Best Practices For Recruiting From HBCUs
September 30, 2021

Best Practices For Recruiting From HBCUs

Gabriel Cohn

As hiring more diverse candidates, especially recent graduates, becomes a priority for many companies, recruiting from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) is often part of strategy discussions. HBCUs are an excellent source of diverse, qualified talent, but as we discussed during WayUp’s recent webinar “Best Practices for Recruiting from HBCUs”, it’s essential to remember that it’s not a silver bullet or band aid solution. 

As webinar attendees learned from panelists Chinue Brown, University Recruitment Manager at ThermoFisher, and Anthony Testman, Diversity Talent Acquisition Sourcer at IBM, there are some important principles to keep in mind in order to build authentic partnerships with HBCUs, and in fact, these best practices can be applied to recruiting diverse candidates at any school. Read on for some insightful takeaways about setting goals internally and making authentic connections with HBCUs to incorporate recruiting from these schools into a holistic D&I recruiting strategy.

Setting Your Strategy

Not every HBCU is the same and every school won’t be a match for your recruiting goals. Finding the right school and engaging the students can take time and commitment. However, the partnerships built on an authentic desire to benefit students can result in your company meeting many qualified and diverse candidates. 

To begin with some perspective on the recruiting landscape, consider the following IPEDS data:

  • 10% of all Black Students in the US attend HBCUs 
  • 74% of HBCU students are Black
  • 34% of students attend the ten largest HBCUs

What should you take away from these data points? HBCUs are a great sourcing channel, but they’re not the only source of qualified Black students. In fact, the majority of Black students do not attend HBCUs. As such, the competition for recruiting at the largest and most well-known HBCUs is fierce. Your recruiting goals should center around hiring more Black candidates, not necessarily only hiring more candidates from HBCUs. It’s important to keep this data in mind when aligning internally on your D&I recruiting strategy. 

Building An Effective Partnership 

An important goal for your HBCU strategy should be partnership - developing an authentic connection with the faculty and student body will go a long way in driving results. One of the most effective ways to build the partnership is through positive word-of-mouth. A student who feels they found a home on your team will take that back to their classmates and professors. Black HBCU students who return from an internship surrounded by people who do not relate to them will share their experience with their community, and that could impact the kind of talent that you attract in the future. 

To build relationships with faculty, collaborate with an HBCU on their curriculum with the goal of ultimately uplifting students. Recruiters should aim for the school and the company to meet in the middle. You may be able to suggest changes to the classroom learning that will help students emerge as better candidates, and you can also collaborate with your own organization to adjust “requirements” that disqualify many target candidates. When faculty knows you are passionate about their students, they will help you tap into the right candidates. 

Engaging with Students

When preparing an HBCU (and larger D&I) recruitment strategy, aim for alignment both within your recruiting team and the larger organization. Remember to be real, candid, and authentic. Students want to work with recruiters who show passion, encourage, treat them like family, and instill confidence. 

The team you bring onto HBCU campuses or virtual events is pivotal. Black or otherwise diverse recruiters who can speak to their own experience at your company demonstrate your company’s commitment to inclusivity. All of them, no matter their race, should also go through unconscious bias training. The key is to pique student interest with content and programming that is top of mind for them and that your company is candid and brave enough to discuss. 

In a Virtual World

Traveling to HBCU campuses is a fantastic way to build relationships, but what can do you if that’s not possible due to safety concerns or budget limitations? How do you stand out amongst the slew of emails and virtual event invitations candidates receive? Leverage a diversity sourcing tool like WayUp and don’t be afraid to get personal and tailor your communications to your audience. In fact, WayUp allows you to scale your D&I recruiting efforts beyond HBCUs to reach millions of diverse, qualified candidates across the country. To learn more about partnering with WayUp to boost your D&I recruitment efforts, click here or fill out the form below.

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