At ioby, racial equity is a core value. We're sharing our Hiring Practices here as part of our ongoing commitment to be publicly accountable to our values. Learn more about ioby's journey towards racial justice here. 


ioby’s Hiring Practice is regularly cited among our staff as being one of the pieces of formal racial equity work that we feel most passionate about, and that we feel we are best at. We’ve shared it informally with friends and colleagues for a few years, but never made it public because it’s truly a living document that we all use when we are hiring. In the last few days, we have had many requests to share it, so we’re now sharing a version, as of June 2020, to make public in service of supporting institutional change with racial equity as a goal. ioby’s racial equity work is in process, and will be for a long time. We don’t have all the answers, but this is one thing we’re proud of. 

And we would have never been able to get here on our own. Three people had considerable influence over this practice and we thank them. They are:

Wendy Jackson, Managing Director of the Detroit Program at the Kresge Foundation gave us critical support in terms of funding, yes, but more importantly, in formal authority, encouragement, and leverage, so that we could take these steps. Wendy Jackson was a key spark and catalyst for our more equitable practice. 

Karla Monterroso, the executive director of Code 2040, generously got on the phone with us, never having met us before, and shared her wisdom on talent development and equity and inclusion, and from her wisdom and advice came the original version of this practice. 

Bex Ahuja, Managing Partner at The Management Center (TMC), who has been close to ioby for many years, gave us the unique opportunity to be part of a pilot training program that TMC developed to infuse their training program with more explicit ways of avoiding unconscious racial bias. Bex’s training to our team in Memphis, TN, in June 2016, gave our staff the tools and confidence to continue iterating on the original version of this practice. The TMC tools now incorporate the more explicit work on racial bias that Bex began, and at ioby all managers are required to take the TMC 2-Day Manager’s training.

The Process

With this document, our intention is for hiring at ioby to be consistent, uniform, equitable, and fair, so that no matter what team a candidate applies to, they get the same fairness they would from any other hiring manager. We want this policy to be able to be scaled up and down. For instance, we would like a team to adopt a more robust version of this when hiring more than one person at a time. Likewise, we would like a hiring manager to be able to scale down the process when hiring for a position that is commonly understood in many fields, as opposed to positions that are relatively unique to ioby and require evaluating a candidate on transferable skills rather than on a set of common practices. 

There are 8 parts of what we believe make a fair, equitable process that reduce opportunities for unconscious bias in hiring and give as many people as possible the opportunity to work at ioby. They are:

The process:

(1) Decide how we will evaluate the candidates
(2) Getting A Great Pool of Candidates
(3) Post the Salary Range for the position
(4) Stages of the Interview Process
(5) Tracking Information
(6) References
(7) Offer Letter
(8) Advancing & Rejecting Candidates

(1) Decide how we will evaluate the candidates

The first and most important part of the hiring process is determining what criteria we will be evaluating the candidate. We feel strongly that this should be written before the job description so that the job description can explicitly include by what criteria applicants will be evaluated. Based on the recommendation of Karla Monterroso, we have adopted the policy of lumping criteria into two buckets: the WHAT and the WHO. 

First, the WHAT is meant to explicitly lay out what job experiences, skills, and abilities the candidate should have for the job. Writing this out means that we can eliminate generic criteria that often have internalized biases (e.g., “advanced degree,” “excellent communication skills,” “detail-oriented”) and only put what is actually required of the role (e.g., “must love talking to people,” “fearless in cold calling,” “experience managing distributed teams”). 

Second, the WHO is meant to help hiring managers avoid a common pitfall of hiring which is to hire people that reflect our own strengths and our own biases. Perhaps you could imagine a scenario when extroverted, deadline-oriented people hire other extroverted, deadline-oriented people and introverted, process-driven people hire introverted, process-driven people, because their personal characteristics are comfortable and familiar to them. Instead, defining the WHO is meant to be an exercise in understanding what might be missing on a team. For instance, a sales team might want staff who are both deadline-oriented and process-driven to make the team stronger. In other cases, where a team is comprised of staff who do very similar jobs, it might make sense to have people with similar personalities, and that is fine — this process just gives us the opportunity to make the implicit explicit. 

In writing the WHAT and the WHO, separate out the “Must Haves” from the “Nice to Haves.” We evaluate candidates early on in the process on the “Must Haves” and use “Nice to Haves” as a way of comparing top candidates. 

