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Advice for Employers and Recruiters

12 tips for hiring more diverse college students

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Steven Rothberg AvatarSteven Rothberg
October 12, 2020

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed by the Minneapolis Police Department only miles from my home in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His crime? Allegedly using a counterfeit bill, although if he was unaware that the bill was counterfeit then he didn’t even commit a crime.

Since Floyd’s killing, most of the large corporations in the country have placed greater emphasis on their recruitment and retention of diverse college students and recent graduates. They’re trying to make their workplaces more equitable and inclusive, and that’s all great. Some question whether these actions are merely “feel good” and therefore foolish, but the data shows very, very good reasons for employers to improve their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices. As stated by Recruitee:

So, now that you’re (hopefully) convinced that it is good for business to recruit more diverse college students, let’s look at some ways to make that happen:

  1. Be explicit in your job posting ads that you welcome applications from diverse candidates. “Let your target candidates know that you’re seeking them out, and explain why your company would make a great fit.”
  2. Use niche job boards and other sources where the diverse candidates you want congregate. If you want to hire more female STEM workers, then participate the many online and offline groups dedicated to those people. Don’t just source there. Engage. Plant seeds.
  3. Leverage your existing diverse employees by asking them to refer their friends and family. Ask them to share your job posting ads with their networks and be explicit when you do so about why you’re doing so. Oh, and paying for referrals wouldn’t hurt either.
  4. Offer internships to diverse students. Several decades ago, few college students had internships before they graduated. Now, most do. If you want to hire the best college grads, you often first need to hire them as interns. If you’re not hiring Black engineers for your internship programs, you’re unlikely to be able to hire Black engineers for your entry-level roles.
  5. Organically create an authentic employer brand that values diversity, promotes equity, and is inclusive. Too many employers talk-the-talk about DEI. Few walk-the-walk. In other words, just saying that you care about diversity doesn’t mean that you do. If you’re taking a photo of your employees and you’re trying to make sure that your diverse candidates are easily seen in the photo, then you’re unlikely to have a diverse workforce. Diversity is not separate from all of your other recruitment and retention practices. It is a part of all of them.
  6. Proactively implement company policies that appeal to candidates who are diverse, whether they’re diverse due to their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, military service, disabilities, socioeconomic background, education, or other factors. Are you struggling to recruit and retain Muslim workers? If so, would it make sense to find out if there are ways that you can make your workplace more welcoming, such as allocating a place they can pray during the day and perhaps have a separate refrigerator so their food doesn’t come into contact with pork?
  7. Remove all personal information from resumes before they’re screened. Information like names, schools, dates of birth, and addresses can all be used consciously or unconsciously to discriminate against certain groups of candidates.
  8. Interview candidates by text instead of in-person or video to further ensure that the hiring process is blind. Few organizations will be able to implement such blind interviewing practices all the way to the point of hire, but few should be unable to do so at the screening stage.
  9. Use technology to analyze resumes for skills and experience to remove the inevitable bias that humans have. Be aware, however, that there is no such thing as unbiased technology as it is all created by humans.
  10. Rethink your preferences and qualifications. Does your customer service representative really need a four-year degree? Do you really need to hire students from certain schools or even certain majors? More and more of College Recruiter’s employer customers are becoming school and even major agnostic, partly to improve their diversity hiring practices but also because they’re looking at their workforce productivity data and seeing that there is a poor and sometimes negative correlation between the perceived quality of the school and major and the quality of the employee’s work, especially when tenure is factored in.
  11. Use the screening and assessment tools built into your ATS both to exclude candidates who are poorly qualified as well as do a better job of including candidates who are well qualified. We’re now having all applicants — including those who appear to be poorly qualified — go through the same online assessment and we’re finding that some candidates who aren’t terribly impressive on paper are scoring the best. These candidates are often diverse and didn’t go to the fancy schools or even have the degrees that we’ve become accustomed to. Simply by focusing on their demonstrated ability to do the job instead of proxies like what school they went to has allowed us to hire candidates who are more diverse and productive once on the job.
  12. Have two, three, or more, qualified diverse candidates in any shortlist of potential applicants. If you’re hiring a software engineer and have five finalists with only one being female, chances are the hiring manager will choose a man. If two of the finalists are female, the chances of one of them being hired increase exponentially.

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