Uber Assesses for Inclusivity Like It’s a Core Competency (Because It Is)

Craig CampbellHead of Engineering Recruitment

Uber’s Head of Engineering Recruitment, Craig Campbell, explains his team’s process of ensuring inclusivity by assessing for it in the interview stage.

Episode Transcript

00:01 Rob Stevenson: Hello, hello, you sweet, wonderful darling talent acquisition pros you? It’s me Again, Rob Stevenson and coming to you from the most lugubrious confines of a makeshift recording studio at Hired HQ on a windy foggy cold summer’s day, in San Francisco, California. If this is your first time tuning in, here’s all you need to know. Every week, I will be bringing in my favorite people in the recruitment space directors of recruitment, Heads of talent, and VPs of TA, you name it. I’ll get them in here. And they are all going to do primarily one thing.


00:32 RS: Talk Talent To Me. And today I have a real doozy for you. I sincerely believe that we can’t talk enough about diversity and inclusion when it comes to hiring. Not even once we have workplaces with representation that reflects the population of the cities they’re in will we have talked enough about this, will we have done enough in the interest of equality and fairness and representation in terms of pay, in terms of hiring, in terms of upward mobility, etcetera. And I think my guest today, the Director of Engineering recruitment for Uber would agree. When he and I first chatted he told me about all this really fascinating stuff Uber is doing regarding talent market analysis, and new areas they want to expand, about metrics and insights they’ve gleaned from the mountain of recruiting data they’re sitting on.

01:27 RS: But when he and I sat down to record, we ended up talking about how if you strive for diversity and inclusion at your org, it’s not enough to source for it, because if your process is broken, if there’s bias in your process, if inclusion isn’t a value that’s already held by individuals in your organization, your diverse candidates will be speaking into the air when they interview. And so, Uber has begun screening for inclusivity in all its candidates, in the same way they screen for any core competency. How do they build that into the interview process? How do they ensure it actually takes place? What questions do they ask, and what does a good answer to them look like? Craig Campbell walks me through all of it in this episode. Okay, enjoy.


03:00 RS: Mr. Campbell, how are you?

03:01 Craig Campbell: Doing well. How are you, Rob?

03:02 RS: I’m doing really well, thanks for asking. I’m excited to have this conversation with you. The notes I got when we chatted before, you’re working on all this amazing stuff over, over at Uber, and I’ve never got to interview someone from Uber before so I’m excited. It’s gonna be great.

03:15 CC: Alright, yeah, let’s do it.

03:17 RS: So right off the bat, I’m just curious, what all are you working on? What are some the top of mind initiatives over there?

03:23 CC: Yeah, so as you may know, Uber definitely has been, and continues to be in growth mode, as we consider all of the different modalities that would sit on our platform, whether it’s ride-sharing, bikes, autonomous vehicles, all of which feed into sort of our broader plan. And therefore within engineering, which is where I focus most of my time and leadership, we are experiencing an intense level to growth, very high demand in a very competitive market as you know. And right now, one of our challenges is really to ensure that we’re stabilized across some of our key areas that I’ve mentioned. In addition to that we are also thinking about, “How do we line up head count, finance, analytics of recruiting, velocity, and production?” And get all those things to try to talk to each other.

04:27 CC: Sometimes just getting the people that represent those areas to talk to each other is enough of a challenge, but from a systems standpoint, an even bigger challenge. And so while we haven’t completely solved that, I think the work that we’re putting towards making that more seamless in service to the business leaders making decisions all the way up to the CEO is definitely an area we’re visiting, and we’re all that slightly different maturity stages, but definitely one of the priority missions. And in addition to that inclusive recruiting as we describe it is another area for us. And that just simply means, “How can we ensure that Uber continues on a journey to be an inclusive and diverse workforce? And what are the sensibilities we need to embed? What are the strategies we need to think about? And what are the accountability mechanisms we need to have in place to help us understand if it’s working, if it’s not working and why, and then what do we need to do more of or different to stay on that path?”