This is an excellent time to think through how you think you can evaluate the WHAT and the WHO of a person. You may realize that a WHAT is that the person should have the characteristic of being systems-oriented and logical, but that asking someone “Would you describe yourself as ‘systems-oriented’?” will probably not give you a really informative answer. Instead, you might want to ask the candidate how they would solve an example problem, and then evaluate whether their approach is systems-oriented and logical. You might realize that you really need a junior person on the team to do administrative tasks that you can no longer do, and you want to find out if they would be fulfilled doing that. There could be several ways of asking questions that help illuminate the answer for you. This is a great time to start writing out HOW you will phrase your interview questions to get the right kind of answer. 

In the process of writing the WHAT and the WHO you may discover that certain Must Haves are really critical. This is a good time to brainstorm if you’d like to include an exercise, a test, or an assignment in the application process to immediately eliminate candidates unable to perform. 

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(2) Getting A Great Pool of Candidates

We feel like this is the most important and hardest part of the hiring process. If we want to hire extraordinary team members, we need to do more than simply broadcast our job descriptions. Here are some tactics we would like hiring managers to employ:

  1. Always ask staff to think through potential candidates: Ask well-networked teammates to brainstorm with you around the WHAT and the WHO, and think of great people. Always be sure to ask the Senior Management Team to send around personal emails to the board, our funders, and other advisors. Take meeting time to do this. Bring it up during staff meetings, or schedule a new meeting.
  2. Pursue great candidates. Research people online. Do advanced searches in LinkedIn, and invite people to apply and share the opportunity.
  3. Use networks and job boards that our target candidate would use. We need to build this list out for the organization, but broadly, think about hyperlocal targeting in our cities, consider that certain fields (media, tech, etc) have their own job boards, evaluate using job boards that intentionally recruit candidates of color. 
  4. Something else! Help ioby grow by helping us build this list of tactics. 

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(3) Post the Salary Range for the position

Based on important feedback from the staff, we now always post salary ranges for open positions. To do this, we needed to create a system of  Salary Bands for the entire organization. We iterated from a model that Curt Ellis from Food Corps shared with us. This was a big move for us, but it was critical to achieving transparency about advancement for current staff and to help candidates decide if a job was really a good fit for them. 

At the same time, we also prohibited hiring managers from asking for Salary History from candidates because we know that folks with more privilege are often trained to ask for raises and promotions and can unfairly set their salary history higher than others. 

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(4) Stages of the Interview Process

We want to have a fair and equally applied interview process that can be scaled up and down depending on the role a hiring manager is hiring for. At the minimum, we strongly recommend the following. 

  1. Whittling down applicants: It’s a common approach for us to simply toss out all the generic cover letters—those that were obviously just boilerplate applications, or automatically generated through some API from or—and to reject all candidates wherein no evidence is given that they understand or are interested in the specific role at ioby. We recognize that we should re-evaluate this practice regularly. 

    After the generic letters are eliminated, it’s good to attempt to remove bias as much as possible when reading the cover letters and resumes. If a team is evaluating applications, a hiring manager can redact names for the evaluators to remove the opportunity for unconscious bias. Another option is that screener phone calls could be scheduled without knowledge of who is being called. We use which automatically ports headshots where available into our system. Having a hiring manager do this step to redact names, or separate resumes from the headshots, or other steps, is a good way to avoid unconscious bias. 

  2. Screener Calls: We use this step simply to find out if the candidate is still interested in the job, if the candidate understands the job, and if the candidate meets the WHAT and the WHO must haves. It’s critical for the person or person(s) to take notes on the WHAT and WHO sections of these calls. If a team is conducting screener calls, a hiring manager may lead blind calls. This is not the time to evaluate a candidate on your gut instincts, or whether you “like” them. We feel a good rule of thumb is that one person can do about 10 screener calls. If you need to do more, you may want to ask another evaluator to participate. We typically do about 10 screeners per open position. 
    • PROBLEMS AT THIS STAGE: Often we feel pressured to give a courtesy screen to ‘friends’ of the organization (people who claim to know a co-founder, senior staff or a Board member). We don’t have a strict policy about this, but Senior Management encourages that jobs get posted with a note that says “No calls, please,” and that for fairness, hiring managers refuse to give ‘informational interviews’ that could give a candidate a leg up on the process. Instead, simply respond to a request like this with a simple “Thank you so much! It would really help me if you’d fill out the application by this date, and then I can follow up with you more thoroughly.” Ask SMT if you feel uncomfortable for any reasons.
  3. Round 1 Interviews: A rule of thumb is to have about 3-6 candidates per open position at this round. If you did not already write your interview questions, you should before this step starts. 

