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领导力

如何猎到最佳员工?

Ellen McGirt 2018年02月01日

世界在快速变化,企业对员工的要求也越来越高。本文超越传统看法,提供一种发掘人才的新理念。

艾瑞卡·乔伊·贝克曾在硅谷从事过众多令人垂涎的工作,包括谷歌、Slack,目前担任Patreon(连接艺术家与捐赠粉丝的众筹平台)高级工程经理。然而在1998年的时候,她还只是一名18岁的计算机怪才,在她梦寐以求的学校上着梦寐以求的课程,忍受着计算机科学教授的冷眼,努力地不让眼泪流下来。

她出生于军人家庭,来自于费尔班克斯,是一名自学成才的机灵鬼,靠琢磨微软Windows系统的注册表,捣鼓电脑主机来消磨青少年的时光。她凭借自己的技能走出了阿拉斯基,来到了一所佛罗里达州的校园。学校离沙滩只有很短的车程。“那个地方冷的要命,我真的是呆够了”,她回忆道。

这个初级班有上百名学生,但是作为班里两名黑人学生中其中的一名以及唯一的女学生,贝克遭到了其他同学的疏远,而且对此感到十分痛苦。授课的白人教授对她的问题充耳不闻,但对待白人学生却是满腔热忱。贝克说:“每次我与他交谈的时候,他会很明确地告诉我,他觉得这不是我该来的地方。”涉世不深的她怀疑,这是不是暴风雨来临的前兆。“我觉得,好吧,可能他说的对。可能计算机科学并不适合我。”

一年之后,贝克退了学,回到了阿拉斯加。但她身上满是能够预示她未来成功的闪光点,唯独就是没有人去挖掘。

她的生父于佛罗里达州长大,家里异常贫穷,有时候不得不逃学去路边卖橘子,以赚取生活费。10岁之前,她和家人搬了三次家,但却在那些令其他孩子堕落的地方茁壮成长。她对计算机系统的了解程度不输于学校班里的任何同学。确实,这一专长帮助她获得了阿拉斯加大学系统的一个IT实习机会,她在从佛罗里达州回到故乡后便加入了这一系统,并于随后成为了正式员工。“那时候我还不到20岁,一年赚4.1万美元,比我父亲挣得还多”, 她用难以置信的口吻回忆道,“我打算沿着这条道路继续走下去。”

2005年,贝克在Craigslist网站看到了谷歌的招聘广告。2006年,她受聘成为了IT领域的技术人员。在接下来的几年中,她迎来了事业上的大丰收,并得到了数次提拔,同时也遭遇了惨痛的挫折。经理们对她的贡献视而不见,对她的顾虑充耳不闻,再次让她想到了当初那个对她冷眼相待的教授。贝克说:“我无法说明确切的原因,也不知道为什么我每次都会和谷歌的机会失之交臂,但公司的大多数机遇的确与我无缘。”

9年之后,一次次的挫折和入职不利迫使她寻找新的出路。她在Slack and Patreon找到了更好的工作环境,公司的领导层在包容性方面采取了更为有力的举措。她在这里为硅谷两家热门初创企业的飞速增长做出了重要的贡献,而且这一点绝非偶然。

如今,贝克成为了非营利机构的董事,这些机构致力于帮助女孩和被忽视的少数族裔在科技行业中立足。她的成长经历也为她提供了具有深远业务影响力的洞见。对面试者和面试官角色均有所体验的贝克说:“在科技行业,我们的面试流程一直都是为了寻找特定的人群。这类人通常是来自于固定几所学校的白人。反正不是我这样的。”而且,她也会坦诚地对与她有着类似经历的人群说:也不是你这样的。她说,如果要跨进那道门,“你必须要做好准备,向他们展示自己的独到之处。”

这一现象不仅仅出现在科技行业:在每一家公司,人们都倾向于寻找完美的候选人,其参照对象就是组织构架图中那个高高在上的人物。Paradigm创始人兼首席执行官说:“如果你只是寻找那样的人,你肯定能找到。” Paradigm是一家咨询公司,致力于让公司变得更加包容。但是,这种自我复制、逐条核对式的方法有其固有的风险:公司可能会变得同质化,并与世隔绝,最终会失去那些公司进行创新和竞争所需的洞见和理念。更为不幸的是,它将给社会结构带来威胁,进一步扩大经济精英与其他人之间的鸿沟。