05:41 CC: I think lastly, we are also spending time thinking about recruiter and sourcer capability, and it’s one of those concepts that is about what got us here may not get us there. And while that’s typically kind of a business or a culture concept, I think certainly people are an aspect of that as well. The attributes, and talents, and capabilities of people that will get you from zero to 500, or in our case 500 to 15000 as it were, which is some ridiculous growth. What are the capabilities we need to continue to evolve? So, that’s a handful of things, that’s a lot of things that are all at different stages, that we’re spending time on.

06:34 RS: Well, I feel like we can probably do a full podcast episode on any one of those topics, or maybe it’ll be better served as a 10-part HBO mini series. But we’ll try and do justice to as many of those as we can. I guess I’d love to hear more about the inclusive hiring piece, particularly the accountability. So we’ve seen it in lots of companies, they make this external proclamation that they’re committed to building a more inclusive workplace, right? Easy to say, harder to actually execute. And so I’m curious, what are the… At the level of the hiring manager, or maybe at the level of the recruiter and sourcer, what are the processes that you put in place to make sure that people are account… Or being held accountable to pursuing these goals?

07:21 CC: Yeah, so the way that I lead and drive the platform, if you will, to achieve that, is by just taking an inside-out mentality. And what that simply means is that, how do we ensure that we have the ecosystem or the infrastructure that will support these efforts, right? And part of that infrastructure is understanding the pillars that we’re gonna focus on, from find, attract, hire, retain. Very simple concepts that if you’ve had even an adjacent exposure to recruiting, you might understand. Then from there, what are the processes and mechanisms across each one of those pillars that will serve as the foundation for the effort? Now, while that is a very basic articulation and sounds pretty fundamental, I think a lot of organizations lead from that and organizations will go for the sort of outside-in, meaning we’re gonna go to market, and we’re going to put up a booth or we’re gonna post a job, and that’s going to be our approach.

08:38 CC: And I think both things can be done in parallel, but I don’t know that both things actually always happen. And so what you end up getting, and why, in many cases, you don’t have the accountability or the mechanisms to ensure that you have a signal after what’s working and what’s not and what’s needed, is the talent that comes from that outreach, if you will, is coming into the organization, but do you really have your house in order, to receive that talent to ensure that the talent is going through a fair and objective process, a process that has transparency, a process that… Again, like any other process, if we need to tweak it, if we need to adjust it to more optimal we understand where, when and why. So that’s principle number one, in my opinion.

09:34 RS: Right.

09:34 CC: [09:34] ____ is a miss.

09:35 RS: So in addition to…

09:38 CC: So, I’ll give you a couple…

09:38 RS: The sourcing piece, you have to also look around… Like once you get people into our… Great, but you have to look around your workplace, and look at your hiring process and ask, “Is this a place where these individuals can succeed or are likely to make it through our process?”

09:54 CC: Yeah, and for that matter, any… Just a place where anybody can succeed, right, and as you start to think about different audiences and the needs of different audiences in terms of what kind of place do I wanna work at, those nuances are important to recognize. And so, before we even get into the processes Rob, I think about just the sensibility. Is there a sensibility that exists that would embrace the value that would come from an inclusive and diverse workforce? And that’s beyond just the optics of it all. Right, that comes with recognizing that there’s a symptom that they, an experience that could add value to problem solving, that could add value to culture or collaboration. So that sensibility is sort of stuff number one, because I could put an amazing process together and all the mechanics necessary but if the sensibility, AKA culture of the organization does not place value on that, you could see how that could create crashes or mis-alignment. And so I think about that. GG backlog or debt or impatience, that comes with this topic. So, everybody also wants to move fast, and so they’re not affording themselves or the business may not be affording recruiting, and or HR the space to take that beat to understand and align and establish that sensibility. So there’s that too.

11:35 RS: Right.

11:36 CC: When you get into the mechanics or the foundation of it all you go from, finding, the sourcing or the attract, you have to tie every stage together and make sure that they’re complementary. We like to go find a bunch of people, but if again, our assessment evaluation process is not in order, those people are put at risk, and that’s just in general for any recruiting process, not the least of all, when you start to think about inclusive and diverse efforts that you might be making. If my interview process is broken, I’ve just now wasted our opportunity to successfully convert talent. If our hiring process is an objective, and fair and consistent process, but the on-boarding or the retention practices are broken, people will just leave.

