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Slack leads Facebook and Google in recruiting minority staff

Business messaging service Slack claims to be more successful at hiring and maintaining a diverse staff than its larger competitors

According to a report issued earlier this year, almost 43% of its managers are women, almost 9% of its US engineers are black, and Latinos account for 5.6% of its workforce. This makes Slack more diverse than Facebook, where black workers account for just 2% and Hispanics just 4%.

Slack – a firm specialising in team communication tools and messaging, with more than three million users – employs blind testing as part of its recruiting process. The method forces bosses to concentrate on the candidates’ strengths without knowing their names or where they were educated. According to a senior engineer at the firm, this has led to successful applicants coming from a wider variety of colleges and universities rather than just the elite.

As an example, Slack has recruited applicants from colleges such as San Jose State University, which are seen as lower-prestige, rather than elite colleges such as Stanford University.

Leslie Miley, a director of engineering, champions the hiring of diverse candidates. In a recent panel discussion on diversity in San Francisco, he pointed out that hiring exclusively from elite educational establishments is not necessarily going to get you the best engineers. He also pointed out that employee referrals are not an ideal alternative way to find candidates, as employees’ personal networks are not always diverse.

Miley experienced problems when urging his previous employers to hire more diverse staff. In a post he published on open platform Medium, he explained how he noticed that candidates would be sidelined for having taken too much time to finish their degrees or for not having internships at the right companies.

While Facebook and Google are aware of diversity issues and have started to produce their own diversity reports, they have made little progress so far in 2016 compared with 2015. In contrast, Slack has pledged to increase the number of employees it hires from Latino and African American backgrounds.

Miley insists that to tackle the issue effectively, the directive has to come from the top. If they have not already done so, the tech firm’s competitors should take a leaf out of Slack’s book and use blind testing to see what their candidates really have to offer.

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