Using Diversity to Your Advantage

The law may not require it, but hiring companies demand a diverse pool of employees and candidates.

Being a job seeker from a diverse racial, ethnic or economic background can be an advantage while working with recruiters.

It’s a hot-button issue, for sure; some recruiters asked to comment for this article declined to do so, while others couldn’t understand why the issue wasn’t discussed more openly. Recruiters and their clients are hungry for a qualified, diverse candidate pool. The law may not require it, but clients demand it. For an executive recruiter and for job seekers, diversity can be a tactical advantage against the competition.

In an employers’ market, presenting a candidate who belongs to a specific “minority group” could be the edge the recruiter needs with businesses that are trying to fill positions and provide opportunities for minority workers, said a recruiter who works with a large telecommunications company that wished to remain anonymous. “We’re deluged with resumes. Job seekers are struggling to find ways to differentiate themselves, and I encourage applicants, if you have an advantage, to use it!”

“If candidates are African-American, if they’re women, if they’re Latino, I will take an extra look at them, absolutely,” said the recruiter. “My clients that are hiring are competing for top diversity talent right now.”

Diversity recruiting is driven by three prevailing currents in human resources, said the same recruiter: First, because it’s the “right thing to do,” he said. Second, employers must follow Equal Opportunity Employment law best practices and avoid discrimination lawsuits. (While the EOE prohibits considering race, gender, ethnicity and the like in hiring decisions, maintaining a diverse workforce is considered a defense against claims of discrimination.)

“It can sound crass, but no company wants to deal with a discrimination lawsuit,” he said. “They’re costly, they leave a terrible impression on the minds of potential employees and clients. No one wants to work for or with a company that has a reputation as being bigoted.

The third factor driving the demand for diverse candidates is pure capitalism: It’s good for business. Hiring from different ethnicities and backgrounds can bring new perspectives and fresh ideas that are invaluable in a competitive marketplace, he said.

“Of course, it’s 2010 — our clients know that top-performing talent can come from any background, can be any gender, religion, race, and today’s companies want to do right by their employees.”

Reflecting the Marketplace

Diversity is of particular importance to government agencies that strive to build a workforce that matches the ethnic and economic backgrounds of the constituencies they serve.

Federal, state and city agencies regularly use outreach and hiring programs to actively recruit candidates from a variety of backgrounds.

“‘Equal Opportunity Employer’ isn’t just a boilerplate phrase we tack onto the end of our documents, Web sites, what have you,” said one recruiter for a government agency who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak. “We really believe that our organization should represent the diversity of our [population].”

“We have so many informational and hiring events with women, African-Americans, Latinos, you name it,” the recruiter said. “We build relationships … throughout the city and on college campuses, too.”