这也是为什么越来越多的雇主和人才猎头开始注意那些无法用标准认证来衡量的潜在特征,而这种特征并不受种族、收入和阶层的限制。杰夫·科尔文在谈论这一问题时指出,公司对于“受教育程度即代表能力”的理论愈发怀疑。它们寻找的是传统评估准则之外的成就:也就是“创客”元素,包括设计和发明、创业成就、丰富的志愿者活动,或者从更宽泛的意义上来讲,创造性地管理那些与生俱来、时而困苦的生活元素。就这一点而言, “Grit”(坚毅之人)(该词因2016年安吉拉·达克沃斯同名畅销书而流行)成为了这方面一个热门的缩略词。它宽泛地指代勇气、毅力、承受力、创造力、拥有解决问题的窍门,并愿意学习。

Backstage Capital创始人阿兰·汉密尔顿说:“我会通过模式匹配的方式来寻找坚毅之人”。Backstage Capital是致力于在公司初期阶段进行投资的基金,致力于为黑人、女性和性少数群体创业者提供资助。按照她自己的经验来看,相对于那些从预科学校念到常青藤,再获得MBA或更高学位的创业者,坚毅型候选人能够更好地接受反馈意见,更加努力地工作,并更快地从挫折的阴影中走出来。试想一下,有一位候选人,今年40岁,是一名黑人单身母亲,在从事全职工作之余念完了大学。汉密尔顿指出,她应该知道该如何规划、如何解决问题、如何多线作战,以及如何将25美分当成1美元来花。“我敢打赌,她绝不会半途而废。”

但坚毅型人才也不是万能药。在仔细斟酌之前,对于坚毅型人才的搜寻可能会成为“逐条核对”换汤不换药的做法:如果没有采取周密的举措寻找强有力的候选人,并为其打造相应的支持环境,最终的结果必然会令人失望。(它还有可能助长一种扭曲的成见,即那些弱势人群的成功依赖于白皮肤救世主的施舍)。这也是为什么《财富》建议对此进行重新定义的原因:不要将坚毅看作是艰难生活的解药,而是看作对掌控生活复杂性的一种不懈追求,我们每个人都有这样的经历。当公司在招聘时能够意识到这一复杂性时,雇主就会为缺乏晋升公司高层机会的人群(少数民族、居家父母、工薪阶层的孩子和退伍军人)提供颠覆性机遇。对于目前正处于激烈的人才争夺战中的整个世界来说,此举有助于公司找到那些承受能力强,能够创造性地去应对各种障碍的人士。

贝克说,“那些在大好时光上好学校的人群会遇到赏识他的人,并拿到好公司的面试机会,这是他们的必经之路,可谓是一马平川。”那没有机会接触这条道路的人怎么办?“他们的生活道路看起来是斜的,类似于对角线,他们不得不原路折回,而且他们会回到原点。但你知道吗?获得成功的正是这类人。”

公司很难找到这类求职者的部分原因在于爱走捷径这一不良习惯。负责与这一惯性思维作斗争的Salesforce首席平等官托尼·普罗菲特表示,“如果Salesforce每位员工的计算机科学学位仅来自于5所(同样的)大学,那么公司的人才池将接近干涸。”同样,员工的推荐通常也难以奏效。如果要让一屋子顶级学校毕业的高分研究生推荐潜在的新同事,他们所提供的人选当中很有可能满是他们自己的复刻版。

Code2040社区动员总监米米·福克斯·梅尔顿指出,“我们经常会听到公司说,那个肤色的人群不会申请这个职位。”Code2040是一家非营利性组织,专注于培养科技行业的黑人和拉丁裔领导。“公司必须弄明白‘没有任何黑人’与‘我们不认识任何黑人’之间的区别。”但问题在于,上面所提到的这些决策者们并不认识任何单亲妈妈,或来自于农村的穷孩子。

