Ask the Experts: How can employers hit their diversity and other hiring goals in a year when COVID is preventing them from recruiting on-campus?

Posted October 15, 2020 by

The fall of 2020 will forever be remembered by employers of college and university students and recent graduates as the year when they were forced to hire the bulk of their interns and entry-level employees online, including virtual career events.

Virtual career events are great, but surveys and early results indicate that very few students have any intention of attending more than a few and the few they will attend will be for organizations they already know they want to work for. Maybe your virtual career events are proving to be successful for engagement, but before you can engage with a candidate you need to reach them.

College Recruiter recently hosted a live, interactive discussion with some of the country’s leading experts in how to reach, engage, hire, and retain diverse and other students and recent graduates of one-, two-, and four-year colleges and universities who are searching for part-time, seasonal, internship, and entry-level jobs.

The discussion was moderated by Faith Rothberg, Chief Executive Officer of College Recruiter, which believes that every student and recent graduate deserves a great career. College Recruiter’s customers are primarily Fortune 1,000 companies, government agencies, and other employers who hire at scale, meaning dozens or even hundreds into the same or similar roles. The panelists were:

  • Roynda Hartsfield, former Chief of Digital Innovation Hiring for the Central Intelligence Agency and currently the Director of Talent Acquisition of Excel Technologies, LLC, which a woman-owned, small business focused on mission-oriented solutions supporting citizen and national security-centric federal programs.
  • Rishav Khanal, Co-Founder of InPerson, which helps employers accelerate their D&I goals by turning their interns into campus ambassadors who then put your organization in front of diverse student organizations and faculty members.
  • Jeffrey Moss, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of micro internship service, Parker Dewey.
  • Toni Newborn, Director of Human Resources and Chief Equity Officer for the City of Saint Paul, Minnesota.
  • Robert Shindell, President and Chief Executive Officer of college recruiting consulting and research firm, Intern Bridge, whose Intern Management System is powered by GradLeaders.
  • Jo Weech, Head of People and Talent for Exemplary Consultants, which collaborates with small- to medium-sized businesses to create and optimize infrastructure that will assist in achieving cost-effective growth strategies.

We asked each of the panelists to share two ideas for how to recruit and retain diverse and other college students and recent graduates:

  1. Roy —  Have any company officer who is in the line of hiring from recruiter / sourcing / hiring manager to take unconscious bias.  Same goes with anyone managing interns and new employees.  First-hand supervisors are the face and “feel” of a company.  A great and innovative supervisor gets more buzz than a Kardashian tweet.
  2. Rishav — Tap into the relationships of your interns who have signed their return offers to come work for you full-time to help build partnerships with student organizations that serve a diverse student body on their campus to increase your top of the funnel recruitment marketing efforts and utilize them to source candidates for you as well by building campus ambassador program that goes beyond wearing t-shirts and passing out a water bottles
  3. Jeffrey —  Engage busy professionals to create experiential recruiting opportunities.  They appreciate the immediate value, and you can engage students who might not otherwise be thinking about your company.  Also helps assess more effectively while “retraining” hiring managers.
  4. Toni — Partner with colleges and universities who have programs that align with your job positions. Work with those professors and administrators to build a program/curriculum that meets your organization’s goals and needs. Develop virtual job shadowing and/or intern programs. This should be apart of both your long-term and short-term strategy regardless of COVID. 
  5. Robert — Double down and triple down on your internship / experiential learning initiatives.  Even though COVID has changed what we have come to know as a “traditional summer internship”, there are plenty of ways that you can continue to utilize internships and other forms of experiential learning to identify, attract, develop and retain the next generation of your workforce.
  6. Jo —  Reach out to the professors that teach classes where the students you want to target will be. This should be at any time, not just pandemic!  Develop a great rapport with them, and even though students will keep passing through in waves, the professors can become your rabid referrers. (Note: they also know what diverse groups are on campus.)
  7. Roy —  Consider flexible internships all year long.   We have summer / winter, but also accommodate interns’ schedules throughout their academic year.  This goes a long way on campus like RIT, RPI, and also local colleges such as NoVA.  It has really helped our interns during COVID.  Stay involved with the progress.   Give interns work that is impactful and can be measured.
  8. Rishav — In addition to Director of Employer Relations and professors, reach out to administrators within the Division of Student Affairs or Athletic Directors. Although it may not look like a great connection on paper, administrators from the Division of Student Affairs will be aware of alternative student organizations beyond the traditional ones like Beta Alpha Psi that almost every accounting firm utilizes or Athletic Directors can point you towards members responsible for giving their athletes opportunities beyond the field. Imagine the candidates you might receive if you bring in your ERGs to speak in front of the Hispanic Student Association at X university or the diverse applicant pool you might have if you host a professional workshop for student-athletes on building their digital profile on LinkedIn and Handshake.
  9. Jeffrey —  Leverage your employee resource group (ERG) members to authentically build relationships with students (guest lecture, projects, etc).
  10. Toni —  Work with your HR department to ready your workforce for this new wave of employees post COVID.  Readying your workforce means looking at your job descriptions and minimum qualifications. Our college graduates may have a different set of skills than what previous graduates may have obtained. Make sure you are changing with the times. 
  11. Robert — “Meeting students where they are and taking them to where you want them to be” is a commonly used phrase in the training and development of educators.  The same statement (substituting students for candidates in the phrase above) should be the new mantra for employers wanting to connect with students making the transition to the world of work.  Candidates desire a structured and well-defined path.  Employers who provide these pathways early through internships and other forms of experiential learning will be more attractive to students.
  12. Jo — Contact the Career Counseling department to offer minimum wage internship opportunities where potential new hires can provide a few hours a week working on projects that you will wish to hire them to do. They get experience, and you get to “try before you buy”. Note: They also know what the diverse groups on campus are.

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