3 ways employers improve their recruitment and retention of diverse students and recent graduates

Posted October 01, 2020 by

Guest article by Randy Moore, COO, COOP Careers, a nonprofit focused on overcoming underemployment through digital skills and peer connections.

1. Employee referral programs may sound great, in theory, but they actually encourage companies to hire people who look the same and come from similar backgrounds. How many times have we seen internal company communications that offer monetary gain for an employee referral? Well, these programs often encourage people to refer from within their networks, which, in many cases, result in the promotion of a homogenous workforce. 

Therefore, let’s switch the methodology; the recruiting “bonus” should truly be the intrinsic value the company attains for recruiting a pool of diverse college students and other candidates, and we can only achieve that through disrupting current recruiting/hiring practices and developing (or redefining) practices that truly promote and engage diversity. We know that this also results in a positive bottom-line impact for employers. 

2. Recruiters need to broaden their focus from specific, demonstrated experiences/hard skills to competencies and life experiences when hiring. Why? Oftentimes diverse candidates aren’t able to complete prior internships–many of which are unpaid–or work experiences in the field(s) they’re applying to. Instead, they worked 2-3 jobs throughout college to satisfy a range of financial obligations for themselves and their families. 

We should instead ask about the range of skills and competencies that they’ve acquired from those jobs–and the dynamic management skills demonstrated from completing work and school committments. These are the competencies needed in many of our companies. 

If we think critically about this, those experiences easily translate into project management, customer service, punctuality–and many other competencies demonstrated most by successful employees. There is a critical mindshift needed; lack of specific hard skills doesn’t mean that diverse talent is any less qualified — quite the contrary. 

Recent graduates frequently say they learned the most on the job versus during their education, and we know their assumptions are aligned with the thinking of the very successful Swiss apprenticeship model. We need to listen. 

Additionally, we must also account for the many other employment and life skills that they’ve learned throughout their K-16 experiences. How are we accounting for those? The question often asked by employers is “What skills do I need them to know?” As opposed to “What type of employee does my company need?” Employers should take a good, hard look at their job descriptions.   

3. While there are many innovative postsecondary, community-based, and employer models addressing the college-to-career gap, we know that there is much work to do. It’s important that recruiters meet diverse college students and other candidates where they are geographically and situationally. 

Talent is not only at elite institutions. Recruiters should meet the diverse candidates where they are, either virtually or physically. HBCU and urban (city/state) colleges are great places to meet amazingly qualified candidates. Many of these students are the first in their families to attend college and have worked several jobs while completing their credentials; they are an embodiment of grit, agency, talent and resilience. These should be the qualities that employers recognize and value in their employees. 

Think about the types of lived experiences and backgrounds the candidates bring to the role and to your workplace, and how they may utilize these experiences to solve organizational problems. Think about the types of questions they may pose or innovative ideas that you may have never fathomed. It’s great when this happens — just make sure you’re prepared to recognize its importance and positive impact to your company. Diversity matters. It should be intentional. And employers can (and should) make an intentional shift in their practices.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted in Advice for Employers and Recruiters | Tagged Tagged ,