新的策略,例如从有着悠久历史的黑人大学、社区大学和劳动力培养项目中招聘,正在扩大求职人才池。但是这些策略无法帮助未来具有刚毅品格的潜在高管通过第一轮面试。对于雇主来说,诀窍在于意识到商业头脑并不总是千篇一律的,并将这一理念正常化。决策者需要以不同的思维来看待所有的事情,从科学的简历阅读方法一直到高超的对话技巧。

为了在招聘时做到更加包容,公司在应对偏见方面投入了大量的精力,因为这些偏见会让有希望的候选人望而却步。针对隐性偏见(固有印象潜意识地影响我们决定的方式)进行培训正逐渐成为大型公司的必修课。雇主也在通过让求职者消失来应对偏见,即使用简历筛来隐藏申请人的身份,或通过匿名的第三方评估平台来杜绝面试官出现无意识偏好的可能性,例如查看求职者的示例代码。

一旦人们进入了面对面的面试环节之后,对面试流程进行修改将为Paradigm的艾默生这样的非传统候选人提供一臂之力。确保参加面试的面试官来自于多元化的背景,并能够为候选者提供一致的面试体验。提前把问题发给面试官,以供他们考虑,并帮助他们进一步思考他们如何才能将自身经验与公司的需求挂钩。艾默生说:“面试并不一定非得以问问题的形式开展。”

就算求职者的LinkedIn页面乏善可陈,我们也可以通过颇具创意的方式来了解其背后的真实故事。福利软件开发公司Jellyvision人事负责人玛丽·贝斯·维恩表示,她的公司并不怎么看重简历,而是注重求职信。用她的话说就是,“如果从简历看求职者并不适合这份工作,那么求职信便提供了另一个机会,来解释他们在现实当中为什么能够胜任这一工作的原因。”公司会把看好的求职者带到公司进行“实战”,即加入某个团队开展真正的工作,为期一天。有一位求职者,曾做过保姆,申请招聘者岗位。具有讽刺意味的是,这位求职者的“实战”包括查读简历和求职信,以及设计面试问题。她完成的非常出色。维恩解释说,事实上,找她做保姆的那位客户还是一家小公司的老板。她曾担任这位客户的多面手个人助理,这一未经背书的经历为她最终斩获这份工作打下了坚实的基础。

当然,这种变通方法的能力也是有限的。Code2040的梅尔顿讲述了在一家科技公司发生的事情:当汇报某人在技能评估时的表现时,面试官在申请者的材料上写道,“这个人不符合要求,他真的是很‘市井’。”梅尔顿表示,像这类反应是“非常常见的”,是一种基于“文化契合度”的种族歧视,并以此为由导致候选人出局。这类反应体现了根深蒂固的公司偏见,也意味着雇主有大量的机会与可能有能力胜任这一工作的人进行沟通。

Jopwell的联合创始人波特·布拉斯维尔认为,“这些都不是什么复杂的事情。”Jobwell是一家在线求职平台,帮助有色人种学生和青年专业人士寻找在大公司就业的机会。他说:“如果你来自于主流文化,并打算聘请有着不同背景的职员,那么你在与他们交谈时就应该回归人性。”在实践层面,这意味着不要老盯着苍白的简历,而是要看到可能性,并意识到申请人的经历可转化为工作的动力。他指出,“挖掘他们的故事”,因为“如果他们能在自己的世界中获得成功,那么你就可以去思考,如何让他们在你的公司斩获成功。”

曾几何时,马库斯·史蒂文森觉得念完高中感觉就像是一个无法企及的目标。湾区长大的他解释说,“我的父母都没有念完高中。”他曾立志要做一名运动员:他曾从事过自己最喜爱的篮球运动,然后转战橄榄球,但伤病扼杀了他的激情。与此同时,他还不愿意回到学校。他说,“我很失落,也很迷茫,需要帮助。”在没有任何外援的情况下,他通过自身的努力进入了一家社区大学,拿到了社会科学的大专文凭。然而,当史蒂文森在一家夫妻杂货店做全职工作时,获取学士学位的成本让他望而却步。就在这个时候,一名精通电子的朋友向他介绍了Year Up,后者是一个严苛的劳动力培养项目,专注于培养城市青年。

