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Access to opportunity

3 hiring practices that disadvantage Black students

Get suggestions for how you can lower systemic barriers for Black students throughout the hiring process.

Just one peek at the news, and you’ll see organizations making public commitments to achieve measurable diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals. Their biggest obstacle? Ensuring that their actions are impactful, not performative.

The reality is that systemic anti-Black racism is embedded in our society and has been for a very long time. Yet it’s not up to people negatively affected to fix it; it’s up to those who are still benefiting from it, often from positions of power—including hiring power.

We crunched data from our network of 12+ million active students across 1,500+ partner schools and 420+ diverse student groups and surfaced 3 hiring practices that your company may have in place yet prevent Black early talent from access to career opportunities—and what you can start doing to eliminate those barriers.

Hiring practice that disadvantages all students #1: Screening for GPA

As an overall best practice, we recommend for all early talent recruiting: drop the GPA requirement. Not only is GPA not as strong an indicator of future job performance as general mental ability/general intelligence (GMA), but when employers filter for GPA criteria, they end up overlooking—and unintentionally excluding—qualified candidates from their ideal talent pool.

Hiring practice that disadvantages Black students #2: Only recruiting seasonally

Rigid recruiting schedules can impose barriers on students and job seekers without the resources to focus full-time on a job search. Of new grads who submitted job applications via Handshake in the last year, Handshake data has found that 61% of Black students submitted applications during peak fall and spring recruiting period compared to 64% of non-Black students.

While this gap has steadily been closing, all students are now applying to jobs sooner, making the case for year-round recruiting schedules. Consistent efforts over time make it very clear that you want to hire Black students for who they are and what they’ll bring to your workforce—not because they’ll check off the DEI box in your recruiting efforts.

Hiring practice that disadvantages Black students #3: Recruiting partners & process that aren’t representative

More virtual events and expanding school recruiting help students to feel more connected and comfortable. With 57% of Black students saying they feel more likely to be noticed by employers at virtual events, expanding your partner schools enables you to recruit virtually—which our data has found can level the playing field for Black and other underrepresented students.

Recruiting from a set of “core schools” is an antiquated strategy often informed by trivial reasons as opposed to data, like convenience, perceived prestige, or even the alma maters of an executive leadership team. An exclusive school strategy means you’re overlooking Black talent in specialized programs at bootcamps, community colleges, and certificate courses. You’re limiting your reach and results to make a real impact.

Meet Black students where they are.

How does this data inform your school partnerships strategy?

Trends in resources Gen Z uses for job hunting

Understand how Black students conduct job searches to meet them where they are. For example, 37% of Black or African-American respondents to a recent Handshake survey identified career centers as a resource they would rely on for finding employment. How does this data inform your school partnerships strategy? Read more.

Suggestions for updating your hiring practices to expand access to opportunity for Black students

The particular history of Black and non-Black people in the US must be taken into account when it comes to your hiring strategy. We challenge you to examine how you can lower the structural barriers that Black students face throughout their college-to-career journey. Here are some suggestions for addressing these barriers with tools at your disposal:

  • Update your digital talent brand. 63% of Gen Zers believe it’s important to work for an employer with shared values, and the majority also have high standards for social accountability and consistency. Clearly stating your mission, values, DEI commitments, and sustainability efforts on your website, social media, Handshake company profile, and other digital marketing will help build trust and confidence in your organization, showing that it is welcoming for all.
  • Expand school connections. Looking for candidates exclusively from select schools has been a common hiring practice, but this approach won’t help you build the strongest, most diverse candidate pipeline for internships and entry-level roles.For example, students at HBCUs receive 3x more messages on Handshake from employers than non-HBCU students—but don’t overlook Black students at non-HBCU schools! You should also include bootcamps, certification programs, and other alternate training providers in your strategy.
  • Embrace skill-based recruiting. Handshake product data has found that skills-based hiring results in 3.5x potential Black technical candidates. Skills testing can help reduce systemic inequities based on race, class, or education and help Black students feel more confident in applying. Go a step further and loosen or remove degree requirements as a more inclusive hiring practice.
  • Be transparent about salary. Not only does salary transparency help close gender and racial pay gaps, but in light of inequities laid bare by #MeToo, the Black Lives Matter movement, and Covid-19, prospective Gen-Z employees (48% of whom are non-White) want fairness and equality. Studies also show that salary transparency can financially benefit companies by lowering average salaries overall.
  • Balance your in-person events with virtual events. While employers agree that in-person job fairs and internships have the highest ROI of all recruiting strategies, virtual events can also be less intimidating for many people: our data shows that 59% of Black students prefer virtual career events, where they feel they can make a stronger impression than in person.
  • Build genuine relationships. Lean on your advocates and all those involved in the interview process to create more meaningful relationships with prospective Black candidates. Foster network building for Black students and alumni by encouraging personal one-on-one messaging, hosting Q&A sessions, and investing in ERGs.

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