12:32 CC: So all of those things have to be connected and complementary and be a bit of a feedback loop in service to each other for any program to be set up successfully. And so what I’ll tell you even when I’m outside looking in, I see a headline or an article, or otherwise where an organization might be taking heat for one thing, I always question to myself, “Ah, I wonder if they’ve only solved one stage of the process, and they felt like that was the Silver Bullet.” Or that was the thing that was going to represent the optics and didn’t move completely down the process to ensure that those other stages were equally affected, and complimentary to that outcome. One other thing that we’re doing in that spirit is, let’s think about sort of the hire process. I was asked, “Hey, how do we ensure that we become more inclusive, and diverse?” And I said, “Well, if we’re really about it, then we would start interviewing for it.”

13:41 RS: Yes.

13:42 CC: And I got a bit of a pause, and I said “Literally, if we said we wanted to be the strongest engineering or coding talent in the market, we would interview for that.” We’re gonna interview for that and we’re gonna be looking for a positive signal, or strong signal that a person actually possesses that, because it’s valuable to us, it’s important to our success. If we value inclusivity and diversity, particularly inclusive behaviors, then we should start interviewing for it. If we value that, if we think it’s important and that’s the kind of individuals we want to represent our company and that’s the kind of culture we wanna build. And so therefore I suggested that hiring managers, if you are a people manager or if you own a rec, you should probably be the person, you probably are the best person to ask this question, or set of questions.

14:42 CC: One, it automatically creates a bit of a forcing function to level you up in your sensibility as a leader. Two, you serve as a model to the other members of the team by owning that attribute, and a decision that may come as a result of that. Three, you demonstrate to the candidate that as the hiring manager, the final decision maker, this is an important factor. So that gives them confidence certainly, if that’s important to them. So if that’s thousands of people that we asked that question, in a given year, that thousands of people that go back out into the market, and with the simple question that we always get, “Hey, how was your interview at Uber?” Ideally, they’re saying, “Oh, it went well, and interesting, they asked me a question about inclusive behaviors. I wasn’t expecting that, but that was refreshing that was challenging, made me think. But it was notable.”

15:43 CC: So now, whoever they tell that story, we’ll take note that. And maybe they end that by saying, “Hey, if you decide to go interview at Uber, you really should study up or you should spend time thinking about what your point of view is when it comes to inclusion, or inclusive behavior.” We’ve now helped amplify that sensibility by way of a forcing function that people are now starting to think about that. And then ultimately, we should be making decisions with that as at least one input.

16:18 RS: Yes.

16:19 CC: I think its success, if we decide at one time or another for any given candidate that we are not gonna move forward with a hire decision because we felt like this person did not give us very good signal, and in fact, maybe negative signal regarding their inclusive sensibilities, or behavior, no different than if we would say this person did not give us strong or maybe negative signals regarding their coding capabilities, or engineering capabilities. So, I think that’s an ideal state, but that’s sort of what we’re working towards. And…

17:00 RS: Yes, so if you… I guess the crux of it is, if inclusion is an important initiative and a value that you want to espouse at your company, and practice at your company, assess for it, right? Even in the, especially in the case that you’re interviewing people who don’t come from under-represented groups, right?

17:19 CC: Exactly.

17:20 RS: So I guess, what would be an example of a behavioral or… Sorry, will be an example of an inclusive interview question?

17:29 CC: Yeah, so an example would be, “Tell me about a time in retrospect, where you could have been more inclusive with a colleague, a teammate, or a cross-functional group where you moved forward and had limited consideration or no consideration of that perspective, but in retrospect you realized that, and what did you do about it?” So, that’s just a simple, “Are you thinking about different viewpoints? Are you considering different viewpoints, or are you limited in the viewpoints that you think are important and not being sensitive or considerate of a viewpoint that you wouldn’t have considered otherwise?”

18:21 RS: Right.

