Black Lives Matter: 10 things student recruiters can do to drive change

Dec 15, 2020 | Diversity

Insight from students at The Brokerage informs 10 areas student recruiters can work on to help black candidates achieve their potential.

The mission of The Brokerage has always been to break the corporate mould by helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve their career potential; 93% of our candidates are from a BAME background, and of those a significant proportion identify as black.

Through detailed discussion with the young people we work with, we’ve identified 10 areas where student recruiters can drive change in helping black candidates achieve their potential.


1. Stop trying to hire people who are ‘like you’

Before launching any initiatives, ask yourself and the organisation you work for – why? Why are you doing this? Why do you want to change your recruitment practices, and why does it matter? This will not only help you to identify your aims and what problems you currently face, but it will also enable you to make real and lasting change.

One story that has stayed with us through the years is when we asked someone why they hired their new recruit, they answered ‘he reminded me of me’. You should not be trying to recruit a mini you – diverse teams are successful in business.

2. Do you know what matters to young people?

Many young black people feel incredibly emotional, scared and angry right now. Our young people want to see that employers and recruiters genuinely care about the movement and those who are most affected by it. They want to see companies taking positive action, and they will look for evidence of it. Is diversity a priority for your organisation, and is this clear to young people you are trying to recruit?

3. Start interrogating each stage of your recruitment process

At each stage of the process, you need to evaluate your assumptions and rethink traditional recruitment practice, instead, consider the professional world from the point of view and the experience of the person you are trying to recruit. For example, right at the beginning of the recruitment process, you might advertise a position online where young black talent will not see it. You have thus failed at the first hurdle to make young black people aware of your opportunities.

4. Start looking beyond traditional advertising

When asked about recruitment, many corporates tell us that they ‘can’t find black talent’ for specific job roles. To that, we say: look at where you recruit, think about using new spaces to advertise and use specialist brokers like The Brokerage. You can also grow your own talent. You need to have black people accessing your organisation at every level of your organisation to grow your own black and diverse talent.

5. Stop focussing on the Russell Group

A survey of graduates by Milkround revealed that 83% believe that recruiters favour candidates from Russell Group universities. But by just recruiting from the Russell Group you will firstly miss out on top talent. You are going to continue to recruit the same type of person – white, middle or upper class – because BAME talent is underrepresented at the most selective universities. There are also cultural, economic and practical reasons as to why non-white students choose to go to universities closer to home.

6. Stop asking for unnecessary job specs

We often expect to see a certain number of GSCEs or A-levels and extra-curricular activities from graduates. But why? Think about what qualifications and skills you need your candidate to possess. A young person’s situation, character, and ambitions can impact on how well they can do the job, perhaps they can perform just as well or better than the candidate with more GCSEs, given the opportunity. Contextual recruitment is one way in which you can take a person’s background into account when recruiting. The GCSE and A-Level grading controversy earlier this year at least shows us that it is not a completely perfect method of assessment.

7. Start communicating with black talent correctly

Disadvantaged young people are often looking for job security and may not understand how work experience or internships are part of the bigger picture in securing a job. The value of pre-graduate experiences needs to be clearly communicated to young people, as well as the point that a university degree does not guarantee a graduate job. This language must be clear as many young black people will not have been exposed to employment language (or jargon) yet.

8. Start showing diversity at every level of recruitment

It is essential to show that you are a diverse and inclusive organisation. And if you can’t, you should acknowledge that diversity in your organisation is not where you want to be yet, but you are working on it. Consider, if at every stage of the recruitment process you lack diversity or do not acknowledge it, what message does this send to young black talent who are applying?

9. Stop accepting ‘the way things are done’

If your assessment measures do not truly assess the potential of a candidate, you won’t hire them. Organisations and recruiters need to change the way they assess talent, which means changings things like interview questions. For example, the extra-curricular question is used so candidates can demonstrate they are a well-rounded individual and fit your company culture. It is often answered with ‘the Duke of Edinburgh Award’ or ‘years of playing the violin.’ But what have you just learnt about the candidate other than they learnt the textbook answer to your standard graduate question?

10. Start thinking about accessibility

It takes time and practice to pass the recruitment process. However, some young people may get more opportunities to practice than others and though there is no immediate or obvious remedy to this, as a recruiter, just being aware makes all the difference. Keep in mind that young black people might not have access to the same resources as everyone else; they might have fewer opportunities to practice interviews or crucial groups tasks they will be assessed on against their white counterparts.

Additionally, the pandemic has forced much of the professional world to operate virtually. Most work experience and internship programmes, if they took place at all, took place online. Interviews and assessment centres have also started to take place online. Consider who has access to what. Not all young people are going to have access to their own computer, a quiet space at home or a good internet connection.

More advice and insight on diversity


Was this article helpful?


Share This