How does the Reignite Academy attract diverse candidates?

In our first ever Annual Impact report, we were proud to report that 35% of our successful candidates were from black, Asian or other ethnic minority backgrounds.  We never set out with a target, we certainly had never signed a pledge.  Nevertheless, we were very please with this result.

How did you go about attracting diverse candidates?

This question is put to us quite often now.  The law firms we work with have set targets and many have signed pledges.  They are coming to us because they think we can help.  Understandably, as part of their due diligence (they are lawyers after all) they want to check we do what it says on the tin.

So how do we do it? And what advice do we have for others?

Set out, from the start, to be inclusive

People talk a lot about inclusion but rarely nail the nitty gritty of what that means.  For us, it means finding reasons to INCLUDE people rather than EXCLUDE them.  This is the opposite of what most recruitment processes do.

Generally speaking, when you advertise a job, the first thing that happens is that CVs are screened by an applicant tracking system.  This weeds out any that don’t have the right key words.  A human pair of eyes might then throw out those who didn’t go to the right university or achieve the right academics.  All reasons to whittle the long list down to a shortlist for interview.

We do the opposite.  We used a structured, research based format, to find reasons to include people.  We ask questions to unearth the characteristics that we know are key to future success.  We seek to understand the whole person and their story.  At all times we are focused on future potential.

We actively promote all our candidates – with authenticity

Over the years we have built a great following on social media and for our our newsletter.Rebecca Hayes Anne Todd

The people we feature are real and have given us permission to tell their stories.

Mehrnaz Ashfar

Rebecca, Anne, Mehrnaz and Thelma have all taken part in the last couple of years.  We helped them all return to careers in private practice.  Their stories inspire others because they see us helping people just like them.  People whose careers have not followed straight lines. Who have dealt with very sick children, relocations abroad, being made redundant, pivoting careers, setting up their own businesses.  The ups and downs of life.

We are genuinely interested in and talk about issues  regarding diversity in its wider context

Earlier this year we held a webinar entitled “How to improve the experience of black people at work” and invited Janine Esbrand and Yvonne Kuryanke to share their views.  The results can be seen on our YouTube channel.

During Black History Month, we shared the nine most powerful works of fiction that have informed and influenced our understanding of the injustices and inequalities experienced by people of colour.   We don’t claim to get it right, by any stretch of the imagination, but we do genuinely think about it.

We are building networks and connections with black and ethnic minority leaders, groups and individuals

Not for the sake of it but because together we think we can make more of an impact. Whether this is at an individual level, through LinkedIn, through our personal connections with people like Husnara Begum who is an entreperneur and disability rights campaigner or through new networks like Black Women in Asset Management, we are always looking to extend our understanding and reach.

Purposeful, active and genuine

Reading back, these three words ring out for me.

Purposeful:

Be clear and honest about why you are trying to be more diverse? Is it simply to comply with legislation?  Is it to look better to the world, for marketing purposes?  Or do you really believe that this is the route to being a better business.

The brilliant Stephen Frost calls these three phases Diversity 101, Diversity 2 and Diversity 3.

Active:

I have lost track of the number of charters, pledges and commitments that aim to tackle diversity on many levels. Sign them if you want to.  Shout about it on your websites if you must.  And then move on.  Tell us what you are actually going to do differently.  Because if you don’t do something different you will not achieve a different result.

Genuine

To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

If you don’t truly believe that being more diverse will improve your business, don’t both.  When times get tough and you have to make hard decisions, the choices you make will prove what it is you actually believe.  And those choices will be visible.

If you’d like to read more of our case studies, follow what we do and engage in the conversation you can follow us on LinkedIn and sign up to our newsletter here.

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