Every fortnight, we hand over the blog to one of the London Shapers, to give you a flavour of what they do, how they think and what's really going on in our hearts and minds. Today's piece comes from Hera Hussain, who is the Founder of CHAYN and Senior Advocacy Manager at Open Contracting Partnership.
When I joined the WEF Global Shapers hub a few years ago, I was one of the few diverse faces in an achievement-packed group of Londoners. I was told this was a great milestone for the group. I remember going for the interview to a swanky office of a media agency and feeling the weight of the opportunity before me. I could get in?! I could be part of the elite?!
This impression of our Hub as a club of the privileged, future leaders of tomorrow is what we spent the next three years tearing down. What makes the Global Shapers community so great is that everybody who gets in has the intent and the proof to show that they have used their time to make the world better and achieved a great many milestones for their sector or age. Given the way privilege and power can thread itself into any exclusive group, we often end up having similar kind of people and profiles, even though WEF prohibits family members and close friends from being in the Hub at the same time. When I joined the London Hub, we had a lot of government advisors, consultants and finance professionals. The year after, we diversified with academics, scientists and climate crisis activists. The year after that, we brought in more diverse profiles looking at how our hub was not representative of people of colour and industries such as the arts and law enforcement. This year, our focus shifted to young people and under-represented industries such as civil service (the previous people we had in this sector graduated), entertainment, energy and people who had been in prison or had not gone to university. Our hub has become so diverse that we had a hard time counting white British men. Imagine the luxury of correcting the balance “that way” this year!
This post is about what how we’ve gotten here and the lessons we’ve learned.
We changed the way we thought about recruitment. We are intentionally looking at who is in our community, what skills and lived experiences they represent, and how to outreach to communities we are targeting.
We created pre-application meet and greet events. We had been getting the feedback that people thought our Hub was unapproachable and the application was daunting. These meet and greet events helped by putting a face to the Hub, and more than that, it allowed people to meet us and see what we are like. Often we present our best faces to social media and it can lead people to think it’s been a smooth journey. This way we are able to encourage them and discuss our projects.
We standardised our scoring matrix. When we review applications, we used to have some loose guidelines and we would then score candidates. Afterwards, we would take the candidates with the highest scores and invite them to a physical interview day. This year we standardised our scoring matrix with clear guidelines on what each score would mean. This helps counter bias and wildly different scores.
We introduced a pre-interview chat on the interview day. Interviewees got a 15 mins induction before the interview began. They were able to see the questions we would ask, got a chance to ask clarifying questions and can feedback on how the interview went with our induction team at the exit point. If some candidates are nervous and it may have affected their interview, the induction team can bring these factors to light at our deliberation.
We fixed our questions for interviews. We had previously given recruitment teams (2-3 people in each interview room) complete flexibility in asking whatever they wanted that helped us understand what they would bring to the Hub. Feedback from participants told us that this meant we were asking wildly different and sometimes irrelevant questions. We thought even though there must be room for for going-off script depending on the candidate, there must be a script to begin with.
We had the hard conversation about interview technique.
Diversity and inclusion includes diversity of personality and interview-giving style. We have noticed over the years that sometimes, brilliant people are terrible interviewees. This could be because of nervousness or that their answers don’t follow a pattern because they have not been prepared for it, unlike others who go through years of job-style interview practice at university and leadership courses. To make sure we don’t unfairly mark people, at our deliberation we compare written application scores to interview scores to get to the bottom of the difference. Do we penalise people for not asking questions at the end of an interview? How much weight do we put on confidence? We also spend time giving feedback to candidates who were rejected but go through if they applied a few years down the line.
This isn’t the finish line. We know we’ve come far but we need to keep evolving and responding to the feedback we get from interviewees. For instance, consideration is the meeting time for Hub gatherings. For some professionals, such as entertainers and police officers, meeting the Hub commitment of one evening event every month is impossible. If we were to alternate evening meetings with breakfast ones, we’ll be able to provide options and increase Hub engagement.
Let us know what you think of these steps. We’re here to share and learn!
Note: I’ve been involved in these conversations but have certainly not led them. All the credit goes to our Curators and recruitment leads who have worked tirelessly to make this happen: Matt Clifford, Ade Adeyemi, Baillie Aaron, Lisa Wong, Tat-Seng, Claudine Adeyemi and Carlo Minciacchi.