史蒂文森加入了这一项目,并全身心地投入到了技术和专业技能课程的学习当中,他还成为了当地Toastmasters公共演讲部的会长。他说,“这是我人生中最美好也是最困难的一段经历。”他凭借自己的表现获得了参加Salesforce交流活动的邀请。在觥筹交错的环境中,他“微笑着”向首席平等官普罗菲特介绍了自己。史蒂文森讲述了自己对生活的失望以及自己的决心,并藉此打动了普罗菲特。这名23岁的年轻人可以称得上是研究“生活复杂性”的典型案例,其所具有的毅力很难从简历中看出来。普罗菲特说,“他为自己选择了一条不同的道路,并希望成为楷模。”如今,这条道路与Salesforce汇合了,史蒂文森在普罗菲特手下工作,担任项目协调员。最近,他主持了有Congressional Black Caucus组织(由黑人国会议员组成的组织——译注)参与的专题讨论会,展示了自己的才华。

像Year Up这样的劳动力培养项目对于弥补坚毅型求职者与财富500强企业之间的鸿沟发挥着至关重要的作用。尽管这类机构几十年前便已存在,但新的机构仍在迅速地涌现,尤其是在科技领域,因为这一领域对于可塑性强、承受力强的人才有着巨大的需求。在与Year Up合作之后,Salesforce尝到了甜头,并开始与德勤合作,在Salesforce第二大业务中心印第安纳州开展一个名为Pathfinder的实验项目。该项目致力于培养非传统候选人从事软件开发和数据管理方面的职业,同时涵盖领导力培养和职业技能培训,这些候选人包括“机会青年”(16-24岁挤不上学也不工作的青年)、退伍军人和回归工作岗位的居家父母。项目旨在培训那些有动力,但是缺乏相关资质认证(无法通过传统的简历筛选所需的认证)的人士,从而帮助他们掀开人生的新篇章。

与此同时,其他的公司将生活复杂性这一因素也纳入到人才搜寻的标准当中。咨询公司包容性招聘业务美洲总监肯·博伊尔辗转于全美各地,拜访培养本科和硕士的商学院,希望激发更多有色人种学生对会计这个职业的兴趣。GPA分数达到3.5或以上的有为学生将获邀申请加入安永的Launch实习项目。博伊尔的付出得到了回报,2017财年,少数族裔占安永初级职位招聘员工人数(约9200名)的39%,占其实习生人数的41%。博伊尔自己的职业生涯也是始于安永实习岗位,目前已在安永工作了27个年头。在到访校园期间,他会在交流伊始介绍自己的坚毅经历。“我从12岁开始工作,高中上学光单程就需要花1个半小时的时间,作业是在大巴上做的”,成长于皇后区的他说道,“我对[学生]说,‘成功取决于你所经历的那些琐事,这些琐事往往无人关注。’”

这些琐事帮助奈利·左瑞拉获得了安永的工作。左瑞拉于2016年加入安永,担任安永康涅狄格州斯坦福德办事处的保证业务主管,负责确保客户财务报告的准确性。对于一名美籍巴拿马人来说,这份工作仅仅是大好职业前程的一个开端。她说:“我曾在年轻时把自己想象成一位‘女老板’”。作为第一代美籍巴拿马人,左瑞拉来自于布朗克斯一个爱意融融的家庭,他的父亲打零工,母亲开了一家美甲店,左瑞拉在店里负责前台和预定工作。“有时候我依然会做这个活”,她笑着说道。左瑞拉在曼哈顿的佩斯大学读书时加入了Launch实习项目。在参加从实习转为全职工作的面试时,安永安排了一个和她性格类似的合伙人艾米莉亚·卡珀拉担任面试官。左瑞拉在操作系统中提到了奉献精神、自给自足和关爱,而异常精明的卡珀拉则询问了这些价值观对她的职业道德和梦想都带来了什么样的影响。“她问我我的动力是什么,并理解了我所做的很多事情都是为了我的家人,为了报答他们的恩情”,左瑞拉回忆道。这位未来的女老板很清楚,“即使我看起来没有这种特质,但她却看到了这一点,她读懂了我。”

