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6 steps employers should follow to improve their hiring of diverse college students

Posted October 16, 2020 by

Much has been written about why diversity should be important to employers who hire college students and recent graduates for part-time, seasonal, internship, and entry-level jobs. Much has also been written about tactical ways that employers can hire more diverse students and recent graduates.

Not as much has been written about strategic steps that employers should follow to increase the number of diverse students and recent graduates that they hire. But before we did into that, let us first agree that the goal of hiring more diverse students (or any other demographic) is not circular: it is not to increase diversity hiring. Employers should improve their hiring of diverse students and graduates as it is good for business, regardless of whether it also allows them to reach some compliance goals. As Ideal puts it, the “goal of diversity hiring is to identify and remove potential biases in sourcing, screening, and shortlisting candidates that may be ignoring, turning off, or accidentally discriminating against qualified, diverse candidates.”

  1. Conduct a diversity hiring audit. What potential bottlenecks and discrepancies do you have? Are they at the top of the funnel, meaning you aren’t connecting with enough diverse students? Are they middle of the funnel, meaning you’re screening out too many diverse students? Or are they bottom of the funnel, meaning that you’re presenting your hiring managers with a number of well-qualified, diverse students but they keep hiring others? As part of this process, you’re going to want to honestly assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and risks of your diversity hiring efforts.
  2. Pick one metric to improve upon. You may have heard the expression that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Similarly, it is very difficult to manage what you measure in a variety of ways as some of those metrics might indicate success and others failure. At College Recruiter, we’re big believers in managing by outcomes instead of process. Does it really matter that you increase the number of applications from diverse candidates by 25 percent if the number of hires decreases by 10 percent? If you agree, choose an outcomes-based metric that is objective, meaning that no two reasonable people can disagree as to whether you attained it. A subjective metric would be something like, “Increase the number of diverse hires in STEM-related positions”. Instead, use language such as, “Increase the number of black, females in your engineering group by 25 percent within 12-months”.
  3. Increase the number of diverse students who apply. This step is critical for those whose audit revealed that their top of the funnel (sourcing) efforts were falling short. Re-word your job postings to remove words and phrases which appeal to one demographic and, instead, make them more inclusive. Showcase your diversity to make it easy for students to picture themselves working for you. Be flexible about where you recruit students from. If you’re primarily recruiting from the same schools year after year and failing to recruit enough diverse students, be more inclusive by proactively seeking applicants from other schools. Oh, and ask your current, diverse employees for referrals.
  4. Refine how you screen candidates. Fortunately, diversity has never been an issue for College Recruiter but we still wanted to improve. We recently examined how we had screened candidates for developer positions and decided to try offering to all applicants the opportunity to go through the online assessment as we had read that many diverse candidates are screened out due to their inability to meet requirements that serve, at best, as proxies for their ability to do the job. For example, does a developer really need a four-year degree? What if they have only a two-year degree but ace your assessment? Wouldn’t you want to hire them? We were pleasantly surprised to see that our suspicions were correct: a number of diverse candidates demonstrated their ability to do the job as a result of successfully completing the assessment even though in years past we might not have considered them because we had placed too much emphasis on requirements and preferences that didn’t actually prove that they could or could not do the job. Oh, and we hired a diverse candidate for the developer position. Another way to help ensure that diverse candidates get through the screening process is to use blind hiring techniques like removing their names and addresses from their resumes as that makes it almost impossible for a recruiter or hiring manager to be impacted by their unconscious or even conscious bias against candidates who are diverse.
  5. Remove roadblocks to candidates who are being presented to hiring managers. A lot of organizations insist on recruiters including at least one diverse candidate in the slate of finalists that they present to the hiring manager, but studies show that those candidates are almost never hired when there is only one included in the list of finalists. Instead, include at least two. If you include two females, for example, the odds of hiring one increases 79 times. Not 79 percent…79 times. Even better are the odds for people of color: they’re 194 times as likely to be hired if two or more are included in the list of finalists. Another strategy is to use ranking software that might already live within your ATS to do the shortlisting for you, but be aware that the algorithms used by the software were created by people and so has its own biases.
  6. Repeat by re-evaluating your success against the metric you decided to use and decide whether to use the same metric again or adjust it.

As so well said by Ideal, “Diversity hiring is hiring based on merit with special care taken to ensure procedures are free from biases related to a candidate’s age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and other personal characteristics that are unrelated to their job performance”. It is my hope that your use of the above six strategic steps will help your organization further improve its diversity hiring efforts as the more diverse your workforce is, the more productive your workforce will be.

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Posted in Advice for Employers and Recruiters | Tagged Tagged ,