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When Facebook Inc. Asked for My Advice on Inclusion

Facebook announced last week that a certain former president would continue to be banned on its platform. The decision was made not by executives at the company, but a 20-member independent committee: the Facebook Oversight Board.

I’m glad about the decision — in my humble opinion, it shouldn't be up for debate anyway. But you don’t subscribe to this letter to ask my opinion on how social media platforms should handle controversial users.

Instead, I’m going to share that I’ve been watching the Facebook Oversight Board closely. That’s because I was among the team of advisors to Facebook on how to gather the board in the first place.

The company approached me in 2018 to consult on how to gather an international, independent oversight board through an inclusive and equitable recruiting process. Essentially, they planned to put out an open call for nominations from all over the world...and were surprisingly transparent about their process.

They later shared that a lot of my feedback on inclusive hiring was used by the team for the Board. So l’ve detailed some of my advice below and I hope it will be useful for your inclusive leadership too, no matter what you’re recruiting people for.

  1. Establish diversity goals as early in the process as possible – and well before interviews. This ensures that you’ve built accountability and intentionality towards building a diverse team from the get-go and you’re not scrambling after.

  2. Include an Equal Employment Opportunity statement in your job listing. Textio research shows it doesn’t just help you attract great underestimated candidates, but the best candidates of all backgrounds.

  3. Do not compensate people differently based on their location. If they’re expected to do the same work (um, as in advise on what constitutes free speech and what’s hate speech online, in the Oversight Board’s case), then they should be paid equally whether they're in Bandung or the Bay Area. No exceptions.

  4. Be very specific about what you’re evaluating during interviews–and what you’re not. In the west, particularly in the American work environment, candidates who express their excitement during an interview are preferred by hiring managers over those who appear calm during an interview. This can be discriminatory against people from other cultures who are not always socialized the same way, a Stanford study found.

  5. Ensure there’s diversity in the selection committee. I’m not going to elaborate on this. Full stop.

  6. Provide scenario-based opportunities for a candidate to demonstrate their knowledge. Do not just assess their qualifications by their background or education. How would they solve a problem they may encounter on the job, in real time? This ensures you don’t over index on pedigree.

Building a diverse team takes intention and effort — frankly, so do most things “worth doing.” Whether the stakes are as high as in the case of Facebook or you’re hiring your next accountant, I encourage you to view this intention and effort as an exciting challenge (and not a burden).

What would you add to the list above? The more we share these practices and ideas the more equitable and inclusive our teams and communities become.

P.S. I did not have any insight into candidates or the final selection process. I am not affiliated with Facebook Inc. or any of its employees.


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