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Now hiring: A talented black student's perspective on recruiting talented black students

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I have read countless articles about a lack of diversity in corporate America, especially in the tech industry. But despite the negative reviews about the whitewashed workplace, companies can take proactive steps to increase and maintain diversity. As a black woman studying public relations at North Carolina A&T State University, I aspire to work in the public relations or human resources industry in a role that promotes diversity and positive change.

Diversity matters. And as the national dialogue about race relations transfers from the dinner table to Twitter, people are more cognizant than ever of the stark differences between races, especially within a business. With over a trillion dollars in buying power, black dollars matter. If a company wants to stay relevant with black consumers, they need a black workforce, from entry-level to senior leadership.

I wanted to share five of the best ways to recruit talented black students from my perspective as a talented black student currently undergoing the recruitment process:

1. Be visible

If the company is not a household name or easily recognizable, chances are that students might not know to even apply or seek out opportunities within the company. Even if a company does have the type of notoriety that garners attention, it is important for students to first know the company and be able to easily find opportunities within.

Some ways to increase visibility include attending campus career fairs, hosting informational sessions on campus, speaking in classes and at relevant organizational meetings. Make sure to send potential advertising materials out in advance and appear approachable. For example, at many of the National Society of Black Engineers meetings I attend, they have companies speak to students about opportunities. These face-to-face interactions increase visibility and target students who are involved and motivated.

2. Recruit at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

I might be slightly biased toward this one, but what better place to find black talent than at an institution that is predominantly black? Students at HBCUs typically have a strong sense of purpose and motivation to succeed. Some of the nation’s top leaders graduated from HBCUs, including John W. Thompson, Chairman of Microsoft Corporation (Florida A&M) and Rosalind Brewer, President & CEO of Sam’s Club (Spelman College).

Companies need to form strong relationships and partnerships with HBCUs in addition to PWIs to create a pipeline of talent prepared to enter the industry. These partnerships can include curriculum recommendations, funding to support programs and students, and working with faculty and organizations to make students aware of opportunities.

3. Create diversity recruitment programs

Before entering my sophomore year, I attended the Goldman Sachs Undergraduate Camp, a four-day program at their New Jersey location designed to expose typically underrepresented students to the financial services industry and the Goldman Sachs culture. I had never considered a career in financial services before this experience, but after gaining exposure to this type of industry, I feel like it is something I could do. I met so many professionals and like-minded students that I still keep in touch with and I was paired with a mentor after the program to help me navigate the company and interview process.

Programs like this provide exposure and get students interested in a company early. If a company is able to provide this type of program, incorporating hands-on experience, access to company employees and information about necessary hard and soft skills, I think they should. This type of program boosts students’ confidence and makes them more invested in the company.

Another way to focus on diversity recruiting is through internship programs aimed at bringing in talented minority students for hands-on experience and opportunities for full-time work, such as the Facebook University for Business.

4. Partner with career prep and scholarship organizations

I found out about the summer internship program Facebook University for Business (FBU) through INROADS, a career prep program that trains and prepares “talented, underserved youth and helps them find internships and career opportunities.” I was encouraged to apply for FBU for Business, which recently led to an interview at their Menlo Park, CA headquarters and an offer from Facebook to join them this upcoming summer. (Shout out to one of the best recruiters ever, Anothony Rodari!)

I am also a Ron Brown Captain under the Ron Brown Scholar Program, which provides scholarships, mentoring and resources to help black students achieve their educational and career goals. I also just applied for the ML4T Career Prep Program, which aims to ”prepare under-represented minority students with solid academic track records for success in fast-track entry-level jobs at top employers.”

Programs like the ones mentioned above already have access to a talented pool of black leaders and scholars seeking new opportunities for career and professional development. Companies can leverage these networks in a way that will benefit the company, the organization, and, best of all, the student.

5. Start young

In middle school and high school, I remember visiting places such as Hershey, York Water Company, the local news station and the county courthouse. After visiting each one of these places, I got an inside glimpse of the industry and could envision myself working there.

When you allow a student to view or tour your company and interact with employees, especially at a young age, they are more likely to see themselves working there one day. You allow them to dream. And your company can be a part of that dream.


Kristen Shipley is a sophomore at North Carolina A&T State University serving as a 2015-2016 White House HBCU All-Star. She writes for her university newspaper 'The Register' and for her own leisure, volunteers at the Boys & Girls Club and plans community service for the Honors Program. Kristen promotes all things Black excellence, HBCUs, social justice and natural hair. Follow her on Instagram (@perfectlyks) and Twitter (@perfectlyk).


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