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KF Hiring Policy

How we maximize success and minimize bias in hiring, from conceptualizing the role to writing the job description, recruiting, interview, making final decisions, and making offers.

Published onFeb 02, 2022
KF Hiring Policy
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  • This Release (#1) was created on Feb 02, 2022 ()
  • The latest Release (#3) was created on Aug 18, 2022 ().

Overview

Hiring is one of the most important, and difficult, functions of any company. In general, our hiring process is designed to optimize for core value alignment rather than perfect role-requirement match or nebulous “cultural fit” criteria. This has the benefit of being naturally bias-reducing by looking beyond a candidates’ specific experiences or the team’s personal comfort with a candidate, which are always influenced by systemic factors. In addition to taking this approach generally, we outline specific practices, like eliminating gendered job listing language, using consistent and pre-written interview questions, and specifying finalist pool diversity criteria, to reduce the impact of bias on hiring.

Creating Openings

Teams must get approval from the leadership team before creating or recruiting for openings.

Generally, that process involves the team leader first discussing the need for various roles with their team and getting buy-in. After that, the lead should set up a meet with the leadership team to pitch the need for the role. The most successful pitches will contextualize the need for the role against KF’s organizational goals and strategic direction set out in yearly updates.

Proposals must include:

  • Job title

  • Pay range and alignment to the KF Pay Scale

  • A rough description of duties

  • Who, if anyone, is currently performing the work described, and how their role will change if a hire is made

  • A description of how the role advances KF’s goals and strategic direction

If the leadership team approves, Operations will verify that there is budget for the role, and send final approval to the hiring manager. Once the job is approved, the hiring manager should write a job posting and an interview template on the KF Notes site as described below.

Posting Jobs

Job postings must follow the standards set below. Before posting the job publicly, the team lead must get approval from the leadership team.

Language

Research shows the language of job postings has an enormous effect on who applies for jobs, and how they apply. To be as inclusive as possible, job postings should be written in non-violent, non-gendered language. They should avoid overly specific jargon and requirements, such as specific technologies (unless the role requires prior knowledge), degrees, or years of experience. Checking job listings against tools like the gender bias encoder is recommended before seeking approval.

Elements

  • Title: Job Title, Team

  • Description: Help build better futures for open academic publishing with a thoughtfully remote, mission-driven team.

  • Location, part vs. full-time, salary range: e.g. Remote, full-time, $65,000 - $75,000 per year

  • Abstract: summarizes the role in 2-3 sentences

  • About the KFG:

    The Knowledge Futures Group, founded as a partnership between the MIT Press and the MIT Media Lab, is a non-profit institution that builds technology for builds infrastructure for a more effective, equitable, and sustainable knowledge economy.

  • About the [Team/Product] (optional): A 2-3 sentences description of the team/product and its function within KF (example).

  • About the Role: A bulleted list describing the main functions of the role (example).

  • About You: A bulleted list describing the experiences we are looking for in an ideal candidate (example).

  • Working With Us:

    • Work with a thoughtfully distributed team: we were a remote team before it was a global necessity, and put a lot of effort into making the remote experience a great one. Learn more about how we work in our Handbook. As it becomes safe to travel and gather again, we are resuming our roughly biannual in-person team retreats at fun locations throughout the U.S., which began with our Vermont retreat in the fall of 2021.

    • Enjoy industry-standard perks: unlimited PTO with a yearly minimum, your own computer of choice, and the ability to work fully remote — with regular in-person team retreats as safety allows — with a team that prioritizes remote participation.

    • Contribute to our larger mission at the Knowledge Futures Group: we’re building a future where the infrastructure to create and access knowledge is controlled by people who serve the public interest, starting with core projects like PubPub and The Underlay. As a KFG team member, you’ll be able to contribute to those efforts as well, and we’ll support any ambitions you might have to publish in our journal, the Commonplace, and beyond.

  • Apply:

    If you’re interested, please send us an email with a resume or CV and brief cover letter and we’ll be in touch!

    We welcome applicants from diverse backgrounds with diverse skillsets. If you have significant personal experience or engagement with low-income communities, international communities, or fields and languages that are underrepresented in academia, scholarly publishing, or open data, we strongly encourage you to apply. This job description is intended to be a guidepost, not a checklist.

    If you feel like you could do a great job in this role, even if you don’t exactly meet every qualification, please consider applying. And if you’re still hesitant after reading this bold text, send us a short note anyway with any questions you have about qualifications.

  • Eligibility:

    You must be legally authorized to work in the United States to apply for this role.

Posting

Job postings must be approved by the leadership team before being posted. Postings for all roles must be listed on the KF Notes site for a minimum of two weeks before hiring decisions can be made.

