cream vector art
Inclusion & Diversity

Accountability for diverse candidate slates.

We rolled out the Remarkable Interview Slate Enforcement (RISE) a company-wide program to ensure we are consistently considering remarkable slates of candidates—which we believe to be, inherently, diverse.

Piloting the remarkable candidate slate program

When we launched this blog, we said we’d be candid about our inclusion and diversity work, showing both what’s worked and what hasn’t. We’re hoping to prompt other companies to share their successes and failures, so we can learn from each other and move the industry forward.

We know we need diverse teams and ideas to continue delivering on our purpose of economic empowerment. While we have made progress in building the diversity of our team over the past years, we still aren’t where we want to be. To drive continued progress towards diversity, we are inventing, learning, and exploring changes to our processes and procedures.

Most recently, in November 2019, we launched a company-wide program to ensure we are consistently considering remarkable slates of candidates—which we believe to be, inherently, diverse. We called the program Remarkable Interview Slate Enforcement, or RISE. Based on the results of our six month pilot, we are sharing our takeaways and how we’ll move forward with RISE as a permanent part of how we hire at Square.

“At the end of the day, if we aren’t constantly considering diverse candidate slates, we aren’t positioning ourselves to hire the best people and build the best company.”

The pilot

The RISE pilot was a company commitment to interview at least one underrepresented minority (URM) or woman of any race/ethnicity at the final interview stage. The intention of the program was to build greater diversity in the talent pipeline at the earliest stages of the recruiting process, thereby contributing to enhanced diversity of our candidate slates. RISE did not exclude any qualified applicants, rather it sought to expand our talent pool.

For our initial RISE pilot, we focused on gender and race/ethnicity because these are central facets of diversity that we have the reporting mechanisms to measure and track. Furthermore, we believe these serve as measurable indicators of how effective we are at recruiting and hiring talent from groups that have historically faced discrimination and bias in hiring. In other words, though focused on gender and race/ethnicity, RISE highlights opportunities to mitigate bias in our hiring practices, which will make our process stronger and even more inclusive for all. As always, we remain committed to hiring the best person for the role, based on merit, skills, and experiences.

RISE applied to any role at a level 6 or above, which ranges from early leadership roles to senior leadership roles. We focused on these levels because we saw the most consistent gaps in underrepresented talent within leadership so it made sense to focus the attention of our recruiters, sourcers, and hiring managers here.

Initially, we suspected that RISE might delay the hiring process at least in some cases. But we were willing to see if that was the case, and make an investment into a potential slowdown in hiring to uncover learnings that would help us follow through on our commitment to building a diverse workforce.

The rollout

As with most inclusion and diversity efforts, clear communication about the program’s intent and details was key to an effective rollout. Generally, we followed the communication framework that we established in rolling out our referral bonus pilot, but we quickly realized that more communication and training was necessary — especially for our recruiting team who was on the front line in terms of implementation. Accordingly, beyond detailed updates sent to the company and hiring managers in particular, we ran a series of trainings for our recruiters to ensure clarity on the program and to review strategies to set hiring teams up for success.

Besides the communications strategy, the other major rollout challenge was establishing systems to track RISE compliance while maintaining candidate confidentiality and avoiding reliance on visual identification to determine race, ethnicity, or gender.

To respect candidate privacy and help ensure equal opportunity for all applicants, the program did not permit hiring managers or teams to have access to candidate demographic data (e.g. URM status) — this was kept confidential within the People team. Furthermore, we partnered with our Talent Operations team to emphasize the importance of application completion and to build accountability systems for recruiters and managers to track RISE compliance.

The learnings

We designed RISE to ensure consistent consideration of a diverse candidate slate before making a hiring decision, and there is promising data to suggest that RISE did indeed drive increased diversity in candidate slates. However, incomplete demographic data on our talent pipeline (due to low application completion rates) makes it challenging to draw definitive conclusions.

With the help of a social security baby names database, People Analytics team used candidate first names (for names with a >90% likelihood of being associated with a given gender) to draw inferences about the gender diversity of our pipeline.

This data revealed that RISE did increase the representation of women at all stages of our hiring process. At the panel interview stage, the percentage of women went up by 12 percentage points compared to the same time period the year prior.

Unfortunately, without a comparable solution at this time for filling in gaps in our race/ethnicity pipeline data, we saw a gap in race/ethnicity data for approximately 75% of candidates at the onsite interview stage. We were therefore unable to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of RISE in increasing URM representation in our pipeline. This is obviously an issue that we need to tackle and it has been elevated as a top priority for the Talent team to address.

Despite the positive impact indicated on our pipeline diversity, so far we have not found that RISE has notably increased the diversity of our hires. There may be a delayed impact here (e.g. RISE has increased the diversity of our candidate slates for roles where offers have not yet been made and/or hires have not yet started), but our assessment at this point is that RISE in its current iteration has not driven a notable increase in the diversity of our hires.

Finally, with respect to time-to-hire, during the pilot RISE did not delay the hiring process, which was the chief concern we heard in rolling out the program. On the contrary, we found that median time-to-fill actually decreased for RISE roles!

What’s next

RISE has increased the focus on diversity within the Talent team and across the company, and in doing so, it’s surfaced key opportunities for how to enhance our systems to help us build more inclusive and diverse teams. From prompting new ways to track diversity throughout our talent pipeline to how we measure the diversity of a candidate slate for roles that share pipelines (like for software engineering), RISE has illuminated opportunities to hire more inclusively and has elevated these opportunities as timely priorities that our teams are now actively working to address.

RISE has also motivated change at a systemic level—changes to our standard way of recruiting and hiring—the sort of enduring change that we believe is needed to promote real progress. Because of this and the data that suggests RISE has indeed increased the diversity of our candidate slates, we are expanding the program.

Moving forward, RISE will now apply to all new roles, level 4 (generally translating to early/mid-career) and above, globally. While for engineering roles, RISE will continue to require URM representation or representation of women of any race, for business roles we’ll now focus specifically on URM representation. We want to be ambitious in requiring a level of diversity on our candidate slates, while focusing recruiter and hiring manager attention on our biggest gaps—for our business roles, that’s racial/ethnic diversity. RISE compliance will continue to be the shared responsibility of recruiters, sourcers, hiring managers, and leaders. We see it as everyone’s job to ensure our hiring process is as inclusive and equitable as possible.

At the end of the day, if we aren’t constantly considering diverse candidate slates, we aren’t positioning ourselves to hire the best people and build the best company. We believe diverse candidate slates should be a standard practice in hiring, and RISE is one tool for holding ourselves, and each other, accountable.

  1. Underrepresented Minorities (URM) refers to underrepresented EEO-1 racial/ethnic groups at Square (in the U.S.): African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native American or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and two or more races.
  2. Exceptions to RISE included contractor conversions and hires via acquisitions.