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Diversity Sourcing Strategies: Webinar Follow-Up

Diversity Sourcing Webinar Follow-Up

Last week, Gem’s Recruiting Program Manager Georgena Frazier led a webinar called Diversity Sourcing Strategies: Where to Find Underrepresented Talent. Because so many talent acquisition teams are either putting diversity initiatives in place for the first time or reiterating on their existing initiatives right now, we wanted to share proven sourcing strategies for uncovering underrepresented talent. Georgena covered underutilized keywords to search for on LinkedIn and other platforms, other ways to use LinkedIn for diversity sourcing, and offline strategies. If you missed it, you can replay it here

In the meantime, a lot of great questions were posed in the Q&A, and we couldn’t get to all of them. As promised, here are the follow-up answers. (Big thanks to our Head of People Caroline Stevenson and our tech recruiter Nathalie Grandy for their additional insights here.)

What are some of the best ways to engage URM candidates in terms of wording in campaign messaging? For example, would you acknowledge that diversity is important to the company?

We absolutely recommend that you acknowledge the importance of diversity—but only if you can do so sincerely. And by “sincerely” we mean: can you point to the tangible ways your org is taking steps toward DEI in your outreach? If underrepresented talent gets the sense that you’re offering words without substance, you’re not going to hear back from them. 

Talent (both underrepresented and majority) will be looking for cues that your company is as committed to DEI as you say it is. They’ll be looking to ensure that your job description is inclusive, that the images and messaging on your careers page are inclusive, that your C-levels and upper management are diverse, that the benefits you offer are inclusive. So your best bet is to point to these things from your outreach rather than simply say “diversity is important to us.” (We’ve written an entire guide on how to do this. Check out our Best Practices for Nurturing Underrepresented Talent.)

Is there an inclusive list of URM schools we could review and try to target based on majors we are seeking? How do you know what locations have a high URM population?

It can be as simple as Googling Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and women’s colleges

Where do we find diversity indexes? How do you learn about a school’s diversity index?

Again, Google is your friend here. U.S. News & World Report, for example, releases a list of Campus Ethnic Diversity Rankings annually; but do your own searching and see what you find. As should be the case with the schools we listed above, don’t limit yourself to talent from “the most prestigious” schools on these lists when you discover them. High-achieving talent is enrolled at every institution. 

What’s the best way to search those groups that serve URMs? Is there a way on LinkedIn to do so?

LinkedIn is a great place to search for groups that serve minority populations. It helps to start with a Google search: historically Black or LGBTQ+ sororities and fraternities, coding camps, vocational training programs, and professional organizations that serve Black/female-identifying/queer/etc. talent are all great places to start. Even 30 minutes of playing with search terms will allow you to discover everything from the Holberton School to The Recurse Center to Black Girls Code to Vets who Code to Trans Tech Social, and more. You can then use these as search terms on LinkedIn to find talent associated with those organizations, and discover what other groups the talent that surfaces belongs to. Who follows, and is active on, those pages?

Can you list those coding schools you just named? / Do you have a list of these schools and organizations referenced? / Where can we find the list of recommended diverse organizations that was mentioned?

Gem’s Diversity Sourcing at the Top of the Funnel is a comprehensive look at how and where to find underrepresented talent. But we also challenge you to do your own research. New organizations are coming into existence all the time; and if you’re serious about diversifying your business and the broader org, you should keep a finger on the pulse of those groups and movements. 

Do you have tips for when you have diverse candidate pools, but your organization doesn’t see diverse hires? How do we improve that conversion %?

The best way to discover why URMs aren’t joining your org is to ask them. Check in with talent that turned down your job offer. Was there anything about the culture that felt off-putting to them? In what areas would your organization have to offer a greater sense of equity or belonging if they were to join? 

For talent that drops out before you get to ask them, you can look at passthrough rates for underrepresented talent (Gem lets you track both gender and race/ethnicity through the funnel) and make educated guesses about why female and URM talent may be disproportionately dropping out at certain stages. Is your email outreach inadvertently alienating underrepresented groups? If so, sourcers should rethink their messaging. Are some candidate segments getting stuck at certain stages of the funnel because there’s systemic bias there—whether by role, recruiter, or hiring manager? Are your tests not inclusive of self-taught talent, which is why so many people are dropping out at that stage? Data can tell you so much about where your hiring biases lie. Use it to your advantage. 

With a lot of companies focusing more on sourcing URMs explicitly, do you have any advice on how to approach URMs from a messaging standpoint? I always want to come across as authentic and if URMs are getting an influx of messages because they’re being targeted more, I want to make sure messaging is personalized and stands out.

For underrepresented talent, the needs, hopes, and expectations about a workplace worth working for may differ from those of their majority counterparts. That’s because the stakes are often higher for underrepresented talent when it comes to considering career moves. They’re less likely to respond if they don’t get the sense that DEI—diversity, equity, and inclusion—is a core company commitment, baked into your organization’s DNA. Your messaging should start there. As we mentioned above, if they’re interested, talent will be looking at your careers page and at your job description. They’ll be checking your social feeds for indications about what belonging actually looks like at your org. So if you want messaging that stands out, point to those things.

