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September 4, 2019
3 Experts Reveal Their Diversity Recruiting Secrets
Alex Csedrik

As a wise person once said, if you have two ears and a heart, then you’ll love a good panel. And that was proven true at HireUp 2019, WayUp’s annual conference for leaders in Campus Recruiting, Talent Acquisition, and Diversity and Inclusion.

One of the day’s most memorable sessions was a panel that reframed the conversation around how to hire top diverse early-career talent. Here’s a breakdown of some of the main takeaways from each of the esteemed panelists.

 C. Douglas & Associates Founder and CEO Margaret Spence Dispelled Diversity Hiring Myths And Challenged Everyone To Reflect On Their Own Unintentional Biases

“People shouldn’t claim hitting your diversity hiring goals is ‘lowering the bar.’ Females were awarded more undergraduate degrees than males, and black women received more than any other racial/ethnic group, according to the National Center for Education Statistics,” Spence said. 

“There’s another diversity misconception: Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are lesser schools than other institutions. Howard University, for example, is one of the top 100 universities in the nation. The problem is, hiring managers still believe misinformation. Fortunately, we can educate them using data.”

There are other factors, Spence stressed, working against diverse candidates. “The average Black or Hispanic student doesn’t have the level playing field as their White counterparts. They are more likely to be a first-generation college student—41 and 61 percent, respectively,” she said.

“As a first-generation graduate myself, no one taught me what soft skills were or how to properly network. By companies using soft skills as a criteria for job hiring and networking as a way of recruiting, they’ve immediately created elimination points for minority candidates.”

Spence’s last piece of advice? “Remember, diversity is the law—inclusion is a choice. Companies, therefore, are responsible for creating a hiring process and company culture that emphasizes D&I.” 

McGarryBowen President Pat Lafferty Stressed That D&I Requires A Sustained, Company-Wide Effort And Cautioned Against Employing A Common Recruitment Tactic

Company culture is incredibly important, but it’s critical that organizations practice caution when hiring for cultural fits, Lafferty said. “Far too long have organizations used the term ‘company culture’ as a way to limit diversity and allow unconscious biases in the hiring process. If your company isn’t willing to acknowledge this, they won’t get a fully represented staff,” he said.

“Organizations instead need to experiment with different equations and combinations to see what the right D&I formula is for them. If they don’t experiment, they won’t get anything different than what they’ve gotten for years and years.”  

Another way to prevent a homogenous employee population? “You can limit employee referrals to prevent your staff from being too similar. White men receive the most referrals of any demographic—40 percent—so putting a cap on this recruitment tactic benefits your company,” he said.

“This also forces your organization to look for different paths to find top talent. When I was entering the workforce, there was only one entity that helped veterans find jobs. And veterans are a perfect example of qualified candidates who have a unique background. They have great communication and problem-solving skills as well as excellent teamwork capabilities. That’s not to mention they work well under pressure and become very loyal workers.”

Center For Independence Of The Disabled, NY Executive Director Susan Dooha Urged Employers To Create Inclusive Hiring Practices That Don’t Discriminate Against People With Disabilities

“Unfortunately, when it comes to people with disabilities, hiring managers overlook this talent pool. That’s sad, considering that nearly one in five people in the U.S. have a disability. Not only is it a large demographic, employees with and without disabilities have nearly identical job performance ratings,” she said.

Crafting these kinds of policies, she added, requires a concerted effort. “HR departments may inadvertently be exhibiting an unconscious bias against candidates with disabilities throughout the recruitment process. For example, does your job description use person-first language, or are you referring to people with disabilities as ‘challenged?’ Does your online application have pop-up windows that blind people won’t be able to access?” 

Dooha also offered tips to help make disabled people feel welcome during the recruitment process. “You can add a statement on the job description and during telephone contacts saying, ‘We are an inclusive workplace and are committed to a diverse workforce. Please let us know if you need a reasonable accommodation such as a wheelchair accessible interview room or alternate formats for materials.’ This way people with disabilities will feel comfortable applying for open positions.”

These three D&I experts—all with unique backgrounds—understand that top talent can be found from all walks of life. Now it’s your team’s job to attract—and hire—these qualified candidates. 


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