Recruiting

Hiring managers can spend $500/month for up to 3 months promoting their roles on paid services with approval from the leadership team. In the past, we’ve tried several job advertisement services with varying success. To date, the most successful services for eliciting higher volumes of high-quality candidates have been:

  • LinkedIn Jobs (mostly because their pre-screening tools are very good at handling volume)

  • People of Color in Tech

  • KF Twitter

Services that have not proved effective:

  • Academic publishing industry-specific job boards (very expensive, very low volume)

  • Hacker News (extremely high volume of difficult-to-screen applications; next time, we may try adding a LinkedIn jobs link to HN)

Unclear, but perhaps worth another look:

  • Black Tech Pipeline (high cost, low volume of applicants)

  • University job boards (low cost, low volume)

Candidate Evaluation

Each role must have a pre-described screening and interview process document, with each stage of the process assigned to the individuals responsible for it (example).

Interviewing Requirements

Interviews are where the most subtle, but destructive forms of unconscious bias take place. It’s very easy even for the most well-meaning people to turn interviews into tests of whether they like a candidate, rather than whether the candidate is a good fit for the role or the company.

To avoid this, we use trait-based interviews, designed to test whether someone has the traits we’re looking for against a consistent rubric, rather than free-form interviews. This means interview questions must be prepared in advance and approved by the leadership team. Interviewers are expected to ask approved interview questions only, and as much as possible, to ask the same questions of each candidate applying for the role. This can lead to some awkward moments during interviews, but we believe it’s worth the tradeoff in favor of consistency and less bias.

Interviewers should take thorough notes during the interview, and at the end of the process, score the candidate against each tested trait on a scale from 1 (worst) to 5 (best). Candidates scoring an average of 4 or higher automatically advance to the next round. Candidates scoring an average of 3 or lower are automatically rejected. Candidates in the middle should be discussed with the leadership team and can be advanced or rejected on a case-by-case basis.

Interview Process

With the exception of the screening and the reference check, each phase of the interview process for each candidate should be conducted by a different team member. Each interview should follow a set rubric with pre-defined questions.

  • Screening: Did the applicant complete the hiring instructions? Does the experience on their resume match the experiences in the job description? Does their cover letter show a compelling, specific interest in role?

  • Screener Interview: A 30-minute trait-based interview with questions that test for our six values, plus one skills question. (example)

  • Skills Interview: A 60- to 90-minute interview that tests for the specific skills needed to satisfactorily fill the role. For tech interviews, we typically ask candidates to perform a code review of one of our open-source repositories against a pre-defined rubric of responses (example).

  • Industry Interview: A 30-minute trait-based interview that tests for candidates’ interest in the industries, philosophies, technologies, and users served by the role. Additionally, this is an opportunity to re-test for any specific traits that are still a question mark after previous rounds. Re-tests should use approved, pre-prepared questions. (example)

  • References: All candidates must supply at least 3 references. They should be checked using the following reference template:

    • Context of KFG and the role

    • How do you know them?

    • What are the strengths we should make sure they get to bring to the role?

    • What are the areas where we could help them develop?

    • What would be objections to hiring them and how would you route around them?

    • Are there any particular resources you think we could provide to help them flourish?

    • Anything else we should know?

Skills Interview: Alternative to Projects

We do not believe that asking candidates to complete projects is a productive screening mechanism, as it can be perceived as asking for free labor, and tends to favor candidates who can have the ability to take the time to complete projects. In lieu of projects, we prefer designing longer-duration, interactive skills interviews. In this style of interview, we ask candidates to demonstrate relevant skills by reviewing a pre-made codebase or project. To make sure we don’t disadvantage candidates who are less adept at on-the-spot conversations, we give candidates a choice between bringing a project/codebase to us that they would like us to evaluate, or evaluating a project/codebase that we built at KFG. In either case, we inform candidates about the purpose of the interview ahead of time and, if they choose to evaluate a KFG project/codebase, send it to them at least 24 hours in advance of the interview.

Hiring Decision

Finalist Pool Requirement

No offers can be extended until at least one finalist for the job, defined as making it to a final-round industry interview, is from an under-represented group (non-cisgendered-male and/or an American racial minority). For every 3 finalists, there must be at least one person who is not a cisgendered male and one American racial minority (these can be the same person).

If offers are made and rejected, those can be considered as part of the overall the finalist pool.

Making Offers

Once the finalist pool is set, the hiring manager should meet with the leadership team to select who to make an offer to based on their documented interview performance. The leadership team must approve of the selected candidate before any offers are made.

Offers must be made within KF’s stated salary ranges, based the candidate’s experience and salary requests. To avoid bias and pay imbalance, we cannot negotiate fringe benefits or pay beyond set salary ranges. We can be flexible about arrangements that include less than 40 hours of work per week but at least 30 hours, the minimum required to provide benefits, but must adjust pay accordingly to fit within scales.

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