Miriam’s Kitchen shares how they integrated diversity and inclusion into hiring practices and key lessons they learned along the way.

Committed to ending chronic homelessness in Washington, DC and interrupting the unjust systems that disproportionately funnel people of color into homelessness, Miriam’s Kitchen has prioritized efforts to increase diversity and inclusion across the organization to better reflect the diversity of their guests (80% people of color; 51% African-American).

So far this year, they’ve had six job opportunities where they turned intention into practice. Mei Powers explains how they successfully filled those positions with six highly-qualified individuals—four of whom happen to be people of color—and shares helpful tips and resources.

Submitted by Mei Powers, Chief Development Officer, Miriam’s Kitchen

I recently sat with our Director of Operations, Jessica Walker, to compile a few lessons that we learned [in integrating diversity and inclusion into our hiring approach]. Each hiring process was unique as departments tried new things to attract skilled, diverse candidates.

  1. What you include (or don’t) in the job posting matters.

    For many job postings, including a bachelor’s degree is an automatic requirement. There are certain positions (like a licensed social worker) where a degree or certification is required. But for others, like our two jobs in fundraising, we intentionally took out the requirement of a bachelor’s degree. Instead we emphasized prior experience in fundraising, volunteer coordination, or events management. I have seen highly-skilled candidates with professional experience get screened out of jobs because they did not have a bachelor’s degree. Today, they are senior executives in the corporate and non-profit world.

    Moving forward, we have also decided to consistently include salary ranges. As someone who works in fundraising, it is just good practice to be transparent about numbers. Also, when you don’t post salary ranges you potentially discriminate against women and people of color. Check out Vu’s post from Nonprofit AF: “When you don’t disclose salary range on a job posting, a unicorn loses its wings.”

  1. Think broadly about diversity and reach beyond your existing networks.

    Diversity speaks to the whole person and encompasses a broad range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives including but not limited to race, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic status, age, family situation, physical abilities and disabilities, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and housing status. With that in mind, we posted beyond the usual networks in places such as Street Sense and tapped into personal affiliations (such as Howard University alumni on staff reaching out to Howard MSW grads).

    We also enabled people to apply in person in case they had limited access to electronic communications. However, we were surprised by some of the fees to post jobs in professional associations of color. To continue to improve our process, we are creating a list of job posting platforms and the associated fees so that we can factor that into our budgets and plans.

  1. Addressing diversity and inclusion takes time and is worth the investment.

    Our Director of Operations redacted cover letters and resumes—removing personal name, location, professional associations, and name of institutions—by hand. Two members of our Racial Equity Working Group reviewed and ranked the applications for key skills that we were looking for in the development positions—prior experience in fundraising, volunteer coordination, events management, and/or graphic design (yes, we were looking for a unicorn). It took more than 3 hours to look over 50 resumes. To save yourself some time, check out this list of “Top 10 Diversity Recruiting Tools for 2018,” which includes a tool to redact resumes that we are further researching.

  1. Ask candidates about how they have navigated issues of identity, power, and privilege.

    After concluding the interviews, we were proud to have asked structured questions focused on skills and our core values such as “guests are the center of everything we do.” However, we wished we had also interwoven questions specifically about racial equity. The Management Center has a great post about this: “3 Ways to Test Whether Your Potential Hire ‘Gets It.’” We plan to review and update the interview questions in our hiring managers’ guidebook based on the suggestions from The Management Center.

  1. Check your biases.

    To reduce our own biases, the development team asked candidates standardized, skills-focused questions and had candidates complete sample work-related tasks (such as writing a thank you letter and delivering a pitch to a donor). When it was time to decide who would get the job offer, the development team also sat with three members of our Racial Equity Working Group (which includes members of the development team) and discussed the skills and areas of concern for our top candidates.

    Together we asked ourselves thoughtful and prodding questions: “What do you mean it would be easier to hire Candidate A? What do you mean when you say Candidate B is more warm and personable?” From this exercise, we agreed that the ability to connect with supporters is critical to our job, and we need a better approach to assess likeability.

Do you have tips or lessons learned in increasing diversity and inclusion? Please share them with us. Forward to Ellen Pochekailo.

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