Recruiting the Finest
Gaining Access to a Diverse Workforce

Recruiting a diverse workforce is one of the great adventures facing organizations today. I say adventures, because developing a diverse workforce requires courage, creativity, and a willingness to explore new and unexplored alternatives. Perhaps it is because courage is required that so many organizations back off and find excuses not to proceed. All-too-often, for example, we hear complaints like: There are no black engineers, Women dont get computer degrees, or Its just too hard to find Latino physicians. Of course it is true that there are times when a particular category of professional is almost impossible to find. Locating, for example, a female Taiwanese neurosurgeon with a speciality in motor functions who happens also to be disabled would be downright silly. Most of the time, however, the person you are looking for does exist and can be recruited without having to lower your standards and without having to spend exorbitant amounts of money or time tracking him or her down.

What it does take, however, is creativity and a willingness to try something new. One of the strategies, for example, that has proven successful for many organizations is to cultivate relationships within the desired communities. If, for example, you are seeking Latino professionals, make the effort to get to know newspaper editors, church officials, political leaders, educators, and business leaders within the Latino community. This is a particularly worthwhile strategy in the Latino community because in general we must be careful not to stereotype -- Latino communities are close knit. Relationships within the community are well formed which means that referrals and recommendations are readily available. Not only are your efforts to network valuable in that they can produce referrals to potential employees, they are also important in terms of building the kind of trust that will make the very finest applicants receptive to working for your organization.

Advertising for applicants in foreign-language newspapers is an approach to recruiting diverse employees that is often overlooked. The reason it is overlooked is that people make the error of assuming that those who read foreign-language papers are not bi-lingual. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, many fully English-speaking professionals access media in their own language both because it is familiar, but also because it keeps them in touch with their original culture. Not only are you able to hire a topnotch bi-lingual professional, but also one who has the knowledge and ability to relate to the nations largest growing marketplace.

One of the most creative strategies for recruiting a diverse workforce is to utilize the resources within your organization your current staff and managers. Put the word out that you are seeking high quality employees of all backgrounds. Invite current employees to approach friends and acquaintances and to keep an eye out at professional and personal associations for potential applicants. Motivate this effort by promising a bonus to the employee if one of their recommendations is hired and retained. On average, organizations that are using this approach set up a six month probationary period after which the referring employee receives a bonus. One word of caution regarding this recruitment strategy: Make it very clear to all concerned that you are not lowering job requirements or any other standard just to hire someone of a particular race, ethnicity, gender, or age. Diversity does not nor should not require the lowering of standards and, should that impression be created, not only have you placed your diversity program in jeopardy, but you have placed your newly-hired staff at a disadvantage as well.

Sondra Thiederman is a speaker and author on diversity, bias-reduction, and cross-cultural issues. She is the author of Making Diversity Work: Seven Steps for Defeating Bias in the Workplace (Chicago: Dearborn Press, 2003) which is available at her web site or at She can be contacted at:
Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D.
Cross-Cultural Communications
4585 48th Street
San Diego, CA 92115
Phones: 619-583-4478 / 800-858-4478
Fax: 619-583-0304 /
Reprinted with Permission