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Looking to hire diverse candidates? Let’s talk about how to get it right

Insights in Color In partnership with Mimconnect

It is no secret that the great resignation has been dominated by a new, vocal generation of workers and employees letting the world know what they will no longer tolerate in the workplace. From publicly listing red flags to describing key signs of toxic a workplace, consumers have had enough of a historically one-sided workplace paradigm which has typically favored the needs of employers.

Today, due to an unprecedented global pandemic that has completely shifted the way we work, consumers are finding themselves holding more decision-making power than ever before, as employers navigate what may feel like an endless cycle recruitment and attrition. Making this even more complicated is a second cultural shift- a new generation of consumers desiring and expecting diversity, equity and inclusion measures in the workplace. The death of George Floyd, along with a barrage of unarmed killings of Black civilians over the past decade, have ushered in a new cultural moment of accountability where, more than ever, consumers are holding companies accountable for their DE&I efforts (or in many cases the lack of them).

Today’s new consumer workplace expectations have companies rushing to fill seats with diverse talent in rapid rates with the hope of avoiding cultural backlash and receiving a “passing grade” from the incessantly watchful public eye. However, despite some of their best efforts, many companies are finding themselves struggling to attract diverse talent and are becoming frustrated in the process. This frustration is exacerbated by the fact that most companies still expect candidates come to them- including diverse candidates. When this does not happen at expected rates, the assumption is that qualified multicultural candidates do not exist which, depending on the industry, is a common misnomer. For organizations like Insights in Color and Mimconnect, which have teamed up to ensure employers find diverse candidates who fit their needs, the cycle of companies eagerly seeking diverse talent and finding disappointment shortly after isn’t new. This pattern is often something Whitney Dunlap-Fowler, Founder of Insights in Color, a diversity initiative for multicultural research and insights professionals, and Owner of brand strategy consultancy, Touch of Whit Creative, talks her clients through. “Often, when clients finally choose to put a concerted effort around their recruitment and retention efforts to ensure a more diverse pool of candidates, they are shocked that more Black and brown candidates don’t apply. What these companies fail to realize though is that multicultural candidates likely have no clue who they are because they don’t show up in the spaces where we exist and live our lives. If it’s the first time I’m hearing about you, I’m going to want to do the work to see how consistent you have been as a company of ensuring that people like me are treated well, rewarded and supported at your organization. This process can take time especially if a company is just now beginning to start the process of building an inclusion-positive reputation”. Getting the attention of diverse candidates is one thing but keeping them there is an entirely different feat. The traditional workplace “cultural fit” equation has typically been the source of key tensions in retaining diverse talent. This is often because the modern workplace norms of today have failed to evolve from being built and formulated around the needs of just one group: wealthy upper-class men. Shortly after the industrial revolution as factory work became less popular, office work became the new, safer industry to excel in and birthed what we know today as “corporate America”. With this shift came the onset of stricter perspectives around gender norms as women, especially wealthy women, were not expected or allowed to work in corporate spaces for quite some time. Once they finally did break that barrier, they knew to play by the rules set by the men who dominated those spaces. In doing so, they were able to uphold the cultural workplace norms that were originally predicated on the needs, wants and habits of men. Once different ethnicities were allowed in corporate workspaces minorities learned to assimilate to these mainstream workplace culture to succeed. While past generations did so out of necessity, in today’s increasingly diverse America, thanks to the impact of new cultural shifts, young professionals are choosing to be more of themselves and are actively rejecting overbearing workplace expectations that make them feel silenced or put into a box. This push back against antiquated office culture norms is something Netta Dobbins, CEO & Co-founder of Mimconnect, a diversity consultancy helping companies recruit, retain and develop diverse talent, knows first-hand. “With the pandemic causing all companies to become remote, multicultural candidates were able to finally take off the corporate mask and do the work that they excel at daily while not feeling the need to constantly codeswitch for 40 hrs a week. It’s tiring and has proven to be unnecessary when it comes to their ability to execute their work at an expert level. As companies begin urging employees to come back into the office, it’s important for them to think about how to create or expand their internal work culture to implement spaces where employees of color feel that they can be authentically them.” ____

So what are some guidelines for your organization when it comes to seeking diverse candidates and keeping them there? No one is getting it 100% right, but there are steps that can be taken to ensure your company is headed in the right direction. Start yesterday To build trust and appear authentic to prospective candidates, there is a need to start as soon as possible. The biggest tension most companies face is the fear of appearing inauthentic in their efforts which causes them to instead do nothing at all.

While it is necessary to have a full, 360-degree DE&I strategy, waiting to get that strategy perfectly aligned before pursuing action only wastes time. As the strategy is being built, initiating cosmetic changes to the brand’s website that feature diverse employees, and the company’s commitment to DE&I are great placeholders (emphasis on placeholders). Again, candidates are looking for a history of commitment, not an overnight miracle. You have to start somewhere. Be loud & explicit about your DE&I Efforts Knowing that your organization is doing things to increase your DE&I efforts internally is great but if candidates outside of your organization can’t see this, then you’re doing it wrong. Multicultural candidates should be able to find your commitment to their unique needs within a few clicks of your website and/or social media pages. It should be prominent, easy to find, and it should evolve overtime as DE&I expectations evolve. Manage your expectations Just because you are ready to commit to diverse candidates, doesn’t mean they are ready to commit to you. There is a need to get on their radars first and then build trust in the process. While reputation building can feel like a fruitless endeavor, the ROI in doing so is often realized down the road after months of consistency. Once trust is built, word of mouth in Black and brown communities becomes the key driver of diverse candidate interest. Don’t expect them to come to you It is imperative that companies step outside of their comfort zones to find multicultural candidates where they are. This means disconnecting from traditional and/or longstanding referral methods and educational institutions that bring through the same, expected types of talent with similar backgrounds and pedigree. Think outside of the box and pursue less traditional roads and avenues to find your diverse talent base. Partnering with companies like Insights in Color and Mimconnect who are already tapped in to diverse communities can go a long way in supporting your search for diverse candidates. There is no overnight solution DE&I efforts require constant attention and strategizing. America’s history of inequality lasted centuries- so the process of undoing the resulting social constructs & structural barriers because of it will take some time. Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment requires dedication. Knowing this, Insights in Color developed an employer accountability pledge to ensure that brands seeking diverse talent can hold themselves accountable for staying along for the full journey. A company’s efforts in this space are only as strong as its people. Because people tend to come and go, to make this work, DE&I strategies that are monetized and built into the core of how an organization works will be key. Expand your perceptions of “culture fit” Given the origin history of how workplace culture came to be, perhaps it’s time to rethink what we perceive to be “good” company culture. Over the past decade, elements have been introduced to the office workspace to create a “Millennial funhouse” of activities to make work seem like fun, but most of these elements were not based on the inputs or desires of a multicultural workforce. Don’t be afraid to find ways to reinvent your company’s culture by speaking with the most marginalized groups first, to better understand their wants and needs. Using other corporate examples of equitable workplace culture as benchmarks and potentially even speaking with stakeholders at companies who appear to be getting certain aspects of it right could also be the key to inspiring new ways of thinking about company culture. Follow inclusive job description guidelines There have been several guidelines written on how to ensure inclusive, unbiased language is in your job descriptions. Be sure to examine them and determine these insights might impact the way your organization pushes out job specs.


For employers seeking insights on how to attract and retain research & insights professionals, download IIC’s free guide of tips & suggestions. For more information visit Insights in Color and Mimconnect

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