An inclusive hiring tool for Bloomberg


From 140 minutes to 7 minutes

In January 2018, we were invited by Bloomberg LLP to improve the hiring experiences for candidates with disabilities in the hiring process.

After eight months of intensive research, design, testing, we created an internal tool, B-HIRE, to assist recruiting coordinators at Bloomberg to receive, respond to, and handle accessibility accommodations for candidates with disabilities in the hiring process.

After three rounds of testing with recruiting coordinators at Bloomberg, we learned that: B-HIRE reduced coordinators’ response time from 140 minutes to less than seven minutes for each candidate. It simplified the procedures from 24 steps to eight steps for every three requests.

The product is shipped to Bloomberg in August 2018 and will be built out soon. (Some details of the prototype here have been obfuscated to protect the client’s interests).

Here is the prototype: https://projects.invisionapp.com/share/C5N91OA9A2R

Initial Research

Accessible Hiring Today

Starting from a very general goal of improving the hiring experience for candidates with disabilities at Bloomberg, we decided to enhance our understanding of the current accessible hiring experience via models and service blueprint.

Based on our initial research, we divided the hiring experience into six stages as below:

From applying to working, we listed the key stakeholders based on our initial research, and then divided them into front-stage staff (those who have direct interactions with candidates) and back-stage staff (those who have indirect interactions with candidates) to understand the impact they each have in making the workflow functional.

Based on the stakeholder map, we interviewed the 22 staff at Bloomberg about their accessible hiring experiences. Our interviewees ranged from recruiters, recruiting coordinators, hiring managers, candidates, Employee Relations staff, Facilities, IT, Front of House, and onboarding facilitators. We collected 1,200 notes and organized all interview information into a hiring service blueprint.

In this service blueprint, we listed the major actions taken by each stakeholder, the handoffs between different departments, and the passing subjects or task flow. Most importantly, we documented 53 breakdowns where candidates or staff experienced major frustrations. Some key findings that fundamentally shaped our final designs are:

Insight 1

The most crucial factor influencing candidates’ perspectives on the company and experiences in the hiring process is, whether candidates could easily and timely receive the accommodations they need to succeed in the hiring process.

Insight 2

Recruiting coordinators as the frontier line of interacting and supporting candidates’ needs, however, often times feel most confused and stressed when responding to and handling the accommodation requests.

In Depth Interview

The Missing Protocol and More

After we synthesized the data, we decided to focus on recruiting coordinators to understand the breakdowns in details. We did snowball recruiting and conducted many interviews with recruiting coordinators at Bloomberg. As the interviews progressed, we found some key issues that hinder coordinators from delivering the best candidate experience.

Problem 1

Recruiting Coordinators were thrown into a lot of panic as they normally don’t learn the candidates’ needs until the last minute.

Problem 2

There is no protocol for recruiting coordinators to follow in responding to accommodation requests from candidates.

Problem 3

It is hard to evaluate accommodation needs and to make the right call without support and guidance from expertise.

We summarized the key needs from coordinators about this tool. Recruiting coordinators need to know:

  1. Candidates’ accommodation needs in advance.
  2. The protocol of handling accommodations.
  3. How to have the right conversation with candidates.
  4. To whom they could turn as references.
  5. How to streamline the process and set up reminders.

From there, we decided the key goal of this design is: A tool that helps recruiting coordinators to easily, efficiently, and effectively respond to and handle accommodation requests by candidates with disabilities in the hiring process, leveraging the expertise from the company.

Our Solution

B-HIRE, the Add-on Tool

To ensure the minimum platform change and shifting, we designed B-HIRE as an add-on web-application to the current Bloomberg terminal system. Recruiting coordinators at Bloomberg are mainly using the terminal to manage the hiring process and communicate with internal staff.

1. Understand the requests in advance

Once candidates send out a request for certain accommodations, recruiting coordinators will receive an email with a link to B-HIRE. Once they are on B-HIRE, they can view the candidates’ information, needs, and messages, and set up the accommodations from there.

