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Tapping ERGs During the Recruiting Process

A group of women standing together in front of a white wall.

​Job candidates are expressing growing interest in learning about an organization's diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) stance and practices prior to accepting a job.

Some companies are addressing that desire by sharing relevant information through channels like social media, blogs and careers sites. Others are providing job applicants with opportunities to interact with employees who are members of minority groups during the interview process. Companies' employee resource groups (ERGs) and business resource groups (BRGs) present ready opportunities for doing so.

Amazon is one example of an organization that has put DE&I front and center in its efforts to build an inclusive workforce. A page on the company's website showcases Amazon's efforts and, as part of the interview process, the company allows candidates to participate in a "Candid Chats Program" to connect with a member of one of the company's 12 affinity groups.

Victoria Archer, a consultant in Mercer's Career business based in New York City, also has observed organizations tapping into their ERGs/BRGs for recruiting, with actions including:

  • Reaching out to group members for employee referrals.
  • Looking to the groups to find high-potential, underrepresented talent within the organization.
  • Allowing prospective candidates to meet with key group leaders during the interview process.

That final option, Archer said, varies greatly depending on organization size, volume of recruiting and ERG/BRG resources. "You want to ensure you are not overburdening the leaders of these groups," she said.

That's exactly the reason that Truss, an engineering firm, doesn't make this offer during the talent acquisition process, said Everett Harper, the company's co-founder and CEO, and a Black leader in the tech industry. Truss doesn't introduce job candidates to employees who may share the same background. "This might work in a large company, but either way, it puts a significant burden on members of those affinity groups to respond individually to these requests— especially when it's not their main job," he said. At Truss, he added, "we solved that problem early by hiring diverse groups of people from the jump." 

Other Options

Companies are using other proactive strategies to find opportunities for potential employees to connect with people with similar backgrounds and experiences during the interview process.

ERGs are playing an important role here. Just as some companies reach out to their ERG leaders and members to connect with employees during the talent acquisition process, others call on these team members to promote the employer's brand at career fairs by helping to write job descriptions and job postings, and by participating on hiring panels.

These groups play an important role in the hiring process at Chicago-based S&C Electric Company, said Aurelie Richard, chief human development and strategy officer. The company has been "working hard to bring more diversity to our interviewing panels," she said. After all, she noted, the interview process "is the first diversity that the candidates will see—the diversity of the people interviewing them."

S&C's ERGs, and their philosophy of DE&I, isn't focused just on gender and race. As Richard noted, "there are a lot of different aspects to diversity—we're really making a point of using a very broad definition that goes beyond race and gender"—such as age, education levels and more.

S&C also asks ERG members to point out gaps in diversity hiring that the organization might not recognize. In addition, members of ERGs can help identify a diverse pool of candidates through employee referral programs, she said.

DE&I doesn't stop with hiring. Employers are recognizing the need to ensure that once a diverse group of employees comes on board, they feel included and fit into the culture of the organization, experts said.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance writer in Chippewa Falls, Wis.


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