Using the Internet to Expand the Diversity of Your Candidate Pool

Feb 22, 2007

You may be wondering why I am qualified to write an article on diversity sourcing.

My buddy and diversity recruiting guru Martin de Campo and I discussed this at length, in a dark dining room in downtown San Jose surrounded by rich hardwood paneling and more multicultural influences than you can shake a stick at. It became apparent that not only did we both share a passion for this topic, but we approached it from two very different yet complementary and equally successful angles.

So I asked Martin, “Why me?” Is it just because I was raised in Colombia, South America, and like many other Latin Americans, immigrated to the United States in 1989? Nope. Is it because I once ran a passive candidate diversity-sourcing team for a well-known software company? No, that wasn’t it either.

That fateful day Martin said something that reverberated in me like a giant gong. He said diversity recruiting is all about relating, knowing your audience, getting in the mind of the very same groups you are attempting to recruit. That’s why I am qualified to write this article. I strongly believe that finding diversity leads is only slightly different than finding any other types of leads.

To find anyone, you have to think like them. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for software engineers, accountants, or Hispanics. Just like software engineers and accountants, Hispanics join communities and interest groups where they get together and discuss topics they care about.

To find software engineers since 1996, I’ve gone to groups and “locations” where they exchange ideas about C++ or Java. Finding those groups has enabled me to identify talent that mainstream recruiters are not typically contacting.

Why would it be any different to find Hispanics? Frankly, the most self-evident way to find people is to go where they go. But what do Hispanics talk about, what groups do they join, and where do they go? That’s the big question.

It’s not about what these candidates look for in an organization. Aside from some minor differences in our perception and preferences originating from our cultural heritage, we look for the same things everyone does for the most part. A good job is just as much a good job to a Hispanic as it is to an African-American or Asian. What matters is where we are. Think like us and you will find us. We post resumes on Monster like everyone else, but how do you find us in there?

There are two sides to finding that out. Martin’s focus is on strategic and offline techniques, while mine is more about getting deep into the details of online research. Both approaches used together lead to a balanced perspective on traditional/face-to-face and advanced electronic tactics.

Because identifying where diverse candidates hang out depends greatly on learning to think like them, I only have room in this article to focus on the “big three” groups that many diversity efforts tend to focus on: African-American, Hispanic, and Asian. Of course, there are many more, and quite a few different ways to define diversity.

Population segments like veterans, the vision-impaired, and Native Americans tend to get overlooked in conventional diversity efforts. It’s impossible to cover all diversity sourcing approaches for all diversity groups in one single article, but my hope is that through a few examples many of the techniques will give you the opportunity to explore diversity recruiting for those groups as well.

Big Boards

Naturally, with so many millions of job seekers using the major boards like Monster, CareerBuilder, and HotJobs, going to the big resume databases ranks at the top of the list for diversity-candidate sources.

As a job seeker, when I think of getting my resume into the hands of recruiters, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t, “I’m Hispanic, so where should I go to post my resume?” Instead, I think, “Where is the best place for me to put my resume so recruiters can see it?”

Later on, I may start focusing on some of the other places, but to start out I’m going to go where I get the most exposure. This is why diversity resume databases have a much smaller population than the big boards.

But searching on the big boards is tricky because whether by choice or unintentionally, most diverse candidates don’t clearly state their protected status on their resume. So even inside the big boards the amount of people who self-select to be listed under the “diversity” section is relatively small.

To get around that, use a multi-pronged approach to basic keyword searching. If I’m Hispanic, I may be proud of my involvement in groups like NSHMBA or SHPE and therefore mention the organization on my resume, describing my role as chapter president, or my participation on any of the committees.

If I’m African-American, I may belong to NBMBAA or NSBE. So by looking for those keywords on resumes we find a high percentage of Hispanic resumes. Keep in mind that not everyone who participates in these groups is going to self-identify their protected status when they complete their employment paperwork.

What if I didn’t join one of those professional organizations? Well, I may have had an active social life in college that included belonging to one of many brotherhoods or sisterhoods. I may mention that on my resume instead.

For example, black females may have joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha sisterhood while their brothers joined Alpha Phi Alpha. Latina women may have joined Kappa Delta Chi while their brothers joined Omega Delta Phi.

Asians would have joined cross-national Asian fraternities like Lambda Phi Epsilon or maybe they went for a more focused group like Beta Chi Theta, focused particularly on South Asian members.

Besides social organizations like fraternities and sororities, there are also clubs, student associations, service groups, and student unions, many of them with ethnic focuses.

Many years after graduation I may still be involved with these groups, or I may have decided to join other groups like NSHP or NAAAP where I take on a more national role and continue to support the professional development of my peers from the same ethnic background.

Appropriate Language

All of these associations make for great keyword searches on the major job boards, but that’s not enough. There are a great many diverse candidates who either didn’t join them or left them out of their resume for any number of reasons.

It would stand to reason that searching for words like black, Asian, or Latin may work. However, that doesn’t work very well. Think of how many resumes are going to have the word black in the context of “six sigma black belt” or “black box testing” a software QA methodology.

Phrases like “work with Asian countries” or “business in Latin America” don’t necessarily point to diverse candidates. Even keywords like “Spanish” or “Chinese” when used alone can be misleading.

What can work in limited amounts is searching for “natural phrase” keywords such as “African American,” “Asian American,” and “Latin American.” Though not widely found on resumes, such natural phrases do occur, and when used inside OR statements along with names of professional and educational organizations, they can be an effective way to expand a search.

Another way is to combine languages with the use of natural phrases like “native Spanish” to find people who are native Spanish speakers. Frequently, people who are native speakers will instead state that they are fluent, hence searching for “fluent Cantonese” or “fluent Korean” works well. Searching for both the words “Cantonese” and “Mandarin” is a great way to find Chinese candidates because typically only native speakers are going to list both on a resume.

This also works well for other ethnicities, where it’s common to speak multiple languages, such as “Hindi” and “Urdu.”

Searching for the language in its native spelling can also be very useful. Try Espa?ol instead of Spanish, for some additional results.

Other keywords you can use to search are the names of educational institutions that focus on a particular population segment. For example, Morehouse College is an all-male black college. Including the names of HBCUs (historically black or predominantly black colleges) like Morehouse and those listed here can also lead to the inclusion of diverse candidates in your search results. With little effort you can also identify lists of predominantly Hispanic colleges, women’s colleges, and other similar keywords to include in your search.

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