Updated: Apr 29
The business case for hiring (and retaining) diverse talent has been proven time and time again. Businesses with a more diverse workforce consistently outperform their less diverse competition, yet candidates from underrepresented background still struggle to find success in the workforce.
Why don’t companies recruit more diverse talent then?
We’ve seen the topic of a “pipeline problem” discussed plenty. The pipeline description suggests the companies cannot hire diverse talent because there is simply not enough qualified talent coming from diverse backgrounds.
This pipeline concept completely ignores the systemic and long-lasting problems facing candidates entering into roles traditionally filled by those in the majority. Management and the environment of the company has to be correct if you want to retain the talent you worked so hard to attract.
So what can companies do to recruit more diverse talent?
Change your job posting language
Wording that is used in your job postings can very easily attract or turn away candidates. If you’re not thinking about it, you could be hamstringing yourself with your wording and not attracting the right people.
Gender coded words are a good place to start. Social conditioning has caused a range of vocabulary to lean toward men, women, or non-binary, which is especially important to consider in a job posting context. Terms such as competitive, aggressive, challenge, and decisive can imply masculinity, while collaborative, dependable, honest, and loyal imply femininity. These words tend to describe personalities of candidates rather than work that needs to be done for the business. If you have not reviewed your job postings for gender coding, it may be a reason why you are not getting diverse genders in your applicant pool. Using a tool like Gender Decoder can help highlight parts of your posting that may be unnecessarily gendered.
Racial bias and age bias can also be avoided through language. References to countries of origin, strong English skills, or asking for a preferred year of graduation will turn away potentially great candidates, and may cause legal discrimination issues as well. If you want to make sure your job posting is written in an inclusive way, get as many eyes on it as you can from different demographics.
Be intentional about where you recruit
If you’re recruiting early talent, you’re most likely going to be making regular trips to career fairs and job fairs when recruiting season comes around. It’s one of the most common ways for students and companies to interact with each other face to face, but it can be difficult for both parties to stand out in the crowd. Companies should be intentional about what career fairs and job fairs they’re going to. If a company has been going to the same few career fairs for the past decade, the demographics of potential candidates you find are not going to change. Underserved, nearby smaller colleges frequently provide career fairs that take less investment of time and money to attend. Knowing the demographics and top tier programs of these colleges can help maximize the returns you see on attendance.
To make sure you’re building a recruitment strategy that works at career fairs, recording engagement metrics is crucial to improvement. To best refine your funnel at these events, think about each step. If attendees aren’t stopping by to learn about your company, you need to showcase the attractiveness and value of your job opportunities more. If engagement is lacking after the career fair, pay attention to the quality of channels you are reaching attendees through.
Work with special interest groups
If you haven’t reached out to special interest groups or advocacy organizations in your area yet, it’s never too late. It is an excellent way to find direct access to candidates in diverse groups and positively impact these communities beyond awareness during their celebratory months. These groups will frequently have corporate partnership arms to engage companies with their talent pool. It is crucial to remember that as you hire diverse talent, you need to provide a culture that supports their identities and needs. This is something advocacy groups can help with as well, which will develop your company culture into a force that can engage and retain the diverse talent you work to bring in. Encourage your employees to be open and talk about their own identities and purposes they feel passionate about to provide a positive feedback loop of camaraderie and inclusion. This can help inform which advocacy groups you can start conversations with to drive the most impact for your employees and potential candidates.
If employees are already demonstrating interest in creating a more inclusive culture, it can be even more valuable to encourage formation of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Traditionally, they’re employee-led voluntary groups to have open conversations on race-based, gender-based, or identity-based issues that affect the workplace. By allowing employees to have a safe space to bring their entire selves if they so choose, it can truly demonstrate a commitment to inclusive culture.
Accommodate using your benefits
Remote work as a norm today has been able to provide the flexibility necessary for people of all lifestyles to gain access to many more opportunities than before. Underrepresented groups have been able to especially benefit from remote work, whether it’s due to mobility issues from disability, children that they need to take care of themselves, or other context that ties them to a single place. If a company is willing to provide more benefits that support an employee’s culture and lifestyle, it will have a much easier time recruiting and retaining them. Paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers, implementing a floating holiday rather than limiting the day to Christmas, and flexible schedules can serve as important differentiating factors in your company’s job postings. By demonstrating that you respect an employee’s personal life, your company will be able to win loyalty and engagement from your team members.
Another key part of attracting diverse talent with benefits includes providing access to learning and professional development opportunities. People from different backgrounds are more likely to have a different way of handling their work. Someone who was trained to be an engineer in a different country might not follow the exact same design methodology or use the same software. Giving access to developmental opportunities will facilitate more knowledge transfer, which amplifies one of the most valuable outcomes from diverse hiring: differences in thought to challenge each other.
If you’re having difficulty finding and vetting diverse talent, Internship on Demand is working to improve diversity in the workplace for our partner companies. Over 70% of our applicants and accepted interns identify as female or from a minority group, and we focus on providing our career development opportunities to those who can benefit from them most. Check out our commitment to diversity, and reach out to us to get started.