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A Modern Approach to Diversity Recruiting

Posted by Bob Corlett on May 20, 2020

Most of our clients effectively made the transition to remote work, but that transition revealed a few skill gaps on their teams that were not obvious before. Our clients always shared our deep commitment to diversity recruiting, but that commitment is deeper now. Everyone is learning that turbulent times require wiser and more creative solutions, and that kind of creativity emerges from teams of smart people with a diversity of lived experiences. Research shows that teams get smarter when they include members from outside of your traditional networks. The new challenges you face may be unfamiliar to you, but less daunting to someone from a different background and divergent way of thinking.

Unsurprisingly, when you want your organization to think differently, you need to recruit differently. Old approaches fail in new environments, so a more modern approach to diversity recruiting is necessary, one that adapts to the current environment.

We never relied on the most common (and most superficial) approaches to diversity recruiting, such as posting ads on diversity job boards. We know from experience that those ads are rarely seen by candidates and do little to expand the candidate pool. Similarly, we don’t rely on asking candidates “Who do you know who would like this job?” Both of those approaches can be far too insular and invariably exclude some very well-qualified candidates.

We recommend a data-driven recruiting process designed to adapt to current job market conditions and recruit a diverse slate of candidates from a wide range of backgrounds. Times like these demand an agile methodology, or a “Moneyball” approach to recruiting. We believe that modern recruiting should follow the same principles of an integrated marketing campaign. There is the message, a careful consideration of the audience for your message, a variety of message delivery mechanisms, and a feedback loop to determine if the right people saw the message and acted on it. (We outline our own agile methodology here.)

Inclusive and Appealing Message

Diversity recruiting starts with the right message being delivered to a broad audience, right from the start. This includes writing a message that is attractive to people from a variety of career backgrounds. In crafting the message, think expansively about the underlying pool of who will be contacted, and avoid any distancing language. To best achieve the business impact you want, appeal to people who are drawn to challenge, people who want to "put a dent in the universe." This type of candidate is quite selective, so the ad must be interesting.

Careful Consideration of Audience Behavior

The advertisements should be available and accessible to candidates regardless of their job seeking behavior (active or less active). Candidates should be able to encounter the ads in their day to day work, whether they are using a work computer, personal computer, or personal mobile device. People should be able to interact with the message online, in an app, by starting their search on the Google search bar, or just seeing the ad served up when they visit websites unrelated to job search. Ideally, the candidate will be forwarded the message from a friend who saw it (if the message is compelling enough).

Variety of Delivery Mechanisms – the Job Search Ecosystems

Candidates have always migrated to the most effective and convenient tools for job search. That journey is constantly being reshaped by major technology firms. 10 years ago, a majority of the traffic to job boards came from desktops or laptops, but a few years later the majority of traffic came from phones and other personal mobile devices. 7 years ago, a majority of career-related internet traffic went to job aggregators like Indeed, but that also changed as the dominant technology firms battle for job seeker attention. That’s why, in addition to our intensive direct recruiting efforts (identifying hundreds of potential candidates based on their skill profile and contacting them directly), we use a multi-layer approach to recruitment advertising.

  • Our applicant tracking system (iCIMS) is in partnership with Google so once an advertisement goes live on our website, it automatically appears near the top of the new “Google for Jobs” search engine. Because of their other partnerships, Google for Jobs also promotes the job advertisements we’ve paid to post on other career sites (like ASAE). iCIMS has similar partnerships with job board aggregators (including Indeed, DirectEmployers, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Monster, Recruit.net, VHM Network, Adzuna, Job Case, Jooble, Restoration Media, Inc., and IT Jobs Café).

  • Beyond the Google for Jobs ecosystem, we pay to post ads on LinkedIn and we also pay for keyword advertising on Indeed (a major job aggregator now owned by the firm who recently acquired Glassdoor). Before the advent of Google for Jobs, Indeed was the dominant career site, reaching over 70% of job seekers. But Indeed, LinkedIn, and Facebook are all now competing directly with Google for jobseeker traffic. (And because of all that heightened competition for traffic, our paid advertising is being organically cross-posted to dozens of other websites, making our job ads virtually ubiquitous when candidates choose to look online. We also appreciate the free visibility provided by CEO Update.)

  • We’ve tried many niche job boards over the years, but have rarely seen a worthwhile return on investment. We even stopped advertising with CareerBuilder - a once major player in the job board ecosystem. (They faded to irrelevance when Google, LinkedIn and Indeed changed their own approaches.)

Because of the frenetic pace of change among the dominant players, we reevaluate our ad posting approach 4 times a year, adjusting based on candidate behavior. In deciding where to spend our advertising dollars, we have a simple framework: we look at the source of candidates who merited an (in-person or virtual) interview with our clients. Many employers use “Source of Hire” as a metric, but we find this too narrow. We see the role of the recruiter as decision-support - our deliverable is the slate, or short list, of candidates. For that reason, we find it more helpful to look at the sources of all the viable candidates. (In reality, our direct recruiting efforts generate the vast majority of candidates we present, but job advertising remains important for visibility and referrals.)

Resume Selection Criteria

Beyond visibility and inclusive language, another important element of expanding and diversifying the candidate pool is making it easy for candidates to apply. When some people believe they are a "long-shot," it is important to lower the barriers to applying. In our case, we allow candidates to apply online or email in their resume. At the point of applying, we don’t require a questionnaire, salary requirements, or even a cover letter. We believe that rigor belongs at the end of the hiring process, not the beginning.

And when the resumes arrive, we don’t recommend having a computer read the resume for keywords. We have a senior staff member review every resume. We know candidates invest significant time in their job search so we invest considerable team resources in ensuring every application is fairly considered, regardless of the career background or language used in the resume. A surprising number of highly qualified candidates emerge from unexpected backgrounds.

Feedback Loop – Adapting to the Job Market

On a weekly basis, we review key metrics including the speed of candidates’ response to our outreach, the percentage of contacted candidates who agree to an interview, and the percentage of people viewing our advertising who choose to engage. We look at the reasons potential candidates have given for not wanting to interview. We then huddle as a team to reevaluate how we can improve our response rates. Occasionally we need to adjust the message, or reconsider who we are contacting. (This might happen several times over the course of a search, depending on the nature of the position.) Then we begin the process again, with necessary adjustments.

The job market is always changing, with differing employer needs and expectations, and an ebb and flow of candidates with differing skills and career options. The agile approach outlined here will enable you to consistently recruit top performers regardless of the underlying job market conditions.

But developing a diverse pool of candidates is only the beginning. The next step in the process is ensuring that your hiring process is evidence-based.

The Case for Evidence-Based Interviewing

Additional reading:

 

DISCLOSURE: This is not an endorsement of any vendor. And we receive no compensation of any kind from any vendors listed here.

Topics: Job Advertising, Hiring Process, Recruiting Executives