要在对话中真正发掘奈利和马库斯这类人的亮点,最难的地方在于,交谈双方都有一颗善解人意的心,而且相互信任。“关键在于真实性”,普罗菲特说道,“这意味着打开心扉,讲述自己的故事,并让人们了解你。”而且这类对话绝不能在提供就业机会之后就戛然而止。这种对话对于曾经身处谷歌的艾瑞卡·乔伊·贝克来说是一种奢求,然而,那些具有前瞻性的公司应将其纳入管理流程。

以星巴克为例,这家公司在其庞大的员工队伍中大力推行多元化政策,并聘用难民,同时在穷困潦倒的有色人种聚居区开设分店,例如密苏里州的弗格森和皇后区的牙买加。当去年4月上任的星巴克首席执行官凯文·约翰森到访店面接触雇员时,他摒弃了采访或讲演这种方式,而是随意地与员工边喝咖啡边聊天,一组约6个人。他们以“你是怎么来星巴克工作的”这个简单问题作为开场。“他们讲述了一些令人吃惊的故事,并分享了他们生活中的辛酸往事”,约翰森说道。他们还分享了曾经遇到的困境,获得的帮助,以及他们对未来的期许。“在这里,你应该用‘心’去聆听,而这一点”,他说道,“会让你感同身受并对其他人产生同情心。”

这种能量会提振公司的业绩,约翰森说道:如果雇员能够在公司感受到更多的温暖,客户亦会如此。同时,效仿他的经理也会成为更强有力的领导者。“你会以另一种眼光来看待风险”,他承诺道,“而且你也会做出更好的决策。”(财富中文网)

本文刊载于2018年2月1日期的《财富》杂志,标题《新的求职王牌——坚毅的性格》

译者:冯丰

审稿:夏林

Erica Joy Baker has had a succession of dream jobs in Silicon Valley—at Google, at Slack, and now as a senior engineering manager at Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that connects artists with donor-fans. But back in the day, in 1998, she was just an 18-year-old computer geek, sitting in her dream class at her dream school, getting the stink eye from her computer science professor and trying not to cry.

The military brat from Fairbanks had been a self-taught tinkerer, whiling away adolescent hours poking around Microsoft Windows registries and prying the backs off computer cases. Her skills earned her a ticket out of Alaska, to a Florida campus just a short drive from the beach. “I was super fed up with being in a seriously cold place,” she recalls.

But as one of two black students and the only black woman in an entry-level class of hundreds, Baker felt a cold shoulder and took it personally. The professor, a white man, ignored her questions, even as he engaged enthusiastically with white male students. “Every time I talked to him, he made it clear that he didn’t think I should be there,” she says. Her teenage brain wondered if this was a sign of things to come. “I thought, Well, maybe he’s right. Maybe computer science wasn’t for me.”

Baker quit school after a year and went back to Alaska. But so many of the elements that hinted at her future success were hidden in plain sight—if only someone had bothered to ask about them.

Her biological dad, who grew up in Florida, had been so poor that he sometimes skipped school to sell oranges by the roadside to raise cash for food. She moved with her family three times before she was 10, but she thrived where other kids crumpled. And she had a knowledge bank about computer systems on par with any of her college classmates. Indeed, that expertise helped her land an IT internship in the University of Alaska system, where she enrolled after returning home—which soon became a real job. “I wasn’t even 20, and I was making $41,000 a year, more than my [step]father,” she recalls, still sounding incredulous. “And I planned to keep going.”

In 2005, Baker came across a Google job ad on Craigslist; by 2006 she had been hired as an IT field tech. The ensuing years brought big wins and promotions, but also stinging setbacks, as managers waved off her contributions or ignored her concerns, giving her something like the professor’s stink eye all over again. “I can’t say for sure why, or that Google missed every opportunity with me, but they did miss most of them,” Baker says.

After nine years, the sum of the fizzles and false starts led her to look elsewhere. She found better environments at Slack and Patreon, where leadership made a stronger effort to be inclusive—and where, not coincidentally, she became a key player in the exponential growth of two of the Valley’s hotter startups.