2. Send tickets to the auto-populated staff

To set up one accommodation request, the first step is to send a ticket to an internal staff to implement the ticket. Currently, a big pain point for recruiting coordinators is to figure out who they should send the ticket to. With the pre-populated email template, recruiting coordinators only need to scan the ticket details and hit “submit”.

3. Set up reminders for oneself

Following sending a ticket, coordinators could then set up reminders for themselves for any follow ups. These reminders could be added to their calendars directly. A strong request coming from our co-design was that recruiters worry about forgetting important tasks. The reminder feature is to address this need and ensure a peace of mind.

4. Involving Employee Relations for Challenging Cases

After setting up the requests, coordinator could review the emails to be sent to candidates and the hiring team. Using the same email template helps recruiting coordinators to represent Bloomberg consistently.

5. Notify candidates and the hiring team with prewritten email templates

After setting up the requests, coordinator could review the emails to be sent to candidates and the hiring team. Using the same email template helps recruiting coordinators to represent Bloomberg consistently.

Keeping important stakeholders in the loop is key in ensuring a smooth hiring experience for all sides. Here, recruiting coordinators could also choose to send a delayed message to the hiring team 24 hours before the interview.

Clickable Final Prototype

Here is the prototype: https://projects.invisionapp.com/share/C5N91OA9A2R

Testing and Impact

We tested B-HIRE with 15 recruiting coordinators using four metrics: efficiency, ease of use, certainty, and recommendation rate on a scale of one to five (one means the lowest while five is the highest). Our testing led to the results of Efficiency (5/5), Ease of Use (5/5), Recommendation (5/5) and Certainty (4/5).

To compare the differences B-HIRE brought, we simulated the accommodation handling process and learned that: B Ready reduces the workflow to eight steps from the 24 steps today, and decreases the handling time from 140 minutes to seven minutes for each candidate who requests three items.

The User Research and Design Modifications

Designing for All Coordinators

As we talked to more recruiting coordinators at Bloomberg, we found some different needs among junior and senior coordinators, and the senior hiring team and campus recruiting teams. How do we design one tool for staff with various seniority levels across two teams? We dived deeper into the daily tasks of the coordinators and drew personas of each group to understand the user contexts better.

Common and Different Needs

With a more thorough understanding of recruiting coordinators’ behaviors and goals, we found some common needs that our tool should support are:

  1. Minimize user data input and the cognitive load
  2. Provide clear and explicit directions to proceed
  3. Allow for flexible usage for all hiring teams

To guide us in design and reach team consensus, I synthesized them into three key words as the design principles in making design decisions:

Addressing All Coordinators Needs

First, to lower the learning curve for junior coordinators and some senior coordinators, I added more tips and links to the general workflow on the side. Junior coordinators could read and self-study the process. The tips provide a more explicit guidance, including suggesting transportation support, accessible conference rooms, hotels for candidates with motor disabilities. Through testing, junior coordinators all find these tips very helpful.

Second, to address the need among junior coordinators of not wanting to forget things, we have a feature helping candidates add reminders to their calendars. For the senior hiring team, they could uncheck the reminders, or alter the descriptions, or add new tasks in their preferable way.

By adding this task card to their calendar, coordinators will receive a message 15 minutes before the interview time to welcome the candidate by the entrance with accessible pass.

Third, we also addressed the differences among hiring teams. Senior hiring team usually don’t have a room until the last minute while campus recruiting normally reserve the room the beginning of the year. To meet the needs of both sides, we accommodated for senior hiring team here for this follow up and we also allow campus recruiting team to uncheck the box if they don’t need to complete this task.

Information Architecture

Iterating to Find the Best Protocol

A functional protocol can be a shortcut while a dysfunctional one can be a detour. Designing a functional protocol that connects multiple stakeholders in this 20,000-employee company was the biggest challenge that we encountered in this design process due to its complexity and ever-changing nature.

First, we assumed that our protocol should mimic the best practice in reality. We facilitated some co-design session with senior recruiting coordinators as well as Employee Relations at Bloomberg. We asked recruiting coordinators to do a card-sorting to map out the actions they would take to respond to three requests made by one candidate.

