In light of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding affirmative action in college admissions – and how it truly could affect diversity hiring – we think it’s important to discuss the tension employers face between prioritizing specific skillsets and fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce.

The Supreme Court’s decision and how it could impact hiring.

The SCOTUS decision on affirmative action serves to underscore – in boldface, no less –the importance of race-neutral policies and how to look at applicants’ merits. While the court’s ruling specifically pertains to college admissions, many law experts believe it has great potential to impact diversity initiatives in hiring: Companies may now find themselves facing increased scrutiny when they consider race as a factor in hiring decisions.

This, therefore raises an important question:

How will companies reconcile diversity goals with skills-focused hiring strategies?

Creating high-performing teams requires that companies hire team members with a variety of skills and backgrounds. Yet a uniform-style workforce can limit creativity, innovation – and possibly even the ability to address diverse clients.

How can you maintain a balance?
  • Define the core competencies you seek in candidates. Take a look at your star team members and determine their core competencies among them. This will help ensure that you won’t compromise on skills and qualifications. Still, you’ll need to remember that skills can be learned over time; your diversity needs might be harder to integrate down the line.


  • Move beyond a hard focus on skillsets. Instead, create and implement a holistic evaluation process that looks at candidates’ experience, perspective and potential. This will help you tap into a wider talent pool while also making sure that candidates have the skills needed so that they can succeed – if not thrive – in the role.


  • Actively seek out diverse candidates via inclusive recruitment strategies. Attend job fairs, conferences and networking events that attract a spectrum of talent from a wide range of backgrounds and communities.


  • Create skill development programs. Skill gaps can be bridged relatively easily via training/development. Not only does this mean your team members will grow in their skills, it also will members of minority communities apply: they’ll know you’ll nurture their potential.


  • Create diverse interview panels. Ensuring that interviewing groups/panels – if your company uses them – are comprised of employees from various backgrounds shows a commitment to diversity while also providing you a more comprehensive look at candidates’ suitable for your job opportunities.
Mitigating bias

Biases can affect both skill-driven as well as diversity-oriented hiring, especially if they are unconscious biases. Consider the following strategies:

  1. Structured interview questions will help you asses specific backgrounds, skills and qualifications, minimizing the effect of personal biases during interviews.
  2. Providing ongoing training to those who hire on recognizing and mitigating their biases will help lead to more impartial and informed decisions.
  3. “Blind” applications that focus only on candidates’ qualifications and skills will help candidates advance through your hiring process based on their merits.
Striking a balance is key

The Supreme Court’s decision helps underscore how important it is that companies aim for a balance between hiring for diversity and skills. We believe this might be achieved via the “hybrid” approach, as we’ve described above.

Let Debbie’s Staffing provide preliminary interviews for your job opportunities, helping your hiring managers avoid unconscious bias when they’re making decisions as to which candidates to advance through the hiring process.