Adopt a 'Sharpie Mentality' to Hire for Fit and Diversity


Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek October 25, 2017
Adopt a Sharpie Mentality to Hire for Fit and Diversity

SAN FRANCISCO—It's possible to find both fit and diversity in a job candidate.

In fact, one way to do that is to adopt the approach used by judges on the TV show "The Voice," said Mary Ila Ward, SHRM-SCP, owner of Horizon Point Consulting Inc., a talent management service in Decatur, Ala. The judges assess singers through blind auditions so that they don't focus on physical characteristics.

"Just pull out your Sharpie and mark out things [on resumes] that are not relevant [to performing] the job," Ward told attendees at the Society for Human Resource Management 2017 Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition here Oct. 23. Irrelevant information might be the applicant's name, where the person went to school, the year he or she graduated, and the applicant's address. This helps guard against negative bias about gender, race or age, and against favoring someone based on where they went to school or what part of the country they come from.

Applying a "Sharpie mentality" is a strategy that resonated with conference attendee Angela Dampeer, SHRM-SCP, associate vice president of HR at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, Texas. and the school's Title IX coordinator.

"Look at personality traits and skills that individuals have instead of 'does this person look like me or sound like me?' " she said.

[SHRM members-only how-to guide: How to Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Initiative]

Ward noted that an employer can determine a job candidate's fit with the organization through prescreening and interview questions. For example, if an employer values initiative, it might ask an applicant to talk about a time when, absent clear direction, he or she completed an assignment.

She advised diversity and inclusion professionals to think about where they can find job candidates. People with autism, for example, often have traits—focus, attention to detail, precision—that make them good candidates for software testing. Employers looking for people with those traits, she said, might want to consider sources such as the AutismJobBoard website.

It's also important to be aware of your own biases—whether they are negative or positive—so you can address them, Ward said.

She told how her young son noticed that his little sister's collection of princess dolls didn't include any with dark skin. Many of the dolls had been gifts from relatives and reflected the blond, blue-eyed child, so the lack of diversity in the collection was something Ward had never thought about, she said.

That was remedied when she took her son shopping to buy his sister a birthday gift. He walked to the toy section and returned with a Princess Tiana doll from Disney's animated film, "The Princess and the Frog." In one simple, decisive move, he had diversified his sister's collection.  

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