“HBCUs provide a largely untapped resource of bright students. Diverse sources of talent can help businesses innovate in a challenging economy. It is not just the right thing to do, it can help to drive bottom line profitability, too. Diversity in representation brings diversity of thought, and that in turn drives innovation.”-Rod Adams, PwC talent acquisition and onboarding leader for U.S. and Mexico
While there are many ways to build a successful and diverse early career hiring strategy, seeking out candidates from a wide range of educational institutions is an important one. For decades, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have provided crucial access to quality education for the African-American community. These colleges and universities were established to educate former slaves and free Blacks who were once legally denied right to education and provide them with skills that would improve the quality of their lives.
Along with opening up educational opportunities, HBCUs have increased access to the workforce for Black students. Partnering with HBCUs can be an effective way to foster the professional growth of underrepresented talent, while also building a diverse intern and new grad pipeline. If you're wondering where to start with HBCU recruitment, check out these 5 tips:
1. Build Genuine Relationships with Students and Faculty
As an employer, it’s essential to build a strong and genuine connection with the faculty and students at HBCUs. A positive relationship with a student or group of students can raise your company’s brand awareness to their classmates through word of mouth and social media. Conversely, a bad experience shared with other students may negatively impact your ability to attract students at HBCUs.
It is also critical to develop an educational relationship with faculty members. One example of this method is curriculum development, where you suggest improvements to achieve better learning and job offer outcomes. You can also work with the faculty to create inclusive working spaces or mentorships for historically marginalized students. One company that is taking this route is the tech giant Oracle. Oracle has partnered with seven HBCUs to provide mentorship and networking opportunities, and to develop class curriculum for HBCU students and graduates. The faculty is likely to be more helpful if they notice that you're passionate and genuine about providing meaningful career opportunities for their students, and can in turn help you access the best talent.
2. Leverage HBCU Career Centers
In addition to connecting with the faculty and student bodies, it’s crucial to create a solid relationship with HBCU career centers. Some students may not be active on digital platforms, so campus career centers can help fill this gap and access a wider student community. Not only are these career centers a great location to introduce your company and generate student interest, but they can also be a resource to leverage when creating and fostering meaningful mentorships. Here are a few ideas when working with HBCU career centers for recruitment:
- Clearly communicate your company’s talent acquisition goals, as well as how you plan to achieve them.
- Sponsor or organize events in partnership with HBCU career centers to talk to and introduce your company to early talent.
- Return to these career centers to connect students with potential mentors, strengthening their positive internship experience.
3. Align your Recruitment Team
When developing a larger DEI recruitment plan and working with HBCUs, strive for alignment within your recruiting team and the entire organization. Students are looking for recruiters who are enthusiastic, support employees of color, and treat them with respect, so it is critical to be open and sincere with them. For this reason, the campus recruitment team is central to creating an authentic experience with HBCU students.
If any of your recruiters or leaders went to an HBCU, they can talk from their own personal experience of what it's like to work in your company and demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusivity to potential hires. Students want to see there’s representation in their future workplaces and on the leadership team. It can also be helpful for all recruiters to undergo unconscious bias training to bring them up to speed with intrinsic factors that may impact talent acquisition. The goal is to engage students' curiosity with subjects and programs that are important to them, and help them understand that your organization is capable and willing to tackle them candidly.
4. Look Beyond the Well-Known HBCUs
Did you know that there are more than 100 HBCUs across 20 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands? Alabama alone has 14 HBCUs! While your organization might already be recruiting at popular HBCUs like Howard University and Spelman College, there are so many more HBCUs that companies can recruit from. Spend some time researching HBCUs and devote effort into recruiting from less frequented ones so no talent gets left behind or overlooked.
5. Demonstrate Sincere Interest and Invest in Students’ Career Development
Students are likely to become more interested in joining your company if you are able to demonstrate how you will help them attain their career goals. A study by RippleMatch reports that HBCU students rank professional development as their foremost priority when searching for a job, followed by stability. To win their hearts and minds, it can be helpful to share how and what your company is doing to invest in young careers. Provide information about mentorship programs, employee resource groups, career mapping, or any other initiatives that show your company’s commitment to entry-level professional development.
Some companies are even going above and beyond to invest in their HBCU partnerships. Boeing is investing $6M in technical workforce development with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF). Through this partnership, Boeing will work with 8 HBCUs to nurture their students’ careers in aerospace.
Improve Your Organization’s DEI Efforts With Symba
Symba enables you to track and measure DEI metrics including demographics like intern race, gender, pronouns, and schools attended, and use this data to optimize your program for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Book a demo today to understand where your internship program stands in terms of diversity and to improve your program recruitment strategy!