That said, some of the best email outreach focuses on culture and belonging broadly speaking. Just because you’re writing to a Black prospective candidate doesn’t mean you need to point to all the Black folks in your org. Doing so may reasonably make them feel as if they’re being tokenized—that is, that you’re seeking them out just because of who they are, not for the awesome skills they also bring to the table. So play around with different ways to engage underrepresented talent. Maybe you link to your demographic stats. Maybe you point to the company benefits (mental health days, for example) that show your org cares about all of its employees’ health and well-being. A commitment to equity is baked into policies like this. And so on. (By the way, here are some examples of outreach for diversity recruiting initiatives.)

What is the appropriate way to approach expectations of diversity in roles we’re hiring for? We want to be cognizant of not creating blanket quotas as well as be careful with any language used as part of subjective criteria (either in informal or formal conversations) for both legal and moral reasons.

We think quotas are good—but you should try to set them at the top of the funnel. Maybe you aim to have 30% diversity in candidates entering your funnel, for example. Having this quota can help you understand how much outbound sourcing you might need to do to offset referrals or other inbound candidates entering your pipeline, if those pools lack diversity. 

You can also set a strategy where you prioritize getting diverse candidates into pipelines first. This way you might not need to set a quota; but you can approach every search going 100% outbound sourcing for diverse candidates. Once you’ve exhausted that talent pool, can expand your search criteria. 

How do you find a balance between an urgent req and D&I hiring?

This is usually going to be a tradeoff. It takes time and intentionality to build a diverse pipeline. If your company has this as a priority, maybe you have a bit more headcount on the recruiting team to help supplement your pipelines or take on fewer roles to be strategic about. Or maybe you’ve aligned as a company that you always start a search out with an X% diversity commitment at the top of the funnel; but for roles that are super urgent, you can relax that criteria after a predefined amount of time and open up the funnel more broadly. 

It seems most/all of the engineers that pass our technical screening need to have elite education/top company backgrounds. This doesn’t always cater to URM talent and I want to make sure our recruiting processes are inclusive. How do I influence this change in my org?

A great way to think through solving for this is to start engaging with coding bootcamps for those that are career-transitioners and those that are brushing up on coding skills after being self-taught. A few companies have started implementing 6-month engineering apprenticeships in which a select cohort of apprentices (some from bootcamps) go through on-the-job training, self-development courses, and exposure to tech. This helps foster a continual learning process and helps the company grow individuals to the technical bar they need for their engineering teams. At the end, the eng apprentices go through evaluations, with the possibility of a full-time hire there. 

Senior talent for niche roles tends to be one of the hardest things in our day-to-day. What is your recommendation on hiring diverse talent when organizations face this challenge?

Nurture is key. Find leaders to build relationships with ahead of time, so when these roles open up you have a diverse network to tap into. You might ask the would-be hiring manager to reach out and pick those leaders’ brains on the niche role they work on. When should your company consider looking to build out that function? What are the key considerations? This can help your hiring manager help plan for their org, and also make important connections in the meantime.

How would you suggest, if a recruiter is white, that they do all of this in a non-performative way on LinkedIn?

Follow DE&I leaders and engage with their work on LinkedIn. Listen and talk with your coworkers and friends. Diverse candidates can tell when you are being genuine, so be yourself.

What other resources would you suggest for Leadership (Director+) level URM candidates?

For leadership hires, many companies turn to staffing agencies that specialize in executive recruiting. We’d interview these agencies to see what the diversity of candidates looks like in their network. 

Do you have any recommendations for diversity hiring hashtags for the education field?

If this is for engineering university students, try #shpe or #nsbe.

What D&I licenses and certifications are there? Is there one you recommend?

We’ve heard good things about Cornell’s D&I certification. You could also check out the Diversity Executive Leadership Academy or the Society for Diversity. 

Who do you recommend for unconscious bias training company-wide?

At Gem, we’ve availed ourselves of Ulysses Smith, Head of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Blend, and the folks at Paradigm. But there are a lot of options out there, so put out feelers in your network and ask around.

What about a company who is not diversified and who aspires to be? Any suggestions?

We’d suggest you start with the “E” and “I” of DEI—equity and inclusion. The reality is that, even if you manage to hire them, underrepresented talent isn’t going to stick around long if these two things aren’t already in place. So get together with your talent leaders, look around, and answer some crucial questions. 

Does your company have a code of conduct and a non-discrimination policy in place? Does it have a diversity mission statement? Are company benefits inclusive of underrepresented talent (coverage for domestic partners, for example; or appropriate health care plans for transgender employees)? What safeguards are in place to ensure leadership assessments and promotion processes are as free of bias as possible? Does the company allow employees to take their religious/cultural holidays of choice off? Do you have employee resource groups or affinity groups? Do employees use their pronouns in email signatures? And so on. You might even ask your leadership team to send out an inclusion survey to employees, gauging your org’s maturity with real employee feedback. 

That’s not to say you’ll be able to attend to all of these things at once. But trying to diversify without thinking about equity and inclusion is like trying to put fish in a fishbowl before you put water in it. So do what you can to create a safe landing pad for URM talent. And then reach out in full sincerity. 

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