Today, Baker is a board member for nonprofits that help girls and underrepresented minorities get a foothold in tech. And her journey has given her insight with profound implications for businesses. “In the tech industry, our interview processes have always been geared to finding a specific kind of person,” says Baker, who has been on both sides of the interview table. “That person usually ends up being a white guy from a very specific set of schools. Like, not me.” And, as she candidly tells gatherings of folks like herself: not you either. To get in the door, she says, “you have to be prepared to show them who you are.”

It’s not just tech: In every company, there’s a tendency to cling to an ideal candidate, exemplified by the person at the top of the org chart. “If you only look for that person, you will find them,” says Joelle Emerson, founder and CEO of Paradigm, a consultancy focused on making companies more inclusive. But there’s a danger inherent in the self-replicating, check-the-boxes approach: Companies risk becoming homogeneous and insular, cut off from the insights and ideas they need to innovate and compete. More ominously, it’s a threat to the social fabric, widening the divide between the economic elite and everybody else.

That’s why growing numbers of employers and talent scouts are considering signs of potential that standard credentials don’t capture—and that transcend lines of race, income, and class. As Geoff Colvin notes in this issue (see “How to Profit from the Ultra-Tight Job Market Right Now”), they’re increasingly skeptical of educational attainment as a proxy for performance. They’re looking for accomplishments that fall outside conventional rubrics: “maker” portfolios of designs and inventions; entrepreneurial achievements; a rich volunteer life; and, more broadly, an ability to creatively manage the sometimes-difficult elements of the life they were born into. In this search, “grit,” the term popularized in the 2016 bestseller of the same name by psychology professor Angela Duckworth, has become the hot shorthand. It’s loosely defined as courage, perseverance, resilience, creativity, a knack for problem–solving and an openness to learning.

“I pattern-match for grit,” says Arlan Hamilton, founder of Backstage Capital, an early-stage investment fund that backs black, female, and LGBTQ entrepreneurs. In her experience, grittier candidates accept feedback better, work harder, and bounce back faster from setbacks than entrepreneurs who went from prep school to the Ivy League to an MBA and beyond. Imagine a candidate who’s a 40-year-old, black single mom who graduated from college while working full-time. She probably knows some things about planning, resolve, multitasking, and stretching a quarter into a dollar, Hamilton says. “And I can make a good bet that she won’t give up.”

Grit isn’t a panacea. Unless carefully considered, the search for grit can become a check-the-box diversity exercise of its own: Without thoughtful efforts to find strong candidates and create environments that support them, it’s doomed to disappoint. (It can also fuel ugly stereotypes in which success for the downtrodden depends on charity from white saviors.) That’s why Fortune recommends a reframing: Think of grit less as an antidote to a hard-knock life and more as an ongoing quest to master life complexity—an experience all of us share. When recognition of that complexity shapes hiring, it opens transformative opportunities to people from groups underrepresented in top professions: ethnic minorities, stay-at-home parents, working-class kids, veterans. And in a world locked in a tight global battle for talent, it helps companies find people who are resilient and creative in the face of obstacles.

“People who go to the right schools at the right time, get to know the right people and get the right interview, that’s their path, and they glide over it,” says Baker. The people who didn’t have access to that path? “Maybe their life looks slanted, or diagonal, or they had to double back, but they got to that same place. You know what? Those are the people who succeed.”

Companies struggle to find such candidates in part because of bad-habit shortcuts. “If you said everyone at Salesforce had to have a computer science degree from [the same] five schools, the talent pool would be super-shallow,” says Tony Prophet, chief equality officer at Salesforce, whose job involves combating that reflex. Referrals, similarly, often fail to deliver. Ask a roomful of high-achieving, top-college graduates to find potential new coworkers, and they’ll likely deliver a binder full of candidates who look like themselves.

“What we hear often from companies is that people of color aren’t applying,” says Mimi Fox Melton, director of community mobilization for Code2040, a nonprofit focused on developing black and Latinx leadership in tech. “They have to learn to make a distinction between ‘there aren’t any black people,’ and ‘we don’t know any black people.’ ” And odds are those same decision-makers don’t know any single moms, or poor kids from rural counties.

