Employers: 3 ways to improve your diversity hiring
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Employers: 3 ways to improve your diversity hiring

One of the many, many things that I’ve learned over the past few months about how employers can better hire diverse students for internships and recent graduates for entry-level jobs is that they need to re-examine what they previously regarded as job requirements or even preferences. Do they really need to attend certain schools, or are those just the schools you look at due to inertia? Do they really need to be enrolled in certain majors, or are those just the majors you look at due to inertia?

We recently received a few tips about these issues from Gorick Ng of Harvard Business School and author of THE UNSPOKEN RULES: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right, and they resonate well with me:

  1. Prioritize outbound over inbound recruiting. Rather than wait for candidates to come for you, consider doing targeted outreach to communities with large concentrations of candidates from underrepresented backgrounds. Consider, for example, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs)Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs)First-Gen Forward institutions, and community colleges (which boast some of the most diverse student bodies around). Within institutions, consider engaging with specific affinity groups and first-generation college student advising programs. Consider also engaging with “college access programs,” nonprofits that help low-income students apply to and succeed in college.
  2. Prioritize commitment over commonalities. “Fit” matters. But know that motivation fit and cultural fit aren’t the same things. You want someone who is passionate about your work and is committed to growing in your organization—not necessarily someone who looks like you, talks like you, and has the same background and interests as you do. Be specific about what you really mean by “cultural fit”—and share this definition with everyone involved in the candidate screening process. That way, you don’t have two colleagues both claiming that a candidate is not a “fit” when colleague A means that the candidate doesn’t seem to be interested in the mission of the organization, while colleague B means that they don’t like the candidate’s mannerisms
  3. Prioritize future potential over prior experience. Getting a job is a chicken-and-egg problem: you need relevant experience to get relevant experience. But where do you begin? You need someone to give you a chance. You—the recruiter or hiring manager—have the power to give this chance to a deserving young person. Don’t just give credit for related internships. Give credit for perseverance. The fact that a candidate hustled through college working as a cashier, retail sales associate, barista, and/or server doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have been capable of working as a financial analyst instead. It may simply mean that they didn’t have the network to land such a role or the financial means to pick an unpaid internship over a paid hourly job. Yes, you’ll need to invest in training these new hires, but this investment will be worth it if you care about diversity.