Posted May 22, 2017 by

Spotlight on Success: diversity recruitment and retention at CIA

College Recruiter spoke with CIA spokesperson Heather Fritz Horniak, who shared how CIA has succeeded in recruiting and retaining diverse hires. Given the seemingly fierce competition for diverse talent, CIA’s practices are worth considering at any organization that values and recognizes the benefits of diversity.


To meet the challenge of recruiting diversity, CIA focuses on the positives

The competition for exceptional diversity talent is fierce.  CIA’s diverse cadre of recruiters underscore to applicants the positive elements of working at CIA.  This includes highlighting the importance of CIA’s mission by sharing their testimonies about how they have made a difference in contributing to national security.  In addition, recruiters strongly emphasize the extensive benefits the CIA offers.

CIA faces some additional challenges including  lengthy application and security clearance processes. Also, there is only one primary geographic location in the Washington, DC metro area where employees can begin their careers.

To achieve CIA’s mission, recruiters  must seek qualified talent in diverse communities

Diversity and inclusion at CIA is essential to achieve the organization’s  mission. The business case for diversity and inclusion is undeniable: it helps avoid groupthink and it gives any global employer the cultural understanding it needs to operate in any region of the globe.

There is another reason to reach a diverse pool of talent. CIA knows to look for special people who may not come from the same communities that are heavily recruited by everyone else.

Director of the CIA Michael Pompeo said, “The Agency has a fabulous history, remarkable people.  And those are the kinds of people that we’re looking for: smart people, agile people, people who are willing to sacrifice an enormous amount of their lives to go do really hard things on behalf of the American people.  And we’ll find them and take them from wherever we can.”

You must be proactive. Diverse talent won’t just arrive at your doorstep.  

CIA doesn’t just wait for diverse talent to arrive at its doorstep; officers go to where the diverse candidates are. They make sure their diversity recruitment strategy stays mission-focused and that diversity is integrated and considered throughout recruitment activities.

Partnerships are key too. CIA focuses on deepening their diversity sponsorships and partnerships with key organizations and universities to gain sustained access to diverse candidates nationwide.  One example of this is the CIA Signature Schools program, where CIA’s Talent Acquisition Group is focusing on outreach and building sustainable relationships with universities and professional organizations that have a large population of diverse talent.  The University of New Mexico and Florida International University are the first two schools in the program.

Diversity initiatives on universities and professional organizations that have high diversity populations must focus on relationships. Building sustainable relationships with key influencers can assist in spotting qualified diverse talent.

Retaining diverse talent impacts how well you attract new recruits.

The diverse candidates are out there. They might be harder to attract, however, because they may have numerous opportunities from which they can choose.  Where CIA distinguishes itself is in building a welcoming culture. It is not enough to just recruit diverse talent. Employees must feel welcome, appreciated and want to stay.

To help create an inclusive culture, CIA relies on Agency officers who are alumni of universities as Campus Ambassadors to their alma maters.  These officers are responsible in assisting recruiters with branding the CIA as an employer of choice on the college campus.  Students have the opportunity to see people who were once in their shoes happy with their choice of working with the CIA.  This provides a sense of ease or comfort in seeing themselves considering the same employment journey.

Everyone, from all walks of life and from all backgrounds, should be able to be successful.  To foster that goal, CIA has numerous resources available, including the Diversity and Inclusion Office (DIO) that ensures CIA maintains a diverse, inclusive, equitable, and accessible workplace where differences are valued, conflict is managed constructively, and all officers are willing to engage in open dialogue.  DIO also sponsors Agency Resource Groups (ARGs) that contribute to a positive and inclusive workplace where employees with different backgrounds, cultures, and talents are respected and given the opportunity to succeed. The ARGs are critical to the present and future effectiveness of CIA through their support and advancement of diversity and inclusion. They highlight and help the CIA work through challenges tied to recruitment, development and retention.  ARGs and mentoring programs can help enable all new recruits to make the transition to employment at CIA successfully.

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