Facebook has put itself at the forefront of efforts to recruit a more diverse workforce, including a targeted internal recruiting strategy in 2015 designed to bring in female, black and Latino software engineers.
Yet within Facebook’s engineering department, the push has been hampered by a multilayered hiring process that gives a small committee of high-ranking engineers veto power over promising candidates, frustrating recruiters and hindering progress on diversity goals.
Focusing on where someone went to school or whom they know in the company can often exclude candidates from underrepresented backgrounds, said Joelle Emerson, a diversity consultant who helps tech companies make their hiring more inclusive.
“Facebook recruits from hundreds of schools and employers from all over the world, and most people hired at Facebook do not come through referrals from anyone at the company,” a company spokeswoman wrote in a statement. “Once people begin interviewing at Facebook, we seek to ensure that our hiring teams are diverse. Our interviewers and those making hiring decisions go through our managing bias course and we remain acutely focused on improving our ability to hire people with different backgrounds and perspectives.”
Despite efforts by recruiters, Facebook’s demographics in technology roles — which includes engineers and some other job categories — has barely changed, according to its yearly diversity reports. From 2015 to 2016, Facebook’s proportion of women in tech grew from 16 percent to 17 percent, and its proportion of black and Latino U.S. tech workers stayed flat at 1 and 3 percent, respectively.
Urging recruiters to prioritize diversity without applying the same pressure to those making the final hiring decisions is common in Silicon Valley, said Emerson, the diversity consultant.
Tech firms focus on recruiters and not on hiring managers “because it’s far easier to think about bringing people into the funnel,” she said. “It’s harder to think about changing a broader process that a company has been using for maybe 10 years.”
In 2014, Facebook for the first time released its demographic data, and by the next year, it hadn’t shown much progress in increasing the number of women, black or Latino workers. Last year, the company decided to do something more.
Facebook dangled a carrot for recruiters: double points. Recruiters usually got one point for each candidate of theirs that took a job at Facebook. With the new incentive, they’d receive two points if that person was a “diversity hire” — someone who was a woman, or who was not white or Asian, according to two former recruiters.
Points are a major metric for Facebook’s recruiters, and the double-point system energized them. Those who don’t earn their expected number of points are put on a performance-improvement program, two recruiters said. Recruiting teams gathered for several hours a week to concentrate just on sourcing a diverse set of candidates, said one recruiter.