I am a black woman. In recruiting.
Over the years, I’ve had opportunities to work on diversity teams. I have been invited to interview for roles in Diversity & Inclusion. I have been called upon to weigh in on issues of diversity. I have been the guest of honor at meetings that start and end with the assertion that more diverse candidates should be added to every slate.
Here is my typical response:
You don’t need a diverse candidate “slate.” I am not a fan of creating slates of candidates that include a mandatory number of diverse candidates. These efforts, while well intentioned, don’t always lead to increased hiring of diverse candidates. If your objective is to increase diversity in your organization, then your strategy should include increased hiring of diverse people, not simply interviewing a higher number of diverse candidates.
To find diverse candidates, take a close look at your sourcing strategy. If your recruiting process hasn’t been updated since the turn of the century, you’re probably missing out on diverse candidates.
EXAMINE YOUR BIAS FOR/AGAINST SOURCING CHANNELS
Sourcing diverse candidates means that you must expand your sourcing channels and methods. Many organizations rely heavily on referrals or favor specific sourcing methods. Diverse candidates will learn about your company via different channels. First generation college graduates or experienced professionals from different industries may not have contacts in your organization, rendering them invisible to your referral networks.
I once worked with a leader who was committed to hiring more diverse candidates. Unfortunately, she was very rigid about the college programs from which she wanted to recruit MBAs. I pointed out that the full-time MBA programs that she favored were not very diverse. If she were willing to recruit from part-time and night programs, she would find more diverse students. It took several conversations to help her see that her bias against part-time programs was unfounded, but eventually we were able to source from a greater variety of schools and programs.
Review your sourcing strategy, and just as importantly, your attitudes toward certain sourcing channels. A bias against job board candidates could result in shutting off candidates who do not have access to your employees via referrals and networking.
ADD DIRECT SOURCING AND RECRUITING EVENTS TO THE MIX
I was once recruited by a large Fortune 100 organization because the company empowered a recruiter to go out and informally network with diverse people in the city. The recruiter, whom I didn’t know, called me and asked to meet for 20 minutes. We had a pleasant “get to know you” chat. She didn’t even try to recruit me. At the end of our talk, she left her card and inquired if I was connected to any other diverse professionals in the community. When I decided I wanted to consider that company, I called her first. It was not a high-tech, highly scalable, efficient recruiting method. But it was a very effective way to build a network of diverse people in the community because it enables the recruiter to get to know people in a community, industry or function.
Your sourcing process may feel fair, rigorous and comprehensive. However, if your hiring managers regularly make decisions based on “personality” or “gut feel,” you will have a hard time diversifying your workforce. Hiring managers should be well trained on how to interview and assess candidates based on the job requirements, skills and behavioral traits required. They should be great at asking probing questions to understand a candidate’s story. They should be able to articulate hiring decisions and place each hire in the context of the contributions he or she will make to the company in the short-term and over the long haul.
TAKE MORE RISKS
Half-hearted attempts to increase diversity are the primary reasons I’m not a diversity officer. Organizations that want to tackle the challenge of diversifying will have to be creative, try some new things, and take a few risks. Hire people who are competent and accomplished, even if they don’t seem likable to you. Hire from different industries or geographies. Spend money on relocation, onboarding, and training. Promote from lower in the ranks.
ONE MORE THOUGHT
Often companies have plenty of diverse people. Just not among executives or professionals. If this describes your company, develop a pipeline of candidates from the mailroom, customer service, operations or field jobs. Commit to helping new hires learn how to navigate your organization and be successful
It isn’t easy, but it can be done!