4 tips for hiring diverse college students in Chicago, Illinois

Posted November 13, 2020 by

Have you ever looked at someone’s profile on LinkedIn and admired them for their career choices even though you’ve never had the opportunity to meet them? That just happened to me.

I put out a request to employers, college career service office professionals, and other career experts to provide to me tips for how employers can hire more diverse college students for internships and recent graduates for entry-level jobs. One of the experts that I heard back from was Sasha Pena, the director of career and leadership development for Chicago Scholars. Her work is easy to admire.

According to the Chicago Scholars LinkedIn page, it is a 501(c)(3) foundation, formed in 1996 to help under-resourced and academically ambitious Chicago high school students attend and graduate college. During this 20-year period, it has developed and refined its seven-year college to career access and success program to serve 2,500 students who have attended 313 highly rated colleges in the U.S.

Chicago Scholars is nationally recognized for its best practices model. Its mission is to uniquely select, train, and mentor academically ambitious students from under-resourced communities to complete college and become the next generation of leaders who will transform their neighborhoods and the City of Chicago. Sasha oversees all career events and programs for Scholars resulting in full-time positions, and increased Scholar satisfaction with the support of the organization. Additionally, she manages key career programs that help Scholars explore careers, develop as leaders, and expand their networks.

Her tips:

  1. Recruitment of diverse and recent graduates takes some intentionality and early investment. Start with the following questions: What are you doing to recruit diverse and young talent? Who do you or your employer’s partner or outsource finding talent to? Organizations and professional associations that are a hub of diverse candidates are a great place to start. Take advantage of early exposure opportunities like career exploration and development events, offering internships and rotation problems. In Chicago, leverage a college access and leadership program like Chicago Scholars, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s), alumni association, or a program like the Hispanic Leadership Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE).
  2. Make sure your company brand visibly shows they value diversity. Diverse candidates and recent graduates are seeking out companies that value and commit to diversity. Solidarity statements are not enough, people want to see specific action represented. Action can be shown through storytelling, reflected in partnerships, and represented in specific roles dedicated to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion or organization-wide training.
  3. Market and showcase clear pathways for leadership development​. Candidates want to see opportunities for growth and development when considering company fit.
  4. Audit your current recruitment and hiring practices. Make sure you have a diverse recruiting team, incorporate systems that mitigate bias, reevaluate the idea of culture fit through a DEIA lens, and update job descriptions to reflect company values.
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