    Nearly everyone in this round must meet nearly all the Must Haves. It is critical that only qualified candidates move on to Round 2. So, prioritize all the Must Haves questions for this round of interviews. 

    If time allows, move on to Nice to Haves. The goal of this round is to get the candidates with the most Must Haves to the final round. Bring your own manager into the process at this stage. You’ll want to brief your manager (and any other new evaluators) on the results of the previous round and explain the rationale of why you’re interviewing the candidates you are in Round 1. SMT recommends having at least 2 people total on the hiring team at this stage. 

  4. Round 2 Interviews: A rule of thumb is to have 2-3 candidates per open position at this round. Everyone at this stage should absolutely meet all Must Haves. It is disrespectful to hire someone on their potential. Karla made the comparison to us that it is like marrying someone, but knowing all along that you want them to be different after you marry them. And it will also guarantee that the person will not meet the expectations of the job, which will lead to them being unhappy and unfulfilled.

    Focus the conversation at this stage on Nice to Haves. You may want to add new questions at this stage to help tease apart nuances in a previous conversation and / or to help distinguish candidates from each other. This is a good time to talk to candidates about their personal career trajectories and goals in more detail. SMT recommends that if there are new staff on the hiring team in this interview round, it’s not a bad idea to repeat questions for their benefit and to make sure the candidates are consistent.

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(4)(a) Should interviews be in person, phone or video?

Round 1 and Round 2 have varied at ioby in whether they are conducted in person, by video or by phone. As a distributed team hiring candidates in a lot of cities, we will likely be interviewing people from outside the city where the hiring manager is based. The hiring manager can determine whether interviews should be by video or in person. However, we do mandate that all candidates be given equal treatment. You cannot interview in the same round some candidates in person and others by video; it is a completely different experience. When you interview someone by video, it can be very helpful to have another ioby staff evaluator also on video to help assist with any sound issues and to make the conversation more engaged through video. We used to believe that it was impossible to hire someone without meeting them in person. But we have now done it many times, and it does work. Talk with your manager about it.

(4)(b) Percent candidates of color diagnostic
If, at any round in the process, fewer than 40% candidates are people of color, you must broach this with your manager before moving on to the next stage of the hiring process. 

PROBLEMS AT THIS STAGE: Depending on how you’ve done screening, a hiring manager may not know exactly how many candidates of color are in the stage. Sometimes, hiring managers can get an approximation of the race or ethnicity of candidates based on their photo or things they mention in the cover letter or resume or in interview questions (many ioby interviews include questions specifically about comfort talking about racism with people of many backgrounds). 

NEW SOLUTION AT THIS STAGE: A new tactic that we have used in Board recruiting is to share ioby’s policies around race and ethnicity in our Board statement and invite them to share their own racial and ethnic identity. We are using this experience and testing a new practice to invite candidates to optionally and anonymously disclose their race and ethnicity as part of their identity if they choose to in a survey separate and disconnected from their applicant file. 

(4)(c) Who are the evaluators? We suggest that you have at least three people on the evaluation team, plus your own manager. When hiring more than one person at a time, maybe bring in more. If the hire is pretty straightforward, perhaps two people on the evaluation team is enough. We think that at least three will help give you more data points on what you’re evaluating the candidates on and help reduce the opportunity for your own unconscious biases to influence the process.

  1. The hiring manager (you)
  2. Someone from your own team (this may be hard if you have a small or new team)
  3. Someone from a team that the person will be working with

Other points on making an evaluation team: 

  1. STRONG SUGGESTION: Try to have gender and race balance/representation on the evaluation team.
  2. Unless you’ve specifically decided against it with your manager, you should bring your own manager into the process at Round 1, and not before—unless your candidate pool at earlier stages feels weak or could possibly fail to meet the required 40% candidates of color composition.

(4)(d) No qualified candidate. Remember that it is okay to hire no one. Trust us: It’s better to not hire than to hire an under-qualified candidate. This is a hard choice to make; talk to your manager about this if you feel you have no qualified candidate. The pain of spending more time in your hiring process will likely be seriously outweighed by the pain of managing someone who is not qualified or capable of doing the job.

