The Naked Truth About Recruiting at Diversity Conferences

Jan 8, 2007

Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to recruit talent at diversity recruiting conferences, but the results can be minimal. We need to address this problem if we are to be seen as business-problem solvers, and not just recruiters.

As many of you know, there are quite a multitude of diverse organizations that put on annual conferences, such as the National Black MBA Association, National Society of Hispanic MBAs, and the National Society of Black Engineers.

These associations have been around for years and have been very effective in supporting their memberships’ needs to identify great employment opportunities. Further, many have regional and local chapters that have annual scholarships and awards banquets, guest lecture series, professional development seminars, networking activities, corporate receptions, and numerous student development and scholarship programs. (Can you begin to see how great recruiters can do so well here? I thought so.)

For those of you who have never attended these conferences, think of them as job fairs on steroids; thousands of candidates looking for their next opportunities and hundreds of companies trying to do everything to recruit these candidates.

These conferences offer a great venue for companies to showcase their name, organization, and brand; to sponsor everything from case competitions and cyber cafes to having your name on the bag that is given to the candidates for all the freebies.

Most important, these conferences allow your organization a real opportunity to hire diverse talent from these memberships if you know how to do it effectively and you are willing to put in the time to plan an effective strategy that has a mature and effective back-end recruiting process to guarantee that no candidates fall through the cracks.

If this sounds like a better way to get things done, let’s see how to get there in two simple steps!

Step One: Understand Process Maturity

Year after year, I see recruiting organizations attend these conferences with little to no success at acquiring diverse talent, so let’s define success right here. Success is making hires. If there is no success, why is that?

For example, did you come to the event unprepared or did candidates simply fall through the cracks in the process?

To get to an answer, let’s start with six simple questions:

  1. Is there an organized plan for the interviews or do they just seem to occur somehow amid the chaos?
  2. Is there any formal documentation or is there some code written on the back of the resume to determine the value of the candidate?
  3. Is there a follow-up process in place or should candidates expect never to hear from anyone until next year? (Candidates who do not know what to expect usually expect nothing and move on.)
  4. Is there an executive sponsor for these conferences who is actually held accountable for results or is it just talked about with no clear expectations as to what success will mean to the organization?
  5. Are there champions internally who will speak on behalf of all of these conference candidates, and is that champion promoting these candidates to the various business lines to increase ROI on the conference?
  6. Most important, what happened to the candidates who were interviewed two, three, or four years ago? Can they now be great hires for your organization, as they are now experienced and ready to handle more and greater levels of responsibility and challenges?

Is your organization now paying large agency fees to hire the very candidates that slipped between their fingers due to an immature hiring process? If so, this would be the ultimate waste of valuable resources and would never happen if a mature recruiting process were in place.

That’s why the recruiter who wants results needs to make the process changes that will yield a better ROI.

Now that you can see the value of a mature recruiting process, let’s look at Carnegie Mellon’s Capability Maturity Model so we can start to put a definition to it. (Where is your organization in this list?)

Simply stated, here are the five categories, according to Carnegie Mellon:

  • Ad hoc

    * Undefined processes

    * Unpredictable results (Not good)

  • Repeatable

    * Basic process definition

    * Limited consistency

    * Unable to measure results (A step up)

  • Defined

    * Defined processes

    * Most groups consistent

    * Ability to measure results (Getting better)

  • Managed

    * Well-defined processes

    * Organizational consistency

    * Managed results (Looking very good)

  • Optimized

    * Process optimization

    * Quality enhancement (Very few can claim this level)

Unfortunately, the recruiting model that I consistently see at conferences is to send a bunch of people to stand in a booth or behind a table and hope the right candidates walk by. Once the conference is over, everyone drinks beer, eats those greasy little cheese balls, and takes the stacks of resumes that no one knows what to do with back to corporate so they can get put in a drawer until next year.

By the above definition, this ad-hoc process is not very good. Now, let’s look at how to optimize.

Step Two: Plan, Predict, and Track

If you want to get more ROI on diversity initiatives, I urge you to consider the following as a direct line to more effective diversity hiring:

  1. Plan the event. Start the recruiting process two to three months in advance of the conference. Pre-set a number of interviews that have already been identified and screened; this gives the candidate and manager enough time to prepare for a great interview.
  2. Assign roles and responsibilities. Be sure each individual involved with the conference has a clear role and responsibility. This will be beneficial at the conference, as well as afterward, when someone asks that famous question, “Why didn’t (fill in the blank) happen?” Having set roles and responsibilities in place will alleviate a lot of finger pointing.
  3. Bring well-rounded employees. The selected representatives should be able to speak about the entire business, not just the vertical they fall within. as you meet all kinds of great candidates at these events.
  4. Assign a champion. There should be a person (i.e., a champion) on the back end of the process who owns the overall relationship with the candidates. This includes contacting the candidates who weren’t selected so they can move forward with other interviews.
  5. Make the recruiters accountable. The champion will not be able to do their job of communicating with the conference candidates unless the recruiters keep that person posted on the dispensation of all positions that involve those diversity candidates.
  6. Have the champion develop metrics. As the recruiters report back to the champion on positions that close, the champion can develop metrics including number of candidates interviewed, number of offers made, and number of offers accepted. Armed with this information, you are now able to see the results, tweak practices, seek improvement, and start to predict future outcomes.

As you can imagine, there are many more things we can examine pertaining to recruiting process maturity. This is just one example of why moving away from the ad-hoc stage toward the higher levels of intelligent process will support better and more effective hiring at all levels of the organization.

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