Tips for Diversifying Your Candidate Pipeline

How prone to hiring people similar to yourself are you — and how is this holding your business back?

Candidate pipeline

It’s no secret that the software industry has traditionally attracted and employed men, and even when you recognize this lack of diversity, you may find it hard to turn the tide. In fact, right now, your candidate pipeline may be filled with people from the same demographic. The first step toward change is investigating why.

Are You Biased Toward Candidates Like Yourself?

Maybe it’s human nature, or maybe it seems to be the path of least resistance, but when choosing co-founders, hiring team members or promoting, it’s not uncommon to gravitate toward the person that is most like you.

This may not even be a conscious decision. People reviewing resumes may favor candidates in your pipeline who share a similar background or went to the same college. The skills evaluations you establish can also reflect your personal preferences or interests. Alaina Percival, CEO and board chair of Women Who Code, recalls an interview that included a whiteboard exercise based on a video game the interviewer enjoyed, but that the job candidate had never played.

Percival says your job search and interviewing processes may need to change to eliminate biases. “Consider anonymizing the first few rounds of the process so the hiring manager can’t identify the candidate when evaluating skill set or performance,” she says. “Anonymizing the process allows people with different backgrounds to get further in the process.”

She also advises paying close attention to the point where diverse candidates tend to drop off, then look for and eliminate biases that may exist at those stages of the interview process. “Then, you should start to see your team represent all demographics,” she comments.

The Benefits of Hiring Women for Your Tech Team

To software company founders and hiring managers who are reluctant to invest the time into building a diverse candidate pipeline, remember that it’s worth it.

Global research by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that companies with women in leadership roles are actually more profitable. In the Peterson Institute sample, businesses with at least 30 percent of leaders who are women had, on average, 15 percent greater profitability. “Building diverse teams is the fiscally responsible thing to do,” says Percival.

Percival adds that diverse teams are more effective and productive. A First Round Capital study of the companies it has backed revealed that companies with female founders perform better — 63 percent better than those with only male founders.

Furthermore, a University of Arizona, Eller College of Management study found that companies with women in leadership roles are more innovative and produce more patents by an average of 20 percent more than all-male teams.

Design Your Business to Scale

In an industry that’s been dealing with a talent shortage for some time, maintaining the status quo isn’t a sustainable strategy. Women Who Code reports about 1.4 million tech jobs in the U.S., but a shortage of about 1 million people to fill them. The organization further points out that women comprise 57 percent of the U.S. labor force and about 51 percent of the population. Disproportionately, women hold only about 26 percent of jobs in the tech industry, and, unfortunately, they leave these jobs at a rate that’s 45 percent higher than any other industry.

“There aren’t enough software engineers to fill market need,” says Percival. “You can’t leave out half of society.”

If you’re ready to get serious about diversifying your candidate pipeline and build a team poised for greater innovation, not to mention higher profits, Women Who Code can help. This organization of women in the software industry is the largest and most active in the world, with 200,000 members and resources you can leverage to find, recruit, hire and retain women on your team. Learn more about Women Who Code and the organization’s job board.

Leverage these resources as a part of your strategy to diversify your candidate pipeline. “Set goals, plan, and include it in your budget,” says Percival. “It’s not something you can just agree with and think it will happen. You have to be intentional.”


Candidate pipeline