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(5) Tracking Information

We ask that you create an evaluation tool of the WHAT and the WHO in a google spreadsheet, and use numbers to quantitatively mark candidates’ characteristics. We use the following to evaluate a characteristic. 0 = They do not have or exhibit this quality, 1 = They have or exhibit this quality, 2 (used sparingly) = They are extraordinary in this quality. You should also track your qualitative evaluation and notes on the person’s responses in the same google sheet. We ask that you do this so that SMT can refer to this document anytime in the future should an HR issue arise in the future.

We require that all communications with the candidates go through, so that no candidate can get preferential treatment. Not using Workable for any reason must be approved by your direct supervisor.

Finally, before you make an offer, we ask that you work with the evaluation team to evaluate the shortcomings of the candidate. Obviously, we want the person to join the team, so this step is easy to overlook. However, we think that explicitly delineating the shortcomings of the candidate can be very useful in a bunch of ways. For instance, knowing your new hire’s shortcomings can help design and inform a stronger onboarding process. Because of our process, you will not be hiring a candidate that lacks the “Must Haves” so it’s likely that the candidates will need to learn or practice one or more of the “Nice to Haves.” We believe it is critically important to tell the candidate what these are when you make the offer so that the candidate knows explicitly what you see as their shortcomings, and it allows you to frame them as opportunities for growth. This list can be used at the 90 day evaluation as a starting place to evaluate change and progress at this early slice. These points — once recovered — could be a great way to talk about a pay increase with the new hire. 

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(6) References

References are fine, but nearly always the person is going to be an enthusiastic supporter of the candidate. Instead of asking questions that continue to verify that, consider asking their former employer for advice in managing and supporting your new hire. Some managers also use this as a time to verify that the shortcomings we’ve identified in the hiring process resonate with their former employers.

(7) Offer Letter

When you have a candidate you're ready to make an offer to, there are two ways to craft an offer letter that sets your candidate up for success. If the candidate meets all your Must Haves, start your offer letter with a strong, clear offer. Create a strong sense of excitement, especially around the qualities that you are most enthusiastic about in the candidate. It's important that they feel valued as you come to a close in the process, and that you're eager to invite them to join your team. Importantly, be transparent about the salary offer you are making.

While it isn't ideal to make an offer to a candidate that does not meet all your Must Haves, this may be the case sometimes, especially if the Must Haves are skills that can be quickly learned on the job or are relatively easy to transfer. In that case, you will still want to craft a clear and strong offer letter, but you should establish clearly the expectations you have for them to learn those skills and be transparent about what professional development you'll have available to address the shortcoming. You should also be clear that it's something that you'll need to review together, for instance at the three-month mark, to ensure that they are performing to your expectation. Remember, while it's possible the candidate you send your offer letter to might not meet every Must Have, it is highly encouraged that they do. Gaps in Must Haves should be in easily learnable skills or tools, and you should not be hiring based on someone's potential. 

(8) Advancing & Rejecting Candidates

Here is how and when you should notify candidates that they are or are not moving forward in the process. As much as possible, you should have laid out the hiring process in advance in each stage of communications with your candidate pool, including dates and/or rough timelines to manage expectations. If your process takes much longer than planned, you should update all candidates still in the running accordingly. Please be overly courteous and use the utmost respect for everyone at each stage of this process -- these human resources are one of the most important assets we have as an organization. Candidates who may apply several times over several years because they want to work with us should be encouraged and nurtured through a respectful process because they might be our next superstar staff member. For example, not sending rejections is common practice at lots of organizations, but not acceptable at ioby. 

  1. Whittling down is completed. No notification to anyone. 
  2. Screener calls are completed. No notification to anyone.
  3. Round 1 is completed. Email rejection letter to everyone who did not make it to the first interview. 
  4. Round 2 is completed. Email remaining applicants who did not advance to let them know that you are not going to advance them. 
  5. Offer is accepted. Call or email (if the number is on the larger side) Round 1 candidates and certainly call all Round 2 candidates to let them know that you are not going to advance them and tell them why. If you seriously believe that you would hire one of these candidates in the future (i.e. if you’d had the budget to hire the finalist and the runner up you would have) tell them so and encourage them to stay connected to the organization and highlight anything you know about future hiring for the same or similar roles.

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