Moving towards a more ethnically diverse workforce is usually a triumph of hope over experience. Companies say they want to do this. Many have diversity officers and schemes in place but still struggle to recruit. So here are the top tips from the team I work with and who recruit 25-plus ethnic minority graduates a year.
If you continue to advertise in the same places, you will get the same candidates. Approach more ethnically diverse universities — they will have employability units that will be happy to help. Another idea we have tried successfully is to advertise in local newspapers in more ethnically diverse areas.
If your industry is not drawing Bame (black & minority ethnic) applicants, then it may be (as it is in PR, the world in which I recruit) that there is a lack of clarity about the careers it offers. You may need to set up a medium- to long-term plan to raise awareness, perhaps establishing a joint initiative with other employers.
Your advertising (and all your publicity, including your website) should feature Bame practitioners in your company and industry and lift them up as role models. Encourage them to be speakers at company events, or offer their services as mentors. Involve them in recruitment, even if they are junior.
Name-blind recruitment is something I have written about before, but a step further is “university blind”, something I am intrigued by and which is used by the PR firm MHP Communications. A disproportionate number of ethnic minority candidates went to universities you might not think to recruit from, and I know how much the name of a university can affect the perception of a CV.
Interviewing in pairs is effective in reducing bias. Having someone who was with a candidate at the same time and with whom you can discuss strengths and weaknesses will challenge preconceptions.
You will not keep a diverse workforce unless its members feel they are fully part of the organisation. Make it apparent that “inclusion”, so called, is part of your policy and what that looks like. No one wants to be a token Bame person.
Fola Adebayo, one of our trainees, who as part of her programme has visited many employers around London, recently wrote about what it was like in an industry with few Bame employees. “As someone who is aspiring to get into the PR profession, it is disheartening to see that I can’t see anyone like myself in these firms.”
She says that having to play “Where’s Wally” when visiting companies’ offices or looking at “About Us” web pages has become increasingly stressful. “I don’t want to be placed in the middle of the company photo. I do not wish to stick out. I just want to have the opportunity to work with a variety of people of all ages and backgrounds.”
Let us ensure that recruiting ethnic minority employees benefits from such hard-won experience.