Attracting Diverse Candidates: What Works, Where and How to Find Them

September 27, 2017

Fostering and building a diverse workforce is no longer an option – it’s a necessity. We know diverse teams not only foster innovation, creativity, and learning, but also lead to better outcomes for a business’ bottom line. A study by McKinsey shows that companies in the top quartile for gender, racial, and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.

We all want our organizations to succeed, so focusing on diversifying our workforce is imperative. But how do we get there? How and what can we be doing to attract diverse talent in the first place? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Understand Your Diversity Hiring Goals

First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand your diversity hiring goals so you can come up with a game plan and put some action items in place. Hopefully you already have a goal mapped out – maybe you’re looking for women to make up a certain percentage of your hires, maybe it’s increasing hires from underrepresented backgrounds.

Either way, you need to understand exactly who you’re looking to hire so you can figure out how to attract and engage them in the most practical way – different things appeal to different groups. For instance, what may be appreciated by women may not matter to men; what millennials care about may not be the same as what older generations look for in a job.

If you don’t already have a plan, our guide to hiring for diversity is a good place to start.

Let Them Come to You

In other words, make sure your brand supports your diversity-related recruitment efforts. A strong employer brand is important when you’re looking to attract top talent in general, but should also be used to your advantage when hiring for diversity.

An easy way to do this is by showcasing the diversity that you’ve already established on your company’s careers page. An employer’s website is almost always the first place candidates go to do research about a company so make sure you:

  • Include pictures showcasing your diverse employees (ex: your female VPs!) and blurbs about why they enjoy working there.
  • Encourage all employees to participate in attracting talent. For example, represent employees from underrepresented backgrounds on your company blog.
  • Highlight your mission statement on your diversity hiring initiatives (sometimes just saying it resonates with people).

All of these things show that you’re supportive of a diverse workplace and understand why having one truly matters.

Crafting job descriptions in a way that makes everyone feel welcome to apply will also bolster your inbound diversity recruiting efforts. Make sure your job postings read well to different types of candidates. I can’t tell you how many times I see a job description that uses “he” over and over or uses words like “ninja/rockstar” – truth is, even just using these typically male-associated terms can subconsciously discourage women from applying.

You should also be careful about what you advertise – while job descriptions are a great place to showcase your benefits, spending too much time talking about your ping-pong tables, beer kegs and video games may do the opposite of what you hope – by hyping up perks typically associated with one generation of workers (ie. millennials), you may end up turning off another (baby boomers or gen Xers).

Your job descriptions should focus on the things that actually matter – what the job entails, qualities the candidate must have, where this person will make a difference, etc. You’ll encourage the right people to apply, regardless of gender, age, or any other irrelevant factors and remove any subconscious bias in the process.

Another great way to bring diverse candidates to you is to take advantage of the diverse employees you already have and lean on them (if they’re willing to of course) to act as company ambassadors. For instance, your ambassadors can represent your company at career fairs, speak on panels and attend community events or meetups. You could also consider sponsoring an event with a focus on an underrepresented group (“Out in Tech”, “Girls who Code”, etc.) and have one of your employees act as a spokesperson or host.

By getting your diverse employees (and really all employees) involved with your recruiting efforts, you put the message out there that you support a diverse, inclusive workplace, not to mention you’ll be filling your candidate funnel in no time.

Look in the Right Places

While attracting diverse candidates to your organization is important, it’s likely that you’re going to have to do some searching of your own. It might seem obvious, but if you’re looking for diverse candidates in the same places you look for your usual candidates, you’re probably not going to have much success – otherwise, we’d all be pros at finding such hires.

Look into special alumni groups, veteran associations, community meetups, churches, cultural organizations, etc. Often times, if you simply reach out to these universities/groups, they already have resume books of candidates they can send you. You can expand your reach by asking for referrals. I’ve already mentioned that using your current diverse employees as ambassadors is important, but make sure you’re also tapping them for referrals. It’s likely that these employees already have relationships with the talent pools you’re trying to hire from – if not, maybe they have new ideas for places you can look.

It is important to keep in mind though that some diverse candidates may not have the same background as your usual talent pool (which should be why you’re hiring for diversity in the first place – different backgrounds/experiences lead to better ideas, innovation in the workplace).

I see it a lot – perhaps your company only wants candidates from certain Ivy League schools, or with a certain type of degree (Master’s, MBA) – by excluding a huge group of people, you’re likely missing out on fantastic talent, often from underrepresented groups that didn’t have the same opportunity for whatever reason.

Applying the same open-minded mentality goes for resume gaps – sometimes they can be a major turn-off, when in fact, the gap is quite easily explained. Mothers raising families, serving time in the military, holding more than one job and so forth.

Encourage your hiring team to be more open, and let previous accomplishments rather than degrees and “perfect resumes” dictate candidate-worthiness.

Implement Meaningful Initiatives and Programs

Many companies tend to name drop their cool “perks” in order to attract talent, but take a more strategic approach and offer benefits that are most inclusive and meaningful for all types of talent you’re looking to hire. Be sure to:

  • Evaluate your health insurance benefits. Are they favorable/affordable to people with growing families? With disabilities? With the aging population? Do you offer any type of maternity/paternity leave? By providing options that support a variety of different backgrounds, you’ll be more likely to attract – not to mention retain – diverse talent.
  • Consider offering flexible hours and/or a work from home policy. Take into consideration the talent pool unable to spend as much time in the office for whatever reason – maybe due to strict childcare responsibilities, a longer commute in exchange for more affordable housing, or taking care of an elderly/disabled family member. Giving the opportunity to shift hours or work from home 1 or 2 days per week can be a huge differentiator.
  • Holidays of Choice. Do you allow employees to take time off for their religious holidays without penalizing them? Chances are, your company closes for some or all of the federal/bank holidays that many companies blanket across the organization, regardless of background/beliefs. But what about those who celebrate different holidays? Consider offering your employees the option to choose which holidays they take time off for (and don’t make them use a vacation day!).

While some of the diversity hiring initiatives discussed here require a higher budget and more planning, map out what that investment means for you. In most cases, the benefit of gaining diverse talent to your workforce (and the ideas, generated revenue, etc. that go along) truly outweigh the cost.

How does your talent team stack up? Assess the maturity of your talent program with our talent calculator here.

Talent Manager

Ellie is a go-to-market Talent Manager at OpenView. In this role, she works to find top talent to join the sales and marketing teams of OpenView’s portfolio companies.