18:21 CC: So you have that sort of angle…

18:24 RS: And so the… That question is similar to the question, “Tell me about what’s your greatest weakness?” And a correct answer, and interrupt me as soon as I start getting this wrong, would it look like something where, “Okay, do you have awareness and are you adaptable?” Right? Can you look at a time when you could have been better and how did you fix it? Is that kind of the answer you’re hoping to get when you ask one of these inclusion behavioral questions?

18:52 CC: Yeah, and I think you called out something really important because you have to have an understanding as to why you’re asking the question, and what does positive signal sound like and what it doesn’t sound like. And so to your point, we’re trying to assess as you said, awareness but not only awareness so that the humility to actually take action on it in retrospect, even if that’s acknowledgment or if that course correcting the path, slowing it down so that you can go back and maybe get that input that could add value to a direction that you’re going.

19:30 CC: I think another question is, how would you describe the diversity of a given team that you’ve led? How would you think about diversity? And have you had challenges if you think about the styles of diversity? And that could just be another dimension regarding communication. And that becomes an interesting consideration because you very often can get into group things or styles or alignment that might complement yours or might be more like yours and those styles or approaches or sensibilities that are different than yours, you don’t engage with as much. So what I’m looking for there is has this person had exposure to a diverse team, what’s their definition of a diverse team and how have you leveraged that the recognition of the diversity across your team? And so that’s always an interesting conversation too because you get the range of definition from the optics of race and gender or cultural competency to how people think and operate differently, and it depends. And so that’s an interesting learning that we can get from that question as well. And depending on who the candidates they might index one way or the other. So that just gives us an understanding.

21:07 CC: And I think oftentimes, the added advice is that there is no binary right or wrong answer, which is why we try to use the language of signal, there’s more or less signal that exists and we really wanna just understand again someone sensibility.

21:28 RS: Right. I love that change in terminology, from that was a good answer, that was a bad answer versus that answer is a signal of X or Y, because then that shows you… When you go into an interview, you have ideally been instructed, like this is the crux of… This is where we want you to assess. And if… Are you putting those… Their answers in terms of that, as opposed to my gut, said… This felt good, this was a good answer. They were articulate, they… It was like, Yes, they’re good on this, they’re qualified. So that like signaling as it relates to blank is a way to kind of actually assess people t a less like thumbs up, thumbs down way.

22:10 CC: That’s right. The one thing I’ll add which, many who may listen to this, or of course, based on the exposure you’ve had as well, people or organizations attempt to solve for some of this by representation on an interview panel. So it’s like, “Hey we need someone who may be woman or African American or Latino or otherwise represented on the interview panel. That’s certainly on face value, solves for some optics, but I think most organizations unfortunately, and I think some better than others, the math of that doesn’t necessarily add up, meaning if I’m doing thousands of interviews do I actually have enough diversity or representation across given groups that on every interview loop I can have a panel that is representative of a cross-section of groups. I think you’re gonna achieve that to a certain extent, depending on your company, but in a lot of cases, that math doesn’t add up.

23:22 CC: And when that math doesn’t add up, what are you then left with? And that’s why I think the sensibility that you get by asking those questions still give you the signal you need, whether you actually have the optics if you will or not. And I think if you have both, you’re really winning and I think a candidate is really winning to have that experience. But you actually don’t count yourself out of the game in your journey to get both by ensuring that even if you are a white male on an interview loop, you can still represent a sensibility, a value of a sensibility when it comes to inclusion by inquiring with those questions.

24:15 RS: Right. And then that begets inclusivity as the organization grows in… Even in the event that it’s not specifically higher from a minority group.

24:26 CC: Yeah, exactly well I just think that I think that’s the essence, that’s the grounding that I think we all are trying to achieve. You could make the case that me as an African-American man, come with some baked in sensibility in terms of my life experience or how I move through the world, that said, it’s not guaranteed that anybody sensibility spans across all groups, right? There could be blind spots that I have about group X that I don’t have around group Y. And so, it’s not a guarantee that because you’re of a representative group that you couldn’t still have blind spots, which is why I think it’s important that anybody that’s interviewing a candidate is grounded at least in that baseline, and then.

25:31 CC: There are nuances and amplifiers based on their life experience or training that you might have had, or exposure you might have had over the course of your life and career that would add even more value.

