Imagine a familiar scene: hundreds of talented job candidates milling about an enormous room. Lining every aisle are eye-popping displays from bold-name employers, Google, Boeing, Dow, The U.S. Army. Each booth offers “swag” — a mug, a Frisbee, a notebook, on and on — all acting as lures for people who want to talk with you about whether their company would be a good fit for you.

Here’s the difference though. Instead of the familiar white, male faces, the people working at the displays look like you. They are male and female, old and young, black and white. There are Muslim women with head coverings, disabled people, tattooed people — everyone is represented. And all of them are looking for someone like you.

My friends, this is what hiring for diversity looks like. This scene isn’t a figment of my hopeful imagination. It all happened exactly as I described it at the Society of Women Engineers’ annual convention. The energy in the room was buzzing. Résumés were trading hands, interviews were happening on the spot, and people were having a blast.

Most women engineers still work in settings where they are a small minority, and many of them are subject to the stresses, misunderstandings, and discrimination that come with that. But there at the career fair, everyone was sending a clear message — that they were serious about recruiting diverse women.

Those companies were not there by accident. They paid a lot of money to build and staff those gigantic and dramatic displays. They thought a lot about how to present themselves to appeal to the high-powered women who were at the conference. And from what I saw going on in that room, it worked.

It worked, because they took the time to put themselves in the women’s shoes. Instead of asking potential candidates to imagine themselves in the role, the companies showed all those talented attendees that people just like them were already doing the job — and loving it.

When I hear business leaders complaining that they cannot find qualified, diverse talent, I always tell them the same thing: “If you keep looking in the same places, you’ll keep finding the same kind of people.” The employers at the SWE convention had found a motherlode of diverse talent. All they had to do was go looking for it.

So, if you are serious about increasing diversity in your company, how about following the lead of the exhibitors at the SWE career fair:

  • Show up where the talent you are seeking gathers.
  • Spend money to make your company noticeable and craft your message.
  • Present your company with energy and enthusiasm.
  • Use recruiters who look like the talent you are seeking.

To find out more about tactics for recruiting and retaining top talent for your company, email us.

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