If you follow sports, you're probably aware that Pete Carroll, head football coach at the University of Southern California (USC), is leaving USC to become the head coach of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. On the surface, this is pretty pedestrian stuff - head coach wins national titles in college, gets a chance at a big payday in the NFL. Yawn...
What you probably don't know is this: before the Seahawks and Carroll could sign an contract that had already been agreed to verbally, the Seahawks had to interview at least one minority candidate as part of their process. It's required in the NFL, and here's how the rule (known as the Rooney Rule) is positioned:
"Under the NFL's Rooney Rule, any team in the National Football League offering a head coaching position must interview at least one minority candidate. Named after the Pittsburgh Steelers' owner Dan Rooney, chairman of the league's diversity committee, the rule was created in the hopes of increasing the number of minority head coaches in the league.
How do you feel about that? Here's how I feel about that. Stop talking about Affirmative Action and start talking about how the world works as you consider this one. On many occasions, hiring managers have a candidate in mind that they think they want to plug into a job. When this happens, they're usually so set on the decision that they think any other interviews may be a waste of time. The tough part about that is that your company still has a process, and the hiring manager needs to put forth a little more effort. So, let's take the focus off of minorities and plug another group of candidates in to discuss the wisdom of forcing your hiring managers to interview candidates they don't think have a chance - internal applicants.
Let's say your hiring manager has an external candidate they think would be great for the job, but you've also got 3 internal candidates for the position who have applied. Your company has a process that says all internal candidates are, at the very least, going to get a brief conversation/interview with the hiring manager in question. Your hiring manager doesn't want to do it, and he's bitching about it. You're faced with the classic catch-22 - you either force the process and risk looking like a bureaucrat, or you let the hiring manager do his thing without interviewing the internals, which is decidedly bad for your culture and employee relations environment.
I'm tagged as a capitalist. You might think I would allow the hiring manager to skip the internal interviews with a name like that, right? But I don't, and here's why. I've learned that for every 10 internal interviews you make a hiring manager do against their will, they are going to get 2-3 pleasant surprises, meaning they're impressed enough by the candidate in question that they'll change their mind and offer them the job, or they'll put the memory on reserve and as a result, hire them for a future role.
My stance on internal interviews is easily carried over to the Rooney Rule. By forcing interviews of minority candidates, you've got a shot to make the hiring managers go HMMMMM....
Need proof? That logic is documented when Mike Tomlin became the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers at the young age of 34 (and later led them to a NFL Championship):
"Mike Tomlin wouldn't have gotten this opportunity without this rule," said Shell, the first modern black NFL head coach. "He never would have sat down with Dan Rooney."
Said Rooney: "To be honest with you, before the interview he was just another guy who was an assistant coach. Once we interviewed him the first time, he just came through and we thought it was great. And we brought him back and talked to him on the phone and went through the process that we do, and he ended up winning the job."
The Rooney Rule is the same thing as your rules regarding how internal candidates are handled. You don't put rules on interviewing minorities or internal candidates in place because it's the right thing to do. You do it because the exposure gives strong talent an opportunity to surprise hiring managers who wouldn't otherwise be exposed.
And that, my friends, should be our main objective in the Talent game.