Diversity Recruiting: How Good Intentions Can Result Negative Outcomes

Since the 1960s, diversity has been a topic of discussion in corporations compelling leaders to figure out how to address the growing issue.  It was recognized that the changing demographics in the United States – with the increase of people of color – would create the opportunity to leverage diverse talent to contribute to the competitive advantage of companies and help them differentiate themselves in their respective marketplaces.  Corporate leaders realized that to attract and retain people of color, the current methods and approach for talent acquisition had to change.

To help with talent acquisition of diverse talent, companies started creating new ways to reach the top talent in diverse communities.   The new approach to diversity recruiting included creating internal affinity groups to help with recruiting candidates, changing the company’s marketing tools to include more people of color in the brochures, websites and catalogs, and consulting with diversity-focused external recruiters and search firms.  Also, internal recruiting teams started to visit diversity-focused career fairs and job events that had large pools of candidates they could access and interview.  Company leaders created new partnerships with professional organizations i.e., the National Black MBA Association and the National Society of Black Engineers to recruit newly minted technology and business candidates to individual contributor roles.

As companies started down the path of diversity recruiting, an opinion was formed by recruiters that the diverse talent pipeline was broken and that there were not enough candidates out there in the market to fulfill open positions according to McKay and Avery (2005).  Some companies still hold on to this thought today which impedes progress in diversifying their workplaces.  While the reason for a lack of diversity was attributed to the pipeline, the companies failed to examine the bias that existed in the recruiting process itself.  By blaming the pipeline, leader absolved themselves from the responsibility of understanding the root cause of discrimination and exclusion built into their talent acquisition policies and procedures (McKay and Avery, 2005).

      One of the more popular tactics used by companies to recruit candidates was the implementation of a career-focused website separate from the corporate website.  These career-focused websites listed all the job openings available across the company and displayed images that portrayed a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture.  It was proven that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) candidates were more likely to apply for jobs where the marketing reflected people that looked like them while white candidates applied at the same rate (McKay and Avery, 2005).

 Even when companies were successful in recruiting diverse candidates, the reality of their onboarding did not match the advertising they saw as they were being recruited.  This results in a high amount of attrition for BIPOC candidates because these candidates feel like they fell victim of a “bait and switch” scenario.  Candidates are being sold one vision of the company while seeing another vision themselves and deciding to forgo the opportunity because the culture isn’t inclusive. 

 Key Points

There is value in having a diverse workforce.  Peter Drucker, considered by many as the father of management, concluded that after World War II all firms must develop and implement human resource practices that will allow diverse talent to be utilized to build a competitive advantage based on the changing demographics of the country (Oyler and Pryor, 2009).  The previous tactics used to acquire talent would now have to be altered to get the attention of people of color and to attract them to apply for open positions.

When the advertising of the company included more people of color, the application rates of the targeted demographic increases.  Glassman and Glassman (2017) indicated that representation is key when conveying the message of diversity and inclusion in a company’s marketing efforts.  Companies that create affinity groups to build communities within an organization should leverage those groups to help with recruiting top talent that they can identify with and support when they arrive.

Before companies can be effective in recruiting diverse talent, they must first understand if their workplaces are conducive to retain the talent they acquire.  Many failed efforts to retain diverse candidate are based on the mismatch of the working environment with the advertisement of the employer brand.  The employer brand is what external parties experience that show what it is like to work for the company.  Some candidates refer to this dilemma at a “bait-and-switch” tactic. 



      The most critical action that firms can do to increase the results of their diversity recruiting is to first complete climate audits of their workplaces to determine if their environment is truly inclusive (McKay and Avery, 2005).  If the findings of these audits indicate that the environment is not ready to receive and retain diverse talent, then the company should implement diversity training to help leaders and employees create an inclusive culture. 

Once the training is delivered, the marketing department and the human resources department should collaborate on creating imagery that portrays the inclusiveness and diversity of the workforce.  These digital assets can be used in marketing the employer brand authentically on websites, brochures, and billboards.  They help in giving candidates an authentic view of the inside of a firm and at that time candidates can determine if the job opportunity is the right one for them.

When diverse candidates are hired, they should have an onboarding experience that helps them get acclimated to their work responsibilities and their new environment.  Having lunch with the hiring manager, connecting with a colleague or peer during the first 30 days, and/or meeting with a board member or senior executive are activities that would support a positive welcoming onboarding experience.  Thoughtful onboarding of diverse talent will give new employees the opportunity to connect with the culture and align with the company’s values. 



In conclusion, having an inclusive workplace first that is reflected in the marketing of the employer brand of a company is critical to attracting and retaining top talent of color.  If a company truly doesn’t have an inclusive culture, then it should focus its marketing efforts on other attributes i.e., great benefits and perks that may attract top talent.  To reduce the attrition of diverse talent the organization must provide a safe space for new employees to be authentic and can bring their whole existence to the workplace.  If this doesn’t happen, top talent will continue to have short tenures at companies and move on to the companies that get it right.          


McKay, P. F., & Avery, D. R. (2005). Warning! Diversity Recruitment Could Backfire. Journal of Management Inquiry, 14(4), 330–336. https://doi.org/10.1177/1056492605280239


Avery, D. R. (2003). Reactions to diversity in recruitment advertising – Are differences black and white? Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(4), 672-679. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.88.4.672


Goldberg, C. B., & Allen, D. G. (2008). Black and white and read all over: Race differences in reactions to recruitment web sites. Human Resource Management, 47(2), 217-236. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hrm.20209


Glassman, A. M., & Glassman, M. (2017). The Use of Affinity Groups by Fortune 100 Firms. The Journal of Business Diversity, 17(2), 104-114. https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/use-affinity-groups-fortune-100-firms/docview/1949477018/se-2?accountid=26720


Oyler, J. D., & Mildred, G. P. (2009). Workplace diversity in the United States: the perspective of Peter Drucker. Journal of Management History, 15(4), 420-451. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17511340910987338


Rivera, L. A. (2012). Diversity within Reach: Recruitment versus Hiring in Elite Firms. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 639(1), 71–90. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716211421112

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