How Recruiters Can Reach the ‘Woke’ Job Candidate

March, 2020

If it seems like today’s job seeker is more “woke” than ever before, it’s not your imagination. Candidates have become increasingly more interested in seeking employers who are committed to gender pay equity, salary transparency, as well as evidence that your company addresses diversity & inclusion, according to Monster’s most recent State of the Candidate survey.

This is especially true for younger candidates. The survey found that millennials (57%) are more likely to say diversity, equity and inclusion is very important compared to Gen X (47%) and Baby Boomers (49%).

Yet, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. Nearly 1 in four (23%) candidates say they have felt discriminated against in their workplace as a result of differences and more than 1 in 4 (29%) have witnessed discrimination in their workplace. Of those who have witnessed discrimination in their workplace, candidates believe it was because of their race (40%) and age (35%).

Another big concern for younger job seekers? Equal pay. Whether it’s the lawsuit by the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team or actress Michelle Williams bringing up gender pay gap at the Emmy’s, it’s on people’s minds. Or, it may have to do with the fact that just 58% of female candidates say they are being paid fairly compared to 70% of males. National statistics show that women still make 79 cents for every dollar men do.

The fact that these important social issues are top of mind for job seekers means that recruiting professionals and hiring managers must address what their organization is doing to ensure that employees are treated fairly, as well as to support related causes.

Why so woke?

This heightened desire by mostly younger candidates to do work that benefits society rather than just their bank accounts is the product of their education and the economy, says Steven Rothberg, president and founder of College Recruiter, a job site aimed at students and recent graduates. “Regarding education, today’s young people are taught more about diversity, climate change, and other societal issues when they’re in primary and secondary schools and so they know and care more about these issues than previous generations,” he explains. As for the economy, the current hiring landscape allows them to be more choosy. “If you graduate into a recession, you’re going to feel fortunate to be able to get any job and so you take it even if the employer’s values don’t align well with yours. But if you have the choice of five jobs, you’re able to weigh factors like salary against social good and many will take less salary in return for doing work that benefits society as a whole,” says Rothberg.

In her experience, non-monetary values have been as important if not more important than personal earnings to younger candidate, says Robyn Brennaman, a partner at Jobplex, a Chicago-based recruiting firm. “Candidates at this age are earning far above the generations before them when they started working,” she says. Therefore, they can afford to really evaluate and compare companies’ entire value systems. “This generation is passionate about employers who are diverse, inclusive, equality-promoting, environmentally conscious, and who also have strong community outreach and ‘give back’ strategies,” she says.

With that in mind, here are some ways to help candidates learn about your company’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, equal pay, and other social causes.

Focus on authenticity

Authenticity by employers is important to all candidates, but the youngest members of the workforce tend to be amongst the savviest in vetting employers’ values, says Rothberg.

As such, many companies are now devoting a page on their website to diversity hiring initiatives in their careers section and including the Chief Diversity Officer on their leadership page, says Brennaman.  Others are leveraging social media pages to illustrate their diversity.  But a few inspiring tweets or memes isn’t enough. “I think it is imperative for organizations to hold themselves accountable by ensuring they have diversity on their leadership team and on boards as well creating communities and committees devoted to different areas of diversity,” she says.

Rothberg also encourages companies to show, not tell. “Use video to communicate your corporate values and do so using short stories by actual employees,” he says. For example, if you encourage the creation and active participation of employee resource groups for LGBTQ communities, then record a short video and share that on your YouTube channel and elsewhere.

Walk the salary talk

Another survey reveal was that Millennials (37%) are more likely to believe there is a gender pay gap, compared to Gen X or Boomers, 27% and 28%, respectively. Therefore, you want to highlight your company’s commitment to equal pay for equal work to show that you care about this issue. You can do this in job postings, on company career pages and on social media.

“Have you undergone an audit to ensure that your compensation is equitable across gender and other lines? If so, record a very short video and then share that, too,” says Rothberg.

What candidates also want is greater transparency around salaries in the workplace – 80% of them, in fact. Of course, a quick look at the job posting ads will reveal that the vast majority do not disclose the salary, says Rothberg.

He suggests that employers take the time to understand what a fair range for a role would be and then publish that as part of the job listing ad. “If a candidate meets the basic criteria but not all, then the hiring manager should be able to explain that to the candidate when offering them a salary toward the bottom of the range, as well as what the candidate needs to do in order to be paid more,” he says.

Brennaman notes that regardless of the level of transparency, candidates are going to want to talk money. “If salaries are not advertised in job postings or are not discussed during the first round screening, candidates will bring the topic up for discussion, unlike in generations past when it was considered taboo,” she says. This generation is not interested in wasting time, and they are prepared to walk away, says Brennaman.

The Monster survey supports that notion as well, with 72% of candidates saying they feel comfortable negotiating salary; and 63% of Millennials are willing to walk away from a lowball offer (compared to 60% of Gen X, and 52% of Boomers).

The bottom line? Being up front and transparent with salary expectations can avoid a long interview process resulting in offer turndowns.

Recruit with diversity and inclusion in mind

It’s not enough to say you’re committed to adding diverse talent to your team – you have to actually take measures to do it. “Employers who look at their top performers and then want to hire more people with similar attributes are condemning themselves to a non-diverse workforce as everyone in that workforce starts to look more and more alike,” says Rothberg.  “Just because candidates with certain backgrounds have worked well for you in the past does not mean that those are the only backgrounds that will work well for you in the future.”

So instead of just recruiting from area college job fairs, consider actively recruiting from other groups like veterans, people with disabilities, older workers, or minority groups. You can discover a lot of hidden talent when you broaden your search.

Brennaman recommends posting for positions where minorities and diverse candidates congregate. For instance, career pages or career fairs dedicated to minorities, veterans or LGBTQ communities.  Another strategy is to try eliminating biases by implementing blind resume screening or even blind interviewing. “There is a reason why ‘The Voice’ is a top-rated reality singing competition. By not seeing the person performing, the judges are forced to rid of any bias towards physical appearance and first impressions and they are making the call on the person’s talent: their voice,” she says.

Put your diverse foot forward

Besides videos and improved recruiting methods, one of the simplest ways to showcase your company’s diversity and inclusion is to re-tool who is actually conducting interviews and meeting with candidates during the hiring process, says Brennaman. “Having diversity among interviewers to include women, people of color, different sexual orientations, nationalities and diversity of thought allows candidates to see that not everyone looks or sounds the same and that the company considers diversity and inclusion a top priority,” she says.

Along those lines, creating volunteer or peer-nominated committees focused on veterans, LGBTQ, women in leadership or nationality focused communities is another crucial component for showcasing an organizations’ day to day commitment to diversity and inclusion.  “It allows those at all levels to be heard, have their ideas showcased, and become involved, especially if they are not in leadership or management roles,” says Brennaman.

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