25:46 RS: Yes, absolutely. You mentioned a moment ago about how you are asking these inclusion questions to thousands of candidates over a year, tens of thousands even. And how they are… Some of them are gonna go out there and they’re going to tell people about these questions and they’re interviewing experience. And that has immense ripples for… Or I guess an immense ripple would just be a wave, isn’t it? This causes waves for… Down the line with all those people’s contacts and networks and that just goes in an employer brand capacity. That is what you want to instill in people because that’s going to change the way… Or also the way people look at Uber as an employer brand. So in addition… On the other hand, internally, you have asked this question tens of thousands of times and now you’re sitting on this pretty heroic mountain of data on how much is inclusivity really driving our hiring decisions. Back to my original question on how you hold people accountable, is that a big opportunity for you? Just being able to hammer on all this data and tell a story and you use that as feedback for hiring managers and recruiting teams?

27:00 CC: Yeah. And so that’s where we are right now. I mentioned earlier that scale is the great neutralize to any great idea that you’d like to grow. And so one of the things that… In fact, I just had a call today on it, which is how do we know that landing, how do we know that’s effective? Shoot, how we know that a hiring manager or people manager on the movement is actually even asking that question. We’re hoping that it’s landing in good faith and it’s being asked. But to measure on any interview loop, the questions that are being asked, the ratings that those answers are being given, and then the aggregation of that analysis is something that we’re trying to solve for right now, including that question. Now one of the things that we are doing and rolling out and working through scale is that we have two things: One, our intake process or our intake form upwards hiring teams and opportunity to assign those things upfront. And of course, the recruiter utilizes that or the coordinator utilizes that to put forth the schedule and walk in a schedule. So that’s one mechanism that this intake form has documented, what will be addressed and who will address that in this interview.

28:42 CC: A second part of that is what we have is a debrief moderator. And a debrief moderator is an individual that participates in the debrief and decision-making stage of the process and supports and is representing the integrity of the discussion, the assessment, and the decision. And so the moderator utilizes the intake document as their guide, their source of truth around what was supposed to happen, and ensure that that’s actually happening. One, helping drive clarity, helping drive focus, helping of course, calibrate. And one of the areas that they are holding the team accountable is, “This is what you said you were looking for. This is what was the sign that all of those things get addressed as part of the conversation and in contribution to the final decision.” And so that’s a helpful accountability mechanism or role that we are scaling out as well.

29:54 RS: Is that usually a recruiter on the role or are these people from other functions that are…

30:00 CC: Yeah.

30:01 RS: Party to this.

30:02 CC: Usually somebody that’s been nominated and they can be cross-functional. Meaning, I don’t need to necessarily be an engineer, I don’t need to be a marketing manager, I just know what was supposed to be represented, and I need to ensure that we are holding in the integrity of that, it’s objective, it’s consistent, that’s what they’re trained on. So I don’t have to know the ins and outs of an algorithm to be able to participate in that way.

30:35 RS: And then, are they logging feedback in the ATS? How is that tabulated?

30:39 CC: So then they provide that feedback through that document, and then from there we have an internal system that we use that track scorecards of interviews, what was addressed in the interviews. And that’s what I was saying earlier, now we’re at the point where… How do we get to a place of aggregating this to a state of analytics, into a state of insights that can be actionable?

31:08 RS: Right, right, of course. Well, like I said, this could be a six-podcast series and I think there should at least be a part two once you’ve had a chance to scale this out and see what you can learn from it. But Craig, this has been really fascinating. We’re getting up to optimal podcast length here, so I hate to cut things off. But…


31:28 RS: Such is the state of podcasting. So yeah, there’s so much in here. Normally at this point, I would stumble through an outro. But I’m not gonna be able to sum it up any better than you said it yourself. So I’ll just say thank you so much, Craig, for joining me. This has been a blast.

31:44 CC: Yes, of course, man. It was to spend time with you, share some of the things that are working for us, some of the things that are not, and then the work continues. So, I look forward to the next time we have an opportunity to chat and share.

31:58 RS: I love it, part two will be a banger. Thank you so much, Craig.

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