New tactics, like recruiting from historically black universities, community colleges and workforce development programs, are widening the applicant pool. But they won’t help the next gritty executive-in-the-rough make it past the first interview. The trick, for employers, is to normalize the notion that business acumen doesn’t always come in the same forms. Decision-makers need to think differently about everything from the science of résumé-reading to the fine art of conversation.

Much of the fight for inclusive hiring has focused on battling preconceptions that prevent interesting candidates from getting in the door. Training about implicit bias, the way stereotypes unconsciously affect our choices, is becoming the norm at larger companies. Employers are also attacking bias by making people disappear—hiding applicants’ identities with résumé screens, or using anonymized third-party assessment platforms to eliminate the chance that interviewers will show unintentional favoritism while, say, reviewing an applicant’s sample code.

Once you reach the face-to-face stage, retooling the interview process can help nontraditional candidates, says Paradigm’s Emerson. Make sure that candidates meet a diverse panel of interviewers who deliver a uniform experience to everyone. Give them questions they can reflect on ahead of time, to help them think more deeply about how their experiences might dovetail with a company’s needs. “Interviews don’t have to be quizzes,” says Emerson.

And there are creative ways to get to know the real person lurking behind a meager LinkedIn page. Mary Beth Wynn, head of people for Jellyvision, a benefits software maker, says her company de-emphasizes résumés in favor of the cover letter, which she says is “an opportunity to explain why, if their résumé doesn’t look like a fit for the job, they actually are.” Promising candidates are brought in for “auditions,” joining a team for a day to do real work. One applicant, who worked as a nanny, applied for a recruiter job. The audition included, ironically, scanning résumés and cover letters, as well as designing interview questions. She killed it. It turned out her nanny client also owned a small business, Wynn explains; her uncredited experience as the client’s multitasking personal assistant prepared her nicely for the job she was ultimately hired for.

Such workarounds can go only so far, of course. Melton, of Code2040, describes an episode at one tech firm: When reporting how a subject fared during a technical skills assessment, the interviewer noted on the applicant’s file, “He’s not qualified, he’s really ‘street.’ ” Melton says reactions like this are “incredibly common,” a racist dismissal based on “culture fit.” Such reactions reflect entrenched corporate biases—and squander opportunities for employers to connect with people who may well have the tools to do the job.

“None of this is rocket science,” says Porter Braswell, cofounder of Jopwell, an online job platform that connects students and young professionals of color to big employers. “If you’re from the majority culture, and you’re trying to hire someone different from you, you need to have a human-type conversation,” he says. On a practical level, that means looking up from a skimpy résumé and seeing possibility, being open to how an applicant’s experiences are signposts of strength. It’s crucial to “get those stories out,” he says, because “if they have achieved success in their world, you should be able to figure out how they can achieve success in yours.”

There were times when just getting through high school felt like an unattainable goal for Marcus Stevenson. “Neither of my parents did,” explains the Bay Area native. His life plan was an athletic career: He played basketball, his great love, then switched to the gridiron, but injuries snuffed out the exhilaration. School, meanwhile, left a bad taste in his mouth. “I was lost and confused and needed a push,” he says. When none came from outside, he provided it himself, making it to community college, where he earned an associate degree in social science. Stevenson was daunted by the cost of a bachelor’s degree, however, and he was working full-time at a mom-and-pop grocery store when a techie friend told him about Year Up, a rigorous workforce development program focused on urban youth.

