5 Ways to Increase Diversity in Early Career Hiring

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Diversity isn’t just a good buzzword to give your company social clout; it’s measurably good for your business and your bottom line. For example, according to a McKinsey study, “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 15 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability” than companies that chose not to make this a priority.

Likewise, a study in Harvard Business Review showed that firms with “2-D diversity” (defined as inherent and acquired) were 70% more likely to capture new markets. Of course this makes sense: more customers and diverse businesses want to work with other businesses that represent a broader range of backgrounds.

Even putting aside concepts of fairness and equality (which we shouldn’t do!), hiring more diverse talent makes business sense. Yet employers still struggle to find, hire, and retain diverse employees even in early career positions. A survey by Mercer found that even at entry-level positions, 64% of staff were white.


So how can your business increase diversity in early career hiring? Let’s dive into 5 ways your hiring process can change with this goal in mind.

1. Find Diverse Interns

Finding diverse interns can often be much easier than hiring diverse employees for early career positions. For one, the talent gap for undergrad students is usually not as pronounced as adults actively in the job market, making it easier to be selective in hiring interns for other attributes like diversity. For another, your company can market internships directly to diversity-focused groups in colleges, which is an effective way of opening up your pool of applicants.

This way, your business can establish entry-level employees through a successful internship & mentorship program. And it works! A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) showed that nearly 65% of interns received full-time offers from employers.

By hiring diverse workers “upstream” through internships, your business can build a robust and effective pipeline of talented workers from various backgrounds without having to search from scratch.

2. Adjust Education Requirements

Not all early career positions are made equal, so why is your business still requiring a bachelor’s degree in XYZ major just to get in the door? Understanding that many minorities can’t afford to attend or finish a 4-year program is a step toward unlearning the trope that a degree is “table-stakes” when it comes to entry-level hires.

Today, career paths are more specialized and it can be more important for a new employee to know SEO and WordPress than it is to have a general English degree. Google has its own certifications programs and explicitly advertises that it considers prospective hires who earn these certificates to be just as qualified as those who have graduated from a university.

Reassess your company’s job requirements in your posts. Too many hiring managers simply copy & paste a bulleted list of education requirements that may be outdated, and worse, may immediately weed out diverse, disadvantaged applicants. Instead, consider outlining DEI tech stacks that applicants should have on their resume.

3. Challenge your Employees for More Diverse Referrals

Some hiring managers find it uncomfortable to ask their employees to refer people from underrepresented groups, but they shouldn’t feel that way. After all, referrals are one of the most effective ways to source new hires, so ignoring this channel will hamper your company’s efforts to find great, diverse employees.

It’s ok to be bold and ask the tough ask.

For example, Pinterest found that they had a lack of diversity in engineering and issued a direct challenge to their employees: refer underrepresented candidates. In six weeks, “they saw a 24% increase in female referrals and a 55-time increase in the percentage of referred candidates from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.”

A bold challenge like this shows your business’ commitment to hiring more diverse employees, and creates an opportunity to make this push as an entire company instead of putting the difficult burden on just a few hiring managers and team leaders.

4. Leverage Diversity-Focused Nonprofits

If your company needs to figure out a business problem, it’s usually prudent to bring in an expert. Hiring diverse early career employees can be a challenge for your business that requires some outside consulting and help. Luckily, there are many nonprofit organizations dedicated to advancing the careers of people from different backgrounds.

America Needs You is such an organization that aims to provide economic mobility for first-generation college students. Partnering with this group will give your hiring managers access to a pool of diverse, motivated entry-level job seekers.

INROADS is another organization that helps provide career pathways for ethnically diverse students. This group dates back to 1970 and has been helping place recent grads into top companies for decades.

Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) focuses on putting diverse job seekers on an executive path. Partnering with this group can help your business find potential leaders and managers who can not only fill your needs today, but lay the groundwork for more diverse hires in the future.

These organizations are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more nonprofits that can help your company find the right candidates.

5. Walk the Walk

Finally, if your business is serious about hiring a diverse workforce, you need to show prospective applicants that this truly is a core value. For more and more young employees, diversity is a requirement when applying to jobs. A survey showed that 76% said a diverse workforce is important when evaluating job offers, and 37% said they wouldn’t apply unless the company had a positive satisfaction rating among people of color.

Your company can attract diverse talent by showing that you are actively engaging with disadvantaged groups. This can include being visible by sponsoring and attending events for minority-focused organizations, being explicit about the importance of diversity in your job postings, and offering mentorship programs to underrepresented students and graduates.

Are you an employer looking to hire more diverse early career talent? PathMatch helps companies build diversity by assisting underrepresented (and often first-gen) students connect to modern careers. Click here to start accessing our nationwide network of interns and recent grads today and to learn more about how PathMatch connects with students early in their journey to help them learn about relevant careers and companies.

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