• Recruiting for Diversity: Building Relationships With HBCUs

    by Pattie Giordani
    NACE Journal, September 2010

    To find diverse students, go where they are—historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), tribal colleges, and other colleges and universities with significant minority student populations.

    Upper Management Support

    First and foremost, diversity recruiting should be incorporated into the organization’s overall goals with solid support from upper management.

    “Employers should be sincere about diversity efforts,” says Harold Bell, director of career planning at Spelman College. “To demonstrate support is coming from the top, the company might send a senior-level person to campus.”

    Connect Through the Career Center

    The routes employers take to the students may be varied, but eventually recruiters should go through the career center’s door.

    “When an employer comes to our campus and wants to develop a relationship with our school, they usually start with the advancement/development office,” Bell says. “The plan might include some sort of presence at homecoming, alumni activities, or sponsoring our women’s conference. The recruiting piece is a part of that overall plan, but that [recruiting] is when I’m brought into the conversation.”

    Once contact has been established with the career center, it is important to connect with the right person within the career services department, says Linda LeNoir, assistant director of the career center at the University of Maryland.

    “From the college point of view, the employer should seek out the designated person at the career center who is responsible for working with diversity efforts, then determine how you, as a corporate representative, can work to publicize things, be a part of a program, and increase awareness of your company.”

    LeNoir says, among other methods, employers should be visible in the career services office and during classes.

    “Employers that are successful in recruiting diverse students present during classes and hold workshops outside of classes as well,” she says.

    Bell agrees. “Make sure you’re participating in career services activities, such as mock interviews, to engage students,” he says. “They might not have signed up on the schedule to get a job with you, but only to practice interviewing. But you might have seen something on the student’s resume that spoke to you. The student might not have known you’d be a good employer for them. This is one way you can widen the pool of potential applicants.”

    Involvement in Groups and Organizations

    Bell says that employer involvement in campus groups and organizations is imperative, but that the career services office needs to be aware of the involvement.

    “We like it when employers come through career services or the advancement/development office; then we know they’re on campus,” he says. “Career services is the office that bridges relationships—the employers can use career services to leverage relationships with the campus groups.”

    For example, Bell says that Spelman’s Investment and Economics Clubs are options for financial services firms interested in connecting with students.

    “We may suggest certain activities to employers,” he explains. “Sometimes it’s as simple as matching them with an organization to host the employer’s information session, such as the Investment Club hosting a financial literacy program.”

    Internship and Co-op Programs

    “Our employers absolutely recruit for internships, co-ops, and full-time jobs,” Bell says. “Some employers, such as investment banks, have early career programs. They hold what I call ‘summer institutes,’ where they take students to New York and give them a better understanding of their firms and what they do. Some have special programs throughout the firm; for example, J.P. Morgan has Winning Women and Launching Leaders.”

    Bell outlines another timely idea. “In these tough economic times, employers can be successful in recruiting diverse students if they offer a scholarship and a paid internship opportunity.”

    This helps students who have to work part-time jobs during the school year and beyond, Lenoir adds.

    “Internships are not new,” she says, “but many minority students have not been able to take internships because they were unpaid. Those students couldn’t give up working during the summer due to their monetary needs.”

    She says employers should think about the ways in which students can participate in internships.

    “How can you [the employer] help to offer a combination of paid and for-credit internship/leadership experience?” she asks. “Many of the programs coming up on campus offer a lot of leadership training—that resonates with students. They look for internships where they can gain experience, transferable skills, leadership skills, and communications skills, and also learn about ethics.”

    Who Represents the Employer on Campus?

    Recruiters at HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions should be sincere in their diversity recruiting efforts.

    “Sometimes, [employers] partner alumni with recruiters,” Bell says. “The alum will have some knowledge of the organization and a lot of knowledge of his or her part in the organization—but might not be a recruiter.”

    It also helps if the recruiters are from diverse populations, LeNoir says. “It is effective to represent diversity in the people who are actually interacting with the students, whether on panels, reviewing resumes, and so on.” This could mean diverse ages as well as ethnicities, she adds.

    Campus Financial Challenges

    Colleges and universities certainly are not immune to a down economy. Sometimes employing organizations are able to be of assistance and raise their profile on campus at the same time.

    “Career center budgets are challenged these days,” says LeNoir. “Some employers become members of our Circle of Partners program—it gets the corporate name out there. There are also opportunities for sponsorships, such as supporting our Diversity Job Search Conference or etiquette dinner. This provides the organization with visibility on campus since the employer name is affiliated with the career center and the event.”

    Helpful Tips for Employers

    “First of all, HBCUs typically are small schools,” Bell explains, “and students will tell you that one of the benefits of a small school is that the school is very hands on. Just as organizations have cultures, so do HBCUs. Our students are used to this hands-on approach. For example, a larger university might rely more on e-mail. But we have to be a lot more engaging, more relationship focused.

    “To reach out to students, for example, a professor might not see someone in class and would call him or her to find out why. You wouldn’t see that at a large university,” says Bell. “Since our students are used to more engagement, our campus guests would need to build those relationships by getting a little more involved with students.”

    Bell also advises employers to step back and review the events or programs they’re sponsoring. “Employers have to realize what the benefit of that sponsorship is,” he says.

    “Be strategic about why you’re doing what you’re doing,” Bell says. “Whether you sponsor a career center activity or homecoming depends on what outcome you’re looking for.”

    Bell also advises employers to take the time to personally invite students to events.

    “Identify who you are really looking for and personally invite those students. Career services also has to be more engaging, more hands-on,” he says.

    Bell says there are many organizations that students don’t know about, but that might interest them once they find out about the company’s opportunities.

    “They don’t know about what jobs the employers really offer. Don’t confuse disinterest with lack of knowledge on the students’ part,” he cautions.

    Take, for example, a large retailer. “Students might only associate the jobs they see in the stores and not realize the company also offers positions in communications, finance, and management,” he explains.

    “An education process has to take place with the students—that companies offer more jobs than what a student may be familiar with,” Bell says.

    Keys to Success

    Organizations that are successful in diversity recruiting are those that:

    • Secure management support for the diversity recruiting program,
    • Build relationships with and through the campus career center,
    • Get involved in relevant campus groups and organizations,
    • Offer internship and cooperative education programs, and
    • Send diverse recruiters, when possible, to campus.

    Like anything worth doing, building these relationships with career centers and others on campus takes time, effort, and sometimes money. But it should result in a more diverse work force—employees who will bring their unique worldviews and experiences with them, which will broaden and strengthen the organization.

    Copyright 2013 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. All rights reserved.

Recruiting for Diversity: Building Relationships With HBCUs