Diversity Recruiting: How to Get Everyone on the Same Page

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You want to recruit diverse candidates. Your manager wants you to recruit diverse candidates. Your HR department really wants you to recruit diverse candidates. Hey, everyone agrees on something for once! Is it time to break out the champagne? Maybe not just yet.

It’s easy to get everyone on the same page when it comes to a big, lofty goal like “recruiting a diverse group of students,” but once you start to look at some of the details, all that consensus suddenly disappears.

We asked Johnny Torrance-Nesbitt, an expert in global university relations, employment branding, global talent acquisition, and diversity strategies and the former Director of University Relations and Employment Branding at Monsanto, to share his thoughts on how you can get everyone to work together to achieve your diversity hiring goals.

How do you recommend that companies approach recruiting diverse students through their on-campus activities?

It is important that campus recruiting teams have diverse representation (whether racial, ethnic, or gender diversity—or organization diversity) when visiting campus to recruit. This “diversity” can include both representatives from HR as well as line managers (organization diversity).

These line managers can be alums of the particular school or they can be HR professionals whose task it is to recruit for the company. Most companies use HR professionals to coordinate the campus recruiting process; HR functions as the point person with help from line managers from within the company—after all HR is tasked by the organization with the hiring function.

So, on any given campus visit, you have a blend of human resources professionals and line business unit managers. It is an obvious advantage to have HR professionals—who are closest to “hiring ins and outs”—on the campus visits, however it is also an advantage to have line managers who are closest to the work on campus as well. After all, students want to talk with individuals who are closest to the work and who actually do the work.

Let’s say that I work on a small university recruiting team and my company has decided to make diversity recruiting a priority. What are some first steps that you’d recommend I take to carry this out?

You should become familiar with “the business case” for diversity and how diversity can drive corporate success. You also need to understand the changing demographics in the US.

You should start with working with the many diverse student groups on campus as well as some national diversity organizations. You should also seek out diverse individuals in your company or the diverse networks (at your company) for individuals who want to assist in your university relations efforts.

Are there any legal considerations employers should be aware of when recruiting diverse students?

Employers should be mindful of conducting legal interviews whether on campus or at the company for all students. Non-HR individuals should be coached on proper behavioral interviewing techniques. Additionally, they should be counseled on interview note-taking and the ins and outs of conducting a legal interview.

What are some companies that have exemplary diversity and inclusion programs, and what makes them so successful?

Some notable companies on diversity include one of my past employers, Monsanto, as well as Novartis, Sodexo, EY, Kaiser Permanente, and PwC. Please see the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity in 2014. These companies have made a prolonged and sustained commitment to diversity and inclusion starting at the CEO level. They also view diversity as a business imperative.

How does diversity recruiting in a university student/recent context differ from experienced hire diversity recruiting?

There is not much of a difference here. Remember the end goal is the same—more diversity in the organization. Whether you are recruiting seasoned executives or college interns, you need to build pipelines and channels to organizations, associations, community groups, etc. The rise of social media can play a big part in diversity recruiting as well.

The next step: Johnny talks about the importance of getting HR and managers from relevant departments involved in on-campus events. Do you currently have a program that allows non HR folks to participate? Are you ensuring that you send employees that reflect racial, ethnic, gender, and organization diversity? If not, what adjustments can you make so that this becomes the norm?

Johnny Torrance Nesbitt

Johnny Torrance-Nesbitt has held leadership roles at several leading Global Fortune 500 businesses such as Monsanto, Lockheed Martin, and several rapidly growing start-up firms including the noted MBA eLearning technology firm, Unext.com/Cardean Learning Group LLC. 

Connect with Johnny on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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