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CEO Spotlight: Joonko CEO Ilit Raz on How Companies Can Push Forward on Their DE&I Goals

As with so many other aspects of life and business, the pandemic has put a renewed focus on hiring, exposing old and new challenges for companies in recruiting and retaining talent. Looking more specifically at diversity hiring, companies have often deprioritized progress in this area during the pandemic, despite heightened awareness over social justice issues.

In the meantime, study after study has proven the business case for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). One recent report from McKinsey found that companies with senior executive suites that are over 30% female are significantly more likely to see strong business performance than those with fewer women executives. The same study also found that teams in the top quartile in terms of ethnic diversity are likewise significantly more likely to drive superior business performance.

And yet, companies still struggle to implement strategies and workflows that help them to achieve their DE&I goals. The gap that continues to linger in the one between goals and execution. 

We reached out to Ilit Raz, CEO, and co-founder of Joonko, a diversity recruiting platform, to learn from her how companies have dealt with hiring during the pandemic and what advice she can offer to companies moving forward for achieving the right DE&I goals.

Q: Now that so many more companies are hiring for remote-only positions, what advice do you have for HR leaders? Is hiring for remote jobs different from in-office hiring?

Ilit Raz: Remote work is hard to manage, and it’s not going away. Most companies have learned to manage and even thrive hiring remote employees over the past two years. 

My advice is to fully lean into the process by doubling down on remote hiring processes. Not only does it make interviewing more accessible and efficient, but it also opens up huge pools of underrepresented talent that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

I think that the biggest challenge with managing a remote workforce is getting new employees aligned with the company’s values. Another angle is to make sure that remote employees still enjoy the benefits of teamwork and maintain good communication with team members and peers, which is difficult to achieve through Zoom. 

Q: How are DE&I goals for companies affected by their hiring practices?

Ilit Raz: A company’s hiring practices directly affect its diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.  For example, a lot of talent teams prioritize referrals. Referrals come with major advantages: they are easy to recruit, and they stay at the company longer. That said, research shows that excess referrals negatively impact diversity – employees typically refer people who look like themselves. 

So talent leaders must reconsider how traditional practices impact their diversity goals.

Q: Joonko champions “silver medalist” candidates. Can you briefly explain the term and why do you think recruiters should pay more attention to silver medalists?

Ilit Raz: I truly believe that silver medalists are a hidden treasure that companies are not capitalizing on. Silver medalists are typical candidates who made it to the late stages of the interview process but ultimately weren’t hired for the role. That’s a signal to us that their recruiter and hiring manager vetted the candidate, both for their hard skills and their soft skills, but they eventually decided to go in a different direction. 

Adding to that is the fact that there’s a real war out there over talent, and companies need to switch their hiring paradigms and think outside the box about how they can attract talent. 

Silver medalists are a great example of this, as they are high-intent, already engaged candidates, so when another relevant position opens up, talent acquisition teams can engage with them with no need to start sourcing from scratch, as these candidates were already vetted. 

Q: What is the connection between silver medalists and diversity recruiting? 

Ilit Raz: Traditionally there hasn’t been a connection between silver medalists and diversity recruiting. Talent teams can choose to focus on one without the other. Our view is that pairing these two concepts together makes a powerful combination. 

Joonko partners choose us because of the opportunity to better retain silver medalists and share underrepresented talent together.

Q: Joonko just recently opened offices in New York. How was the recruiting process for you? Was it different from recruiting in Israel?

Ilit Raz: We are so excited to have opened our office in New York City and are welcoming candidates to come and join our growing team. We used headhunters to help us secure great candidates that matured into great hires. 

Essentially, the only difference in the hiring process was the heavy usage of Zoom, although we did make efforts to meet the candidates in person, because nothing beats face-to-face interaction. 

Q: How involved should CEOs be in hiring and recruiting?

Ilit Raz: As a founder and CEO of a company, I truly believe that CEOs should be involved in the initial formulation of the recurring process and guide the hiring teams and managers about the expected atmosphere and culture they would like to facilitate. 

I also like meeting each final candidate, for every role in the company and at any seniority level, for at least 15 minutes before a final decision is made. Not because I don’t trust the hiring managers, but since we’re trying to create a certain environment, I’d like to know that people who are joining in on our mission, are doing it for the right reasons.

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