1331622846762_2603379Last summer I found myself up against a deadline. Per our new Vice President of Human Resources, I had 3 days to pull together a diversity budget for our 30,000 employee division. After I scrambled to format a spreadsheet, thresh out a master list of organizations and carve time out of an already packed schedule, I found myself making calls to dozens of various organizations basically asking if we could send them money and for how much.

Now, I’m guessing most diversity initiatives don’t start off like this. But it was the project I was given. And it was quite the crash course in running a corporate diversity recruitment program.

Long story short, folks got back to me with various projects and opportunities to partner, and I happily plugged the numbers in to submit to my VP. In fact, the budget was done early.

Case closed? Not quite. One of my calls was a bit different. It went something like this:

“Hey, Nathan! Thanks for the call. We actually are in the process of launching our Chicago affiliate. Would you like to be on the committee? We’re meeting next week.”

Now, another commitment in my schedule wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I already volunteer once a month at a food pantry and am active in a number of other causes. But the mission of this specific organization happened to be something that was near and dear to my heart: disability workplace advancement.

My mom was a Special Education teacher and hanging out with her students after school was one of my favorite things to do. These kids were strong. They were curious and smart. And they could be really funny and awesome to hang out with. They just had a thing or two that made what comes easily to most of us, well, difficult.

I strongly believe that everyone has the right to a rewarding career. That is why I’m a recruiter.

But going beyond that, with a little education and extra support, can’t we all learn a thing or two and help others do what they dream about?

Diversity Recruiting & Sourcing: Lessons Learned

get itNow, with years of recruiting experience under my belt, I’d already implemented diversity strategies into my hiring plans. No, I’m not talking about joining diversity and inclusion-focused LinkedIn groups and walking away. I had hired folks with disabilities.

One of my favorites was a woman with a dexterity deformation that I helped hire into a customer-facing, performance-based marketing role for a major hotel chain. She thrived. And later that year, I got to introduce her to my mom during the company employee holiday party. We still keep in touch.

So, of course I said yes and joined the committee.

Since I’ve been taking an active part in the USBLN, I’ve been amazed at the experience. I’ve learned so much about the challenges these job seekers face. I’ve learned a ton about pioneering companies that care about this group of our communities.

It’s also opened many doors to me. I met Randy Lewis, the former Walgreens SVP who introduced pioneering disability workplace initiatives at the company and then wrote a book about it. I met Dr. Mary Ellen Weber, a NASA astronaut who spoke about leadership and challenges in space at an invite-only diversity & leadership conference.

I have met and worked with government leaders including the Chair of the Chicago Chamber of Commerce and the Commissioner for the Chicago Mayor’s Office on People with Disabilities. I helped bring my company’s Executive Director of Workplace Diversity to Chicago to speak at an event, and she in turn invited me to come to corporate headquarters to meet with the company’s diversity leaders.

I mean. Holy smokes!

Why Diversity Recruiting & Sourcing Is A Business No Brainer

catduhfaceNow, I seem to have digressed down the path of talking about how great this has been for me. So let me get back to recruiting and the purpose of this post:

Why wouldn’t you, at various levels, utilize diversity and affinity groups and strategies in your hiring efforts?

Think about it like this: you’re a working mom. Wouldn’t you be far more interested in a company that supported working moms? A company that offered child care, employee resources groups and/or flextime? Of course you would.

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Or this – You’re a diversity candidate, at a diversity job fair. Wouldn’t you notice not only who is there, but who isn’t there?

I sure would.

And I do. You see, I am a diversity candidate myself. Yeah, yeah. I’m a white guy who by all accounts looks about as diverse as a Walmart in Dubuque. But I am also a minority. You may not know by looking at my resume or LinkedIn profile that I care about these things on a very personal level.

I also have family members who care about such things. And guess who else is helping your candidate debate that new offer of employment you made them today? Your candidate’s family, that’s who.

Do you have employee resource groups that resonate with your candidates? Do you take part in the local Gay Pride Parade, or Women’s Leadership events or organizations? Better yet, do you have leaders in your organization that represent and reflect your communities?

I’ve written about candidate engagement before, and I will reiterate: sourcing and identifying prospects is only half the battle. When engaging prospects, you need to make a connection and offer value to get a conversation going. Quickly.

Think about how easy that could be if your opening message includes how your company values diversity & inclusion? What if you specifically mentioned that your company is a platinum sponsor for the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, or that your VP of Finance is a member of the National Association Black Accountants – that they are a member of, too.

I hate to say it, but, well: Duh!

Diversity Recruiting and Sourcing: Business Case Closed

diversity cartoonYou can slice and dice it any way you want. At the end of the day, our job is finding the best talent for any given job we are working on. Anything that gives you an edge in either identifying or engaging top talent is something that, well, gives you the edge. Diversity sourcing and recruiting is a silver bullet.

Another thing – because no one told me this early in my career: Yes, you can join and/or participate in the National Associate of Black Accountants if you are not black nor an accountant. You can walk next to your company’s float in the Pride Parade and be heteronormal. You can go to a women’s networking event by yourself and be a guy.

How is it that you don’t get laughed out of the room? Because these organizations exist to foster inclusion. It’s about “we,” not “them.” If you are supportive and have something to offer, you have earned a place at the table.

So, long story short: just do it. Find organizations that resonate with you, for personal AND professional reasons, and get involved in 2015. Your passion will shine through and that translates to new connections, strong relationships, and hires.

That’s gold for those of us in recruiting. And heck, you might meet an astronaut.


23a2306About the Author: Nathan Vance is a talent acquisition strategist, sourcer, and blogger who believes everyone has the right to follow their passions and have meaningful careers.

Ever since he faced down the washing machine in his Japanese dorm armed only with a pile of laundry and a Kanji dictionary, he’s been tackling tough problems in innovative ways. His nine-year career in Talent Acquisition began at an internet start-up. He has gone on to use his customer-focused approach and marketing savvy to advise major tech, telecommunications, and aerospace & defense companies on how to identify and engage with top talent.

He currently sits on the Programs Committee for the Chicago USBLN and volunteers for The Lakeview Pantry.

Follow Nathan on Twitter at@nathansourcesor connect with him on LinkedIn.