long way to reduce the opportunity for bias to be introduced.
Sharing the evaluation rubric gave so much transparency to the process, and really helped to clarify what the team was looking for, and what elements to prioritize.
Be transparent throughout the process
At Bridgeable, we aspire to design more human experiences through our work. A positive recruitment experience leaves candidates with a good impression of the organization, even if they aren’t chosen for the position. To bring this into our recruitment experience, we began our work by identifying moments where clear and transparent communications could create a positive experience for candidates. Our website outlined the process in detail, our anticipated timelines, and copies of the scorecard we would be using to assess candidates. At each stage, we made every effort to share updates with candidates regardless of the outcome and provided copies of scorecard results to any candidate who asked for feedback.
Be intentional about the number of stages in the process
Candidates put a lot of effort and time into their applications for the Designership. Many other recruitment experiences can feel like a burden with five or six rounds of interviews, case study assignments, meet and greets with team members, and hours of everyone’s valuable time before a decision is made.
With this in mind, our team tried to balance our own need to learn enough about candidates to make informed decisions, creating space for candidates to assess if we’re a good fit for them, and the level of effort and time we were asking of people.
In the end we went with three rounds: a submission where candidates could demonstrate their creative problem solving abilities, a panel interview, and a 15 minute meet and greet with our Managing Director before finalists were sent their offers. While we still received well over 175 applications this year, having these intentional stages of the recruiting process meant we could make decisions quickly and keep candidates engaged and informed.
In addition to these five design principles, there are a number of things we learned from this process which we will be considering for future hiring at Bridgeable:
- While our process resulted in over 175 applications and an incredibly talented pool of candidates, the most challenging objective for us to meet was reaching new-to-Bridgeable sources of talent. Even with the best processes in place, we recognized that we could be missing out on entire groups of talent who have the potential to be great service designers. It’s important to consider how to intentionally expand where you promote opportunities and encourage a wider audience to apply.
- Recognizing that some candidates would benefit from additional guidance when preparing their applications, we offered additional support through information sessions, easily accessible resources online, and a scheduling tool to sign up for 1-on-1 mentorship with members of our team. We’ll be considering how to bring this approach to future hiring so that everyone applying for a role at Bridgeable can bring their best to their application.
It can be challenging to convey a genuinely compelling tale, which is why my one-on-one interaction with a member of the current team stuck out to me.
In May of 2022, Bridgeable welcomed four new faces to the team to contribute to the newly founded Canadian Institute for Social Prescribing (CISP). This team is supporting the CISP to co-design the national framework for social prescribing with consideration for equity, collaboration, and the social determinants of health. Throughout this process, the new Designership team has the mentorship and guidance of experienced coaches within Bridgeable.