Stevenson got in and took a full load of technical and professional-skills classes; he also became president of the local Toastmasters public-speaking group. “It was one of the greatest, hardest experiences of my life,” he says. His performance earned him an invitation to a Salesforce networking event, where, amid canapés and chitchat, he “got [his] smile on” and introduced himself to Prophet, the equality officer. Stevenson’s story of disappointment and determination won Prophet over—the 23-year-old was a case study in life complexity, with strengths a résumé would only hint at. “He put himself on a different path and wanted to be a role model,” says Prophet. Today that path runs through Salesforce, where Stevenson works for Prophet as a program coordinator—and recently showed his poise by leading a panel discussion in front of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Workforce development groups like Year Up are crucial to bridging gaps between grit candidates and Fortune 500 companies. While such organizations have been around for generations, new ones are sprouting rapidly, especially in tech, where the demand for flexible, resilient talent grows by the hour. Salesforce’s experiences with Year Up encouraged the company to partner with Deloitte on a pilot program called Pathfinder, in Indiana, home of Salesforce’s second-biggest hub. Pathfinder prepares nontraditional candidates—including “opportunity youth” (people between ages 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor working), veterans, and stay-at-home parents returning to work—for careers in software development and data management, with leadership development and professional skills training included. It’s designed to train people who have the drive but not the credentials to get through a traditional résumé screen, helping them reach the next level.

Other companies, meanwhile, are integrating the hunt for life complexity in their talent searches. Ken Bouyer, Americas director of inclusiveness recruiting for consultancy EY, crisscrosses the country to visit undergrad and graduate business schools, aiming to make accounting more attractive to students of color. Promising students with a 3.5 GPA or better are invited to apply to EY’s Launch internship program. Something in Bouyer’s universe is working: In fiscal 2017, ethnic minorities made up 39% of EY’s roughly 9,200 entry-level hires and 41% of its intern hires. Bouyer himself started as an EY intern—and stayed 27 years. On his campus visits, he starts conversations in which he shares his own grit. “I’ve been working since I was 12 years old, commuted to high school an hour and a half each way, doing my homework on the bus,” says the Queens native. “I tell [students], ‘Success is about the little things you do when nobody else is looking.’ ”

Little things helped Nelly Zorrilla earn a place at EY. Zorrilla has worked since 2016 as an assurance senior in EY’s Stamford, Conn., office, where she helps clients ensure their financial reporting is accurate. For the -Panamanian-American, it’s just the opening act of a great career. “I pictured myself as a ‘boss lady’ at a young age,” she says. Zorrilla is a first-generation American from a tight-knit family in the Bronx—her father did odd jobs, and her mother owns a nail salon, where Zorrilla ran the desk and booked appointments. “Sometimes I still do,” she says, laughing. Zorrilla became a Launch intern while studying at Pace University in Manhattan. When it was time to interview for a move from internship to a full-time position, EY matched her with a kindred spirit, a partner named Amelia Caporale. Sacrifice, self-sufficiency, and love are in Zorrilla’s operating system, and Caporale was astute enough to probe for insights about how those values shaped her work ethic and her dreams. “She asked about what motivated me, and understood how much of what I do is for my family, to thank them,” recalls Zorrilla. The future boss lady was evident, “even if I didn’t look the part. And she saw that. She saw me.”

The hard thing about really talking—having conversations where a Nelly Zorrilla or a Marcus Stevenson can shine—is that it requires both speakers to be vulnerable, to trust each other. “It comes down to authenticity,” says Prophet. “That means opening up, telling your own story, and letting people see you.” And those conversations can’t stop with the job offer. They’re the kind of talks that Erica Joy Baker feels she was missing at Google—and the ones that forward-thinking companies are building into their management processes.

Consider Starbucks, which has pushed to diversify its huge workforce, hiring refugees and opening stores in economically neglected communities of color like Ferguson, Mo., and Jamaica, Queens. When Kevin Johnson, Starbucks’ CEO since April, makes field visits to get to know his employees, he eschews interviews or presentations in favor of informal talks, over coffee, with groups of six or so. They start with a simple prompt: How did you get to Starbucks? “The most amazing stories are told, and people share very vulnerable things about their lives,” Johnson says. Where they’ve struggled, where they’ve been helped, what they hope the future holds. “It’s where you learn to listen with your heart.” And that, he adds, “leads to empathy and compassion for others.”

The dynamic flows to the bottom line, Johnson says: When employees feel more welcome, so do customers. But managers who follow his example become stronger leaders too. “You’ll think about risk differently,” he promises. “You will make better decisions.”

A version of this article appears in the Feb. 1, 2018 issue of Fortune with the headline “Grit Is the New MBA.”

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