From the card-sorting activity, we discovered that the real-life procedure can generally take 24 steps to handle the three requests. It is too lengthy and cumbersome. We started to wonder, are there any steps we can take out while still letting the recruiters feel comfortable and confident that they get enough information they need to proceed?

We divided the initial steps into “must have”, “nice to have” and “mostly unnecessary”. We then took out some “nice to have” or “mostly unnecessary” steps and combined other features. After that, we had the backbone of our protocol including 4 steps as shown below to handle one single request: file the ticket, set up reminders, email candidates, and notify the hiring team.

Who should handle what?

After we became certain about the general procedures, we needed to build a pool of the most common accommodation options relevant to hiring process for Bloomberg. We selected 65 accommodation options from Job Accommodation Network (JAN) and narrowed down to 28 that are most relevant and feasible to the hiring process. With Employee Relations’ (ER) help, we picked 13 accommodations that are comparatively sensitive, rare, and complicated for ER to handle while leave the remaining 15 cases for recruiting coordinators to approve and implement.

This service innovation ensures that candidate support is leveraging ER’s expertise to its best, reducing risks and mistakes, and still moving fast to meet hiring needs.

What is the minimum information?

Although It’s important that tools for Human Resources be both easy to understand and fast to use, finding the balance between giving sufficient information and not overloading the user was a big challenge for us. We made many variations from too little automation (show every possible detail) to too much automation (hide everything and just one click to submit). Then we presented various versions to all coordinators for their feedback.

To our surprise, too much automation (one click to submit) makes coordinators feel insecure. Many coordinators actually want to read through all details, especially all internal and external emails. Also, learning what to do for the next step requires them to read slowly and digest the expectations thoroughly. Providing the reasonable amount of guidance actually helps reduce confusions and speed up their actions. In the end, it is crucial that sufficient tips and descriptions are given so they can feel confident that they’re implementing the accommodations appropriately.

Is it the right protocol for downstream staff too?

Since there are many handoffs between staff members to complete every accommodation, the protocol should ensure that it works for all major stakeholders. With that, we brought up the protocol and validated it with downstream staff at Bloomberg including Facilities, Security, Front of House, and IT. With their input, we made some tweaks to some of the procedures.

Before, we assumed that recruiting coordinators set up the ergo mouse and return it.

After validation: We learned that the IT department is the one who set up the ergonomic mouse and retrieves it afterwards. These validations with more stakeholders ensure B-HIRE is providing the best guidance for all.

Impact and the Next Steps

“We Will Take Them All!”

  1. “We want to take them all. Excellent work!” —The head of HR at Bloomberg
  2. “Great work! We want to build it so our staff can use it.” —Android Lead
  3. “Fantastic job! This is a tool we find very useful.” —Global People System
  4. “Amazing job on the Presentation! I thought you all did great and put together a final plan that could really make a difference... We hope the system itself is going to be created and built onto.” —A recruiting coordinator

We shipped our design to Bloomberg early August with all original sketch files. Bloomberg will continue iterate on it and integrate it to the current terminal system. We look forward to seeing the final version being shipped in the future.

Learning and Reflection

Efficiency and Accuracy

Designing a tool for recruiting coordinators allowed us to understand the working environment for recruiting coordinators. It is stressful, fast-paced, detailed, and involves tons of communication with many stakeholders on a daily basis. So as a tool, we need to support them in completing the task with confidence while also moving fast. It sounds easy but the final design did not come naturally to us. Often times, accuracy and efficiency are in conflicts.

We had 14 iterations based on 23 rounds of interviews among 15 coordinators. Our interviews and testings guided us in solidifying our concepts, iterating our mockups, and finding the sweet spot between accuracy and efficiency. What motivated me in this journey was a sincere hope that recruiting coordinators will find this tool useful, effective, and pleasant to respond to and handle accommodation requests. Eventually, accessible hiring is no longer a challenge for any companies who strive for talents of all abilities.

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