3 Ways Companies Need to Change How They Search for Diverse Talent

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The past couple of years have turned the workplace on its head and changed how we define and accept social norms.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)—and its many facets—have become a top priority for organizations of all shapes and sizes across the public and private sectors. So much so that it has evolved from being a buzzword into an actual business metric for improving company performance and supporting a healthy work culture.

But attracting diverse talent requires more than goal setting and planning. You have to show diverse candidates that DEI is part of your culture. They want to see that you’re having those tough conversations, removing barriers, and fostering an inclusive environment. DEI has to be built into the conversation right away, and I’ve found three ways organizations should think about those interactions.

1. Challenge the Script and Be Proactive

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is asking candidates the same questions repeatedly as they get passed from person to person. If you’re not going beyond the resume, you’re doing it wrong. There needs to be a concerted effort to ensure you and your colleagues are aligned on covering all aspects of DEI and how it fits into your culture.

Not only is it critical to understand and communicate DEI efforts upfront, but you should also have the numbers ready to back it up.

Offer stories peppered with data points that shine the light on DEI-focused results. Talk about a successful employee resource group (ERG) or the number of diverse hires or promotions the company has made. Even the percentage of men who take paternal leave could help win them over.

2. Know the Business and Map Out the Value

If you don’t understand the mechanisms that drive the business or what value systems it provides, you will never find the right talent.

If you’re ticking boxes and only searching for diversity for diversity’s sake, it will be pretty apparent to those candidates looking for reassurances of an inclusive culture. You have to know exactly who you’re looking for, why you’re looking for them, and how the organization supports them. 

There’s also diversity of thought. Why not look to adjacent industries where people can bring transferable skills along with different perspectives and ideas?

Creative problem solving, empathy, and critical thinking are just a few that transcend almost all industries. Map out exactly how and why a diverse hire from another sector will help the business and how the company can ensure their success.

If you want to bring in new, fresh perspectives, the entire organization has to be on board and understand how a diverse hire adds value. If not, that person could potentially get boxed out if they’re mistakenly perceived as a threat or too ambitious.

3. Market Your Network and Show Its Strength

Don’t just talk about the work, but discuss how colleagues interact, what support systems exist, and illustrate inclusion. Be open and honest and offer to connect candidates with diverse individuals throughout the organization to hear their experiences.

There’s real value in connecting diverse candidates with other like-minded individuals, so even introducing a buddy system will signal that DEI is part of the company’s DNA.

Another thing diverse hires will want to know is who is supporting and driving company-wide DEI efforts. It’s crucial to be transparent about how the DEI network is set up and its visibility. In other words, there must be high-level buy-in from the CEO and the Board to set the right tone, but it’s also on each business unit to do the work and ensure DEI is a priority.

I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice. With so many ways to find new talent, don’t limit yourself to what you know or are used to. If a company continues to search based on the same criteria and the same must-haves, they’ll continue to tap into the same candidate pool.

In other words, when searching for diverse candidates, know exactly how that individual ties into the organization’s DEI strategy and how their “diversity” will ultimately add value and benefit the organization.

Sachin Sama is a Client Partner within the Marlin Hawk Americas team.

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Sachin Sama is a Client Partner within the Marlin Hawk Americas team. Based in Toronto, Sachin brings over fifteen years of experience across talent acquisition, executive search, and talent advisory. Prior to joining Marlin Hawk, Sachin was a Managing Consultant in Korn Ferry’s Consumer practice for North America. He has built a strong client base in consumer products, with a specific focus on the food and beverage industry. In addition, Sachin was the Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion committee for Korn Ferry, Canada. ​Sachin grew up in Northern Ireland and received a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Dundee, where he graduated with First Class Honors.​