How to Recruit to Increase Cultural Diversity

With a new crop of graduates about to enter the workforce, it’s the perfect time to re-evaluate your team’s talent pipeline, ensuring you’re recruiting the best people and helping them develop the skills they need to become leaders. The fastest and best way to develop your talent pipeline is to develop a strong referral program. Referrals make hiring easier because your existing employees have already “pre-screened” them for cultural fit: according to a study from JobVite, referrals are hired faster (29 days vs. 55 days for a career site) and stay with companies longer. The trade-off, of course, is that referrals tend to be like-minded individuals, and often share the same demographics as current employees.

One way to balance this is to recruit in places that already have greater diversity, such as colleges. However, targeting just one group at these institutions—only reaching out to LGBTQ students, for instance, or only Asian-Americans— is disingenuous. Instead, reach out to the wider student body (universities have a number of relevant clubs) to get the greatest selection of candidates. To learn just how to connect with this talent pool, we spoke with Dr. Orin Davis, adjunct Professor of Psychology and Management at Baruch College and UMass Boston, and Self-Actualization Engineer.

How to Recruit to Increase Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

  1. Sponsor competitions. Invite potential candidates to tackle an issue currently facing your business, and promote the competition to a wide group. (Offering a cash prize to the winners can serve as a good incentive, but it’s okay if it’s moderate.) Not only does this expose candidates to your company, it gives you the chance to identify top candidates to interview later.
  2. Form relationships with faculty at school. They’re a direct line to students, and can recommend promising candidates for internships and entry-level jobs. Davis, for instance, has actually invited professionals to give presentations and business problems to his students, and some have discovered fantastic talent in the process. If you need more guidance on connecting with professors, check out this cheat sheet.
  3. Send your colleagues “into the field” and to career fairs at more universities. Many students simply aren’t aware of career options or companies, and will simply follow the path of least resistance by applying to the limited set of firms that recruit on their campus. Companies, meanwhile, all tend to recruit at the same universities, and do so to their own detriment. Take advantage of this by sending representatives from your company to a wide range of universities to engage with students and expose them to new opportunities.
  4. Tap alumni networks. These networks are practically designed to help people find new jobs, so don’t overlook these seemingly obvious resources. A quick post on a listserv or a LinkedIn group could lead you to someone who can be readily vetted by one of your employees (or one of their contacts).

Takeaway: While hiring top level talent away from another company is the “easiest” way to incorporate diversity at the upper echelons of a firm, it’s also the most competitive. Instead, take a long-term approach and grow your own talent by hiring from a diverse pool and training rookies so that they are ready to move into leadership in two to five years. While this requires a greater commitment, it means your talent will see you as a partner in their career path, not just another soulless corporate entity.

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